Adnan Abu Amer
Middle East Monitor / September 10, 2020
The Israelis are waiting with undeniable concern as preparations for the US presidential elections begin, and as they witness the disturbing political positions towards Israel, most notably with regard to the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, on the matter of relations with Iran, or regarding the Palestinian issue, or even when it comes to the current President Donald Trump, and the possibility of a change in his positions during his second term, since he will no longer need the support of the Zionist lobby.
Today, Israel is preparing for the possibility that Biden will be named president of the US. As far as foreign policy is concerned, Israeli policy forums consider Biden to be a long-time supporter of Israel. But, if he wins the elections, tensions may rise between him and the Israeli government over two main issues: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian nuclear file. Therefore, from an Israeli point of view, it is probably advisable for Tel Aviv to start communicating with Biden and his advisers as soon as possible, to establish a secret channel for political discussions in order to serve as a basis to build trust between the two parties.
At the same time, and as an effort to rebuild their bipartisan support, Israeli political leaders are demanding that no action should be undertaken during the election campaign, since political polarisation is increasing. This will be interpreted in Washington as unilateral support for one of the candidates.
Perhaps, early Israeli communication with Biden will help reduce the damage inflicted on the relationship between the two parties should he win the election.
From Israel’s point of view, the policy areas that have the greatest potential to affect its national security are those that directly concern it, most notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian issue, especially the nuclear issue.
The Israelis expect the emergence of major political gaps in the Palestinian issue between the Biden administration and the Israeli government, as he stated in August 2019 that constant pressure must be exerted on the Israelis to move towards the two-state solution. Therefore, annexing land in the West Bank under the cover of the ‘deal of the century’ would increase tensions.
There is an unpublicised Israeli concern that the Biden’s administration would reverse Trump’s unilateral step of unifying occupied Jerusalem and declaring it Israel’s capital. Biden may instead return to previous declarations which claim West Jerusalem as Israel and East Jerusalem as Palestinian. He would not, however, close the US embassy which was moved to Jerusalem in 2018.
As to the Iranian nuclear file, Biden will go back to the nuclear agreement as a starting point in case Iran returns to its nuclear programme. He will also work with his European allies and other international forces to extend nuclear restrictions in the deal, to which Israel would object.
The Democrat’s policy toward Iran has spread concern across Israel, and as a result, officials there will go to great lengths to convince the Biden team of “the threat” the Islamic Republic poses. They will try to convince them that the US maximum pressure policy is paying off and has Iran with its back to the wall, even though Netanyahu and his comrades are afraid Biden might change it. However senior US defence officials may share these concerns, they know that Iran is less of a threat as a signatory to the nuclear deal.
News in Israel says the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has given Biden the highest marks for his supportive stances. However, the game is different now. Trump broke all the standards concerning support for Israel.
Adnan Abu Amer is a Palestinian academic