Mahmoud Abbas Cheers Biden's Election

The consequences for Israel -- and for the Palestinians themselves.

For Mahmoud Abbas, the apparent election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States is sheer relief. As a result of his disagreement with President Donald Trump’s “Peace of the Century,” he severed his ties with the Trump administration, and in May, he suspended the security coordination with Israel. Abbas also, among other things, refused to accept tax money Israel collected from Palestinians working in Israel that is transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA). This has just about emptied the PA’s coffers, and brought about the near collapse of the Palestinian economy.  

In the Sunni-Muslim Arab world, Abbas’ PA became more isolated as a number of Arab states normalized relations with Israel, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Sudan (Khartoum and Jerusalem have not yet formalized an agreement). Actually, a second term would more than likely have cemented Trump’s Middle East peace plan. While the U.S. elections seem to be tilting toward a Biden presidency, albeit, charges of serious irregularities have been leveled by the Trump campaign. Trump’s appeal of the results may end up in the Supreme Court, and it is the court that will ultimately determine the final result of the 2020 elections.

During his election campaign, Joe Biden vowed to revive the Two-State solution. He also promised to restore Washington’s relations with the Palestinians. It is quite apparent that Biden intends to reverse President Trump’s Middle East policies, including promises during the campaign to reopen the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) offices in Washington DC, and resume U.S. financial aid to the bankrupt PA. He has also promised to open the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem (serving Palestinians only), that Trump closed. In addition, it is expected that the Biden administration would once again fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which Trump defunded. The corruption within UNRWA, which enjoys significant western aid, while it is serving as an incubator for Palestinian terrorists, is unwarranted.

Salem Barahmeh, Executive Director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, writing for Foreign Policy magazine (November 20, 2020), observed that, “While President-elect Joe Biden’s win – or, rather Trump’s impending exit – offers Palestinians a brief reprieve, it also presents them with sobering reality which they must now contend. The Biden administration may prove less threatening to the Palestinians than its predecessor, but it is not likely to facilitate a path toward Palestinian freedom.”

Abbas will do well to remember that things have changed in the last four years, and that there is no going back to the previous status quo. Biden won’t be able to change the existing geopolitical situation. Perhaps in realization of reality, last week Abbas decided to resume the security coordination with Israel and accept the taxes collected by Israel.

For Israel, a Biden presidency will not have the intimacy and the coordinated moves it had with the Trump administration. At the same time, Biden’s presidency will not have the hostility the Obama administration displayed toward Israel. Biden’s designated Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, 58, when addressing the subject of the U.S. – Israeli relationship said that, “Biden has an ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.” Blinken, who reiterated Biden’s commitment of resuming aid to the Palestinians, added that Biden “would abide by congressional restrictions conditioning much of the aid to the PA  ending payments to Palestinians who have killed or wounded Americans and Israelis,” also known as “pay to slay.” Blinken also pointed out that Biden will not condition aid to Israel.

Biden is not going to aggressively pursue additional normalization deals between Arab states and Israel. He will focus more on a deal between the Ramallah based PA, and Israel. Biden’s declared intention to resume U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear deal, will serve to stimulate and strengthen the Arab-Israeli alliance against Iran, and it would probably bring additional Arab states to normalize relations with Israel. The likelihood that Biden will ease or end the sanctions on Iran worries Israel, and the moderate Sunni Arab world.  

The New York Times reported (November 17, 2020) that, “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has promised to move quickly to rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran so long as Iran also comes back into compliance. But that vow is easier said than done. Iran declared that it will demand compensation from the U.S. for the sanctions imposed by Washington. Tehran also wants the revocation of all sanctions, as a condition to engage with the U.S.  Iran’s support of terror against its neighbors and beyond, its development of long-range missiles with nuclear payloads that might reach the U.S., poses a threat to International peace and stability.

According to Fox News, Tony Blinken opposed designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization. At the same time though, Blinken is said to have pointed out that, “In the category of ‘never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity,’ I think a reminder to Palestinians that they can and should do better to deserve better, and that requires leadership: leadership to make clear the reality of the Jewish state; leadership to make clear the need to end incitement and violence; leadership to bring people along for the prospect of negotiating.”

Palestinian Arab-American, and Michigan Congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, a vocal advocate of the Palestinian cause, reacted to Blinken being Biden’s choice for Secretary of State by saying that, “Just make sure he doesn’t try to silence me and suppress my first amendment right to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane policies.”  Tlaib’s insulting and crude reference to Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is not only inherently false and vicious, it is unbecoming of a U.S. Member of Congress toward a friendly ally, who treats Arab-Israelis far better than the PA or Hamas treat their own people.  The Democrat party should rightfully denounce her statement, and take disciplinary measures against her hateful speech.  

In September, Joe Biden condemned the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel in a platform he released, and aimed at Arab-Americans. At the same time, Biden said that he backed the free speech rights of the BDS movement. Except that the BDS “free speech” is actually unadulterated hate speech.

Biden opposes Israel’s annexation or more accurately, the extension of Israeli sovereignty to the Jewish communities in the Jordan Valley. In his platform, he said that, “He will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy.” Biden’s policy is grounded in his commitment to a two-state solution, where Israel and the future viable state of Palestine, will live together in peace, security, and mutual recognition. 

The verbiage used by Biden is commonly used by Democrats regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, if the Palestinians cannot make peace among themselves, how will they reconcile themselves to making peace with the Jewish state? For a century-long, they have poisoned the minds of generations of young people in mosques, media, and schools, with hatred toward Jews and the Jewish state.  Biden is naïve to believe that Abbas and company will accept a peace deal now, when Abbas rejected one in 2008, a deal that had far reaching Israeli concessions which made it possible for a solid opportunity to establish a sovereign Palestinian state. 

Conditions that Mahmoud Abbas demands, specifically the “Right of Return” of millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel, or more specifically their descendants, cannot be acceptable to Israel. Nor for that matter, is a militarized Palestinian state. Biden, with all his goodwill, won’t be able to break the impasse.