We knew it was coming. Israelis have been holding their collective breath for the first diplomatic disagreement between their government and that of US President Joe Biden. After all, just four years ago he was vice president to Barack Obama, still seen by most Israelis as the most antagonistic of all American presidents toward the Jewish state, or at least toward their chosen leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
But given the relatively minor and largely inconsequential nature of what can best be described as a “tiff,” Israelis can go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief. For now.
See related: Israeli Fret Over Biden’s Lack of Attention
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken appeared on CNN and cast doubt on the legality of the Trump Administration’s official recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. However, Blinken also stressed that under the current circumstances, he (and therefore the Biden Administration) supports Israeli control over that strategic piece of real estate.
Still, Blinken did suggest that were the circumstances to change dramatically, the US would have to rethink its policy regarding the Golan.
But here’s the thing (and the reason we didn’t initially bother to report on Blinken’s interview): The situation isn’t going to dramatically change in the next four years. Syria remains in tatters, Iranian forces are still firmly entrenched there, Lebanon’s Hezbollah has more missiles pointed at Israel than ever before, and the Russians don’t see it as being in their interests to alter things too much.
Barring a full-scale American invasion of Syria, it’s hard to see how the situation would look any different four years down the road. And so, given its own admittedly vague criteria as laid out by Blinken, the Biden Administration is never going to get the chance to challenge Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, if that was even one of its policy goals to begin with.
Bibi and Benny push back
Of course, Israeli leaders can’t look at such a statement by America’s top diplomat in the same way, and were compelled to respond, if for no other reason than to get their objection on record.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz pushed back against Blinken, insisting that the Golan will remain in Israeli hands forever, under any circumstances.
“The Golan Heights will remain forever a part of the State of Israel,” read a curt statement released by Netanyahu’s office. “The Israeli position is clear. In any possible scenario, the Golan Heights will remain Israeli.”
Gantz was a little more conciliatory, stating that the next Israeli government (elections are in less than two months) needs to work with the new American administration to consolidate US recognition of Israeli sovereign over the Golan.