One of Freud's more controversial followers, Wilhelm Reich, coined a memorable term to describe the boastful, self-aggrandizing and bold personality style displayed everywhere these days by Donald Trump. Equipped with such character armor, the phallic-narcissistic character strives to ward off any signs of passivity, weakness or submission.
Now while Trump -- admirably if embarrassingly -- wears this brittle wall of defensive arrogance on his sleeves, another leader with a similar character style, albeit with a more sophisticated, rational veneer, has also dominated the political debate in America as of late. This one has actually dominated much of the world stage in the past few years.
Waging a relentless verbal war of warnings and threats against Iran since at least 2010, Bibi Netanyahu too has mobilized equal doses of bombast, self-importance and drama. Granted, as the leader of a nuclear Middle Easter power, the Bibi has far more impact than the Donald has ever had. Indeed, Netanyahu's showmanship has been accompanied by targeted covert operations that rattled Iranian nuclear aspirations. Yet more than anything else, it is the force of these men's personality -- another feature of which is the audacious manipulation of constituents' anxieties and rage for the idealized purpose of getting a win -- that is driving the events in the political and policy arenas. As is often the case with such larger-than-life characters, both the Donald and the Bibi have attained extraordinary success. Most recently, Trump has exceeded all expectations in the Republican presidential race. He has also redefined the policy debate parameters in the field. On his part, Netanyahu played a major role in pushing the international community to impose serious sanctions on Iran which ultimately brought it to the negotiating table.
But in all likelihood Trump's excesses will end up driving his campaign and the Republican Party with it to the ground and Netanyahu is well on his way to doing the same to himself, and tragically, to his country. To be sure, the excesses of The Donald and The Bibi have brought them plenty of defeats before. But at least in Netanyahu's case, the one heading towards him now might well spell disaster for his country.
Trampling on Washington decorum and all norms of behavior among allies, the Bibi has lectured to, deceived and humiliated the Secretary of State, the Vice President and the President of the United States. He ultimately turned his war with Iran into a dangerous conflict with Israel's most critical allies, The United States, Europe, and perhaps most importantly, the silent majority of the American Jewish Community. The latter is politically progressive and intellectually inclined. They are emotionally loyal to Barack Obama and his elk and will choose his politics and personal style over the Bibi's any day of the week.
The fact that the leaders of the major American Jewish organizations support the Bibi unconditionally bespeaks mostly of their ties to a vanishing class of wealthy, elderly donors and their historical devotion to the Jewish theology of affliction. But even if a good number of American Jews still share their views, the bitter divide Netanyahu created within the American Jewish Community forestalls a greater existential threat to Israel than the Iranian bomb.
Without a strong and unified support for Israel among the electorally empowered American Jewish community, and with the United States approaching energy independence and Middle East fatigue, Israel will lose its support in Washington, and subsequently in the remaining Western world. Failing to connect these dots -- to a large measure due to an inflated sense of his own, and Israel's importance -- the Israeli prime minister bet on the losing side of history. And if Israeli analysts are correct, he is now poised to continue the fight with Iran and Obama, escalating Israel's conflict with the Muslim world while at the same time biting the hand that's feeding him in America.
Paradoxically, the only hope for Israel, absent an unlikely realignment in its own nationalist-religious political landscape, is the Bibi's very same, phallic-narcissistic character. Just as The Donald is likely to, at some point, declare victory -- "I changed Washington DC forever" or something to that effect -- and walk away from the contest he is bound to lose, there's a chance the Bibi will try to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat. Taking credit -- not without some justification -- for "bringing Iran to its feet," he might well pose as the big winner. And who knows, maybe in order to erase his narcissistic injury, and by way of pacifying Obama, the Bibi might even attempt to come to terms with the Palestinian nation.
Alon Gratch is a clinical psychologist and author of The Israeli Mind: How The Israeli National Character Shapes Our World.