Though they hail from different ethnic and economic backgrounds, Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump are, politically speaking, brothers-in-arms. Each serves as the titular head of a government out of his control, held hostage by far-right forces that care little for the rule of law or even the dictates of nature, and whose members answer to higher powers— political, financial, and theological.
But one weapon that both men share and that none of their adversaries, enemies, or even “frenemies” can match is their ability to deploy massive media empires to intervene on their behalf. Each has long cultivated mutually beneficial relationships with powerful right-wing billionaires willing to put their money behind propaganda networks designed to bludgeon the public mind in the service of their business interests and pet political causes. As it happens, Netanyahu and Trump even share the same media cronies.
Currently, Netanyahu finds himself under criminal investigation for, among other things, a deal he tried to cut with Arnon Mozes, the wealthy owner and editor in chief of Yedioth Ahronoth, for better coverage in Israel’s most popular paid paper. In exchange for Mozes forcing his editors to be nicer to Bibi, the prime minister apparently agreed to lean on his friend, the multibillionaire and right-wing zealot Sheldon Adelson, to curb the Sunday edition of his multimillion-dollar pro-Bibi propaganda sheet Israel Hayom, whose free distribution nationwide has played havoc with the economics of Israel’s newspaper industry. The pact was never sealed, however, and in late 2014, when the Israeli Knesset appeared ready to pass a law that would have outlawed free newspaper distribution so as to “defend written journalism” in the country, Netanyahu dissolved the parliament and called new elections in order to upend the legislation.
Trump is also tight with Adelson. In preparation for his February 15 meeting with Netanyahu, Trump and his know-nothing UN representative, Nikki Haley, had dinner with Adelson and his wife. According to press reports, the Adelsons planned to lobby against even rhetorical support on the part of the Trump administration for a Palestinian state, as well as for a quick move of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Adelson has called in the past for the United States to bomb Iran without any particular provocation—something Netanyahu has long lobbied for. Good luck, everyone.)
Like Netanyahu, Trump regularly cuts deals with sympathetic media properties to ensure favorable coverage. After the election, Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner bragged to business executives that he’d done exactly this with the Sinclair cable network, which is prominent in swing-state America. Then there’s Breitbart, whose right-wing, racist lies presented under the guise of journalism were understood by “multiple writers and editors,” according to reporting by McKay Coppins of BuzzFeed, to have been part of a “pay for play” deal with Trump when the site was overseen by the fascist- admiring Steve Bannon, now Trump’s top White House adviser.