The Biden administration plans to hold Netanyahu personally responsible for the actions of his more extreme coalition partners, especially if they lead to policies that endanger a future Palestinian state, inside sources told POLITICO.
For the purpose of discussing any remotely serious issues ranging from Israeli settlements in the West Bank to Israel’s relations with Arab states, Netanyahu is set to be the person US officials will publicly turn to, refer to and rely upon, the officials said.
"Bibi says he can control his government, so let’s see him do just that," said one of the US officials.
“Bibi says he can control his government, so let’s see him do just that.”US officials
Although this approach underscores the growing fragility and complexity of US-Israel relations, Israel’s role as a security partner in the region, as well as its role as a haven for the Jewish people, means any serious deterioration in relations is not plausible, no matter how radical Israel's government is perceived.
The rightward tilt in Israeli politics, however, is eroding strong bipartisan support for the country in Washington, especially among Democrats who, despite receiving backlash on the campaign trail at times, are increasingly willing to criticize Israel directly.
Limiting the Israeli government
According to an official from the Biden administration, the far-right excesses of the new Israeli government needs to be limited, and they see Netanyahu as their best conduit to exert such notions. Exactly what type of leverage, aside from rhetoric, would be used to pressure Netanyahu was not elaborated on by the officials.
The officials claimed that they have "options in the works," further saying that Netanyahu "can expect much more than sharply worded news releases from the State Department."
They pointed out that Netanyahu has certain goals, from normalizing ties with Saudi Arabia to reining in Iran’s Islamist regime, goals he would certainly need US support to accomplish.
"Netanyahu wants a bunch of stuff from us," the officials said. "It’s a two-way street. … We’ll work with him on the things he cares about, and he’ll work on the things we care about."
"Right now, we’ve been very measured," they said, noting that the incoming government led by Netanyahu has yet to be formed, much less impose any policies. "We could turn up the criticism very quickly."
Netanyahu expected to announce government on Wednesday
Almost two months after the election on November 1, Likud chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to go to President Isaac Herzog to tell him that he has managed to cobble together a new government on Wednesday, according to Israeli media reports.
Once the proposed government and coalition agreements are presented to Knesset, the incoming prime minister will have a week to swear it in but as the Knesset plenum only convenes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and with the announcement expected later on Wednesday – the government will only be able to gain the Knesset’s confidence on Monday, at the earliest. It must then be sworn in by the following Monday, January 2.
Eliav Breuer contributed to this report