If you want to know what America will look like in a few months after articles of impeachment are approved by the House, take a look at this week in Israel at the response by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his indictments on bribery.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was struggling to both stoke and contain a popular backlash against prosecutors as some of his supporters distanced themselves from the bellicose rhetoric he has employed since being indicted last week on bribery and fraud charges.
The divisions were on display Tuesday night at a raucous pro-Netanyahu rally in Tel Aviv. Angry supporters reportedly chanted “Die Leftist” and “Arrest the Investigators” and carried signs reading “Cops — Or Criminals?”
Speakers railed against the attorney general and prosecutors — who have been given security details in recent days — parroting the prime minister’s portrayal of the indictments as a “coup” attempt by an unaccountable deep state and a biased media. One protester attempted to grab the microphone of an on-air journalist as another spat on him.
But, following a day of speculation about his plans, Netanyahu failed to make an appearance at the gathering as discomfort over his scorched-earth response to the indictments grew. Few senior officials of his Likud party — who have been markedly silent in recent days — attended the rally, many citing scheduling conflicts when pressed by journalists.
Others, while supporting Netanyahu, have criticized the attacks on law enforcement as misguided and corrosive. Culture Minister Miri Regev, one of the senior officials who did speak under the banner reading “Safeguarding the Country, Stopping the Coup,” beseeched the crowd to tone it down.
“We can’t let our feeling of disappointment hurt the rule of law,” Regev said, according to reports. “We in Likud uphold the law, and we want the law to protect us.”
Her appeal to take down some of the more offensive banners, some naming and picturing the lead attorneys in the case, was probably derived from the same sensitivities that kept most senior Likud leaders away — a fear that the constant attacks on state institutions could turn into violence.
Since the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, any hint of political incitement, particularly against individuals, invokes the high emotions of that period. Many in Israel, including Rabin’s family, recall the fiery opposition to Rabin’s peace plan with the Palestinians and some draw a direct line between the fierce criticism and the fatal shot.
According to Israeli media reports, Likud officials cautioned Netanyahu and his proxies to back off the incendiary rhetoric, warning that a war on law enforcement would come back to hurt the party politically.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who oversaw the three-year investigation into the prime minister’s dealings with wealthy business executives, decried the attacks on his office at a gathering of prosecutors Tuesday.
“I hear threats, I hear lies, I hear baseless slander; it’s shocking,” Mandelblit said, defending the state prosecution’s role of protecting Israel from crime and government corruption, human rights violations and abuse of power. “The fact that [the lead prosecutors] now have bodyguards solely because they carried out their duties is inconceivable.”
Likudniks are smart enough to realize that Netanyahu is definitely heading for a violent uprising in order to have the window to secure power for himself, and they are backing away as quickly as they can. Without their support, Netanyahu isn't going to be able to hold on much longer. He's played his cards and he's waiting to see everyone else's hand.
The problem is in the American version of this screenplay, Trump holds multiple rallies and openly calls for somebody to "do something" about the Democrats who impeached him, and to "do something" about the Democratic voters who put them in charge of the House.
And then things get ugly and violent very, very quickly.