‘Bibi’s Coming Back’ — Biden’s Staying Away

Amid swirling rumours about the return to power of Binyamin Netanyahu, US President Biden “postpones” a visit reportedly aimed at bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords.

| Topics: America, Benjamin Netanyahu
Biden and Bibi face off back in 2010, when the former was Vice President under Barack Obama.
Biden and Bibi face off back in 2010, when the former was Vice President under Barack Obama. Photo: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Less than a year after Naftali Bennett entered the Prime Minister’s Office, his epitaph of failure is being written by reporters nosing out the scent of his imminent demise.

And, rather remarkably, these same news hounds are prognosticating the “hated” Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s return at the head of a heavy-duty rightist government. It should be noted, though, that the people who most hate Netanyahu are the press, the prosecutor, the police leadership, and the anyone-but-Bibi politicians. The general electorate, decidedly, does not.

Meanwhile, a much-trumpeted first Middle East visit as president by Joe Biden, announced for later this month, and for which the required extensive preparations were already getting underway in Jerusalem, has been “postponed” due to “scheduling issues.”

Biden had proclaimed that he was coming to “bring peace if I can” and his ambassador to Israel was burnishing his boss’s credentials as a self-proclaimed Zionist[1]. The purported peace quest was also to include a visit to Riyadh to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The American leader absolutely abhors the new Saudi one, who in turn “doesn’t care” but nonetheless has threatened to reduce US investment opportunities in his country to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. So, what was/is this visit all about?

Four things: Russia, Oil, China and Iran. It truly is nothing short of spectacular how world crises involving giant players like these repeatedly circle back to somehow include the little land of Israel.

Back to Biden in a bit, but first let’s take a quick look at the developments in Jerusalem.

On June 8, a somewhat nervous-sounding Times of Israel editor David Horovitz warned that “Netanyahu and the right are about to gain power [and] they’ll hold it for a long time.”

The expectation stemmed mainly from a succession of humiliating blows that left the dysfunctional grouping that is currently at the helm of the “Jewish state” tottering. Or shipwrecking — which is hardly surprising given that each faction is trying to turn the rudder to its own compass point: right, left, secular, religious, Jewish, Arab, Islamist…

The blows included defections from the coalition, rebellion in its ranks, and the opposition triumphantly defeating a succession of government-sponsored bills.

One legislation loss was the effort to have an already-existent bill applying Israeli law to Jews living in Judea and Samaria — areas that are not (yet) part of sovereign Israel — automatically renewed. This should have been a cake walk in this “Jewish state.” That the right-wing opposition voted it down even though it fully supports its renewal shouted its determination to see the coalition on the rocks.

Horovitz fed — at least partially — off the results of a poll published the day before, which showed the four main conservative parties (the Netanyahu-led Likud, and three ultra-Orthodox parties) between them winning half of the 120 Knesset seats in the next election.

What the TOI’s left-leaning editor conceded — but conspicuously failed to condemn — was that those who formed the coalition while proudly proclaiming themselves democratic, had blatantly disregarded the certified result of the 2021 national vote, in which the right-of-centre parties won a clear and substantial majority.

The ostensibly right-wing Bennett betrayed his own voters by grasping for the premiership offered by the disparate handful of right-wing Bibi-haters, left-wing self-haters and Arab-Islamic Jew-haters.

Its fate was sealed from day one, but the damage it has done to Zionism will require more than a year to undo — and will be painful.

The thought of this government’s collapse fills some with dread. Opined The Jerusalem Post‘s senior contributing editor and analyst, Herb Keinon: “Israel simply cannot afford to allow the Bennet-Lapid government to fail.” His fear? That the collapse of “this experiment” (a term bizarrely used for this mismatched administration) would deal a blow to the hopes [sic] of seeing Arab parties in future Israeli governments.

There is plenty more here, here and here.

Now to Joe Biden…

According to analysts, the primary reason for the — just shelved but certainly not discarded — presidential plunge into the Middle East was not to love all over Israel but to make nice to the US-loathed Saudi Arabia in order to:

  • buttress the anti-Iran alliance by puffing new life into what Donald Trump began (how they resent having to acknowledge that);
  • brake skyrocketing global oil prices by persuading the Saudis to fill more barrels, thereby also cementing sanctions on Russian oil and gas; and
  • dissuade a potentially promiscuous Riyadh from getting overly affable towards the ever-expansionist Beijing.

Biden is ambitious, though perhaps we should credit his advisors — all former Barak Obama men — and those who mop up after this senior citizen’s frequent faux pas. His strategy appears to be multi-pronged (in for a penny, in for a pound) — and is understood to include tantalising MBS with the promise of closer Saudi-US relations while nudging the kingdom into the still-somewhat-small club known as the Abraham Accords.

Simultaneously Washington is offering other inducements — like promising efforts to resolve the “Israel-Palestinian conflict” by pushing harder for the creation of Palestine; also supporting the Arab claim to Jerusalem as capital (in contravention of US and international law) by re-opening its consulate for Palestinian Affairs, as demanded by PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas, in Israel’s seat of government. Signs indicating that this is Biden’s purpose appeared on June 9. Israel has expressly stated that it will not permit this unilateral American action.

Still, the US knows from experience how it can get Israel to accede to its “requests.” In this case, it has Jerusalem’s repeated calls on Washington to stand with Israel against Iran. And Israel, leaning on the US rather than on God for its security and for acceptance in the Middle East, would give a great deal to have Saudi Arabia as a partner in her Abraham Accords.

Should Bennett’s government somehow stabilise, Biden’s Middle East visit will likely take place sooner rather than later, or so we’re being told. If it falls — there will be little point in his coming.

And if Bibi becomes prime minister again? I guess we will see. Clearly that is not a prospect to gladden Biden’s heart so, hopefully, the American will stay, permanently, away.


 

Footnotes

[1]: It has become trendy for people on the left — Jews and non-Jewish “friends of Israel” — to call themselves Zionists, even as what they stand for, and fight for, is in direct opposition to Zionism. True Zionism is nothing less than the physical return of the Jews to all their ancestral geographical land.

 

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