Talk of Biden’s joviality and personal warmth, and of moderates versus radicals, are soothing distractions for Israelis about to face the most hostile U.S. administration in history.
By Israel Hayom via JNS
The day before the U.S. presidential election, the progressive Israel Democracy Institute published the results of a poll of Israeli Jews asked whether they believed President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden would be better for Israel. Some 70 percent named Trump, 13 percent chose Biden and 17 percent said they didn’t know.
Since Election Day, and since U.S. networks proclaimed Biden the winner, Israel’s media, along with its diplomatic and security establishments and political leadership, busied themselves by scouring the lists of candidates for senior foreign policy positions in the Biden administration and considering the implications of so-and-so’s appointment to national security adviser. The notion behind the name game is that the appointment of one person over another will significantly impact a Biden administration’s Middle East policy either in Israel’s favor or to its detriment.
There is nothing new about the name game. Israel’s political and national security leaders and its media know-it-alls play it every four years, and indeed, often personnel has been policy. For instance, when Trump replaced his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, with Mike Pompeo, things changed. Tillerson opposed leaving the Iran nuclear deal and opposed moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Pompeo supported both.
But in the case of the apparently incoming Biden administration, who fills what job is basically irrelevant, and worrying about it should certainly not be a priority. Biden’s policies are basically set in stone.
Biden, his running mate Kamala Harris and his team repeatedly set out his Middle East policies, in detail, over the course of the campaign. And in the days since it became clear that Biden is far more likely than Trump to be inaugurated on Jan. 20, his advisers have restated those policies and, in some cases, have taken initial steps towards implementing them.
If statements and actions by Biden, Harris and their campaign during the course of the election and in its immediate aftermath were not enough to convince Israel’s leadership and our media of the depth of their commitment, the Democrat Party as a whole stands behind them.
In the days since the election, Democrats, particularly in the House of Representatives, have been playing the blame game regarding their significant losses. Whereas everyone was certain that the party would expand its House majority, with the loss of at least 12 seats, the Democrat majority has moved from comfortable to endangered. Moderates now insist that the progressives took the party too far to the left and lost it precious votes in mixed districts. Radicals for their part note that nearly everyone who ran with their policies won their races and demand even greater sway in party decision making and leadership circles.
But the rancor and infighting between moderates and radicals revolves around domestic issues like socialism and defunding the police. It has nothing to do with Israel or the wider Middle East. Policies on those issues are effectively consensual.
They are consensual because as statements and actions by the Biden campaign, by Biden, by Harris and by the Democrat National Committee have made clear, Biden’s policies on Israel, Iran and the wider Middle East are the Obama-Biden administration’s policies. A Biden-Harris administration Middle East policy will pick up precisely where the Obama-Biden administration left off four years ago. Trump’s policies will be unceremoniously annulled, ignored, set aside, or rendered irrelevant.
Biden has committed himself to restore the Palestinians to center stage and to reinstate U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority. Following the passage of the Taylor Force Act which bars the United States from funding the PA so long as it pays salaries to terrorists, Trump ended U.S. financial support for the PA because it refused to stop funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists. Likewise, PA funding of terrorists caused Trump to close the PLO’s representative office in Washington, D.C., which Biden has committed to reopening.
Biden also committed himself to reinstating U.S. humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. Such a move will be a boon for the Hamas terrorist regime, which currently relies on cash payments from Qatar.
The Obama administration’s endpoint insofar as the Palestinians were concerned was the lame-duck passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2234 in December 2016. While Obama and his advisers insisted that they had nothing to do with the resolution but simply didn’t feel right vetoing it, as we have learned over the past four years, 2234 was initiated by Obama and his U.N. ambassador Samantha Power. They pushed it obsessively, attaching the highest priority to harming Israel as much as possible before they left office.
Resolution 2234 was geared towards setting up Israeli leaders and civilians to be prosecuted as war criminals in the International Criminal Court by claiming, baselessly, that Israeli communities in unified Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria are illegal. In the words of the resolution, those communities and neighborhoods, which are home to more than 700,000 Israelis, have “no legal validity” and “constitute a flagrant violation under international law.”
President Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s determination last November that Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are not illegal were of a piece with the Trump administration’s attempt to nullify Resolution 2234, at least from a domestic U.S. perspective. A Biden administration will ignore the Pompeo Doctrine and the State Department’s legal opinion substantiating his position just as Obama ignored Trump’s repeated statements of opposition to 2234 in the weeks before its passage.
Picking up where Obama left off
Driving home their plan to pick up where Obama left off, Biden, Harris and their advisers have all said they will reinstate the Obama administration’s demand that Israel bar Israeli Jews from asserting their property rights to build homes and communities in Judea and Samaria.
As for Jerusalem, while Biden has said that he will not close the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem and reinstate the embassy in Tel Aviv, he has pledged to reopen the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem to serve Palestinians. Until Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem operated independently of the embassy. The U.S. consul in Jerusalem was not accredited by the Israeli president because the United States refused to acknowledge that Jerusalem is located inside Israel.
Although Biden congratulated Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on signing the Abraham Accords—which Sudan has since joined as well—his advisers have spoken of them derisively. This week, Tommy Vietor, who served as National Security Council spokesman under Obama, spoke derisively of the normalization deals, which just weeks after the accords were signed have already blossomed into a deep and enthusiastic partnership and alliance encompassing private citizens and government ministries in all participating countries.
Vietor said they were not peace deals but a mere vehicle for the UAE to acquire F-35s. Vietor then alleged that the UAE wants to use the deals to help Saudi Arabia win its war against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.
Biden, Harris and their advisers have pledged to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in the war and to reassess the U.S.-Saudi alliance.
If implemented, these policies will not end the Saudi war against the Houthis. They will end the U.S.-Saudi alliance. For the Saudis, the war against the Houthis is not a war of choice, it is an existential struggle. The Houthis are an Iranian proxy regime. Their control over the strait of Bab el-Mandeb threatens all maritime oil shipments from the Red Sea. Houthi missile strikes already temporarily disabled Saudi Arabia’s main oil terminal and have hit Saudi cities. If the U.S. ends its alliance, the Saudis will continue their war and replace their alliance with the United States with an alliance with China.
Supporting Iran’s Yemeni proxy against the United States’ strategic ally is not, of course, the only way that a Biden administration will help Iran to fight its Arab allies and Israel. Biden, Harris and their campaign advisers have all pledged repeatedly to reinstate the U.S. commitment to the nuclear deal the Obama administration concluded with the Iranian regime in 2015. Various reports have emerged in recent days regarding how precisely Biden intends to achieve that aim. But one thing is clear, having committed himself to restoring the U.S. commitment to the deal, Iran will hold all the cards in any future negotiation on the terms of a U.S.-Iran nuclear rapprochement. And that means that the U.S. will back Iran’s nuclear weapons program more or less from the outset of a Biden-Harris administration.
Not simply Biden’s positions
It cannot be underscored enough that these policies are not simply Biden’s positions. They are the Democrat Party’s positions. And this is the big change that has happened in the past four years. Israelis remember that when Obama concluded the nuclear deal, it was opposed by a 2:1 majority in the Senate and a similar majority in the House. But the Democrat Party has changed since then. Today, after four years of radicalization, on issues related to the Middle East generally and Israeli specifically, there is no meaningful distinction between the reputedly moderate Anthony Blinken, who served as then secretary of state John Kerry’s deputy, and the clearly anti-Israel Susan Rice, Obama’s former national security adviser. So it matters little if Blinken or Rice (or anyone else) is appointed secretary of state.
Because these are the positions of the party, they are not subject to change. If Biden’s radical, deeply destabilizing plans for the Middle East somehow manage to destabilize the Middle East, Biden won’t be in a position to reconsider any of his policies. They have been grafted on to his party’s DNA. Representative Elliot Engel was slaughtered in his primary race against new “squad” member Jamal Bowan. Standing with the Palestinians is a party position. That’s why Obama’s former ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Israeli media that “the establishment of a Palestinian state will return as the strategic goal of the Biden administration.” He didn’t even mention peace in that statement.
Likewise, appeasing Iran and giving it an open road to a nuclear arsenal is a domestic political issue for Democrats.
Talk of Biden’s joviality and personal warmth, and of moderates versus radicals, are soothing distractions for Israelis who are about to face the most hostile U.S. administration in history. But the facts are the facts. And to meet the challenge a Biden administration will pose to Israel’s national and strategic interests, Israel must steel itself for what awaits it, not worry who will occupy which post in a Biden administration.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.”