President Biden and Israel
President Joe Biden has a long record of discomfort with Israel. Four decades ago, in a meeting of Senators with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Biden warned that continued settlement expansion could undermine American support for Israel. Begin snapped back: “Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. … I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats.”
As Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden spoke favorably of “the existence of a secure, Jewish state of Israel.” But Obama, perhaps the least friendly president to Israel since its founding, was committed to a two-state solution based on pre-1967 lines. Not only would that leave Israel exceedingly vulnerable to terrorist attacks; it would also be deprived of its Biblical homeland in Judea and Samaria (until the Six-Day War Jordan’s “West Bank”). Biden deferentially followed his leader, who claimed that settlements were an obstacle to peace — which Palestinians had rejected before the first settlement was built.
Like Obama, Biden believes that the largest portion of Jordan’s former “West Bank” should be reserved for a Palestinian state. He is oblivious to the reality that Jordan already is a de facto Palestinian state, with a Palestinian majority population in the land comprising a significant portion of post-World War I Palestine. But British Foreign Secretary Winston Churchill, erasing historic Jewish claims, gifted the land east of the Jordan River to King Abdullah for his own kingdom.
As is his wont, Biden has waffled on the issue. In a New York Times interview soon after his inauguration he affirmed his support for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 lines, but he approved Israeli retention of longtime settlements. Last month the Biden administration significantly increased financial aid to Palestinians, which had previously been blocked by former president Trump. A State Department spokesman explained: “It is consistent with our ‘values’ and ‘interests.’” He did not identify them, but he did note that it also was consistent with “the interests of the Palestinian people.” And he added, without any supporting evidence, “It is also consistent with the interests of our partner, Israel.”
Other signs of Biden administration favoritism, especially from the State Department, have emerged. Secretary of State Antony Blinkin announced plans to resume funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA), established in 1949 to provide support for Palestinians displaced during the Arab war to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state. By now, however, more than five million “refugees” — only 30,000 of whom were alive in 1948 — are beneficiaries of the generous UNRWA scam. Indeed, there are now as many UNRWA employees as there are genuine refugees. Yet the agency remains in place to serve Palestinian descendants of refugees. It is, in a word, a fraud that the Biden administration — whether knowingly or not — seems determined to perpetuate.
State Department spokesman Ned Price has called upon Israel to refrain from “unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. That includes the annexation of territory. That includes settlement activity.” He seemed oblivious to the reality that Palestinians have never displayed any interest in that solution, regardless of the benefits it would bestow.
President Biden, in Obama mode, seems to believe that generous — if not lavish — funding of the Palestinian Authority will accelerate a “peace” process. But its major achievement to date seems to have been the deeper embedding of Mahmoud Abbas, now serving the thirteenth year of his four-year presidential term, as the Palestinian leader.
Then there is the Taylor Force Act, signed by president Trump in 2018 to halt American economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until it stops paying stipends to terrorists and families of deceased terrorists. But soon after Biden’s inauguration the funding of $125 million to the Palestinian Authority was unconditionally renewed. There was no recognition of the Act’s existence. Nor, as former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger recently noted, is there any credibility to the Biden administration assertion that Israel is endangered by Palestinian demographic growth and, therefore, must relinquish its claim to its Biblical homeland.
It may be too early for a decisive conclusion regarding President Biden’s Israel policy. But his familiar waffling and equivocation, combined with hostility toward Jewish settlements, does not bode well for amicable relations with Israel. The generosity to Israel from his denigrated presidential predecessor is unlikely to be matched.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of twelve books, including Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016, selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a Best Book for 2019.