Biden’s Response to Israel’s Right-Wing Government: Avoiding Controversy | American foreign policy


The more things change in Israel, the more Joe Biden works to keep them the same.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government has openly defied Arab racists, vowing to expand illegal settlements and annex Palestinian lands already in the White House. .

Bezalel Smotrich, the Finance Minister and leader of the Religious Zionist Party, which rejects the creation of a Palestinian state, has seized part of the Palestinian Authority’s funds, calling it an “enemy”.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the security minister and leader of the Jewish Power party, which has called for the expulsion of Israel’s “dishonest” Arab citizens, began Israel’s crackdown on anti-government protesters when it ordered police to crack down on Palestinians. defines “identification with terrorism”.

Netanyahu’s own Likud party has already passed laws limiting the judiciary’s power to block government policies.

Aaron David Miller, who has served in six US administrations, including as an adviser on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, said Biden was in uncharted territory.

“No administration has ever met an Israeli government like this,” he said.

While there are red lines in the White House — including whether Israel will use the growing weakness of the Palestinian Authority to annex the territory — the administration’s immediate response is restraint, Miller said.

“They will go to great lengths to avoid permanent conflict with the Israelis,” he said.

There is already diplomatic activity. Netanyahu’s top man in the US, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, arrived in Washington earlier this week for talks. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, is scheduled to visit Israel next week before Secretary of State Anthony Blinker arrives in Jerusalem later this month. Next February, Netanyahu will visit Washington.

Where the Palestinians were once at the center of debate, they are now side by side with Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s reluctance to stand up to Russia over Ukraine, and Jewish state relations with the Arab world.

But the Palestinians are still in the talks, at least because the White House doesn’t want Israel to do anything to force Washington to take a stand. As Sullivan told NPR last week, U.S. policy is based on what some say is the illusion of a “peace process.”

“We will continue to support the two-state solution and oppose policies and practices that undermine the viability of the two-state solution or contradict the historic status quo in Jerusalem. “I will be clear and direct in these matters,” he said.

Miller recently wrote an op-ed urging Biden to threaten to cut off arms supplies to Israel if the new government uses it to annex Palestinian land, expel Arabs or destroy the possibility of a Palestinian state. But he doesn’t see the president doing that.

“Biden is a supporter of Israel. Biden knows Netanyahu, he was insulted by Netanyahu. But at the same time, he has a deep, deep sense of devotion to Israel,” Miller said.

“Number two, I think Biden understands that this is bad politics. The last thing he wonders is why the Republican Party is criticizing Israel and criticizing its own Democratic Party, which is divided on the issue.

Khaled Elgindi, a former adviser to the Palestinian Authority on negotiations with Israel, agreed that Biden’s reluctance to fight was partly due to President Obama’s humiliating retirement after trying to halt construction. Netanyahu settlements in 2009.

On Tuesday, Israeli bulldozers destroyed a Palestinian home in the village of Kafr al-Diq, near the West Bank city of Salfit. Photo: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

“Obama took on the Palestinian issue, immediately got burned, then backed down. This White House is very risk-averse, and it clearly does not want to invest real political capital in the Palestinians. “They have made it clear from the beginning that they will be waiting,” he said.

“They see it as a lost problem because it doesn’t have easy solutions. Any progress will require a serious political upheaval. They must prepare for clashes with the Israeli government and Republicans in Congress, as well as the current establishment in their own party.

Elgindy says the White House is drawing red lines to disrupt the status quo, but they’re not very bright red.

“At the same time, they continue this approach where the administration always expresses any serious disagreements privately,” he said.

Miller describes the Palestinian issue as “not ready for prime time.”

“It’s a mess, and the best thing Biden can do is prevent bad things from happening, really bad things,” he said.

“But I have a hard time imagining all of this being manageable in the next few years. There are a lot of moving parts.

Rising violence and the possibility of a third Palestinian intifada are on the alarming list. Then the fall of the Palestinian Authority.

Some Israeli leaders see the PA as a useful tool to control major Palestinian cities and act as an arm of the Israeli occupation. But others on the right, like Smotrich, are instinctively opposed to anything that suggests Palestinian nationalism or state-building.

Then there is the noise about Israel’s right to annex parts of the occupied territories.

Elgindi said any of these developments could force Biden to confront Israel, but he suspects they could happen in secret and thus allow the White House to avoid action.

“The disintegration of the PA is not something that will happen overnight… It will be a slow, gradual disintegration,” he said.

“The same with annexation. This will not be an official statement supporting the annexation of the West Bank. De facto annexation happens every day on every road, in every settlement. It will be much more fragmented. So I don’t see Biden doing much.

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