With the election of Joe Biden to the U.S. presidency, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood in the Knesset and as usual, rebuffed the claims of the opposition that he had neglected Israel’s relations with the Democratic Party during Donald Trump’s administration, and as a result has damaged Israel’s standing in Washington. But since his swearing in nearly four weeks ago, Biden has spoken to the leaders of many countries, but still hasn’t found time to speak to the prime minister of Israel, which for the past four years has seen itself as a major American ally.
When Netanyahu was asked last week if he wasn’t disturbed that Biden hadn’t yet called, he replied, “He is calling heads of state in the order he sees fit; he hasn’t gotten to the Middle East yet.” But this is not an insignificant technical matter. Biden’s message is clear: Things aren’t going to be the way they were. The type of relationship that the United States has had with Israel over the past four years has changed, and there is a price to the diplomatic romance Netanyahu conducted with Trump.
There is nothing like the tweet last week by Danny Danon, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, to illustrate the vulgarization that Israeli diplomacy has undergone due to the unbounded relationship between Netanyahu and Trump, and the resulting intoxication with power that Israel had better recover from, and fast. Danon listed the countries whose leaders Biden had called, and wondered, “Might it be time to call the leader of Israel, the closest ally of the U.S.?” He even included the phone number of the prime minister’s bureau.
In recent years Netanyahu hasn’t ceased to give Biden and the Democratic Party plenty of reasons to feel alienated, first and foremost the unprecedented address to Congress in 2015 against the Iranian nuclear agreement that made then-President Barack Obama see red. Netanyahu then affiliated himself so completely with Trump that it was sometimes hard to discern where Israeli policy ended and American policy began, and who was the head of a small Middle Eastern state and who was president of a superpower.
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Netanyahu supplied diplomatic whitewashing services for Trump, ignoring the reservations expressed by American Jews, the Democratic Party and many world leaders. Netanyahu thus grossly undermined one of the axioms of Israeli foreign policy: Bipartisan support in the United States must be preserved.
Last Thursday the White House said Biden would be calling soon. But even after that happens, Israel will need a lot of time to repair the damage Netanyahu did to the ties with the Democratic Party. It’s hard to believe that the person responsible for the damage will be able to fix it. That’s another reason to put an end to Netanyahu’s rule.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.