Even before the election results were finalized – before the return of Bibi Netanyhu and the rise of the religious and nationalist parties was more than a strong likelihood – the long knives were already coming out here in the United States. Particular targets were Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, co-leaders of the Religious Zionist ticket. The left-leaning and devoutly secularist hand-wringers over at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), J-Street, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), and the like were preemptively beside themselves. Solemn calls for a rethinking of the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora abounded.
While this was to be expected of America’s “Jewish officialdom,” for whom a wait-and-see, “honeymoon period” was out of the question, what was unexpected (and, frankly, alarming) was the reaction to the election results from the Biden administration.
Following a comment by MK Yariv Levin that West Bank annexation was high on the new government’s agenda, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said that the White House position was “quite clear”: “We do not support annexation. We will fight any attempt to do so… Most of the Arab countries feel the same way.”
He went on to say,
I want to start with a relationship with this government that is strong that is enduring. I want to work closely with prime minister Netanyahu. That said, we have to stand up for the things that we believe in – that’s what American values are about… There will be times that we will articulate what we believe our differences are.
Given President Joe Biden’s oft-stated support for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, this position on annexation should not be all that surprising; the fact that the U.S. Ambassador to Israel was willing to weigh in on the issue, before the new government was even sworn in, is rather extraordinary. We get the uneasy feeling that the Biden Administration is ready to pounce and push Israel into negotiations with the Palestinians with certain prescribed outcomes – and that is something to worry about.