Biden has told this story countless times, describing the event as “one of the most important meetings I have ever had in my life.”
This marked the beginning of his steadfast support for Israel and his close ties with many Israeli leaders since then.
Thirteen years later, Biden delivered an impassioned speech to the United States Senate, making it clear that American interests are closely linked with those of Israel.
“It is high time we stopped apologizing for our support for Israel,” he told lawmakers in June 1986. “This is the best $ 3 billion investment we are making. If there was no Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect its interests in the region.
The following year marked the start of the $ 3 billion annual military aid that Israel continues to receive from the United States.
Biden, a self-proclaimed Zionist, has attended numerous meetings of pro-Israel lobby groups, such as the American Committee on Israeli Public Affairs (AIPAC) and J Street.
His victory over Donald Trump on Saturday in one of the closest US presidential elections was greeted with a sigh of relief from Palestinian officials – not so much for his victory as for Trump’s defeat.
Trump and the Palestinian leadership
Under the Trump administration, the past four years have radically changed the political landscape for Israelis and Palestinians. While the United States has always been a huge backer of Israel – peddling the line of two-state solution over the years, even as Israel continued to expropriate Palestinian land and build more settlements – Trump has taken this policy to new heights.
He cut US aid to the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moved the US embassy to Tel Aviv. Trump has refused to condemn settlement building and expansion as illegal – in defiance of international law. It also withdrew funding from the UN agency for refugees, on which millions of Palestinians depend for education, food and livelihoods.
Trump also negotiated “normalization” agreements with three Arab countries that recognized Israel without even demanding Palestinian gains in return, leaving the Palestinian leadership increasingly isolated.
Through his son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump crafted a plan for the Middle East that avoided the two-state solution – which the Palestinian leadership strongly rejected.
Instead of a proposed Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital, Trump’s plan recognized Israeli sovereignty over the major blocks of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian state would be made up of townships of non-contiguous lands and a capital in a suburb of occupied East Jerusalem.
So will Joe Biden return to the accepted Middle East policy of previous US administrations, or will he continue on the path of some of Trump’s companies?
No strategic change in US policy
Several Palestinian news agencies have published statements by Palestinian officials with their views on what President-elect Biden’s victory would mean.
Nabil Shaath, President Mahmoud Abbas’ special representative, said the Palestinian leadership did not expect a strategic shift in US policy towards the Palestinians, but to get rid of the Trump era – that it called “worse” – is a plus.
“From what we’ve heard from Joe Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris, I think he will be more balanced and less submissive to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – therefore less harmful to us than Trump,” he said. he declares.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said that if the first step is to “get rid of Trump and the danger he poses,” she stressed that Biden would not be not a savior for the Palestinians.
“The restoration of the PA’s relations with the United States after Biden’s victory is being discussed and assessed,” she said.
“Things don’t happen automatically,” she added. “On the contrary, the list of demands, interests and positions must be determined, and it is necessary to change many questions.”
The world also needs to be able to breathe.
Trumpism must be carefully examined and corrected to restore the human, moral, and legal balance within and beyond the United States. Such phenomena do not emerge from a vacuum. Now is the time for bold, holistic therapies
– Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) November 7, 2020
Ashrawi said decades of pro-Israel US politics produced Trump’s policies.
“What is needed is to change what Trump did by radically changing the racism and politics he stood for, and building a relationship based on a new vision – justice, respect and clarity,” he said. she declared.
In the same context, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, called on Biden to put in place “a historic correction in the course of unjust American policy against our people, which has made the United States a partner in the injustice and aggression. , and damaged stability in the region and in the world ”.
Haniyeh called on the elected administration to withdraw from Trump’s Middle East plan and reverse the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Colonies, Jerusalem, financial aid and BDS
While former President Barack Obama had a notoriously icy relationship with Netanyahu, Biden’s personal friendship with the Israeli prime minister dates back more than three decades.
Congratulations @Joe Biden and @KamalaHarris. Joe, we have had a long and warm personal relationship for almost 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. I look forward to working with you two to further strengthen the special alliance between the United States and Israel.
– Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) November 8, 2020
Although Biden is a staunch supporter of the two-state solution, he refuses to take advantage of U.S. aid to Israel in order to pressure it to respect international law.
“I strongly oppose Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank,” Biden told PBS in an interview last year. “But the idea that we would cut off military aid to an ally, our only real, real ally in the whole region, is absolutely absurd.
Biden also initially opposed the move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, but has previously said he has no plans to return it to Tel Aviv.
His administration plans to reopen the US consulate in occupied East Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians, as well as the PLO mission in Washington, DC, which was shut down by the Trump administration.
Biden said he would reverse the “destructive severance of diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority and the cancellation of assistance programs that support Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, economic development and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people by West Bank and Gaza ”.
But he echoed the Trump administration by conditioning the resumption of financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority only if it interrupts welfare payments to the families of Palestinian prisoners and alleged Palestinian assailants killed by the Israelis.
On the issue of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, Biden is a staunch opponent and called it “bogus” in a speech to AIPAC in 2016.
Tony Blinken, senior advisor to Biden, said last summer that the president-elect would push back the BDS movement as well as efforts to expose Israel for its violations of international law at the United Nations.
“Are we going to oppose it forcefully and try to prevent it, defuse it and defeat it?” Absolutely, ”Blinken said.
Regarding the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, Biden has previously attempted to claim credit for sowing the original seeds under the terms of the ruling Obama. Biden urged “Arab states to move beyond calm talks and take bolder steps towards normalization with Israel.”