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Joe Biden has never been a friend of Israel. He says the politically correct things when he is addressing a Jewish audience, but he has a long history of placating Israel’s enemies and giving Israel short shrift.
On June 22, 1982, when Joe Biden was a Senator from Delaware and sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he confronted then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who was giving testimony. Begin was an Israeli patriot and a proud Jew. And when Biden threatened to cut off aid to Israel, he said this:
“Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”
Senator Biden reportedly banged the table with his fist, and Begin retorted,
“This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats. Take note: we do not want a single soldier of yours to die for us.”
Israel’s current Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, undoubtedly shares Begin’s opinion. He is no more likely to bow down to the threats of a Biden administration than Begin was.
But all the progress that Israel has made on the world stage during Trump’s presidency is likely to be damaged or completely lost if Biden does in fact become President and does what he has promised to do:
Although Israel may stand firmly on unbended knees before American threats, those threats to halt financial aid will most certainly come, led by openly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
And what will happen to the successful ‘normalization’ process that is now taking place as a direct result of the initiative of the Trump administration?
When the press decided that Biden had won the election, even before all the votes had been counted and the legal challenges had begun, Netanyahu waited until the rush of congratulatory messages had subsided before he wrote to Biden and Harris:
“Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with both of you to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel.”
But this glossed over a history that was far from supportive of Israel and its long struggle to bring peace to an uneasy part of the world. And Netanyahu ignored |Biden’s own animosity towards the Jewish state.
Netanyahu also sent a tweet to Donald Trump, saying, “Thank you @realDonaldTrump for the friendship you have shown the state of Israel and me personally”.
Netanyahu is hedging his bets, as well he should. American policy towards Israel is a serious concern to any Israeli leader. The Middle East remains unstable at best, and, in today’s reality, it is a dangerous tinderbox that could explode at any time.
Trump’s initiatives to normalize relations between Israel and Muslim countries in the region are their best hope for a peaceful future, but they will all be at risk in a Biden administration.
Israel remains the only truly democratic country in the region where the entire government is elected by the people and is responsible to them, and where free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of movement is protected by law. But Israel’s democratic system is also vulnerable to terrorist attacks by people living among them and in neighboring countries. The balance between democracy and national security is a fine line Israel must tread carefully.
So Israel’s good relationship with the United States is essential and right now, because of the 2020 election, it is precarious. President Trump still has an opportunity to complete the process of normalization between Israel and other Muslim countries, and that will be difficult for a Biden-Harris administration to undo. But this new kind of peace in the Middle East, based on mutual interest, has raised hopes in the region for a new normal. A peaceful normal.
If Biden is successful in maintaining his path to the White House, the current promise of normalization in the region will likely be in jeopardy, because he has promised to reopen the agreement with Iran, lift sanctions, and help restore their economy. Iran is the single most dangerous threat to the region and to the world, and outreach to Iran will reinstitute the dire threat that Iran poses to Israel and to the gulf states. But if history is any guide, Biden won’t care.
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