Biden has reassured Netanyahu that the status quo is safe

Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2016 (Debbie Hill - AFP)

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  February 18, 2021

With US President Joe Biden’s first call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now out of the way, the first inklings of the new administration’s diplomacy regarding Palestine and Israel have been made public. Biden, it seems, will incorporate elements of the Trump administration’s policies while promoting the two-state paradigm, even as both illegal annexation and the “Abraham Accords” normalisation deals have dealt a permanent blow to even the most hypothetical premises about an independent Palestinian state.

In an interview earlier this month, Trump’s Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, spoke about the possibility of a return to Obama-era politics. “That is of concern if they [the Biden administration] replicate the Obama foreign policy,” Friedman stated, when asked if the next four years could cause “worry” for Israel.

The notion that Biden could undo what former President Donald Trump achieved for Israel is now being used as a bone of contention to point out the different political trajectories of their presidencies. However, as Friedman pointed out, the normalisation agreements with Gulf and Arab states, as well as the annexation plans, are unlikely to be tethered to the Trump administration only. Speaking about the “Abraham Accords”, Friedman declared, “We want to scale those alliances to other countries and to deeper relations with countries that have normalised [relations].”

With Biden hailing “US support for the recent normalisation of relations between Israel and countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” it is clear that despite any minor differences, the Biden agenda is set to continue to make Palestine disappear.

It is interesting to note that Friedman is still emphasising the suspension of annexation with as much fervour as he did during his tenure as ambassador. He was very curt with the interviewer on this topic: “The actual word we used was ‘suspended’. Look it up in a dictionary. It is pretty clear that it was temporal.”

Biden is expected to speak out against settlement expansion, although so far no criticism has been forthcoming from post-Trump Washington. In January, Israel Hayom reported that the same policy of turning a blind eye to intermittent building approvals in the occupied West Bank would be sought from Biden, thus ensuring the ongoing expansion and, as a result, yet more de-facto illegal annexation of Palestinian territory. Of course, the formalisation can wait until Israel knows that it can again get exactly what it wants, especially when Biden’s brand of politics so far is toeing the Zionist line by normalising Trump’s legacy when it comes to Palestinian loss.

It is unfortunate for Palestinians that Friedman may be right in terms of how far reaching the Trump administration’s legacy will be. An inkling of this had already been expressed by the international community’s fawning over the “Abraham Accords”; which diplomat will speak out against normalisation of relations even when it is obviously a cover for colonial land grab and the buying of not only regional, but also international silence?

Trump may be gone, but Biden has indicated that his policies will remain and the status quo is safe. The international community will have no qualms about the legacy, providing that Trump is now history in terms of his political presence. For the Palestinian Authority to act in the same manner, though, is to usher in a new era of subjugation that will see Palestinians incur further loss, while the leadership scrambles to save the two-state compromise, rather than Palestinian land and rights.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America