A foreign policy adviser for Joe Biden has warned that Israeli annexation of West Bank lands would be “a huge mistake.”
Nicholas Burns told The Arena, the online magazine of the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy, that annexation “is the one issue which could most harm the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
As well as serving as a foreign policy adviser to Biden, the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee in the November election, Burns is a Harvard professor, and served as secretary of state for political affairs under President George W. Bush after serving as U.S. ambassador to NATO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has declared plans to begin annexing the settlements in the West Bank on July 1, but the plan has encountered opposition from both opponents of the settlements and some of the settlers themselves.
Both major political parties in the U.S. are strongly supportive of Israel, Burns said in the interview with The Arena, which is being published on Thursday. However, he added, “[t]here is a majority view among those who served in the last several Republican and Democratic administrations that annexation, if the Israeli government chooses to move forward with it, would be not just unwise, but a huge mistake."
“It would greatly harm Israel, internationally and among its strongest supporters,” and would also “fundamentally undermine” the idea of a two-state solution, Burns said. Burns further said that if the annexation plans became reality, there would likely be “almost complete denunciation by the American political leadership,” outside of the Trump administration. “I know some will think I am a partisan supporter of the Democrats; I am not,” he said. “I have served in both Republican and Democratic administrations and am simply doing my best to analyze both sides of the issue and to be frank.“
Asked about Biden’s potential Iran policy, Burns said there was a bipartisan concern about Iran’s regional actions and that this would remain a priority in the White House regardless of who is in office after the inauguration in January 2021.
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“The difference will be on the Iran nuclear deal,” said Burns. Given the unlikeliness of simply reinstating the deal, said Burns, it was necessary to find a way to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. “Is that better done by threat, or is there a new agreement ahead?” he pondered. “Personally, I would argue that it is easier done within an agreement than outside one... Either way, there is zero American appetite to allow a situation in which Iran could become a nuclear power.” This would entail “a close strategic relationship” with the Israeli military and government, as well as Jordan, Egypt, and some Gulf countries to contain Iran. “I don’t think that is going to change," Burns said.