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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Where Is U.S. Policy Heading under the Biden Administration?

Filed under: Jerusalem, U.S. Policy

Where Is U.S. Policy Heading under the Biden Administration?

Ambassador Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told CBS Radio’s John Batchelor on Aug. 13 (Listen to the podcast):

I really hope nobody in the U.S. government is planning to go through with opening a Palestinian office in Jerusalem. One of the great achievements for the State of Israel and for the United States was when Jerusalem was recognized as the united capital of Israel. This goes back to the bipartisan position of Congress in the 1990s with the Jerusalem Embassy Act.

We have now a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, not in Tel Aviv. And if you start playing around with opening a Palestinian consulate on territory which is formally Israeli sovereign territory, it’s completely inconsistent with international law and it just opens up a can of worms. I would strongly suggest that if there are people in Washington pursuing this idea quietly, that they simply take it off the table and leave well enough alone.

Ramallah is the perfect place to put a consulate to service the Palestinian population. But to put it in Jerusalem opens up a real set of problems. It suggests that the Biden Administration wants to re-divide Jerusalem. We were past that. We now have united Jerusalem. Let’s hope nobody is seriously considering going down that route. It would simply blow things up.

There’s a principle in diplomacy. When you’ve concluded agreements, you finish the diplomacy, you can’t reopen everything. For example, we just now have diplomatic relations and normalization with Morocco. That has been based on recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty in the area called the Western Sahara. If tomorrow, somebody says, I want to give the Western Sahara to the Polisario guerillas and take it away from Morocco, that is going to create chaos in North Africa. It would be a stupid move. But I’m sure we can find people who will propose that.

I actually was a bit skeptical. I thought that much of this was attached to the Trump Administration and therefore I wasn’t sure whether the Arabs would continue to go down this route. But they are. They are very loyal to their signatures on those normalization agreements, but that requires smart diplomacy and not tampering with the understandings that we had.

I think there’s a great opportunity here to develop those agreements that were signed last year – the Abraham Accords – and I think there are countries that would want to join them, including Saudi Arabia eventually, but if you start messing around with past agreements and you open up issues that were closed, then the diplomacy in the Middle East is going to get very murky.

Regarding the talks with Iran in Vienna, my reading of this is that when they smell any kind of weakness, the Iranians test it. First of all, I don’t think Iran wants a deal. We’ve been in these Iranian negotiations on the nuclear issue for many years now. There was the JCPOA, the Iran deal back in 2015, and the Iranians started cheating and then started getting involved with regional activism, which undermined the security of many Middle Eastern countries.

There is a brilliant essay written at the Tony Blair think tank about a year or two ago on this issue and it reached the conclusion that back in 2015 when the Iran deal was being first considered, many in Washington thought that by concluding a nuclear deal with Iran, that would lead to a more moderate Iran.

But the exact opposite occurred, because when you concluded a deal with Iran, you’ve got to free up all of the sanctions on Iran. And what does Iran do with the money it gets from sanctions relief? It gives it to Hizbullah, to Hamas, to the Houthi rebels, and as a result, rather than stabilizing the Middle East, the Middle East becomes far more dangerous. That is what happened in 2015, and that’s what could happen again if we move towards a new Iran deal.