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July 12, 2022 10:20 am
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Does Joe Biden’s Sojourn Signal a Return to the ‘Old’ Middle East?

avatar by Ruthie Blum / JNS.org

Opinion

US President Joe Biden holds a virtual meeting with business leaders and state governors to discuss supply chain problems, particularly addressing semiconductor chips, on the White House campus in Washington, DC, March 9, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

JNS.org – Former Israeli Prime Minister (and current opposition leader) Benjamin Netanyahu prefaced a public statement that he issued on Monday, ahead of US President Joe Biden’s arrival in the country on Wednesday, with what some beholders might have misconstrued as a Freudian slip.

It’s uncommon for the savvy orator, who is usually as good at winging speeches as he is at reading carefully scripted ones, to make rhetorical gaffes. But in this case, the error was apt.

“The visit to Israel by President [Donald] Trump—or, rather, President Biden—is an important one,” he began. “It’s important not only because, as a friend of Israel’s, he is expressing the strong alliance between Israel and the United States, but also because from here, he is flying to Saudi Arabia.”

He then pointed out that Biden’s direct flight from Tel Aviv to Riyadh, like that of Trump from Saudi Arabia to Israel five years ago, illustrates the “huge change” in what has become an “actual new Middle East.”

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Though he didn’t invoke late Israeli statesman Shimon Peres by name, the dig at the author of the above phrase was implicit: that the common “peace camp” wisdom—of the need for Palestinian statehood before progress can possibly be made with Israel’s Muslim-Arab neighbors—had been wrong all along. The Trump-brokered Abraham Accords, which have seen blossoming warm relations between Israel, the Gulf States, Morocco and Sudan, with the cooperation of the Saudi king, constitute living proof.

The evidence hasn’t put a dent in the fantasies of Netanyahu’s and Trump’s detractors, however. Some consider the above treaties flawed for excluding the Palestinians.

Never mind that the Palestinian Authority was welcome from the get-go to jump on the bandwagon, and even encouraged to do so with great fanfare and a sincere promise of economic benefit. Forget that the PA upheld its rejectionist position towards Israel and the Trump administration, all the while inciting its people to murder Jews.

Other opponents of anything associated with Netanyahu and Trump do something worse than cast aspersions on the agreements that have brought about a miraculous shift; they have the gall to take credit for it. Biden did this proudly in The Washington Post on Saturday, without even a nod to the Abraham Accords.

In an op-ed titled “Why I’m going to Saudi Arabia,” the US president stated: “The Middle East I’ll be visiting is more stable and secure than the one my administration inherited 18 months ago.”

This was the first of many jaw-dropping assertions in the piece about his administration’s international moves—disasters that he painted as successes. Each was more distorted and egregious than the next. But the most worrisome for Israel and its newfound allies was that about the regime in Tehran.

“After my predecessor reneged on a nuclear deal that was working,” he wrote, “Iran had passed a law mandating the rapid acceleration of its nuclear program. Then, when the last administration sought to condemn Iran for this action in the U.N. Security Council, the United States found itself isolated and alone.”

Let that sink in. The leader of the free world described the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as “a nuclear deal that was working,” and bemoaned that America under Trump “found itself isolated and alone” among UNSC countries for condemning Iranian nuclear activity.

Yes, added Biden, “In my first weeks as president, our intelligence and military experts warned that the region was dangerously pressurized [and] needed urgent and intensive diplomacy. To restore deterrence, I ordered airstrikes in response to the attacks against our troops and began serious diplomatic outreach to bring about a more stable region.”

If this wasn’t sufficient for ridicule by the ayatollahs, his claims about achievements in Iraq, Syria and Yemen surely elicited smiles from Islamic State, Hezbollah and the Houthis. He’s lucky he didn’t throw in a boast about his retreat from Afghanistan, or he would have heard the Taliban laughing from across the ocean.

Returning to the topic of the mullah-led Islamic Republic, he wrote, “With respect to Iran, we reunited with allies and partners in Europe and around the world to reverse our isolation; now it is Iran that is isolated until it returns to the nuclear deal my predecessor abandoned with no plan for what might replace it.”

He went on, “Last month, more than 30 countries joined us to condemn Iran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency on its past nuclear activities. My administration will continue to increase diplomatic and economic pressure until Iran is ready to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, as I remain prepared to do.”

That Tehran never complied with the JCPOA didn’t register. Nor did he explain what kind of “isolation” the West faced after Trump ripped up the deal, or in what way the tables have turned.

By far the biggest lie in the article was about Israel, whose interim government has been preparing for days on end to be graced with Biden’s presence.

“We helped end a war in Gaza—which could easily have lasted months—in just 11 days,” he alleged, in reference to “Operation Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021. “We’ve worked with Israel, Egypt, Qatar and Jordan to maintain the peace without permitting terrorists to rearm.”

He conveniently omitted mention of the more than 4,000 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets and missiles fired on Israeli population centers, along with admonitions from abroad to refrain from “escalation on both sides.” Oh, and where he got the idea that the terrorists haven’t been rearming with a vengeance is anybody’s guess.

He proceeded to brag about having “rebuilt U.S. ties with the Palestinians … restor[ing] approximately $500 million in support … while also passing the largest support package for Israel—over $4 billion—in history. And this week, an Israeli prime minister spoke with the president of the Palestinian Authority for the first time in five years.”

The PA isn’t satisfied with the cash, which in any case it spends on its “pay for slay” practice to reward the slaughter of Jews with hefty monthly stipends. Officials in Ramallah are already voicing their skepticism about Biden’s commitment to fulfill all their demands.

They seem to fear that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid was not mistaking Biden for Trump when he called the incumbent US president “one of the closest friends that Israel has ever had in American politics.”

No worries there—at least not for the Palestinians. Heaven help the rest of us.

Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”

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