Just under three months from now, millions of Americans will cast their votes for the President of the United States amidst one of the most divided periods the country has known. The results will either bring about an additional four years of Donald Trump, or inaugurate a new era under former Vice President Joe Biden.
In light of COVID-19, an economic crisis and increasing division being sown in the US, there is no lack of domestic issues occupying the minds of American voters at the moment. Yet, there are still many Americans—both in Israel and in the US—that hold support for Israel as a central issue determining their vote in November.
Some have already deemed a Biden presidency bad for the Jewish state. Much of this thinking derives from the understanding that the Democratic party has taken a sharp turn to the left with the positions of its progressive wing increasingly gaining traction. These stances tend to be highly critical of Israel and are even pushing for ideas such as conditioning US aid to the Jewish state.
Furthermore, some pro-Israel groups and advocates have painted Donald Trump in Messianic tones over his unwavering support for the country, his grand political gestures like moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and his alignment with the hawkish policies of the Netanyahu government.
Although Trump has been depicted as the most pro-Israel US president in Israel’s history, and Biden as a gateway to an influx of anti-Israel attitudes in the US, will a Biden presidency really be that bad?
I think not, and it is made evident in the latest draft of the 2020 Democratic Party Platform.
The draft of the platform was approved on July 27th and lays out the brief position of the Democrats toward Israel. It begins by affirming their belief that Israel is vital to the interests of the United States and that they are committed to upholding its right to self defense.
In addition, the platform confirms the party’s support for a two-state solution that upholds the rights of Palestinians to live in their own state with dignity, as well as Israel’s right to maintain a Jewish and democratic state.
Moreover, it is stated that Democrats remain opposed to acts of terror and violence and will continue to stand firmly against settlement expansion. Jerusalem will continue to be recognized as the capital of Israel. Finally, the platform asserts the Democrats’ opposition to any form of delegitimization of Israel, whether in the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The principles presented in this platform are nearly identical to those held by past US Republican and Democratic administrations. From a highly pro-Israel Bush presidency to a more critical Obama presidency, supporting a two-state solution, recognizing the worth of both Palestinian and Israeli lives, and opposing settlement expansion have always been the status quo in US foreign policy.
A moderate Democrat like Joe Biden will bring Israel back into the bi-partisan fold. Four years of Donald Trump has nearly turned Israel into an exclusively Republican, conservative issue. US politics is not like Israel’s, where a single party can dominate the government for consecutive decades. Whether Biden wins the election in November or not, there will be a Democrat in the White House in the coming years. The more Israel becomes an issue associated with conservative politics, the worse off the “special relationship” it has with the US will be once a Democratic candidate assumes office.
Israel as an electoral issue in the US must not be seen in terms of one party seeking to outdo the other. There needs to be a “balance of power” between both parties when it comes to supporting Israel. Throughout the past four years, Donald Trump has erroneously tilted that balance in sole favor of the Republican Party.
The United States is extremely polarized at the moment. Any position held or policy pursued by Trump is seen automatically as dangerous and immoral in the eyes of the Left. Likewise, any position or policy associated with the Democrats is seen in the same light by the Right. Joe Biden, with his moderate platform, may just be the candidate to bring Israel back into US consensus and reverse its tracks from permanently becoming an exclusively right-wing issue.
In the long run, Israel might just be better off with a Biden presidency.