Op-Ed by Jeffrey Stevens
Israel and the United States have been close allies for years. While there has been an occasional hiccup since President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett took their respective offices, there has yet to be too much alarm. For the most part, the Biden administration has made itself look to be pro-Israel. However, this hasn’t appeared to be as crucial over the previous few weeks.
There are three escalating situations where Israel and the United States sitting on opposite sides of the table concerns me. For starters, the Biden administration’s support of a two-state solution that includes Hamas being involved. If America were truly “pro-Israel,” there’s no way the US could ever back a solution that involves Hamas, an organization that publicly admits killing Israeli citizens is part of their agenda.
The second situation that continues to grow more alarming for me, as an American who covers Israeli politics, is the Biden administration’s willingness to support any kind of a “deal” with Iran that ends with the Iranian economy benefiting from sanctions being lifted. Within the last week, the UAE has been attacked by militant groups backed by Iran. Why would you ever want to be involved in a deal that results in Iranian proxies becoming more of a threat through direct funding?
Last but not least, and probably one of the differences between the US and Israel currently receiving the most attention, is Israel’s lack of a tough stance against the growing threat of a Russian attack on Ukraine. While a growing Russian presence and influence in Europe should be alarming to every world leader, Israel has reasons why things need to stay at least friendly with Moscow.
The Biden administration has made sure Israel and the rest of the world know the US supports a two-state solution to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. Following meetings between Biden and Bennett in Washington last August, the White House issued a statement saying Biden “reaffirmed his view that a negotiated two-state solution is the only viable path to achieving a lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Obviously, the meeting and statement followed last May’s latest round of conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The situation has become a little more intense since the last week of December. It was around that time that Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, met with three different senior officials from the Biden administration during a 10-day stretch.
As long as the PA is affiliated with Hamas, there is no such thing as a pro-Israel, two-state solution. Such a thing can’t exist. While the situation between Hamas and Fatah has flared up a little over the previous week or two, we’re still a long way off from Hamas having no influence on the PA. Until this happens, the US looks more like an enemy to Israel than an ally, simply for suggesting a two-state solution.
Returning to a Deal with Iran
The P5+1 is currently negotiating in Vienna to reach a deal that would return Iran to comply with the nuclear deal reached back in 2015. This would not only restrict Iran’s uranium enrichment to 3.67%, but it would also cut most of the enriched uranium Iran has been able to stockpile.
While the United States, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom are growing frustrated with how slowly negotiations are moving, they are still willing to negotiate. A few weeks ago, the US went as far as easing sanctions, allowing Iran to collect an undisclosed amount of money from South Korea. It seems as if the Biden administration is doing whatever is necessary to make sure Iran returns to the agreement made in 2015.
On the other hand, Bennett hasn’t been as eager for a return to the deal. When asked what kind of an agreement Israel would approve of between Iran and world powers, Israel’s Prime Minister responded, “Effectively, that Iran has to give up its nuclear-weapon program.”
Bennett went on to ask, “Why would anyone legitimize their right to enrich uranium at a massive capacity?” He continued, “They are now enriching at 60% grade in these huge factories. Why are they doing it? You don’t need 60% enriched uranium for anything but a nuclear weapon.”
While the rest of the free world would definitely feel the consequences of Iran having a nuclear weapon, Israel would have the most to fear. Iran has sent support to Hamas and several other proxies willing to attack Israel by any means possible. An Iranian government with nuclear capabilities would be disastrous for Israel.
Israel’s Stance with Russia
For the last few weeks, the US has been making as much noise as possible concerning Ukraine possibly being invaded by Russia. Since the end of November, Antony Blinken has talked with at least 14 foreign ministers. Part of many of these conversations has centered on “a need for a strong, united response against further Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
Last week, senior Biden officials said that the United States has settled on Russian sanctions if there is an invasion of Ukraine. They will be imposed just as soon as any troops begin to move. Blinken called Foreign Minister Yair Lapid for a discussion on the Ukrainian-Russian tensions.
According to the State Department, “The secretary and foreign minister discussed a range of regional and global challenges, including the risks of further Russian aggression against Ukraine, as well as the challenges posed by Iran.”
While the Biden administration would like to see a close ally take a strong position against Russia, Israel has its own considerations. Israel has to have a unique relationship with the Russian government, including coordination in Syria.
“Israel cannot ignore the increasing Russian involvement in the Middle East, its presence in Syria, and its global influence,” one Israeli official said. “On top of that, Israel and Russia have vibrant trade relations.”
The official went on to continue, “For these reasons, it is essential for Israel to maintain open lines of communication with Moscow, and to avoid a rift with the Kremlin – even more so when taking into account the different positions that the countries hold on Iran, its regional proxies and the JCPOA, and Jerusalem’s desire to have Putin’s ear on these issues.”
These are just a few of the more prevalent concerns Israel is currently facing. The fact that Israel and the Biden administration don’t see eye to eye on these issues is alarming when you consider how significant each of the three areas is to Israel’s sovereignty and security.
It leaves one to wonder, when the Biden administration says it is “pro-Israel,” what exactly does it mean? How close are the two allies?
Jeffrey Stevens is a senior writer with ThinkCivics covering Israel and Middle East topics
Disclaimer: The opinions, facts and content in the following article are presented solely by the author, and are not endorsed by The Israel Guys or necessarily reflect the opinion of this site.