We shouldn’t merely come to terms with Joe Biden’s election as the next U.S. president. We should take it as a blessing.
It’s true, Donald Trump took several welcome steps that Israel will benefit from for many years. The peace agreements and normalization deals with Gulf states pave the way for other countries to join and change Israel’s regional strategy.
The transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem was emotional, even if it was symbolic. I also haven’t forgotten Trump’s efforts to weaken Iran, even if the payoff from Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal, not taken as part of a long-term strategy, is still unclear.
And yet, the free world, which includes Israel, needs the United States to be a functioning democracy, in keeping with the values that Biden represents. Israel is comprised of not just its interests, but also its values as a Jewish and democratic state.
When the leader of the world’s most important democracy distances himself from international democratic institutions, attacks them and rejects the rules of the game, he crosses red lines that could be wiped out in other democracies as well. The example closest to us is Benjamin Netanyahu, who has sensed which way the wind is blowing.
Trump’s tweets, which shocked us, were translated into Hebrew by Netanyahu. The steps that Netanyahu feared taking in the past against Israel’s democratic institutions and principles became legitimate and even worthwhile politically. This isn’t a matter of crossing the boundaries of what’s politically correct, or hurting the elite’s feelings, it’s damaging the institutions and discourse that protect the rights and dignity of all people, including minority groups.
Meanwhile, those who hope Biden won’t get around to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should see their error. The normalization with Gulf states left this conflict at the side of the road – our road, because the Palestinians live here, not in the Gulf. We’ll pay the price for ignoring it (or for an official or de facto recognition of an annexation), when we find ourselves racing toward a single state with millions of Palestinians that’s not the Jewish and democratic Israel that we know and love.
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I’ve known Biden for many years. I have no doubt that he, someone who doesn’t support annexation but also isn’t part of the Democrats’ radical left and is committed to Israel’s defense, is suited to help find a solution that leads to a division of the land while preserving Israel’s defense needs. At the very least, he won’t do anything that prevents such a scenario in the future. This is Israel’s clear interest.
Biden’s election will also help us heal the division that has opened between us and U.S. Jews, who are liberal and democratic, due to the perception that Israel is part of the Trump-Netanyahu camp. The bigger the division between the Democrats and the Republicans got – and with it the anger – the wider the disconnect became. And the Netanyahu government’s attacks on Israeli democracy only deepened the alienation.
Now it’s clearer than ever that Israel must once again enjoy a bipartisan consensus in the United States. This is what I achieved when I worked with U.S. presidents from both sides of the aisle.
I believe that Biden is an excellent choice both for us and the free world, which is facing complicated challenges. It certainly won’t hurt to have a mensch as the leader of the free world.