Where do Biden’s top VP candidates stand on Israel?

According to recent media reports, the four leading candidates are senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth, as well as former national security advisor Susan Rice.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak about his economic recovery plan to revive the coronavirus-battered U.S. economy during a campaign event in New Castle, Delaware, U.S., July 21, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak about his economic recovery plan to revive the coronavirus-battered U.S. economy during a campaign event in New Castle, Delaware, U.S., July 21, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
WASHINGTON – Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said on Tuesday that he would pick his running mate “in the first week in August.”
According to recent media reports, the four leading candidates are Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth, and former national security advisor Susan Rice, with other congresswomen and mayors in consideration, as well.
The former vice president for Barack Obama, Biden, will be 78 in November. He has said on multiple occasions that his running mate needs to be someone who would be ready to “become president on day one.”
“The role that a vice president plays on foreign policy very much depends on the relationship the VP has with the president,” Ambassador Dennis Ross told The Jerusalem Post. “The closer the relationship, the more likely the president is to take the VP’s views and advice very seriously.”
“As VP, Biden had a role to play across the board on foreign policy, but was given a special mission in Iraq,” he continued. “[Biden] reserved his advice for the president mostly in their private one-on-one meetings. Presumably, should he become president, Biden would likely apply a similar model for his VP.”
Where do each of the candidates Biden is considering stand on Israel?
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris launches her campaign for President of the United States (Credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)U.S. Senator Kamala Harris launches her campaign for President of the United States (Credit: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

Kamala Harris
The California senator has long been considered as a candidate on Biden’s shortlist. She is supportive of rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, but during a 2019 campaign event in Iowa, she said she also wants to strengthen it. This would mean “extending the sunset provisions, including ballistic missile testing, and also increasing oversight,” she said.
Harris promoted a resolution in January 2017, days after she was sworn in as a senator, that opposed Obama’s UN Security Council condemnation of Israel during his last weeks in office. She was joined by Sen. Marco Rubio and a large group of senators to promote that resolution.
“[The Senate] Object[s] to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 and to all efforts that undermine direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a secure and peaceful settlement,” the text reads. It never got a vote on the floor, but it was the first resolution she had cosponsored as a senator.
“I believe that when any organization delegitimizes Israel, we must stand up and speak out for Israel to be treated equally,” she explained a few weeks later during her AIPAC speech. “That is why the first resolution I cosponsored as United States senator was to combat anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, and to reaffirm that the United States seeks a just, secure and sustainable two-state solution.”
In 2016, while running for Senate, she was asked by The Jewish News of Northern California if she would support or oppose legislation characterizing the settlements as illegal.
“The terms of any agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians cannot be imposed by others in the world,” she told the paper. “The US and our allies in Europe and the Arab world can and should help facilitate an agreement to create peace and bring both parties to the table, but the Israelis and Palestinians themselves must negotiate and approve the terms of any peace agreement.
“Lasting peace can only be found through bilateral negotiations that protect Israel’s identity, ensure security for all people and include the recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” she concluded.
Former US national security advisor Susan Rice (Credit: Reuters)Former US national security advisor Susan Rice (Credit: Reuters)
Susan Rice
The former ambassador to the UN and former national security advisor during the Obama administration has a complicated relationship with Israel, mostly around her prominent role in the formation of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
In 2015, Ross said in an interview to CNN that Rice is part of a wing of the White House that considers Israel “more of a problem” than a partner. When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an interim deal that governed the nuclear negotiations, was first announced, Rice’s handling of Israel’s concerns were antagonistic, Ross asserted then.
In a 2015 column in Politico, Ross recalled a conversation he had with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2013 about a possible interim deal with Iran. He said Netanyahu “was as disturbed as I had ever seen him.
“The Israelis had been surprised that such a deal was suddenly on the brink of happening,” Ross wrote. “Only a week earlier, Israel’s Iran team was briefed on the status of the talks, but national security advisor Susan Rice had not authorized the Israelis to be briefed on the actual state of play in the negotiations.”
Ultimately, the Iran deal proved to be her biggest clash with Netanyahu. It came to a head in March 2015, when Netanyahu accepted the invitation of House speaker John Boehner, to address Congress and speak about the JCPOA. He told the House the deal was “so bad” and that it “paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”
In her book, Rice wrote that the speech “marked a new low in the already strained US-Israel bilateral relationship.”
“The relationship between Israel as a country and the United States as a country has always been bipartisan,” she told Charlie Rose in an interview ahead of Netanyahu’s speech in 2015. “What has happened over the last several weeks, by virtue of the invitation that was issued by the speaker and the acceptance of it by Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks in advance of his election, is that on both sides?” She said that a degree of partisanship was now injected into the relationship, something she termed “destructive.”
Rice’s first visit to the Holy Land was in 1979, when she was only 14. She boarded the first-ever direct flight from Cairo to Tel Aviv, shortly after the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was signed.
“We bowed our heads in sorrow at Yad Vashem,” she recalled in her speech at AIPAC in 2015. “We walked the lanes of the Old City, climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea and picked fruit in a kibbutz. My first memories of Israel remain etched in my soul.”
In 2009, she was appointed as ambassador to the UN. In her book, Tough Love, Rice recalled that Israel is the focus of outsized attention in the UN, “most of it unfair, and excessively negative.”
She added that her responsibility “was to stand up and protect Israel against attacks on its legitimacy and security. It was a role I embraced with passion and played aggressively throughout my tenure at the UN. I loathe antisemitism and racism. For me, it’s personal. And too much of the anti-Israel vitriol at the UN stems from crass prejudice.”
Rice noted that she also opposed the Palestinians’ efforts to be admitted as a member state at the UN. However, during her speech explaining the US decision to veto the draft resolution, Rice rebuked Israeli settlements in harsh words.
“We reject in the strongest terms the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” she said. “For more than four decades, Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 has undermined Israel’s security and corroded hopes for peace and stability in the region.”
The highest point between Rice and the Israeli government was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in 2016, which provided Israel with a record high of $38 billion in aid for 10 years.
“For as long as the State of Israel has existed, the United States has been Israel’s greatest friend and partner. That ironclad bond has endured l’dor va’dor, from generation to generation, across parties and administrations,” she said.
Last month, Rice raised a public criticism against possible Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank.
“It would make this traditionally bipartisan strong support for Israel that much harder to sustain,” Rice told an online forum convened by the Israel Policy Forum.
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) attends the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of Defense Spectrum Policy and the Impact of the Federal Communications Commission's Ligado Decision on National Security during the coronavirus disease ( COVID-19) pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 6, 2020. (Credit: Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters)Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) attends the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of Defense Spectrum Policy and the Impact of the Federal Communications Commission's Ligado Decision on National Security during the coronavirus disease ( COVID-19) pandemic on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 6, 2020. (Credit: Greg Nash/Pool via Reuters)
Tammy Duckworth
In May, the Illinois senator was a part of a group of 18 Senate Democrats that sent a letter to Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz urging them not to move forward with annexing settlements.
“A deep commitment to Israel’s security and a shared set of democratic values are foundational elements of the close relationship between our countries,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are therefore concerned that unilateral annexation puts both Israel’s security and democracy at risk.”
In 2019, she cosponsored the TIME for Holocaust Survivors Act. The measure aimed to amend the Older Americans Act of 1965 to provide social service agencies with the resources to provide services to meet the urgent needs of Holocaust survivors “to age in place with dignity, comfort, security, and quality of life.” She cosponsored a similar measure as a member of the House in 2016.
In 2019, she was one of 69 senators that supported a resolution “opposing efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.”
She also supported a different resolution, affirming the US commitment to the two-state solution.
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during the eighth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., February 7, 2020 (Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder)Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during the eighth Democratic 2020 presidential debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., February 7, 2020 (Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder)
Elizabeth Warren
The Massachusetts senator is a part of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and has often criticized Israel’s policies.
On more than a few occasions, she has raised the possibility of conditioning aid to Israel. Two weeks ago, she joined Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would prohibit Israel from using US security assistance funds for the annexation of parts of the West Bank.
Warren, who earlier this year ended her presidential primary campaign, was asked by the Democratic Majority for Israel Political Action Committee about her views on Israel: “I am committed to Israel’s security and legitimacy, and to cooperating closely on common threats we face from Iran and from terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIS,” her campaign said. “But we cannot emphasize our deep bonds to Israel while ignoring the basic humanity of Palestinians. We must also commit to ensure the well-being, rights, and freedom of the Palestinian people.”
She added that she would welcome the Palestinian General Delegation back to Washington and reopen an American mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and would also “make clear that in a two-state agreement both parties should have the option to locate their capitals in Jerusalem, as all previous serious plans have acknowledged.”
She also called to “immediately resume aid to the Palestinians and financial support to UNRWA, and focus real financial and political resources on fixing the man-made humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.”