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Israel's Friends in America Have Advice for Biden. He Should Take It

An article by two former State Department officials has some valuable advice for Biden on dealing with Netanyahu's incoming government ■ Netanyahu condemns Trump on antisemites ■ Herschel Walker has an antisemitism problem ■ Today's best reads on Haaretz

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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U.S. Vice President Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as they deliver joint statements during their meeting in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016.
U.S. Vice President Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as they deliver joint statements during their meeting in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016.Credit: Reuters
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

Shortly after Israel’s November 1 election, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Kurtzer, wrote a provocative op-ed for Haaretz, calling on Israel’s center-left parties to enter a coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, even at the cost of cancelling his criminal trial through legislation.

His argument, which senior Israeli pundits were also making at the time, was quite simple: In order to keep Israel’s far-right arsonists from power, Netanyahu’s opponents must forgo their values and offer the incoming prime minister a moderate alternative coalition to the religious and extreme one he was about to form. This was necessary, in his view, in order to maintain Israel's character as a liberal democracy.

That argument does not have a leg to stand on. Netanyahu is simply not interested in a moderate coalition. The 73-year-old Likud leader is no longer the "responsible adult" in the room that he was perhaps a decade ago, when he rejected calls from within his own party to weaken Israel’s judiciary. He has adopted a conspiratorial world view, leads a party that has shifted dramatically to the right, and is completely beholden to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox politicians, who have grand plans to turn Israel into a more fundamentalist and less democratic society.

Realizing that the "unity government" scenario has no chance, on Tuesday, Kurtzer penned an equally provocative article in the Washington Post with Aaron David Miller. The two former State Department officials called on U.S. President Joe Biden to respond "boldly" to the extreme government Netanyahu is ushering in. They suggested that America make its red lines clear on key issues, from annexation to cooperation with his far-right ministers.

They also implored the administration to tell the Palestinian Authority's leadership that “U.S. support depends on its willingness to hold elections, build a responsible democratic government, and curb violence and terrorism,” an important message in its own right.

Their article drew immediate condemnation from former Trump administration officials. This is somewhat ironic considering the unprecedented levels of political intervention that Trump and his team committed in 2019 and 2020, when Israel was stuck in a seemingly eternal election cycle, and Trump supplied endless oxygen to Netanyahu at his most difficult hour. Biden’s team should ignore their cries, and would be wise to adopt at least some of the advice that Kurtzer and Miller have to offer.

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