The Biden-Bennett Honeymoon May Be Over
Disagreement over home construction in the West Bank - and more.
The change of government in Israel last June, and the drive by the Bennett-Lapid government to repair relations with the American Democratic Party, appealed very much to President Joe Biden. Although Biden has had a many decades-long relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu, many Democrats identified Netanyahu with Trump and the Republicans. The diverse nature of Prime Minister Naphtali Bennett’s government is agreeable to many moderate Democrats. The “squad,” and the far-left of the congressional Democrats will not be satisfied however, with any Israeli government, not even one that includes an Arab-Islamist party in its coalition government. President Biden has to cope with these two different wings within his Democratic Party when dealing with Israel.
President Biden is strongly wedded to the two-state solution, which calls for both an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside the State of Israel. That however, is a dream, not a current reality on the ground. The Palestinians are bitterly divided not only between the jihadist and terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza, the slightly more secular and corrupt Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, but also between the Palestinian people, and the leadership of the inept and authoritarian PA.
The Palestinian territories controlled by the PA lack an economic infrastructure, and institutions that could foster a stable democratic government, where the rule-of-law and basic human rights are enshrined. Instead, the Palestinian people experience nepotism, lack of gainful employment, and a police state. For dignity and gainful employment, Palestinians both in the West Bank and Gaza desperately seek employment in Israel. Mahmud Abbas’ regime in Ramallah supports financially imprisoned terrorists in Israel with blood on their hands, while ordinary Palestinians are unable to support their families.
Last month, the Bennett government’s approval of construction of 3,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria angered the Biden administration. These housing units previously approved by Netanyahu’s Likud government left little room for Bennett to maneuver politically. Complying with Washington’s wishes and cancellation of the construction approval would almost certainly bring down his fragile government. His right-wing Yamina party is committed to Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, and with the looming and critical budget vote in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), he couldn’t afford to lose his 6 Yamina Knesset members. Nevertheless, to appease the Biden administration, Bennett’s government approved the construction of 1,300 housing units for Palestinians in area C, which is fully administered by Israel in accordance with the Oslo Accords.
The Biden administration considers population expansion of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria “an obstacle to peace.” The Jewish housing units aren’t a matter of annexing new territory; rather, they are to provide housing in existing communities due to natural increase. The Biden administration would prefer a freeze on additional construction in the Jewish communities, which would be rationally and morally impossible. Young people marry, have children, and seek a place of their own for their family whether they are in the city of Tel Aviv or Ariel in Samaria. More importantly, there are no legal constraints on Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
The late Eugene Rostow served as the dean of Yale law school, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs under President Lyndon Johnson, and was one of the drafters of 1967 UN Security Council Resolution 242. He wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times (September 19, 1983) stating that, “The West Bank is part of the British Mandate which included Israel, and Jordan as well as certain other territories not yet generally recognized as belonging to either country. While Jewish settlements east of the Jordan River were suspended in 1922, such (Jewish) settlements remain legal in the West Bank.” Rostow maintained that Jewish rights to settle in the West Bank were “unassailable.”
Insofar as the Jewish settlements are “an obstacle to peace,” there was no peace before Israeli settlements existed. Yet, a policy that seeks a “Judenrein” West Bank is racist and antisemitic. To accommodate Palestinian self-determination shouldn’t involve the same racist policy that Jordan and Saudi Arabia maintain of disallowing a Jewish presence in their territory. Palestinians have, in fact, already gained self-determination in Jordan, where they constitute the majority of the population, and where their language, religion, and culture are the same as the “Jordanians.” A confederation between Jordan and the Palestinian West Bankers would be the fairest solution to Palestinian self-determination. A Palestinian state in its current form would be a source of instability, and terror. Moreover, it is more than likely that Hamas would have won in an open and democratic election in the West Bank, last May, which Mahmud Abbas refused to hold.
The close proximity of Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews in the West Bank is fostering individual human, cultural, and economic interchanges rarely covered by the media. Regrettably, the Palestinian media, government, educational system, and the mosques have used religious incitement that has encouraged terror against Jews. The Biden administration has yet to vocally denounce it.
The Biden administration condemned the October 22, 2021 announcement by Benny Gantz, Israel’s Defense Minister, which designated six Palestinian institutions as terrorist organizations operating under the guise of human rights groups. Gantz pointed out their ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a terrorist organization designated as such by the US, EU, and Canada. The PFLP was responsible for multiple plane hijackings in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The organizations named by Gantz included Addameer, Al Haq, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International Palestine, the Samidoun Palestine Prisoner Solidarity Network, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committee.
According to NGO-Monitor, Addameer is affiliated with the PFLP. It campaigns in support of Palestinian prisoners convicted of security offenses, i.e., terrorism. Al Haq has also been linked to the PFLP. It is a leader in anti-Israel “lawfare” and anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns. The Executive Director of Bisan Center, Ubai Aboudi, was convicted of being a member, and activist of the PFLP…the rest of the organizations are likewise affiliated with the PFLP.
The Bennet-Lapid government has its own problem with the Biden administration’s decision to reopen the American Consulate in Jerusalem, which the Trump administration closed. President Trump relocated the US embassy, moving it from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital - Jerusalem. The previous administration reasoned correctly that the Jerusalem embassy could serve both Palestinians as well as Israelis. The Biden administration is designating the Jerusalem Consulate to serve exclusively Palestinians. As Israel claims, this infringes on Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Apparently, the push for separating the consulate from the embassy in Jerusalem is primarily a State Department idea, whereas the Biden White House and the National Security Council are allegedly more amenable to Israeli concerns. In the final analysis, Biden’s decision will depend on which wing of the Democratic Party prevails; the moderates or the hard-left wing with its “squad.”