Biden Revives Obama's Middle East Policy
U.S. "evenhandedness" is back in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
President Joe Biden is of a generation that appreciated the Jewish state as America’s closest and most reliable Middle East ally. He and the likes of the late U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA) were staunch friends of Israel. Most Democrats in the U.S. Senate shared with Jackson and Biden their appreciation of Israel. Today however, the “progressive” wing of the Democrat party no longer shares that kind of appreciation, and support for the Jewish state. Six months into his presidency, Biden has been under pressure from the “progressives” to be tougher on Israel. Many in that “wing” have not forgiven Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for standing up for his people in the U.S. Congress against the weak nuclear deal with Iran. A nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to the Jewish state and its people. Now that Israel has a new Bennett-Lapid government that is leaning a bit more to the left, it is hoped in Jerusalem that Biden will give serious consideration to the mistakes made by the Obama administration in dealing with Iran, and the shortcomings of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Obama administration, (in which Biden served as Vice President) displayed too much eagerness to reach a deal with the radical Ayatollahs. Although Obama declared that “all options are on the table,” he never intended to use the military option, and the Ayatollahs of Iran recognized it. As a result, the Iranians toughened their positions, and were able to extract many concessions in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). These included restrictions on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from observing and monitoring a number of nuclear sites, and in particular military sites. It enabled the Islamic Republic of Iran to develop and produce ballistic missiles that will eventually have long-range capabilities with the possibility of reaching the U.S. The Iranian regime was cheating all along, and working secretly on producing a nuclear bomb. A nuclear device, along with a long-range ballistic missile, would be able to threaten and intimidate the US, and certainly fulfill their vows to “wipe Israel off the map.”
The JCPOA deal ignored Iran’s malignant actions in the region in seeking to bring down the Sunni-Arab regimes, including those in the Gulf States. Additionally, Iran’s military interventions by proxies, and directed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, was ignored. As president, Biden has removed Iran’s proxy -- the Houti (Shiite) rebels in Yemen from the list of terrorist organizations. This was clearly a way to warm up to Iran. He also ended U.S. support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign, which aims to restore the legitimate government in Yemen. This has encouraged the Houtis and their Iranian paymasters to increase their attacks inside Yemen, and against Saudi Arabia.
For a second time since assuming office, President Biden retaliated against the pro-Iranian Iraqi militia that fired missiles into a US base in Iraq, seeking to carry out Iran’s policy of removing the US presence in the region. To fulfill Iran’s aims, Biden ordered the reduction of U.S. forces in the Gulf. At the same time, Biden administration officials leaked to the media the details of the Israeli attacks on Iranian ships, including the attack on an IRGC intelligence gathering vessel. Israel, it should be said, attacked the Iranian vessels in retaliation for previous Iranian bombing of Israeli-owned commercial vessels in the Gulf.
By allowing such leakage, Biden signaled to the Iranian regime that he, like Obama, doesn’t intend to use the military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities should the nuclear negotiation with Iran in Vienna fail. Like Obama, Biden opposes an Israeli military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities. This can only strengthen the Iranian regime’s uncompromising stance in the nuclear negotiations. The Iranians made it clear that they will not allow any changes to the 2015 JCPOA deal, and they would not extend the “sunset” clause nor allow the inclusion of such issues as ballistic missiles or the dealing with its malignant behavior in the region, and its sponsorship of global terror.
In the decades Biden served on the Senate Foreign Relations committee (he was chairman of the Committee 2001-2003), he managed to vote for the 2003 war in Iraq, and then against it. Regarding Israel, as VP, Biden spoke at an annual Israel Independence Day celebration in D.C., despite the tension between Obama and Netanyahu a month after Netanyahu spoke (in March, 2015) at the joint session of Congress. Biden remarked then, “Sometimes we drive each other crazy. But we love each other.” Biden added, “We protect each other. As many of you heard me say before, were there no Israel, America would have to invent one because you protect our interests like we protect yours.”
PM Netanyahu reciprocated when Biden visited Israel in 2016. He praised Biden warmly, saying, “I want to thank you for our personal friendship of over 30 years. We have gone through many trials and tribulations. And we have an enduring bond that represents the enduring bond between our people. We are a 'mishpucha.'” Earlier in August, 2012, the world was in puzzlement over the Obama-Biden administration immaterialized “Red-Line” threat issued to Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad over his use of chemical weapons against his people. It displayed the unwillingness of the administration to use force against evil. Russia’s Putin provided the excuse for Obama’s inaction. At the same time, the Obama administration failed to stop the rise of the Islamic State.
In his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State designate Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and keep the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. But the administration announced that it would re-open the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem (serving Palestinians exclusively) closed by President Trump, and open the Palestinian mission in Washington, that Trump shut down. Moreover, the Biden administration has resumed aid to the Palestinians. The BBC reported (on April 7, 2021) that President Biden plans to provide $235 million in aid to the Palestinians, two-thirds of it to go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is an incubator for Palestinian terrorists, and teaches hate for Israel and Jews. The U.S. administration could have conditioned the aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) on transparency with regards to how the money is spent. PA officials have lined their pockets with the aid money. The administration could also have conditioned the aid on the PA withdrawing its request to the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel. All this signifies that the Biden administration is returning to the "evenhanded approach" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
U.S. Acting Representative to the UN Richard Mills, in his inaugural speech at the UN Security Council (on January 26, 2021) stated that, “The U.S. will urge the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, to avoid unilateral steps that make the two-state solution more difficult, such as annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, and providing compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.” That is quite an “evenhanded” statement considering that Israel has not annexed area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli civil and military control according to the Oslo Accords, and demolition of terrorists’ homes has a longstanding history going back to the British Mandatory laws.
In a meeting last week between the outgoing Israeli President Reuben Rivlin and President Biden, the latter stated unequivocally that, “Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch.” That remains to be seen…