ANALYSIS: Israel and Biden–Trouble on the Horizon

The atmosphere between Israel and the US is changing, and it doesn’t appear for the better

Biden and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
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Israel has reason to be deeply concerned about the policy that US President Joe Biden’s new administration will pursue vis-à-vis the Jewish state. As we will see below, those concerns are justified and relate to diplomatic measures already taken by the Biden White House.

The appointments of several ex-Obama officials to positions which are related to the Middle East are another reason for concern.

 

“Shots fired”

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still waiting for a call from the new US President, there appears to be a first clash between Israel and the United States under this new administration.

On Sunday it was announced that the White House is demanding that Israel again allow flights from US airlines to Tel Aviv.

Those flights were canceled on January 26, when Ben Gurion Airport was closed to all passenger flights due to the out-of-control Corona crisis. Only El Al is allowed to fly stranded Israelis into Israel.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 News, the White House sent the following message to the Israeli government: “Why do you need a crisis with the new government? Allow our planes to fly to Israel!”

The tone of the message indicates that the atmosphere between Israel and the US is changing, and this is also reflected in comments Biden officials already made about the Jewish state. For example, the Trump Administration’s recognition that the Golan Heights is Israeli territory was effectively withdrawn.

New US Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged that Israeli control over the Golan Heights is important as long as Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad rules, but said there are “legal questions.” He was referring to Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, which Trump recognized.

The position on Israeli settlement politics also appears to be back where the Obama Administration left it, and the same is true for the status of Jerusalem.

The Biden Administration says Jerusalem’s status should be determined in negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. Despite this, Biden recognizes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

 

Lifeline to a corrupt Palestinian regime

Another sign that things have changed since Donald J. Trump left the White House is certain developments vis-à-vis the Palestinian Arabs.

The Biden Administration has announced that financial aid to the Palestinian Arabs, which Trump canceled, will resume. The same goes for aid to UNRWA, the organization that provides aid to Palestinian refugees and all their descendants.

Biden, furthermore, will allow the Palestinian Authority to reopen the PLO diplomatic mission that Trump closed in Washington DC.

 

The elephant in the room

One important issue viewed by Jerusalem as a threat to Israel is the opinion of certain key figures in the Biden administration regarding Iran.

They say the US should return to dialogue with Iran and rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA). More recently, Biden has linked such a move to Iran’s willingness to stop enriching uranium.

 

Troublesome appointments

Another reason Israel worries about the policies the Biden Administration will pursue towards the Jewish state and the Middle East are the appointments of a number of ex-Obama officials to key positions.

Blinken, for example, is an appeaser when it comes to Iran. He was against including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the list of recognized terrorist organizations. Blinken was also the one who questioned the legality of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights last week.

Biden’s Director for National Security, Avril Haines, signed a J-Street letter calling upon the US government to be more critical of Israel. In the same letter, Israel was condemned for “violence, terrorism, and incitement.” J-Street is an American Jewish organization that is, in fact, anti-Israeli.

Then there’s Wendy Sherman, the female chief negotiator in the talks with Iran over the JCPOA. Sherman is now the Deputy Secretary of State, which is a position in which she also deals with Israel. She was a strong supporter of negotiations with and concessions toward Iran. At the time, she also refused to condemn Palestinian suicide attacks on Israelis.

The appointment of Robert Malley as Biden’s special envoy to Iran is another problem point. Malley, the son of an Egyptian Jew, is a left-wing extremist who was a member of the Obama Administration and worked for Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State. He is in favor of negotiations with Iran and a return to the JCPOA, but also wants dialogue with Hamas and Syrian dictator Assad. He is also known for his aversion to Israel.

Jen Psaki, another former Obama official, is now the White House press secretary. She questioned Israel’s commitment to peace, but remained silent about the Palestinian refusal to return to the negotiating table.

Another anti-Israel official in the Biden government is Maher Bitar, who is the new head of the US Intelligence and National Security Council. This is a position in which he also advises Biden on issues related to Israel. Bitar is a Palestinian American who once wrote in a paper the following:

“Israel’s political existence as a state is a cause for Palestinian dispossession and statelessness…. Israel’s rejection of their right to return remains the main obstacle to finding a durable solution.”

Another appointment of a Palestinian American to a key position when it comes to Israel is Hady Amr, who was appointed as special envoy for the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Amr is known for his radical anti-Israeli views and has strong ties to the Palestinian leadership. He was born in Lebanon. Not surprisingly, the Palestinian leadership applauded Biden for the appointment.

Other officials of Arab origin in the Biden Administration are Dana Shubat and Reema Dodin, also an American of Palestinian origin.

Shubat’s parents are immigrants from Jordan. She has always been concerned with matters related to the Middle East and has not-so-neutral views on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Dodin now serves in the White House after working for Senator Jin Durbin for years. She took part in rallies against Israel calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). In 2002, Dodin said suicide bombings by Palestinian Arabs were “the last resort of a desperate people.”

President Biden defended his decision to include a fair number of Arab Americans in his administration. He said in a speech in which he stood up for American Arabs that he always wanted a government “that looks like America.” It should be noted that there are a few Jewish Americans in Biden’s government, as well.

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