As we wish President Joe Biden and his new administration all the best, we urge them to keep the Jewish people and Israel in mind.
Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US while Kamala Harris became vice president at the historic 59th presidential inauguration today. The theme of the inauguration was “America United,” reflecting “the beginning of a new national journey that restores the soul of America, brings the country together, and creates a path to a brighter future,” according to a statement from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
Biden and Harris took their oaths of office outside the Capitol building under heavy security, after the mob insurrection there on January 6, but without the usual mass celebrations, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden delivered his much-anticipated inaugural address, “laying out his vision to defeat the pandemic, build back better, and unify and heal the nation.”
In Jerusalem, political leaders across the spectrum have congratulated Biden and wished him well. During his long tenure as a Democratic senator representing Delaware (from 1973 to 2009) and as vice president under Barack Obama (from 2009 and 2017), Biden, who is now 78, proved to be a strong ally and good friend of Israel.
As he told the AIPAC Policy Conference on March 4, 2013, Biden views the US commitment to Israel as “not only a longstanding, moral commitment; it’s a strategic commitment. An independent Israel, secure in its own borders, recognized by the world, is in the practical, strategic interests of the United States of America.”
In his words, “My support for Israel begins in my stomach, goes to my heart and ends up in my head.
For Israelis, a strong America means a strong Israel, and it is in Israel’s interest to see the new Biden administration unite the American people after an extremely polarized election campaign.
There is no doubt that President Donald Trump was a strong supporter of Israel, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, and brokering the Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Biden has many challenges facing him in the Middle East, particularly when it comes to Iran. He has pledged to “make an unshakable commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon” while offering Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations,” he said.
This is clearly a concern for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who applauded Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2018 Iran deal, formally titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Outgoing US Ambassador David Friedman expressed his concern in an interview with The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov that Biden had appointed several of the deal’s negotiators to his foreign policy team, including Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Wendy Sherman as deputy secretary of state, and Jake Sullivan as national security advisor.
“I’m hoping any rational person would know we can’t return to the JCPOA,” Friedman said.
Biden plans to reengage the Palestinians and push for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
“My administration will urge both sides to take steps to keep the prospect of a two-state outcome alive,” he has said. Biden’s foreign policy team will seek to break the current impasse between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which is perhaps why PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree last week calling for new elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council on May 22, followed by presidential elections on July 31. Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz voiced confidence during an interview at The Jerusalem Post-Khaleej Times UAE-Israel Business Summit last week that Biden “will remain a friend of Israel and will remain committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
As we wish President Joe Biden and his new administration all the best, we urge them to maintain the momentum of the Abraham Accords and the subsequent ententes with Morocco and Sudan by brokering new deals between Israel and other Arab states, including Oman and Saudi Arabia. A realistic renewal of Israeli-Palestinian talks and a stop to Iran’s nuclear program will indeed create a path to a brighter future in the Middle East.