Since bursting onto the political scene with her election to Congress in 2020, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene represents the worst of right-wing American populism. She has no interest in debate, discourse, or policy. Rather, it’s about headlines and clicks, grievance and bomb-throwing. Now with Israel’s latest election, it seems, Israel’s ruling coalition has its own MTG.
The freshman legislator is a constant presence on Israeli television and Twitter, ever-ready to trash the political left and wield a cudgel at Netanyahu’s nemeses. From the country’s Supreme Court to Yoav Gallant (the stiff-necked defense minister), no target is immune from her strafing.
Last November, she announced that Israel’s high court lacks the legal authority to invalidate laws enacted by the Knesset, Israel’s unicameral parliament. “I ignore such rulings,” she declared. “This is a ruling without authority, I do not respect it.” She was only warming up.
In February 2023, Gotliv scathingly blamed Supreme Court President Esther Hayut for a lethal Palestinian terror attack. “I blame the Supreme Court President for the terror attack. I blame her for the chaos in Israel,” Gotliv posted. “I blame President Hayut for destroying democracy and the rule of law.”
Later, Gotliv demanded that Netanyahu fire Gallant, saying there was no room for granting the former general a second chance to demonstrate fealty. Beyond that, she lauded Itamar Ben-Gvir, the firebrand internal security minister—formerly banned from government and the military for being too racist and extremist—as “excellent,” and then wished all a happy Passover.
After settlers rampaged through the Huwara, a Palestinian village, she refused to point a finger. “They asked me: ‘Don’t you condemn what happened in Huwara?’ I said to them, ‘Not today,’” Gotliv told the Knesset. “Tomorrow, but not today.”
Like MTG, Gotliv knows that her utility flows from her outrageousness. Both women channel the id of their respective political parties.
On a personal level, Gotliv withdrew from ultra-Orthodox Judaism, the world in which she was raised. MTG is an avatar of white Christian nationalism.
Gotliv last weekend laid her country’s woes at the feet of…Barack Obama (who left office in January 2017). With the camera rolling and in front of a very hot mic, she dished out a bowl of word salad for the ages.
“I’m helping my country from [the] inside…with no fear of anyone,” Gotliv ranted. She then accused former President Obama of paying the Israeli news outlet Walla for “advertisement[s] against Netanyahu.” She added, “So don’t tell me story, because I know how it works.”
To reiterate, in a spasm of verbal incontinence, a member of Israel’s ruling coalition accused a former U.S. president of orchestrating a paid media campaign that targeted the incumbent Israeli prime minister—without offering a scintilla of proof. She may as well have said that Obama was born in Kenya to Martian parents (hey, it worked for Trump).
Substantively, Gotliv appears to have added her own spin to a report parroted by Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s older son, that the U.S. stood behind the ongoing anti-government protests. On that score, the right-leaning Washington Free Beacon and the far-right Breitbart previously drew a link between a $38,000 U.S. government grant to the Movement for Quality Government, an Israeli NGO, to the current wave of demonstrations. (For the record, the State Department has emphatically denied those allegations.)
But in seeking to assist Netanyahu, Gotliv may have complicated his predicament. She lashed out at the U.S. at the very moment Netanyahu could use a friend in the Oval Office. Since retaking the prime ministership, Bibi has not received an invitation to the White House. And just weeks ago, Joe Biden announced that he would not receive one in the “near term.”
Netanyahu’s attack on the judiciary weighs heavily on U.S.-Israel relations. According to a recent Pew poll, just a third of Americans possess confidence in him. Among Democrats, the number is one-in-six.
Either Gotliv didn’t get the memo, or she was playing to the Likud faithful. However offensive, her gambit is unoriginal. Still, Biden’s inner circle can’t be amused, even as history repeats itself.
“To reiterate, in a spasm of verbal incontinence, a member of Israel’s ruling coalition accused a former U.S. president of orchestrating a paid media campaign that targeted the incumbent Israeli prime minister—without offering a scintilla of proof.”
Team Bibi repeatedly clashed with Obama. In 2011, a microphone caught Obama telling Nikolas Sarkozy, France’s then-president: “You’re fed up with [Netanyahu] but I have to deal with him more often than you.” In the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign, Netanyahu returned the favor. He feted Obama’s 2012 presidential opponent, Mitt Romney, to a post-Tisha B’Av break-fast. (By way of background, the Tisha B’Av fast commemorates the destruction of the Temple and is a day of national mourning. Usually, the fast ends with a whimper, not a bang.)
Later, Netanyahu delivered a speech to a joint session of Congress—which some Democrats boycotted, as the prime minister had not been invited by the White House—in a bid to thwart the Iran nuclear agreement. In his 2022 pre-election memoir, Bibi recounted his past disagreements with the Obama administration, such as when Obama made “an Everest out of an ant hill” in opposing further Israeli expansion on disputed West Bank territory.
Biden, however, is no Obama. His relationship with the Jewish State stretches back decades. His rapport with Israel is the remnant of an earlier era when Democratic support for Israel was taken as a given.
Yet, for members of Netanyahu’s cabinet, that fact stands as a distinction without a difference. Amichai Chikli, Israel’s minister of Diaspora Affairs, unloaded on Tom Nides, Washington’s ambassador to Jerusalem, after he had said that the government should slow down its efforts to defenestrate the judiciary.
“Some official, I don’t know who he is, I never met him, suggested I should stay out of Israel’s business,” Nides clapped back. “I really think that most Israelis do not want America to stay out of their business.”
It’s under these fraught conditions that diplomacy and measured consideration are what’s in Israel’s interests. Sometimes domestic politics are felt beyond the water’s edge. Instead, a prickly and increasingly illiberal Israeli government continues to alienate its most crucial ally, the United States.
And now it’s got Gotliv, its own MTG, a loose cannon recklessly sounding off and riling up the Likud base. Like MTG, she makes the more “serious” members of her coalition look guilty by association. Now, that’s clout.