Thus far the only difference between the Obama strategy and the Biden strategy on Israel is appearances.
Obama made a point of picking public fights with Netanyahu in order to justify a breach with Israel, while Biden makes statements publicly supporting Israel while doing the dirty work behind the scenes. A lot of Biden administration policies come from staffers, but this one has the feel of coming from Biden. It was also the way that the Clinton administration handled things with Israel.
Biden comes more from the Clinton era than the Obama era. While Obama was looking for a series of public fights to change the party’s perception of Israel, Biden doesn’t have that kind of big picture radical agenda (that’s not to say that his staffers don’t). The victory lap that the Biden administration has been taking in the media has been all about how they pressured Israel in private while supporting it in public.
How nasty was that pressure? The Israelis don’t have much to say, but Biden’s people are happy to leak as much as they can.
The Biden administration’s pressure on Israel began on May 10. Well before the conflict.
The Biden administration had three immediate demands of Israel: stop the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, lower tensions on the Temple Mount and cancel the annual Jerusalem Day flag parade, during which Israeli nationalists celebrate the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli control.
Telling a sovereign country to stop a court decision and cancel a parade is obscene. And Biden was doing this well before the fighting took off.
As I discussed in this weekend’s article, The Anti-Israel Left Supports Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem, the evictions were about reclaiming Jewish property seized by Jordan and the UN after the invasion of Jerusalem.
The Jordanians desecrated the synagogues of East Jerusalem, used Jewish tombstones to pave roads, and seized Jewish property through their Custodian of Enemy Property.
In 1956, UNRWA worked with the Jordanian occupiers to settle “Palestinian refugees” in this Jewish neighborhood. The UN agency had been entirely dedicated to caring for the Arab Muslim settlers who had failed in their invasion of Israel and was settling them in violation of international law in the homes of the Jewish residents who had fled the illegal occupation.
Once the UNRWA had “resettled” its “refugees” in homes stolen from their Jewish owners through ethnic cleansing, it deemed them to no longer be refugees. The actual refugees however were the Jewish residents who had their homes stolen by the UNRWA.
The issue had gone through the courts for generations. Biden was ordering Israel to shut down a court decision.
While Israeli officials briefed reporters at the time that Ben-Shabbat had rejected Sullivan’s requests, viewing them as rewards for terrorists, Netanyahu in fact complied on May 10. He asked the Supreme Court to postpone its verdict on the evictions, banned visits by Jews to the Temple Mount and rerouted the flag parade so it wouldn’t pass through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.
I’m not at all surprised. As usual, appeasing terrorists and Democrats didn’t do much good. The fighting went on and Israel got blamed.
Biden followed a dual strategy: backing Israel in public and while urging Netanyahu in private to end the operation as soon as possible and minimize civilian casualties.
The duality here refers to the two sides of Biden’s mouth.
But there’s really nothing unusual about this. It’s how these things went under Democrat administrations and most Republican administrations. Republican administrations were somewhat more sympathetic, but ultimately went back to the same pattern. The Trump administration broke that pattern and actually let Israel defend itself. But now we’re right back to the same familiar territory in which Israel is prevented from fighting back and blamed for everything no matter what steps it takes to appease the administration or the terrorists, and to limit civilian casualties and the scope of the conflict.