Joe Biden, under the tutelage of foreign policy advisor, Tony Blinken, has made the considered decision that in order to secure pro-Israel cash for his presidential run he must out-Trump Trump when it comes to mouthing slavishly pro-Israel platitudes.
Bernie Sanders of course offered an alternative approach. He said that U.S. policy in the region had to have more than carrots. Without the threat of the stick of withholding military aid, Sanders declared Israel had no motivation to change its Blood and Soil policies. Sanders could advance such views because his campaign relied on hundreds of thousands of small contributions; and eschewed the type of check-bundling which is a hallmark of pro-Israel political fundraising.
In a conventional campaign, up to 40% of cash flowing to Democratic presidential campaigns originates from Jewish pocketbooks. Biden’s is the most conventional of such campaigns and desperately needs these fatcats. Sanders was most definitely not.
The upshot is that Biden can’t afford, even if he wanted to, an independent approach to U.S. policy toward Israel. He must do what the Israel Lobby dictates. And we must assume that his presidency would follow the same tack.
Barack Obama did offer a Middle East policy during his presidency that was slightly more independent. But he had more leeway than Biden because his support came from a more diversified political base. He knew that if he alienated the Israel Lobby he had strong support among enough other critical constituencies that he could withstand the loss of the pro-Israel vote.
Biden recently released a white paper outlining his approach to the interests of American Jews. Unfortunately, as you might expect, he conflated the interests of Jews here with those of Israel; most of the paper is devoted to Israel, as if American Jews had no other interests.
But aside from this criticism, the actual substance of the document, The Jewish Community: a Record and a Plan of Friendship, Support, and Action is disheartening. I outlined some of the most troubling in this recent post. Here are a few more distressing passages:
He begins with the pro forma reference to Israel as a Jewish state (interesting omitting the accompanying “democratic,” perhaps because he no longer feels he can say Israel is democratic, with a straight face):
As President, Joe Biden will continue to ensure that the Jewish State…ha[s] the unbreakable support of the United States.
But even calling Israel a “Jewish state” is problematic. Not only because nearly two-million Israelis are not Jewish, but Palestinian (Christian and Muslim); but because whatever makes Israel “Jewish” is based not on traditional moral or ethical values, but on pure political power. Judaism as practiced in Israel is divorced from ways it is practiced in the Diaspora. Religion in Israel advocates that the state becomes a theocracy. It merges religion and politics in ways that deform both.
I no longer call Israel a “Jewish state.” I prefer to call it, using Yeshaya Leibowitz’s terminology, a Judeo-state. A state which privileges Jews over non-Jews. A state based in apartheid. A state which worships land and ruins over ideas and values. I call it a “stones and bones” approach. It is not a Mosaic religion, but pagan idolatry.
A Biden administration will work with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, and support peacebuilding efforts in the region. Biden will urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take steps to keep the prospect of a negotiated two-state outcome alive and take no actions to undercut future direct negotiations between the parties.
Ahem, there are no “peacebuilding efforts” between Israel and the Palestinians. There were none even before Trump came into office. There will be none after he leaves office and Biden replaces him. On what basis would a Pres. Biden resume such negotiations? On what basis would he get Israel’s far-right leaders to come to the table on the basis of a two-state solution, which they publicly and repeatedly revile? What levers would he use? Would he use more leverage than Barack Obama did when he failed to secure Israel’s agreement to freezing settlements in the first year of his presidency? How would he achieve what Obama couldn’t? Especially since he’s abjured using the stick of tying U.S. aid to bring Israeli policy into line with stated U.S. policy and international law.
Here’s some more delicious gobbledygook:
[Biden would] reverse the Trump Administration’s destructive cutoff of diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and cancellation of assistance programs that support Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, economic development, and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, consistent with the requirements of the Taylor Force Act to withhold certain assistance to the PA unless it is taking measures to end acts of violence against Israeli and U.S. citizens, including terminating payments to individuals engaged in acts of terrorism.
Ah, so Biden would resume U.S. aid for the PA. That’s good, right? Not so fast. It adds that the PA would be deprived of aid if it refused to end welfare payments to survivors of shahids who died at Israel’s hands while performing acts of resistance against the Occupation. Now that’s odd–because no U.S. law punished Israel for the support it offered to Judeo-terrorists. No U.S. law punished Israel when it voted for former terrorists like Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin to become the leaders of their country. So I guess I’ll have to say “excuse me,” but this bit isn’t terribly persuasive. It’s a bit of hypocritical puffery.
Even the rhetoric in the passages which are non-controversial, dealing with Biden’s purported commitment to the values of social justice and combatting racism comes across as pablum. He has similar boilerplate statements concerning a number of U.S. ethnic groups and many of the paragraphs could be lifted directly from one and pasted into another. Biden is clearly going through the paces. Either his heart is not in this, or he’s been at it so long he’s lost the thread.
Folks, Joe Biden’s campaign is intellectually and politically bankrupt. It is bereft of ideas. It is anchored in the distant past when two-states was a viable plan. What’s more–Biden has yoked himself to an Israel Lobby that itself has lost its way. The Lobby at one time represented liberal Zionism. Now it cheerleads the Judeo-supremacism of an apartheid settler regime.