Today America and the rest of the world welcome a U.S. president who heralds a new era. After four years of a frenetic regime that was marked by the incitement, deception and falsehoods disseminated unabated by Donald Trump, the hope that Joe Biden can rehabilitate the scorched earth the outgoing president left behind looks realistic.
Trump, whose baseball-cap slogan was “Make America Great Again,” did everything to achieve just the opposite. Trump’s America has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infection in the world, its relationship with the EU has deteriorated, it started a trade war with China and its power in the Middle East is fading.
This is what Trump has left on Biden’s desk, and the latter will need all the help he can get to clear it.
Trump did leave behind one ray of light: The normalization he helped facilitate between Israel and four Arab countries. This is an incredible accomplishment, which may have taken many years to be realized if Trump hadn’t pushed for it and supported it.
While Biden’s victory in November was perceived by most of the world as a fresh breeze of rationality and humanity, the Israeli government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were seized by grief and fear. After a president who enthusiastically adopted every caprice of Netanyahu’s, cut off his ties with the Palestinians, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Golan Heights as part of its sovereign territory – and even gave a green light, at least a flashing one, to annexing the territories – a U.S. president with starkly different views is assuming office. Biden sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace and a violation of international law, believes in the two-state solution and opposes violations of human rights.
That’s why Biden’s ascendance to the presidency ought to please every peace-seeking Israeli with a liberal worldview. But every Israeli, whether on the left or right, who expects any U.S. administration to pull Israel’s chestnuts out of the fire is doomed to be disappointed.
Biden is the U.S. president and a friend of Israel, but he does not choose or form Israel’s government. He has not yet presented his policy on the Middle East, and particularly his policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Israel wants his help in advancing the peace process, it will first have to prove that it is primed to accept such help.
Israel’s test will take place on March 23. It will determine whether Israel deserves an ally in the White House who can help it extract itself from the disaster it has brought on itself, or whether Israel will continue its march towards the abyss.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.