More articles by
Yacov Ben Efrat
The new axis of evil: Trump, Putin, Netanyahu
The extreme right-wingers raised their arms in the traditional Nazi salute, chanting "Heil Trump!" The Tea Party recorded a historic achievement, but this was not only a triumph for the American right-wing. Benjamin Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing allies in Israel were also celebrating. On that fateful Tuesday, the Kremlin was biting its nails in anticipation of a Trump victory. Putin openly welcomed the prospect of Donald Trump in the White House.
There is no question that Netanyahu "came up trumps": his defiant appearance against Obama in Congress and his opposition to nuclear agreement with Iran at last yielded political gains. Strident politics and populist behavior paid off in Moscow, Tel Aviv and Washington. Netanyahu had gambled not only on Trump, but also on Putin. When the crisis between Moscow and Washington erupted over the Ukraine, Israel did not hesitate to take the Russian side and didn’t support the US at the UN. Netanyahu's victory was twofold: a very generous security agreement with President Obama, and the removal of Obama and his legacy from the White House.
Trump's victory heralds the emergence of a new axis of evil. The US, Russia and Israel constitute a good starting point, and top candidates for expanding the circle are presidents Erdogan, Sissi and even Bashar Assad. Trump has not hidden his enthusiasm for Putin, even declaring that the Russian strongman was a much better president than Obama. Both Trump and Netanyahu were enthusiastically endorsed by the American billionaire, Sheldon Adelson. Even the Sunni states, led by Saudi Arabia, applauded Trump’s victory, more in hatred of Haman than love of Mordecai. Although Trump hates Sunni Muslims, he dislikes their bitter enemy Iran even more. While Obama signed a nuclear agreement with Iran and cooperates with the theocratic regime in Iraq at the expense of the Gulf States, Trump swore to annul the nuclear agreement and stuff the Iranian genie back into the sanctions bottle.
Assad is celebrating the most. Trump’s victory is music to his ears. A conversation between Putin and Trump a day after the election gave the Russian strongman the green light to be victorious in Aleppo. Assad and Putin are doing a very thorough job: they bombed the city hospitals and moved on to the schools, indiscriminately pounding the civilian population. While Obama travels around the world trying to calm world leaders about the outcome of the U.S. election, the president-elect is busy filling 4000 political jobs. Trump expects Putin to finish the mission in Aleppo before he enters the White House in January. The world has lost interest in Syria and each is dealing with the enemy at home. Trump's political friends in France, Italy, Germany, and Britain lurk in the doorway, while newly elected right-wing governments in Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria are already inciting their own citizens against foreigners, liberals and supporters of the European Union.
Agreements between Netanyahu, Putin and Trump on the fate of Syria are materializing every day. Putin and Erdogan agreed to a deal that expands Turkish influence on the Syrian border at the expense of America’s allies, the Kurds, in exchange for ignoring the bombing of Aleppo. In fact, Netanyahu, like Trump, is not that concerned about Assad's continuing to reign. He is actually pleased to see Aleppo crumble while the world stays silent. The IDF blockade of Gaza is dwarfed by what is currently happening in Syria. Netanyahu's main concern is the presence of Iran and Hezbollah on Syrian soil. As Russia deepens its military involvement in Syria, Iran and Hezbollah are pushed to the sidelines and their influence on the regime in Damascus is in retreat.
While Aleppo was being bombed mercilessly, a high-level Russian delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin paid a visit to Damascus. Rogozin seeks to reach a long-term financial arrangement with the Syrian regime. Russia wants the tiger's fur even before the hunt! It wants to secure postwar contracts for the reconstruction of Syrian infrastructure at the expense of other players, especially Iran. Rogozin is accompanied by Russian industrial leaders whose names are being withheld to protect them against penalties imposed on those who do business with Assad. Netanyahu’s and Trump’s policies ensure Russian control not only over the port of Tartus, but also over the Syrian economy.
Trump can sell Syria cheaply to the Russians. Netanyahu goes on building settlements, putting the issue of the Occupation on the back burner. Trump lashes out against Muslims and Mexicans, and Netanyahu passes the muezzin law. Xenophobia, Brexit and withdrawal from international agreements (including the agreement with Iran) are winning cards that promise continued rule. Citizens are fed up with democracy. Hatred toward the ‘other’ is on the rise. They detest the "white" elite who pity the refugees while showing little compassion toward their own people. Netanyahu, Putin and Trump well represent the spirit of the times. The slogan "Make Russia/Israel/America great again" deceives their own citizens. What it really means is that a wealthy cabal will continue to celebrate while the poor get poorer.
However, it is a mistake to think that what happens in Aleppo stops in Syria. Those who come to terms with the actions of Putin and Netanyahu invite chaos into their borders: Aleppo was bombed, but the Ukraine and the Baltic states are uneasy about the unholy alliance between Trump and Putin; Trump beat Clinton but threw America into chaos and unprecedented political schism; Germany finds itself isolated and Europe fears a return to darker days. Moderation, tolerance and open borders are a matter of the past, while isolation, nationalism and xenophobia take their place. Nevertheless, it is impossible to move the clock back. No social consensus can today be built around nationalism and xenophobia. Nor is it possible to defeat Islamic extremism by its Jewish or Christian equivalent, including an ideology of racial superiority.
Following Trump’s victory, world leaders have been quick to acknowledge that globalization is the mother of all evil. Globalization has indeed created enormous social inequalities, enriched multinational corporations and shunted workers to the margins. In the Middle East, poverty and social gaps have nurtured radical Islam, but in the name of freedom and social justice they have also brought about the Arab Spring. In the West, poverty and social gaps set the stage for the rise of nationalist movements and the victory of Trump. Isolationism and nationalism (which Trump believes in) will not prove to be a counterweight against the multinational companies. Trump proposes to strengthen American capitalists at the expense of other capitalists. Yet wars between capitalists only cause death and destruction, contributing nothing to the welfare of the workers.
Globalization is an expression of the technological revolution. This revolution can be exploited for the benefit of workers around the world, but only by equalizing living conditions in Asia and America, in Africa and Europe. Exploitation of the Vietnamese worker (whose average monthly salary last year was $145) brings poverty to the US (since the year 2000 the US, has shed five million manufacturing jobs). The Global Village will be able to serve everyone only when it promotes a policy of equality, attends to the wages of workers, protects the right to unionize, and creates an advanced fiscal regime that eliminates the enormous social inequalities between countries and continents.
Trump and Netanyahu advocate cutting taxes for the rich and strengthening the upper class, with the intent of maximizing corporate profits at the expense of workers. In the end, these two leaders and their allies will fail. We live in a complex world and complex problems cannot be resolved by sloganeering and populism.
- Translated from the Hebrew by Robert Goldman