Biden knows well that being pro-Israel does not make one anti-Palestine

US election ushers in a new opening for Israeli-Palestinian peace

THEN-VICE PRESIDENT Joe Biden gestures as he walks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting in Ramallah in 2010. (photo credit: REUTERS)
THEN-VICE PRESIDENT Joe Biden gestures as he walks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting in Ramallah in 2010.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
 The election of the moderate US President-elect Joe Biden as the country’s next president advances the two-state solution, and that is in the best national interests of both Israelis and Palestinians. This solution remains the best option for resolving their perennial conflict, and its legitimacy is sustained by sizeable, if not overwhelming, popular support on the ground, as well as from international actors.
Let us be clear, we are under no illusion about the serious challenges facing Israeli-Palestinian peace. But we hold that the Biden administration will enliven the opportunities for peace, and these must not be missed by the two contending parties and other states in the Middle East and beyond. Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to get to yes.
Biden is a close friend of the Jewish people and a staunch supporter of Israel. He cares deeply about Israel’s security and well being. In June 2020, when progressive lawmakers called for placing conditions on the $3.8 billion in US military funding to Israel should it proceed with annexation, Biden expressed his unwillingness to do so. However, Biden opposes annexation. He believes Israel should stop expanding its settlements in the West Bank, as that would stifle any movement toward peace. His administration will maintain the military and intelligence cooperation with Israel – as initiated by former US president Barack Obama’s administration – as well as Israel’s qualitative military edge, in addition to economic, commercial, scientific and technological collaborations.
Similarly, Biden feels empathy toward the Palestinian people, and wants to reengage them. The 2020 Democratic Party platform calls for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state that enables Palestinians to govern themselves. He plans to restore diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority, the necessary funding for the Israeli-Palestinians security cooperation and the financial, humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While he will maintain the US Embassy in Jerusalem, he intends to reopen the American Consulate in east Jerusalem and the PLO’s diplomatic mission in Washington.
Whatever path Biden pursues in the Middle East, it will not be in service of his personal politics. He will be more of an honest broker, and willing to apply the necessary pressure on, and offer incentives for, both Israelis and Palestinians to move them toward accommodation and peace.
Biden knows well that being pro-Israel does not make one anti-Palestine. Being pro-Palestine does not make one anti-Israel. They are not mutually exclusive. Criticism of both sides, if legitimate, is fine and at times necessary, but no side should be demonized.
Biden stands with the two-state solution as the only path toward Israel’s long-term security and the preservation of its identity as a Jewish and democratic state. Likewise, he stands with the two-state solution as the only way to empower Palestinians and promote their rights to a state of their own, thus ensuring their legitimate interest in national self-determination and their dignity. 
In pursuing the two-state solution, Biden is advised to build on the Clinton Parameters and the peace initiative of Obama. In such an eventuality, perhaps the octogenarian and risk-averse PA President Abbas or his successor, having seen how much worse things could be than the passed-up 2008 offer from Ehud Olmert, will be more likely to seriously entertain and negotiate the contours of the 2008 offer. Perhaps the same can happen with the risk-averse and the beleaguered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his successor who can moderate the Israeli approach to peace with Palestinians given Israel’s need to be on the right side of the Biden administration and its clear interest in Arab recognition and partnerships. Both Abbas and Netanyahu have congratulated Biden.
As Israeli and Palestinian leaders reengage, it behooves them to stop any actions or statements that would contribute to a worsening of their relations. Both must be willing to take political risks through direct negotiations, and to do so seriously and in good faith, meaning that they intend to reach agreement and commit to fulfilling its terms. 
Israelis and Palestinians seem to have one foot anchored in the past and the other rising to the present. While the lessons of the past must not be forgotten and the challenges of the present must be faced, the way forward is to plant one’s foot in the present and have the other rising to the future.
It is urgent for Israelis and Palestinians to reimagine their relations and be the architects of their common destination and destiny: two states living alongside each other in peace, security, and prosperity. The Biden administration can lend a helping hand and so will other peace advocates around the world. Taking the first step is now!
Saliba Sarsar, professor of political science at Monmouth University, is author of Peacebuilding in Israeli-Palestinian Relations. 

Yael S. Aronoff is the director of the Serling Institute for Jewish Studies and Modern Israel, the Serling Chair in Israel Studies at Michigan State University and author of The Political Psychology of Israeli Prime Ministers: When Hard-Liners Opt for Peace.