Navigating Israel’s ship of state through the Biden storm

February 16, 2021 by Caroline Glick
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In a media briefing Friday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to say whether the Biden administration views Israel as an ally.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with United States Vice President Joe Biden at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016, during Biden’s official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.

Psaki’s behaviour was easy to understand. Although Israel is America’s strongest and most reliable ally in the Middle East, Israel cannot follow where the Biden administration is now leading. President Joe Biden’s policy steps and foreign-policy appointments since taking office have made it abundantly clear that his first priority is to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was negotiated by Biden’s top advisers when they served with him in the Obama administration is not a non-proliferation agreement. It is a blueprint for Iran to achieve independent military nuclear capability and regional hegemony.

Neither Israel nor the U.S.’s Arab allies in the Persian Gulf can partner with Biden and his team in advancing this policy. It puts them all in danger. This is the simple explanation for Biden’s refusal to date to speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to other regional leaders. Quite simply, given his commitment to a policy that places their countries in jeopardy, Biden would prefer not to hear what they have to say.

Netanyahu adopted a three-pronged foreign policy when he was faced with a similar situation with Washington during the Obama presidency. After a four-year hiatus, the time has come to reinstate the policy.

The first component of that policy is a recognition that the U.S. is irreplaceable. No other ally can provide Israel with the partnership that the U.S. provides. That doesn’t mean that Israel’s government must bow and scrape before Biden and his advisers as they rush to empower Iran at Israel’s expense. On the contrary. Facing a hostile administration, Israel must unapologetically stand up for itself and defend its interests and rights.

As Israel does so, it must be mindful that even with the Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, the Democrats aren’t the only game in town. America is a huge, dynamic country. Moreover, not all Democrats are on board with Biden’s pro-Iran and anti-Israel Middle East policies. Israel has good friends at all levels of American politics and society in both parties. It must argue its positions and defend its actions to all of the relevant parties in U.S. politics, media and civil society.

Second, Israel needs to work with the U.S.’s other allies whose views on Iran are closer to Israel’s than they are to the Biden administration’s. In the past, Netanyahu was able to develop a constructive dialogue on Iran and other issues with the Canadian and French governments. Today, the list of partners includes Greece, Cyprus and Austria, among others.

Finally, Israel needs to expand and deepen its own alliance structure and diminish its strategic dependence on the U.S. Israel is not the isolated, poor, and weak state that it was 50 years ago. It is crucial for Israel to decrease, with the goal of ending, the military aid it receives from the U.S. and transition quickly from its status as client to partner in weapons and technology development.

Israel must expand its trade and strategic ties with its regional partners, both within the framework of the Abraham Accords and outside of them.

Recognizing the Biden administration’s keenness to realign the U.S. towards Iran, India has announced its plans to restore and expand its trade and defence ties with Iran. Israel should work to curb India’s enthusiasm. India, along with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, have all expanded their trade and defence ties with Israel over the past decade. And Israel must seek to develop and expand these ties still further, while working with these governments to block, rather than enable, Iran’s nuclear and conventional empowerment.

The U.S. will remain Israel’s most powerful and important ally, regardless of the policies of any specific administration, because the interests and values that join Americans and Israelis are so wide and deep.

At the same time, Israel cannot concede either its sovereignty or its core interests to satisfy an administration committed to policies that harm both. With a foreign policy based on a commitment to maintaining the U.S.-Israel alliance; a deep understanding of American politics and society; prudent coordination with NATO members and other key states; and expansion of Israel’s strategic and economic regional partnerships and ties in Asia, Israel will be capable of handling what awaits it in Washington.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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