From the time he entered office President Biden, despite the illogic of it all, seemed never to pass up an opportunity to advocate for an independent Palestinian state and a policy of pursuing accommodation (some would call it a strategy of appeasement) with Iran. The former was said to be the sine qua non precondition for normalization of Israel’s relations with the Arab world and the latter, the sole promising way of dealing with Iran’s predations short of war. This past week it has become increasingly clear that the President has some serious rethinking to do.
The President has typically publicly touted the virtues of “two states” and called upon Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to abandon his fierce opposition and get his government to take concrete steps towards the establishment of a Palestinian state. He has even gone so far as to condition his advocacy for “normalization” on those steps being.
But the Biden team appears to be thinking about upping the ante. Citing two U.S. officials, Axios is reporting that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has ordered the State Department to explore the possibility of recognizing a Palestinian state following the end of the Gaza War regardless of what Israel wants. This would mark a major shift in American policy.
The Axios report also notes that under consideration, aside from the full recognition of a Palestinian state, was for the U.S. not to use its veto to block the UN Security Council from admitting a Palestinian state as a full member state of the UN. This is despite the fact that current U.S. law would ostensibly require the Biden administration to halt all funding to the UN if it recognized a Palestinian state as a member state.
According to The Times of Israel, as a possible window into the Biden thinking about what a Palestinian state should look like, in addition to these new developments, the Biden Administration continues to call for Israeli agreement to the Palestinian Authority being be heavily involved in ruling Gaza following the war.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has said this is a non-starter, given the PA’s refusal to condemn Hamas’s October 7 massacre and payment to the families of imprisoned or eliminated terrorists. Indeed, JNS, the Jewish News Service, citing the Palestinian Media Watch, reports that since October 7 the PA has added Hamas terrorist “martyrs” to its list of people who qualify to receive terror stipends.
Yet what is even more dismaying is the fact that while the establishment of a Palestinian state seems to be at the top of President Biden’s “normalization” list, it has long been apparent that it is not so on the Arab list. Certainly, the pivotal and all-important Saudi Arabia had a different perspective.
Several months ago, when President Biden began pushing the Saudis for normalization, it emerged that the issues they were primarily – and with an eye on Iran, urgently – advancing were: a U.S.-Saudi defense agreement, U.S. help with the Saudi civilian nuclear program and the removal of some U.S. embargos on some arms sales. Indeed, news reports citing “knowledgeable” sources “close to the discussions” said that President Biden’s team raised the Palestinian issue to the extent it was raised at all.
So, it is not just happenstance that just the other day in the midst of the Gaza War, Reuters, citing “three sources” reported that Saudi Arabia would be willing, despite the Gaza War, to go ahead with planning normalization and to accept a political commitment from Israel to create a Palestinian state in the future rather than anything more immediate and concrete now.
Prime Minister Netanyahu remains adamantly opposed to a Palestinian state and certainly even more so after October 7. So, it would seem that progress on normalization, which is said to hold the key to an economic, industrial and social transformation of the Middle East, can’t move forward any time soon, if the “two state” controversy remains in the way.
So, it would behoove President Biden to reconsider and get in step with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states and kick the Palestinian can up the road.
And there is another, perhaps even more compelling reason for the President to reconsider at this point. October 7 was plainly designed by the Palestinians to upend the move towards normalization and to tell the world that their statehood issue can’t be ignored. So, this is hardly the time to do anything that could be considered a reward for their savagery.
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Similarly, President Biden needs to seriously reconsider his Iran rehabilitation experiment. On his watch there has been no letup in Iran’s global role as the primary resource for terrorism. Its notorious funding and other assistance to Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthi’s and two other of its Middle East proxies has resulted in not only Israeli deaths but also American ones and has brought us to the precipice of a far wider war than is now being fought in Gaza.
The President should take his cue from the reaction of Iran’s leaders to his promise of a forceful response to the drone attack against American targets in Jordan by Iran-aligned terrorists, which killed three American soldiers and wounded more than 40 others. According to The New York Times, which cited “three Iranians with knowledge,” after the President’s promise of a more than symbolic retaliation, the Iranian president, foreign minister, armed forces chiefs and two aides to the country’s supreme leader agonized over whether they had finally crossed an American red line. They were ordered by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to try to back off and avoid direct confrontation with the Americans.
A day later, according to The Times, high-level Iranian officials, including the foreign minister and ambassador to the United States were fanning out publicly proclaiming the stance set out by the Ayatollah and trying to reassure an anxious Iranian public and calm President Biden down.
Plainly, Iran is not eager to confront the American military colossus but it seems willing to push the envelope in order to promote its terrorist agenda. President Biden chose wrong when he released billions of frozen Iranian assets, when he eased Trump economic sanctions on Iran, and when he removed the Houthis from the terrorist list where President Trump had placed them. So, it seems it’s about time the U.S. did a little envelope pushing of its own.