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July 19, 2022 11:14 am

Biden’s Visit Proves Israel Shouldn’t Become a ‘Republican’ Issue

avatar by Gil Hoffman


US Reps Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) hold a news conference after Democrats in the US Congress moved to formally condemn President Donald Trump’s attacks on the four minority congresswomen. Photo: Reuters / Erin Scott.

If the unofficial motto of news editors and producers remains “if it bleeds, it leads,” it is no wonder that the visit of US President Joe Biden to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) territories did not make waves around the world.

The biggest headline most people may not have seen from the entire visit was Biden downplaying anti-Israel progressives in his own Democratic Party in Congress, during a White House interview with local Channel 12 anchor Yonit Levi. Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), have made plenty of noise with their support for BDS, their perpetuation of the apartheid myth, and their opposition to Iron Dome funding, but Biden reminded the public who the true voice of his party belongs to: “There are a few of them … I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake.”

In what amounted to a declaration of defeat, Tlaib lamented Biden’s positive visit to Israel on Twitter:

Tlaib and her anti-Israel allies in the so-called “Squad” have been attempting for years to paint the Jewish state as a Republican issue, and have tried to push their party to adopt a more pro-Palestinian agenda in response.

Yet the main message of Biden’s visit is that they have failed — at least for now. While the mainstream media seems indifferent to the Squad’s anti-Israel agenda, the president’s visit was evidence that he at least has been listening … and has decided to throw the Democratic Party’s support behind the only viable democracy in the Middle East: Israel.

Meanwhile, the Squad, the media, and anyone who hoped to see the launching of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians or pressure on Israel to make concessions, were similarly disappointed. Biden said the two-state solution was “not in the near term,” and in his public events with Israeli leaders, did not ask to limit settlement construction.

Alongside PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem, while Biden praised Al Jazeera journalist Shereen Abu Akleh and promised a full accounting of her death, he did not come anywhere close to agreeing to what Abbas had demanded: “Revenge against her murderers.” Biden also ignored the Squad’s pleading to treat Israel like he has treated Saudi Arabia since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Though Washington paid lip service to Ramallah’s demands regarding Abu Akleh, attempts to reach a joint statement by Biden and Abbas’ advisers were unsuccessful.

What can the media take away from Biden’s seemingly uneventful visit to Israel?

Along those same lines, people hoping for a fight between Biden and Israeli leaders had to suffice with language regarding putting the military option with Iran on the table. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu told Biden there had to be a credible military threat. Biden agreed but only as a “last resort.”

“I don’t think there’s a light between us,” Lapid said regarding the alleged dispute. “We cannot allow Iran to become nuclear.”

Moreover, those who wanted to see American interference in the Israeli election needed to look far and wide for hints.

Biden told reporters following his meeting with Lapid that “we had a good beginning of a long, God willing, relationship.” But in his interview with Yonit Levi, he also spoke positively about his four-decade relationship with Netanyahu.

There might have been prayers for a big headline in newsrooms when a reporter from the Al-Arabiya network was given the right to ask one of only four questions at Biden’s press conference with Lapid, but the event ended with a whimper at best.

Israel has proven to be the ultimate bipartisan issue in the US, just like America remains above politics in Israel.

Biden’s praise for Israel at times sounded similar to that of his Republican predecessor Donald Trump. He enthusiastically adopted Trump’s Abraham Accords, which may be the only flagship Trump policy adopted so warmly by the Biden administration. Indeed, he granted Levi what was billed as his first interview as president with a foreign news outlet.

While Biden and Trump agree on virtually nothing, there is one issue on which there’s seeming consensus: Israel. While there have been recent surveys indicating that this is changing, it can still be said that at a time of hyperpolarization in the US, Israel is what unites Americans with views that vary widely across the political spectrum on domestic issues.

And just like they did when Trump visited, Israelis welcomed Biden with the kind of treatment that may be otherwise reserved for the coming of the actual messiah.

The Hebrew newspaper Ma’ariv greeted him with a rare English headline: “Welcome Mr President.” Good Morning Israel anchor Efi Triger greeted Biden with a statement about Israel being a “small, proud country,” and showed off his English vocabulary by promising the president “no malarkey.”

The one solitary Israeli protester against Biden was Yamina MK Yomtob Kalfon, who held an Israeli flag as the American commander-in-chief visited the Augusta Victoria Hospital in eastern Jerusalem.

Kalfon said he wanted “to remind him and especially his hosts that this place, adjacent to the Hebrew University next to the Mount of Olives Jewish cemetery is a part of unified and sovereign Jerusalem.”

By ensuring that his visit would be so positive and by putting the Congresswomen of the Squad in their place, Biden proved that the US-Israel relationship continues to transcend politics in both countries.

The author is the Executive Director of HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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