Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for president, was declared the winner of the U.S. presidential election and is expected to take office in January 2021. It is customary to call the U.S. president “the leader of the free world.” And in fact the political upheaval in the United States will affect the entire world, mainly in light of the crass style and dubious values of outgoing President Donald Trump.
That is even more true of Israel. On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the president-elect in these words: “Joe, we’ve had a long and warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel.” He also said that he looks forward to working with Biden and with his vice president Kamala Harris, in order “to further strengthen the special alliance between the U.S. and Israel.”
But even if Netanyahu’s desire for positive cooperation with Biden, Harris and the Democrats is genuine, we cannot ignore the fact that in recent years Netanyahu has tied the fate of the State of Israel to that of the Republican Party and Trump. Netanyahu did so at the price of damaging relations with the Democratic Party. The process began during the term of President Barack Obama and was ramped up during Trump’s tenure. Trump received diplomatic whitewashing services and international legitimacy from Netanyahu, and in return he provided the prime minister with unreserved support for his policy and his rule, even if they brought long-term damage to Israel.
Now Netanyahu’s Israel has to sober up from the intoxication of power that marked the four years of Trump’s rule. The sobering up involves a renewed recognition of the fact that the future of Israelis is entwined with that of the Palestinians, and the main obligation of the Israeli government is to resolve the conflict. Trump helped to fuel the dangerous illusion that Israel can ignore the conflict with the Palestinians. He even contributed to the destructive belief that the question of sovereignty over the territories is distinct from sovereignty over the Palestinian inhabitants, and that in any case Israel has the right to determine the future of the territories on its own. Biden must shatter this dangerous illusion, which is leading Israel along a path that ends in apartheid or a binational state.
Israel must recall its commitment to the two-state solution, which is based on the same values without which Israel itself would not have been established. Only a fulfillment of this commitment will ensure a safe existence for Israel and for Jews in the Diaspora. That is why Biden’s first task will be to help Israel remember the true proportions of its territory and power, and remind Israel that both its moral and its existential obligation is to promote the values of democracy, human rights, solidarity and cooperation between the nations.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.