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Home World News Washington Post World News Biden, Israel’s old-school lender, arrives amid turmoil in both countries

Biden, Israel’s old-school lender, arrives amid turmoil in both countries



JERUSALEM — Joe Biden and Israel go way back. As he embarks on his 10th trip to the Holy Land, he can look back on visits — as senator and vice president — of nearly five decades and nearly a dozen prime ministers.

“I told a few younger members of my staff before I came by about the many times I’ve been to Israel,” he said at the White House Hanukkah in December. “I said — and then I suddenly realized, ‘God, you’re getting old, Biden.’ I know every – every prime minister well since Golda Meir.”

It won’t be the legendary Meir, who led Israel from 1969 to 1974, not Biden’s host of course on his first trip as president, or even Benjamin Netanyahu, the longtime prime minister whose friendship with Biden goes back 30 years. It will be the new Prime Minister Yair Lapid, the former TV journalist who will be at work on his 13th day when he greets the President on the tarmac.

Israel’s troubled political scene — Lapid took office when the coalition government fell into turmoil in late June — means its leaders will contain domestic pressures during a tightly-scheduled state visit, according to officials in both countries.

While Biden was visiting, Palestinians recalled their descent into autocracy

Lapid’s centrist party faces November elections and polls showing Netanyahu is poised for a possible comeback. Biden, an old-school supporter of Democratic Israel, is fighting with the left wing of his own party, which has increasingly aligned itself with the Palestinians and linked the conflict in the Middle East with the fight for racial justice in the United States .

Lapid, a centrist and Israel’s most moderate leader in more than a decade, is one of the few national politicians willing to endorse the possibility of an independent Palestine and the “two-state solution” that has put Biden back at the center of US policy. But the dynamics in both countries will take the most controversial issues off the table.

“Some things just aren’t in the cards,” said Dan Shapiro, President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Israel and now a leading member of the Atlantic Council think tank. “There are no major steps in the Palestinian issue possible during election season in Israel,” adding that the current leadership could easily be gone in a few months.

In a joint statement Wednesday ahead of the meeting, Biden and Lapid announced the establishment of a “high-level strategic dialogue on technology.” The leaders said the two countries will work together to tackle a range of issues, including climate change, pandemic preparedness and the implementation of artificial intelligence.

Biden’s travels to Israel have not always gone smoothly. Diplomats here are still cringing at the 2010 cleanup in which the vice president nearly cut short his journey after the Israeli government announced an expansion of settlement building shortly after Air Force Two landed.

But a repeat of that sort of controversy — which Netanyahu blamed on bureaucratic error at the time — is unlikely during the two days Biden is scheduled to spend in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

After Trump’s Dramatic Tilt to Israel, Biden Likely to Restore Traditional Approach

For their part, many Israelis view Biden as a longtime president, a staunch supporter of Israel who was neither the right-wing pusher Donald Trump nor the ideological scolding Obama was seen as.

“His relationship with Israel, his relationship with foreign policy is different. He’s a realist, a practical man,” said Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States.

The talks between Biden and Lapid could be very different from the Netanyahu-Trump meetings, which drastically tilted US policy toward Israel by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, approving the annexation of the Golan Heights and expanding the settlements on the West Bank to be declared legal.

But like Netanyahu, Trump has refused to withdraw from political life. The former president is considering a comeback in 2024, and Israelis know the current moment, with centrists in both Washington and Jerusalem, can be fleeting.

“It has to be said, this may soon look like just a blip, and we’ll have Trump and Bibi back again,” said an Israeli official familiar with the government’s schedule for the visit, using Netanyahu’s nickname. , who spoke on condition of anonymity to comment on internal discussions. “They could both be waiting in the wings.”

Biden and Netanyahu have a history that goes back decades. But Netanyahu infuriated the Obama White House by voicing his complaints about the potential nuclear containment deal with Iran at a joint session of Congress. Biden, when declared the winner of the 2020 election, waited nearly a month before calling Netanyahu, which many Israelis viewed as stupid.

Biden will, as usual, meet with Netanyahu in his role as the official leader of Israel’s parliamentary opposition. But Israeli media have reported that only 15 minutes are allotted for the session and that no joint appearance is planned.

The president will do everything he can to avoid being seen as a supporter of one of Israel’s competing parties in the upcoming election, Israel’s fifth in the past three years. But Lapid’s supporters relish his chance to side with the American leader as the campaign begins.

The president will also meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem. He plans to visit a hospital in East Jerusalem and is expected to announce $100 million in new aid to the Palestinian health system.

But those gestures may not satisfy liberal Democrats who decry Israel’s six-decade occupation of the West Bank. When fighting broke out between Israel and Gaza in May last year, prominent liberals admonished Israel for its military strikes and called on Biden and the United States to more forcefully condemn his actions.

“We oppose our money being used to fund militarized policing, occupation and systems of violent repression and trauma,” Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who gained political notoriety as a Black Lives Matter activist, said in a speech. on the House floor in May 2021. “Until all our children are safe, we will continue to fight for our rights in Palestine and in Ferguson.”

The dynamic has put Biden, a fervent and steadfast supporter of Israel, at odds with a growing contingent of Democrats who have not only refused to shy away from criticism of Israel but have called for significant policy changes in the way the United States operates. States support the country.

In addition to Israel’s most prominent critics in Congress, there were several politicians running for the Democratic presidential nomination, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and then-South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg indicated at a 2019 event hosted by J Street, a liberal Jewish lobby group, that they would be willing to make foreign aid to Israel dependent on forging more peaceful relations with the Palestinians. Biden, who attended the event, in particular, did not come up with the idea of ​​conditioning aid.

Yet Israel has long enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States, and even as the mood toward the country changes, American politicians still overwhelmingly support it. In September, for example, the House of Representatives approved by 420 votes to 9 for $1 billion in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.

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