By Shirin Kaye
At Barrack Hebrew Academy, Israel is near and dear to community members’ hearts. In a world with new challenges constantly developing and being resolved, foreign policy with regard to Israel is also a hot topic in American politics, especially in light of the recent change in administration.
President Joe Biden was handed a foreign policy strategy that was strongly aligned with Israel. Former President Donald Trump’s significant symbolic actions left a legacy of prioritizing Israel in the Middle East. For example, he recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, reversed State Department policies regarding the building of settlements in disputed territory, moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem, stopped sending aid to the Palestinian leadership, and helped negotiate normalization plans with Arab states, among other things; these all showed that the US refused to allow the Palestinians to impede Israel’s goals. Although not without criticism, President Trump would likely have continued strengthening Israel’s sovereignty, working closely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and undermining the idea of a two-state solution, if he had been re-elected.
On his campaign website, Biden vowed to “continue to ensure that the Jewish State, the Jewish people, and Jewish values have the unbreakable support of the United States.” However, his support of Israel is expected to look different from that of his predecessor. He is expected to uphold the Democratic Party’s traditional pro-Israel attitude while overturning what he considers President Trump’s polarizing policies and hateful rhetoric. Although President Biden disagreed with the embassy move, he will not undo it, though he is likely to withdraw American support of new settlements. The Palestinian leadership was optimistic on Inauguration Day 2021 because of President Biden’s willingness to reestablish aid and diplomatic relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO is trying to win the current president’s favor by promising to hold elections for the first time in 16 years.
President Biden has a history of taking a moderate approach to Israel policy. He dismissed some Democrats’ desire to grant Israel foreign aid only conditionally, but does not support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing agenda. He also intervened to prevent the word “occupation” from being mentioned in the Democratic Party’s platform when referring to Israel. Critics contend that President Biden’s rejoining of the Iran nuclear deal will hurt Israel by strengthening an enemy regime with money and official permission to possess nuclear energy. This is because Iran has been continuing its efforts to develop nuclear weapons despite US sanctions, and the US rejoining the nuclear deal would likely help those efforts. Also, some news sources predict that President Biden will not seriously incentivize peace with the Palestinians, since he has larger foreign policy issues on which to work. However, one thing is certain: his expressed support for Israel. President Biden has known Prime Minister Netanyahu for 30 years and has known every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir. His election is a revival of the possibility of a two-state solution and hopefully a continuation of the US’s dedication to its strongest ally in the Middle East.