“We’ve become close friends,” U.S. President Joe Biden declared following his meeting with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. This statement, alongside a commitment to “an unshakable partnership” between the United States and Israel, are all expressions and gestures pleasing to the Israeli ear, giving high marks to Bennett’s first White House visit.
But the festive formality cannot obfuscate the disputes regarding key questions. On the Iranian front, Biden’s policy is not different than that of previous American presidents. The United States will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and it will consider other options only if negotiations with Iran fail to achieve this goal. Israel, on the other hand, holds that the Iranian nuclear program must be foiled at the early stages, and Tehran’s intentions to obtain such weapons should be thwarted before it reaches the critical stage of beginning to manufacture one.
It is unclear whether Bennett received a green light to keep hitting Iranian targets as long as hope remains for reviving the talks, and how far he’ll be willing to deepen the intelligence sharing and coordination with Washington. But as long as the administration pursues the diplomatic option, independent Israeli action may torpedo that “close friendship” forged between the two leaders, and place Israel on a collision course with the international community.
LISTEN: Bennett meets Biden. This could be Israel’s worst-case scenario
The other issue, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seemed like a footnote, despite its enormous importance to Israel’s security. “We won’t annex territories and won’t create a Palestinian state,” was how Bennett summarized his projected policy, while Biden said something about meaning to “discuss ways to advance peace and security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians” with Bennett.
It is hard to square the aspiration for peace, security, and prosperity for both sides with shirking the necessity of uprooting the malady preventing their realization. Biden, who is well aware of the political and ideological dispute dividing the Israeli public and government, refrained from tossing a grenade on the scene that could shatter Bennett’s fragile coalition, and would have surely marred the visit. But in so doing, he appears to be adopting the Israeli position, which holds the status quo sacred and perpetuates the occupation.
- Bennett-Biden meeting revived Israel-U.S. ties, but there were no dramatic achievements
- It wasn't the perfect visit Bennett had hoped for, but he has Biden on his side
- Bennett-Biden meeting made a good first impression, and that's all it was meant for
Israel cannot allow itself to view Biden’s approach as permission to continue its policy. The declaration that Israel won’t annex territories cannot replace the urgent need for proactive moves, including negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas, rebuilding the Gaza Strip, stopping the appropriation of Palestinian lands and structures and creating a diplomatic path, without which there is no hope for Israel’s security and future.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.