Palestinians shouldn’t bet on Biden to deliver peace or a state – opinion

When serving as vice president to Obama, Biden had a warmer relationship with Israeli leaders, including Benjamin Netanyahu, than Obama did.

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)
The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah is pinning high hopes that Donald Trump loses the upcoming US presidential elections and is replaced by the presumed Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. The reality that Palestinians have to recognize early on is that Biden is incapable of delivering a Palestinian state or brokering a permanent peace agreement between Israel and Palestine.
From a Palestinian perspective, a Biden presidency brings with it these positive elements.
Biden: a) does not support unilateral Israeli annexation of any parts of the West Bank; b) opposes Israel’s settlement activity; c) opposes the anti-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign but would not criminalize it under US law; d) warns Israel that the US “cannot fully safeguard Israelis without peace,” and e) supports a two-state solution.
Many of these policies are not any different from those of former president Barack Obama. And where did those policies lead? They led to a halting process of futile negotiations while Israel continued to confiscate Palestinian lands in the West Bank and simultaneously expanded and built new settlements.
Palestinian leaders have to remember that despite the vast difference in policies between Trump and Biden, Biden’s policy positions do not necessarily guarantee that he is willing to exert any pressure on Israel to agree to a Palestinian state that meets the minimal demands of the Palestinians.
Additionally, should Israel expand or build a new settlement, it is unlikely that the Biden administration would do anything punitive other than condemn Israel’s actions. In other words, there will be no real consequences to Israel’s actions no matter what Israel does.
When serving as vice president to Obama, Biden had a warmer relationship with Israeli leaders, including Benjamin Netanyahu, than Obama did. Other signs denoting that the Palestinians’ lot under Biden would not be as rosy as some of them might imagine include:
• Some 53 years since Israel occupied the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, Gaza (from which it later disengaged), and the Golan Heights, members of the US Democratic Party platform committee – mostly Biden’s representatives – refuse to this day to depict Israel’s occupation of these territories as “occupation.”
• Biden, according to his advisers, “completely opposes” any conditionality of US military assistance to Israel on any political decision Israel makes. Thus, if Biden wants to influence Israeli leaders, he would have to cajole them to change their minds. It is an “all carrots” relationship with no sticks.
• Biden has stated that as president he would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv. And,
• Biden said that the Palestinian Authority should “acknowledge, flat-out, Israel’s right to exist – period – as an independent Jewish state and guarantee the borders.”
In short, Trump’s “peace plan,” which was conceived by real estate and bankruptcy lawyers and investors, had no foundation in reality and is now dead.
Trump is busy fighting for his political survival amid the upcoming presidential elections, a faltering economy, and a major pandemic that he personally mismanaged. He has lost interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict, having delivered invaluable gifts to his Jewish supporters in the United States.
At the same time, the Palestinian leadership is old, dysfunctional, out of innovative ideas, divided (Gaza and West Bank), self-appointed (has not had national elections since 2006), and bankrupt.
Finally, Israel is consumed with a prime minister facing serious corruption indictments, an out-of-control pandemic, and a political structure that lends itself to constant political instability.
With Trump and Netanyahu busy fighting for their political survival, Mahmoud Abbas is waiting for his savior, Joe Biden. Sadly, time will tell that Biden, should he become the next US president, is incapable or unwilling to do “whatever is necessary” to broker permanent peace between Israel and Palestine. Biden has already told Israel that there would be “no consequences” for its actions. Consequently, the hope for the creation of a Palestinian state has hereby dissipated for another four years.
The writer taught at Harvard University’s Middle East Institute. He was the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem-based al-Fajr newspaper and served as a member of the Palestinian delegation to the multilateral peace talks on arms control and regional security.