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The Return of Bibi and Lula

The troubling rise of the far-right fringe in Israel, and the good news of Bolsanaro stepping aside.
November 7, 2022
The Return of Bibi and Lula
Benjamin Netanyahu on May 24, 2020. (Photo by ABIR SULTAN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ABIR SULTAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

[On the November 4, 2022 episode of The Bulwark’s “Beg to Differ” podcast, panelist Damon Linker and guest Ruy Teixiera joined host Mona Charen in discussing the results of elections in Israel and Brazil.]

Damon Linker: I will bring up the Israeli election as a lowlight. . . . They had another election there, and it was a free and fair election. I’m not a big fan of Netanyahu, although I feel like he’s been kind of around and/or in charge of Israel my entire adult life by this point.

I do need to signal the really distressing shape of his electoral coalition. I’m not going to get us so partisan as to loudly lament the fact that the Israeli left is really, really in decline, like to an astonishing degree. The left-wing party, Meretz, didn’t even make the new Knesset. And the Labor Party, which used to either run or come in a close second to run Israel for decades, is now at four seats in the Knesset, out of 120, which is astonishingly small.

[But] there are a couple of parties in Israel, on literally the far fringe right, that are going to be a part of Netanyahu’s electoral coalition, governing coalition there—parties with roots in pretty extreme racism and hostility to any kind of minority vote in the country. And the fact that they are now going to be part of the governing coalition there is not a good sign at all. For the health of Israeli civil society, it’s not so much . . . a matter of democratic exchange of power peacefully—they had their election, and things are going smoothly on that technical side. But, morally speaking, the people who are going to be running the Israeli government are now allied with people who are sort of the equivalent of the far fringe right in this country, sort of like a David Duke kind of phenomenon sitting in the government. And it’s upsetting to think about, that this is where we are now. These are the kind of people who democratic electorates are elevating to power these days. So, I’m upset about it.

Mona Charen: Yeah, the illiberal winds are blowing all over the world. . . .

Ruy Teixiera: My highlight would be Lula beating Bolsonaro in Brazil, and related to that, Bolsonaro being willing to step down. The transition is proceeding. He’s told his demonstrators to stop trying to mess things up, and I think that’s great. . . . Not only is Lula preferable to Bolsanaro, it’s good to see an authoritarian leader like that stepping aside when he’s defeated in a vote and hopefully, there’s a model there for some of the more authoritarian-leaning people in our country. So, we shall see.

Charen: So, their authoritarian accepted defeat more gracefully than ours. . . .

Linker: This is a global phenomenon, the rise of the kind of the anti-liberal right, but there are differences across countries. And, the fact that Bolsonaro came within two percentage points of winning—which, by the way, in our country with the Electoral College, would probably mean he would have won, despite losing the popular vote—and that he is stepping down, and even spoke out against the kind of grassroots “trucker” phenomenon of supporters fighting it, is a good sign for them—and a distressing sign that we can’t rise to that level in this country because of Donald Trump.

Listen to this episode or subscribe to the Beg to Differ podcast here

Damon Linker and Ruy Teixeira

Damon Linker writes the newsletter Eyes on the Right. Twitter: @DamonLinker. Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is the author, most recently, of The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think (St. Martin’s, 2017).