Both societies have had an intense, roiling experience with a highly polarizing, but incredibly media savvy, populist leader ready to break all the rules and weaken the restraints of their judicial system, state bureaucracy and traditional media unlike any leader before them.
Indeed, Netanyahu and Donald Trump were each so polarizing that they both stimulated breakaway factions within their own parties: “Anyone but Bibi” and “Never Trump.” But because their enemies hate each other as much as they hate Bibi and Trump, their ability to create broad-based alternatives has been limited.
Finally, huge, long-developing demographic changes have reached a tipping point in both societies.
In America, it’s projected that the country will become “majority minority” around 2045, when whites will make up roughly 49.9 percent of the population. The new majority will be about 25 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Black, 8 percent Asian descent and some 4 percent multiracial.
This has intensified polarization, as the Trump G.O.P. has played on the fears of that tipping point and sought to constrict legal and illegal immigration and, more recently, voting rights to preserve the powers of the shrinking white majority. The left has gone to the other extreme, increasingly defining people by their race, religion, sexual orientation or power/powerlessness status, not by what we all have in common as Americans.
Israel’s most important demographic tipping point, though, is not the one you think — i.e., not just with the Arabs — it’s with its exploding ultra-Orthodox Jewish population, argues Dan Ben-David, a Tel Aviv University economist, who heads the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research.
“Despite currently being the home to some of the world’s best universities and a phenomenal high-tech sector,” explained Ben-David, Israel is a nation where about half of its children — primarily ultra-Orthodox (known in Hebrew as the Haredi Jews), Israeli Arab and non-Orthodox Jews living in the country’s peripheries — “are receiving a third-world education, and they belong to the fastest growing parts of the population.”
Haredi families, he said, now average seven children, and in 50 percent of their households the men do not work, but instead engage in religious study thanks to government subsidies; do not serve in the army; and generally deprive their children of the core curriculum in math, science, computing and reading — “which is mandated by law in every developed country, other than Israel — that could give them economic independence as adults and likely loosen the grip of the religious establishment on them.”