After a long and hard-fought U.S. presidential election, a new administration will begin on January 20th. Although the reins of power in Washington will be changing hands, the special U.S.-Israel relationship will continue to thrive as it has for decades. President-elect Biden has been a friend of the Jewish state throughout his long political career and the incoming 117th Congress will be comprised of members – both leadership and rank and file – the vast majority of whom are steadfastly pro-Israel. Over his nearly 50 years of public service, Vice President Biden has had extensive interaction with the American Jewish community. He will be a well-known quantity in the White House and his administration will likely be very accessible and responsive to our community. I believe that the slim House and Senate majorities will likely help serve as guardrails against radical extremism with a Democrat in the White House, a razor thin Senate majority for the party that prevails in the January 5th Georgia Senate runoff elections, and the smallest Democratic house majority in decades.
There is potential for the Biden era to be defined by sensible centrism. Politics is the art of the possible and ideological excesses will be out of reach for both parties for the foreseeable future. The big picture, long-term policy decisions of the incoming administration will have significant impact in the Middle East. Iranian aggression in the region must be countered and the ayatollah’s nuclear development cannot be allowed to continue unabated. Renegotiating or re-entering the 2015 joint comprehensive plan of action, the JCPOA, is a distinct possibility that is already being discussed. It is our hope that any new Iran deal be more far-reaching and comprehensive regarding Iran’s actions in the region and its nuclear ambitions for the long term.
The new administration will likely re-engage with the Palestinian leadership to get them back to the negotiating table as well as consider restoring aid to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA. Vice President Biden is committed to abide by the Taylor Force Act, a congressional act that forbids U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority’s abhorrent pay to slay program wherein terrorists and their families are rewarded for their murderous acts. So we’ll see how they thread that needle, hopefully in a way that changes this noxious policy. All indications are that additional and historic normalization agreements between Israel and Arab and Muslim countries will be pursued. That said, we can envision greater U.S. focus on human rights issues vis-a-vis the Gulf States which may obviously affect relations. America will likely rejoin international bodies and agreements such as the Paris agreement, the World Health Organization and perhaps even the UN Human Rights Council. This in turn will bring in more UN and EU involvement with confronting Iran and with addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for better or for worse. More critically in the near term for U.S.-Israel relations, as they say, personnel is policy and certain appointments will of course have far reaching consequences. Individuals who are nominated for Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, Ambassador to Israel, Ambassador to the UN and other key roles will set the tone for the special relationship under the Biden administration. I’m certain we’ll start seeing some of those appointments in the weeks to come. For his part, Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that he looks forward to working with the President-elect to further strengthen the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States. Like him, I am optimistic about the path ahead.