Dear, Mr. President: As you wake up this fine Friday morning in a beautiful suite overlooking the sun-drenched, golden walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, I ask you to take a few minutes to contemplate history, to think about fate.
Before you depart Jerusalem for Jeddah, take a step back and consider the moment. Just what does it mean to be the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, Israel’s best friend on the globe, here in united Jerusalem in Israel’s 75th year?
It means, I believe, that one must think in Providential, prophetic terms. In this holy city you are challenged to fathom the processes at work behind the curtain of current affairs; to discern mystic movement at play; to understand the State of Israel and its challenges in grand historical terms.
History knows no parallel to the prophecies of the Bible, which foretold of Jacob and Joseph’s exile, of the break-up of a people into a thousand pieces across the world, to every culture and civilization – yet destined not to assimilate, but to return.
And thus, the establishment, survival and blooming of Israel is more than a political or secular event in Jewish, or indeed in global, consciousness. As Rabbi Dr. Yaacov Herzog wrote (the late uncle of current President Isaac Herzog), Israel stands as vindication of the spirit, as validation of the tenaciousness of faith.
This belief in the power of Jewish history animated by ancient faith explains much about Israel today. It explains the willingness of Israelis to sacrifice for independence. It explains their drive to succeed in the arts and sciences and to share their advances with the world. It explains their resolute attachment to Jerusalem.
It explains why Israeli leaders sometimes stubbornly refuse to accept rational calculations of diplomatic cost/benefit that are politely (and often impolitely) impressed on them by allies. It explains why Israelis can shake off the bleak and sinister prognostications frequently advanced by both friends and enemies.
It explains why those who consider history only in terms of national politics and international relations underestimate or misjudge Israel. They are confused by Israel’s deep sense of historical mission, which blurs the lines between imagination and reality, between the possible and the feasible. They fail to understand that Israel is guided by an astral calculus that is not always perceptible.
YOU, PRESIDENT Joe Biden, are an integral part of this otherworldly reckoning. Even though many Democrats don’t “speak religion,” I think that you do. You understand that US-Israel ties go beyond the political. They are culturally innate, spiritually intimate, perhaps Divinely ordained. In your own words, US-Israel ties are “bone deep.”
Your nation consistently has backed Israel through adversity, and you personally have acted to strengthen the US-Israel partnership – a linchpin of Israel’s security in this dangerous region of the world.
It is specifically because of these close bonds between us that many Israelis are uncomfortable with your visit today to Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives, defiantly without the accompaniment of Israeli officials. It is as if you feel the need to recognize Palestinian primacy in eastern Jerusalem. That is a mistake.
It’s good that the US, like Israel, wants to improve the quality of life for eastern Jerusalem Arabs, and for West Bank Palestinians too. America’s donation of $100 million to the eastern Jerusalem hospital network is welcome. But know that united Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and Israel only.
And why not visit the Western Wall while you’re at it? Just because president Donald Trump did so in 2017 is not good enough reason to avoid this.
You won’t want to hear this, but the Trump team did a great service to the cause of long-term peace by insisting on basic historical truths that have long been distorted by “peace process professionals” and the so-called international “consensus.”
Basic historical truths like recognition that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years and of the modern State of Israel since its founding, and that Jerusalem must never again be divided.
Basic historical truths like recognition that Jews are not interlopers in Judea and Samaria.
Basic strategic realities such as Israel’s right to the Golan Heights in pursuit of defensible borders.
Basic diplomatic candor that treats Palestinians as adults, responsible for their own corruption and mistakes (such as the PA’s outrageous “pay for slay” policy).
MOST OF ALL, when contemplating history and thinking about fate in relation to Israel, you must reckon with this: Your responsibility as president of the United States to thwart Iran’s hegemonic and genocidal ambitions.
If you allow Iran to produce a nuclear bomb, history will never forgive you. Anything else you do for Israel will fall by the wayside. It will be judged as irrelevant.
Alas, you misguidedly backed president Barack Obama’s sloppy and dangerous deal with the mullahs in 2015 and seem to be headed helter-skelter into another bad deal with Tehran, even as Iran humiliates the US by ramping-up uranium enrichment and by attacking US allies.
So, we here in Israel say to you: Boker tov, good morning...! Which in Hebrew slang means: wakey, wakey! Time for a course reversal on Iran.
You need to exact a price from the Iranian regime and its terrorist militias for illicit nuclear bomb and ballistic missile development and for fomenting violence across the region. This demands the forceful application of crippling sanctions alongside demonstration of a credible military option against Iran. Talking about the use of force only as a “last option” is not helpful.
Put Iran on the defensive, and reward America’s natural allies in the region – Israel and many Gulf countries plus Egypt – with unambiguous American backing.
Finally, after a very poor start in which your administration refused to even breathe the term “Abraham Accords,” you ought to double-down on the accords. Despite Trumpian residue on the accords and Palestinian dissatisfaction with them, advancing and expanding them should be a priority US foreign policy goal, a “no-brainer.”
In fact, the Abraham Accords can and ought to be rebranded as a spur to peace with the Palestinians. Democrats, even the radical progressives among them, ought to connect with this benefit.
By allowing Israelis to travel and trade openly across the region, and by reaffirming the indigenousness of Jews in their ancestral homeland and accepting the permanence of the State of Israel – which is what Arab Abraham Accord countries have done – the mental space for peace with the Palestinians has been enlarged too. This also usefully wedges recalcitrant Palestinian leadership into a corner; a corner where fair compromise with Israel will be their only option.
Consequently, if you, President Biden, handle the Abraham Accords opportunity with more vigor, then willy-nilly, down the road, even Palestinians begrudgingly will be dragged toward reconciliation with Israel.
Mr. President: Keep in mind that the Jewish people are not afraid of long journeys. Stand with Israel on the long road to security and peace. Do not undermine the fantastic peace dynamic unleashed by the Abraham Accords by going sentimental-soft on unpromising Palestinians or weak-kneed on ruthless Iranians.
The writer is a senior fellow at The Kohelet Forum and in the research department of Habithonistim: Israel’s Defense and Security Forum. The views expressed here are his own. His diplomatic, defense, political, and Jewish world columns over the past 25 years are archived at davidmweinberg.com.