Israel's gov't needs to bond with Biden

As these election results confirmed, American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and Israel must always keep this in mind.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden gestures after disembarking from a plane upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel March 8, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden gestures after disembarking from a plane upon landing at Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, near Tel Aviv, Israel March 8, 2016
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, unlike many Western leaders, did not immediately reach out to US President-elect Joe Biden to congratulate him on his election victory when the results became clear on Saturday. Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and President Reuven Rivlin, however, did publish their congratulations more swiftly.
It’s no secret that Netanyahu would have preferred to see the reelection of Donald Trump.
When he finally congratulated the incoming president and vice president-elect Kamala Harris, Netanyahu tweeted: “Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the US and Israel.”
He repeated this greeting at Sunday’s cabinet meeting but also made sure to thank Trump “for the friendship you have shown the State of Israel and me personally... on recognizing Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, for his stand on Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the alliance between Israel and the US to unprecedented heights, for standing up to Iran, for the historic peace accords and for bringing the American-Israeli alliance to unprecedented heights.”
Biden faces myriad challenges in the Middle East, from the increasing threat Iran poses the region; Turkey’s growing extremism; the instability in Syria and, of course, the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
He is likely to take an almost opposite approach to Trump on many of these issues, favoring a return to the Iran deal and shelving the so-called “Deal of the Century,” detaching Israeli diplomacy from the Palestinian desires for a state. He will also be far less amenable in recognizing Israeli rights in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the question of extending sovereignty before a solution is found to the Palestinian conflict. It seems unlikely, however, that given the tremendous domestic challenges Biden faces that the Palestinian issue will be near the top of his agenda and much will depend on who he chooses as his advisers and to fill the top diplomatic spots.
From Israel’s point of view, the biggest immediate challenge is probably rebuilding a relationship over decades was founded on broad, US bipartisan support. Israel’s security – as an essential US ally as well as in its own right – cannot be dependent on the identity of the US president’s party: Republican or Democrat.
But the prime minister was not alone in his preference for Trump. A survey published by the Israel Democracy Institute found that the vast majority of Israeli Jews unequivocally favored Trump as a candidate “from the standpoint of Israel’s interests.”
It found that 42% of Israeli Jews believe that the US-Israel bond will weaken under Biden and only 7% think it will improve. (The figures for Arab Israelis were 24% and 16% respectively.)
“Presumably, this pronounced preference among the Jewish public for Trump to keep serving stems to a large extent from the assessment that Biden’s election would weaken US-Israeli relations and strengthen the relationship between Washington and the Palestinians,” the IDI survey concluded.
As these election results confirmed, American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat and Israel must always keep this in mind. It must also make an effort to maintain the bonds with the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora. Fortunately, also, despite the vocal pro-Palestinian progressive wing, the majority of elected Democrat officials traditionally support Israel.
While acknowledging with gratitude all that Trump has done for the Jewish state, including moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Israel cannot afford to ally itself with only one American political party.
“Let’s give each other a chance,” Biden said in his victory speech in Delaware, promising that as the 46th president of the US he would work to unify the country and heal rifts. “And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies,” he continued.
This message of unity and healing would be a good one for Netanyahu and the Israeli public to adopt, too.


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