Opinion |

Biden Offers Israel's Peace Camp an Opportunity, Nothing More

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
President-elect Joe Biden at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2016.
President-elect Joe Biden at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2016.Credit: AP Photo/Cliff Owen
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

For all his craziness, Donald Trump was a consistent president. With him, Israel always knew where it stood. He was the man who annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem for it, and decided that Israel can annex parts of the West Bank; the peace-loving leader who forced three Arab countries to sign normalization agreements with Israel; who sold it arms without any restrictions and conditions; and mainly, the man whose love for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unconditional, and who turned the United States into Israel’s satellite.

It’s true that he’s crass, a habitual liar, corrupt, a swindler, a man who doesn’t know how to spell the term “human rights” – so what? He’s family, a product of the House of Netanyahu. Biden, on the other hand, is already beginning to be seen as a threat. Apparently only a coalition of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt – all of them countries that have lost their American armor with Trump’s departure – can deal with this new threat. It seems that there’s no choice. Netanyahu must continue to serve as prime minister. Who but he can save Israel from Biden’s unpredictable whims?

Haaretz podcast: Trump-loving Israelis brace for a Biden bombshellCredit: Haaretz

After all, this is a president who in one sentence said that he loves Bibi and also that he disagrees with him on almost every issue. Biden declared that he is committed to Israel’s security, but also supports the two-state solution. On the one hand he is faithful to Obama’s policy, to the effect that the United States will not enable Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, and on the other hand he declared that he intends to renegotiate the nuclear treaty with Iran. In that case, how can one rely on such a president? Which of his declarations should we believe?

The joy that seized the Israeli left-center after Biden’s election, as though now there’s a president who is revolutionary, liberal, polite, an air freshener who will purify the stench left behind by Trump, one who will make peace and force Netanyahu’s hand, is understandable and familiar – after all, it’s similar to the feeling of relief that accompanied the victory of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the Kahol Lavan squad.

But that rejoicing lasted for only a brief moment, and it collapsed the second Gantz agreed to surrender to Netanyahu. Only the politeness remains, and that has also begun to evaporate. It has already been proven that the thought – or to be more precise, the illusion – that a U.S. president can pull the chestnuts out of the fire for a country that abhors chestnuts is divorced from the reality.

Biden will be like a plane full of goodies that can’t find a landing strip in Israel. Because before the applause and the tears of joy over his victory, we would do well to recall that he is not a subcontractor of the center or the left, or of the Palestinians. At best, Biden can be a mediator or an organizer in Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, on condition that Israel provides him with the partner without which his presidency will be of no importance.

Biden can scold Israel for building in the settlements, call on it to end the occupation, perhaps even make it sit down with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He will arouse its anger if he renegotiates the nuclear treaty with Iran, will threaten Israel if it tries to attack the nuclear facilities on its own, and perhaps, in a moment of weakness, will make a comment or two about the nature of Israeli democracy. But as long as the Israelis themselves don’t remove Israel’s Teflon coating, no Biden will help it – and within a short time he will become the hated president in Israel, a kind of white Obama, Joe Hussein Biden.

The great and important change that Biden brings is his support for Israeli peace-lovers. With Trump, they had no chance. They couldn’t even threaten that if Netanyahu doesn’t behave nicely, the American policeman would come – since this policeman was a part of the mechanism of eradication that Israel activated against any chance of peace with the Palestinians. Biden is offering Israel an opportunity, nothing more. Such an opportunity cannot be realized without removing Netanyahu first.

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