Joe Biden has been in the White House for less than a month so it is perhaps too early to gauge what his comprehensive policy towards Israel will be. But if his initial moves are any indication, the Jewish state might want to grab a diplomatic sweater or two and begin bracing itself for a chilly wind reminiscent of the Obama era.
Indeed, after a remarkable four years of unprecedented closeness under the Trump administration, Jerusalem is now facing the prospect of what is beginning to look a lot like Obama’s third term.
Let’s start with some basic diplomatic courtesy. As of this writing, Biden has yet to speak with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, even though Israel is America’s closest friend and ally in the Middle East.
By contrast, President Donald Trump called the premier on his third day in office in what was described at the time as a “very warm” chat that included an invitation to visit Washington.
Even Obama called Netanyahu on his first day in office, although he also telephoned Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as well.
I am sure that Biden has been quite busy, but he has managed to find the time to speak to an array of world leaders, including some such as Vladimir Putin, who can hardly be characterized as one of America’s buddies. So it is hard not to escape the feeling that the Biden team is giving Israel a bit of a cold shoulder.
Then there are some of his recent choices for key positions in the diplomatic and intelligence fields, a number of which are deeply troubling. So much so that the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has set up a “Biden’s Hostile-to-Israel Appointments Watch” on its website which highlights 16 key figures in the new administration.
They include Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who in a 2017 interview on CNN opposed designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization despite its long record of providing training, funding and support to groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which target Israel and American interests.
Then there is newly appointed Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, a cabinet-level position that oversees the entire U.S. intelligence community. In May of last year, Haines signed an outrageous letter put together by J Street, the far-Left D.C. lobby, which urged the Democratic National Committee to be more critical of Israel in the party platform.
Perhaps most egregious of all is Biden’s choice of Reema Dodin to serve as deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. As the ZOA notes, Dodin once justified suicide bombings as “the last resort of a desperate people” while a student at Berkeley.
And these are just some of the people whom Biden has put in positions of influence.
Moreover, Biden has already started taking practical steps to reverse some of Trump’s pro-Israel policies.
Barely a week after the presidential inauguration, his UN representative announced in late January that the Palestinians would be allowed to reopen their diplomatic office in Washington and the U.S. would resume financial support for the regime in Ramallah.
So in effect, Biden handed the Palestinians some tangible rewards despite their ongoing refusal to make peace with Israel and without getting anything in return.
Even as they were conferring diplomatic gifts on the Palestinians, Biden and his aides were quick to do the opposite to Israel vis-à-vis one of its most important historical and strategic assets.
On March 25, 2019, the U.S. formally recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel via a presidential proclamation. But earlier this week, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Blinken retreated from that stance, refusing to say outright that the Golan belongs to the Jewish state.
While acknowledging that “control of the Golan” is important to Israel so long as the Assad regime remains in power, he added that, “Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we look at but we are nowhere near that.”
If Blinken is unwilling to stand by U.S. policy vis-à-vis the Golan Heights, who is to say that the Biden administration won’t also try to walk back recognition of Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state?
Similarly, Biden has indicated that he will reverse Trump policies on withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council, one of the most biased, anti-Israel institutions in the entire United Nations system.
Many of these steps herald a return to the bad old days when Israel was manhandled by Obama for eight years.
Of course, none of this should be surprising given the fact that Biden was right there by Obama’s side serving as his loyal vice president. But it is nonetheless disappointing and concerning. After all, if Biden can do so much damage in just under four weeks, one shudders to think what he might aim to “accomplish” in four years.
This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and can be viewed here.