U.S. President Joe Biden gave Israel significant backing during the first 10 days of fighting in Gaza. The warnings sounded by the Israeli right before the U.S. presidential election that a President Biden would be hostile to Israel were shown to be baseless. Biden twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions meant to condemn Israel and declared time after time that Israel has the right to defend itself against terror offensives.
The president did all this despite harsh criticism from within his party. In the U.S. Democratic Party, which currently controls both houses of Congress, there is a growing wing that refuses to adopt the old consensus about Israel-U.S. relations. Prominent senators and leading members of Congress called on Biden this week to freeze a new military aid package to Israel, and criticized him after each of his phone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not taking a tougher stance toward him.
A responsible Israeli leadership would have found a way to thank the president for his support of Israel, but Netanyahu, as usual, chose to bite the hand that feeds him. In their Wednesday phone conversation, Biden expressed his desire to see a cease-fire before the conflagration spreads to the rest of the Middle East. Netanyahu hastened to announce his desire to keep the fighting going, causing Biden embarrassment.
Apparently, Netanyahu became overly accustomed to the way things were under the administration of Donald Trump, who on numerous occasions acted like he was the head of the Likud’s Washington branch. But reality in the United States has changed, and for as long as Netanyahu continues serving as prime minister, he needs to realize that although there is a president in the White House who supports Israel, this president does not completely subordinate American policy to Netanyahu’s judgment.
Good relations with the Biden administration are Israel’s best insurance policy in the Security Council, the International Criminal Court in The Hague and in the negotiations with Iran, which Israel can only influence through its ties with Washington. Let us hope that, unlike what happened with Barack Obama, Netanyahu will not once again blight Israel’s strategic relationship with an American president.