January 12, 2021
By Sondra Oster Baras
On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will become president of the United States. The election campaign was fierce and it took time until the results became final but now that Biden’s inauguration is only days away, the time has come for us, in Israel, to reflect on what this change in administration means to us.
First of all, let me preface my remarks by saying that as an Israeli, these elections were not for a government that governs me, nor do I have the right or the ability to comment on the domestic policy changes that might be implemented as a result of a new president. However, as an Israeli, it is clear that the American administration has long exerted enormous influence on my country and the identity of the president and his policies has often affected Israeli domestic policies as well as our international relations.
Donald Trump was indeed a controversial figure but there is no question that his mid-east policies were wonderful for Israel. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, recognizing Israel’s ancestral right to Judea and Samaria and announcing a willingness to recognize Israeli sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria were all extremely significant to us and positioned the US firmly in the pro-Israel camp. The Palestinians were furious at Trump and boycotted all US attempts to foster negotiations between them and Israel – they were unwilling to accept the new paradigm that gave Israel rights to Judea and Samaria. The Abraham Accords, brokered by the US, demonstrated that the Arab world is no longer willing to wait for the Palestinians to get on the peace train. Israel is an ally too valuable to waste over Palestinian intransigence. And more important than anything, the Trump administration cancelled the Iran deal, renewed sanctions and positioned the US clearly against the evil actions and intentions of the Ayatollah’s regime.
Joe Biden has, from the outset, made it very clear that most of these policies were not to his liking. He remains a strong supporter of the Two-State solution and is hostile to the settlement movement. He supports the Abraham Accords but is eager to reopen channels of friendship and communication with the Palestinians. And he has noted many times his intention to reopen negotiations with Iran with the declared intent of removing sanctions and reaching an understanding with this dangerous country. One of the most damaging events in recent years with regard to Iran was the deal brokered by Obama which released billions of dollars of funds into the hands of Iran, enabling them to fund terrorism, and particularly Hezbollah and Assad’s Syria for years. Joe Biden has announced his choice of Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, who is a strong advocate for renewing the Iran Deal, a deal he was personally involved with under the Obama Administration. This does not bode well for Israel.
Israel remembers well the eight years of Obama, a time when the president’s attitude towards Netanyahu and the government of Israel were openly hostile and derisive. Obama remained supportive of Israel’s security needs, however, and signed one of the most far-reaching American commitments to Israeli security ever. However, he continually expressed disdain for the right-leaning preferences of the Israeli electorate. He did not respect the right of the Israeli people to choose their own leadership and the policies they advocate, as is their democratic right. And while Obama understood that a strong Israel is an important American interest, he did not like Israel.
Joe Biden has always been pro-Israel. And unlike Obama, he clearly likes Israel. But he also clearly favors left-wing policies such as the two-state solution and would prefer that the Israeli electorate view the issues as he does. Will Biden treat Israel with the same disdain that Obama did? That remains to be seen. Many have surmised that given the ongoing failure of every American administration to force the two-state solution on Israel and the Palestinians, Biden will realize that he, too, will fail should he pursue this policy. For that reason, he may well place the Middle East on the back burner. And given the overwhelming economic issues, the polarization of American society and the COVID crisis that are urgent priorities for any American administration, it is quite possible that the Middle East will fall by the wayside. And that could be a very good thing.
But we dare not be complacent. Now is the time for the American political leadership to hear from you, our trusted friends and supporters. It no longer matters who you may have supported during these last elections. It does matter what you can say today to the president, to your congressmen and senators from both sides of the aisle. They must hear from you that Israel has a God-given right to Judea and Samaria. That the Two-State Solution is no solution at all. That the Palestinians themselves will benefit from a strong Israel in Judea and Samaria. That the people of Judea and Samaria, the Jews who have returned to their ancestral homeland, have the right to build, settle, and develop the land, to create centers of education and technology, to raise their children, and to make Israel a shining light to the Nations.