Table of Contents:
What a Biden Presidency Could Mean for Israel: Jonathan S. Tobin, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 6, 2020
Symposium: Biden and Israel | Don’t Expect To See The Obama/Kerry Paradigm: Robert Satloff, Fathom Journal, November 2020
A Biden Administration Will Likely Seek To Make Its Own Stamp On Mideast, Say Experts: Israel Kasnett, JNS, Nov. 9, 2020
Grab the Transition Opportunity: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Nov. 8, 2020
For some supporters of President Donald Trump in both Israel and the United States, the prospect of a President Joe Biden is a scenario they never wanted to contemplate. And while the outcome of the presidential election isn’t yet decided, if the protracted vote count continues to move in Biden’s direction, both the Israeli government and the pro-Israel community are going to have to adjust to a new reality.
The question now is not so much whether they can do so with good grace, but whether they avoid overreacting to any shifts in American policy unless or until it is necessary to do so.
Four years ago, most Israelis had little doubt that either of the two major-party presidential candidates would be an improvement on the outgoing Obama administration. It had been eight years of Obama’s desire for more “daylight” between the two democracies, constant spats, increasing pressure and American stands on both the Palestinian issue and threat of a nuclear Iran that seriously undermined the alliance.
And to accentuate just how much the trust between the two governments had broken down, in its last weeks the Obama administration chose not to veto a UN Security Council resolution that basically labeled the Jewish presence in Jerusalem as illegal.
All that changed once Trump took office. To the shock and amazement of even some of his supporters, US Middle East policy underwent a dramatic shift. Trump embraced Israel and a year later began the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after recognizing the city as the capital of the Jewish state. Other moves, both symbolic and tangible, soon followed. Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, sought to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for its support for terrorism and withdrew America from the disastrous 2015 Iran deal.
Just as important, although Trump’s ambition to broker the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians fell afoul of the latter’s refusal to make peace, the administration pivoted to a more productive endeavor. Unlike Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who effectively gave the Palestinians a veto over normalization between the Arab world and Israel, Trump helped broker three normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Sudan, with more perhaps to follow.
Under the circumstances, it’s unsurprising that most Israelis were rooting for Trump to be re-elected. But if, as it appears at the moment, they were backing the losing side in the election, hysteria about what will follow would be counterproductive.
True, some concern about a possible Biden administration is warranted. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Dr. Satloff noted that the main priority of a Biden administration would be dealing with COVID-19, but when it comes to foreign policy, his top focus will be on ‘renewing America’s place in the world, restoring America’s role in global alliances, restoring America’s position in the Paris Accords, restoring and strengthening NATO, reaffirming the relationships that we have with our traditional democratic allies.’ The Middle East will be important, but not a top, urgent priority.
Because it will have been a narrow win, he won’t be able to say that the Trump presidency was an aberration and that all Trump did should therefore be reversed.
A Biden administration will believe the US shouldn’t have withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iran nuclear deal, Satloff said, and that stopping Iran achieving nuclear capability requires engaging with Iran.
However, ‘I will argue that this isn’t 2015 anymore; we can’t just go back as though the last five years have not happened … and so the Biden team will make an early offer of what is called compliance for compliance – should the Iranians return to the limits and the prescriptions of the Iran nuclear deal, then the Biden team would be willing to remove the additional sanctions imposed by President Trump.
He would expect the Iranians to refuse, at least initially, as they have their own elections next year, so wouldn’t want to be seen as capitulating.
Biden’s people have said they would take a two-phased approach to the JCPOA, first offering compliance for compliance and, if that is achieved, negotiating an expanded deal to also cover Iran’s ballistic missile expansion and its ‘nefarious activities around the region’.
On the Israeli/Palestinian issue, Satloff said, Biden has ‘endorsed and praised’ Israel’s normalisation agreements with The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, and is likely to want to ‘build on these agreements, make sure they are firm and broadened,’ and ‘try to use them as a bridge to restart a process with the Palestinians,’ including resuming a US relationship with the Palestinians, ‘which has effectively been suspended for the last three years’.
However, he emphasised, ‘It is impossible for me to imagine that any aide to the president is going to write a memo that goes, “Dear Mr. President, now is the moment, now is the time, for you to invest the prestige of your just elected office in pursuing Israeli/Palestinian peace, that the peace process is ripe for presidential engagement, and if only you were to get involved, we could bring it over the finish line”.’ … [To read the opinions posed on the full symposium, please click the following LINK – Ed.]
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s yet-to-be-confirmed victory over incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump has ushered in a flurry of questions in Israel over what a Biden-Harris administration would look like and how it would differ from the Obama administration specifically with regard to Israel.
Eytan Gilboa, an expert on American politics and foreign policy, as well as a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told JNS the next administration “will differ in certain areas” compared to Obama’s.
“We should not expect much continuity,” he said. “Every president wants to leave their own imprint.”
Gilboa noted a few points. First, Biden’s top priorities will be domestic: dealing with the coronavirus, interracial relations and the economy.
Second, Biden’s ability to pass legislation will depend on the makeup of Congress and whether the Republicans or Democrats control the Senate.
Third, according to Gilboa, many of the so-called progressives, the radicals, “are anti-Israel and some are anti-Semitic.”
“The question is how powerful they will be,” said Gilboa.
‘A need to change the sunset clause’
While Biden may not necessarily take a hard line against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “the people under him may not be so forgiving, as many are Obama veterans. These people are not very friendly [towards Israel]. The question is how much influence he will give them.”
With regard to policy, Gilboa said, “there will be continuity in terms of all bilateral relations, including intelligence coordination, security cooperation, joint maneuvers and development of missile defense systems. These will continue and perhaps improve.”
Gilboa suggested that Israel will likely need to be concerned about three issues. The first is the United Nations, where Biden is likely to renew American involvement and participation in U.N. international organizations such as the International Criminal Court and the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Trump administration spent four years lambasting the United Nations over its anti-Israel stance, and in 2019, Trump withdrew America from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The second issue to concern Israel is Biden’s intention to work closely with Europe, which according to Gilboa, could be “problematic on issues such as Iran and the Palestinians.”
With regard to Biden’s approach to Iran and his intention to sign a new deal with the Islamic Republic, Gilboa said Israel should make every effort “to participate in the formulation of a new deal.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Bad actors in the Middle East are not going to sit idly on their haunches waiting for clearer results in the US presidential elections. Nor should the forces of peace and stability in the Middle East miss an opening to lock-in additional gains during this period of uncertainty.
Which makes the next three months until the end of January 2021 a time of both peril and opportunity. Consequently, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ought to expeditiously advance a series of moves that will enhance Israel’s security and regional standing, in cooperation with the still-in-place Trump administration.
At the very least, the policy initiatives listed below will keep the enemies of Israel and America at bay and set diplomatic markers that will be hard to overturn.
Reinforce Israeli deterrence on the borders: Whether on the southern border versus Hamas in Gaza or across the northern borders versus Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Netanyahu and his defense minister Benny Gantz should act to boost Israeli deterrence. This means zero tolerance for border rushes, booby traps on the fence, missile fire, incendiary kites and the like.
It means targeting Hamas leaders if they fail to maintain the current lull; striking deep inside Syria the minute IRGC bases are identified; and knocking out more Iranian nuclear sites through subterfuge – with continued clear US backing for this “war between the wars.
Squeeze Iran harder: Since a Biden administration intends to re-engage Iran on the basis of the weak JCPOA accord that was concluded by President Obama (and later jettisoned by Trump), now is the time to increase the pressure on Iran’s leaders. In addition to tougher banking sanctions on Iran led by the US, a few Soleimani-style strikes on key Iranian terror leaders and sites could be helpful too.
After all, the IAEA has confirmed that Iran is building a new underground advanced centrifuge assembly plant in Natanz, after its last one exploded in a reported sabotage attack in July. Should the Iranians be allowed to advance this project? I think not. This may explain why US defense secretary Mark Esper has met twice with his Israeli counterpart in the last two weeks.
In addition, a strong signal of deterrence would be sent by a few select US legal prosecutions of major European companies now doing big business in Iran, in violation of America’s redeclared sanctions.
Rule emphatically in Area C: Preserving what is left of Israel’s de facto sovereign control in Area C of Judea and Samaria means legalizing a series of settlement outposts, approving road and other infrastructure projects that will benefit both Jewish and Arab residents of this area, and dismantling illegal Bedouin and Palestinian settlements that (purposefully) impinge on strategic routes. This includes the encampment called Khan al-Ahmar that was erected in E-1 to deliberately challenge Israeli control of the Jerusalem envelope.
Even the less-than-right-wing Israeli Supreme Court has okayed the plan to move the Bedouin elsewhere, so no European Union or Democratic Party protests or International Criminal Court threats should dissuade the government from acting forthwith. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
When Israel’s Arabs Began To Demand Their Own ‘Normalization’ Deal: Haviv Rettig Gur, Times of Israel, Oct. 30, 2020 — For a brief spell last Wednesday, Israel’s Knesset sounded like the stands at a soccer stadium.
Is Biden The Second Coming Of Obama? Former Amb. Oren Says Israel Needs To ‘Be Ready To Deal With It’: WIN, Nov. 9, 2020 — Will Biden be the second coming of Obama? In an interview Sunday with Arutz 7, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said that a Biden administration will be more similar to an Obama one than to that of President Trump.
Trump’s Iran Envoy: Biden Would Have Difficulties Reviving 2015 Nuclear Pact: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Nov. 9, 2020 — The next US administration will enter talks with Tehran over its rogue nuclear program, but a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement would be difficult, outgoing US President Donald Trump’s point man on Iran said Monday.
Book Review | We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews and Israel: William Kolbrener, Fathom Journal, January 2020 — Gordis traces a continuing history of mutual condescension and misunderstanding: David Ben-Gurion in 1960, for example, lamented an American Judaism ‘losing all meaning,’ in ‘slow and imperceptible decline.’
Malawi To Be First African State With Embassy In Jerusalem: Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 4, 2020 — Malawi plans to open an embassy in Israel and and place it in Jerusalem, making it the first African state to do so in recent decades, Malawian Foreign Minister Eisenhower Mkaka announced Tuesday during a visit to Israel.