Speaking to reporters within hours of Israel’s announcement of the planned construction of 3,988 new homes in the West Bank, a State Department spokesperson told reporters that “Israel’s program of expanding settlements deeply damages the prospect for a two-state solution.” It seems that the Biden team hasn’t gotten the memo: In the parts of the real world that count, the train has already left the station on this issue. Indeed, and in sharp contrast to the Biden administration’s response, the announcement did not draw much comment across the Arab world.
In fact rather restrained reactions in several Arab and Muslim countries to the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh and their refusal to play the automatic anti-Israel blame game is the latest of several recent indications that President Joe Biden is in a virtual time warp with his continued obsession over new Israeli construction in the West Bank jeapordizing the hackneyed two-state solution.
As would be expected, the Palestinian Authority and the usual anti-Israel cabal in the UN and European Union were quick to blame Israel and not Palestinian gunmen for the journalist’s death – even before the facts were in. However, some of the Arab countries that are already part of the Abraham Accords declined to issue statements, and those that did condemned the killing but didn’t blame Israel, instead calling for an investigation.
Significantly, Saudi Arabia – which is not yet part of the Abraham Accords, and not too long ago was Israel’s implacable foe – said nothing. Turkey, often bitterly critical of Israel, was rather muted, limiting its official statement to condemning the killing and calling for a transparent investigation. Same for Jordan and Egypt.
Consider also that the death of Abu Akleh did not cause Saudi Arabia to pull out of the astonishing deal it just made with Jared Kushner to provide his private equity firm $2 billion from its sovereign wealth fund to invest in Israel. Just imagine: Saudi Arabia will be investing in Israeli companies!
Are you listening Mr. President? Israel could be the pivot for U.S. policy in the Middle East, delivering the Arab world and countering Iran. Why would you not want to jump at the opportunity?
Of course, by refusing to cooperate with Israel in an investigation into Abu Akleh’s death, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is not helping his cause with those no longer ready to mechanically dump on Israel. His refusal is a transparent attempt to deny Israel any legitimacy in the matter and to perpetuate the PA claim Israeli gunfire was at fault, without ever having to prove it. And his refusal to give Israel access to the all-important bullet, which would reveal its gun of origin, only serves to confirm his ruse.
Nor should those videos showing the violence at the Abu Akleh funeral change the minds of the fair-minded. Israel is in the midst of an incipient intifada, and it is only logical that it would try to avoid allowing a high profile funeral to be hijacked by militants up to no good. That Israeli authorities would make careful arrangements to govern the proceedings in coordination with the family sounds plausible and reasonable – and so is the notion that it would enforce order in keeping with those plans.
Not too long ago, prior to the Abraham Accords, the facts of the situation might not have mattered to leaders in the Arab and Muslim world. But we suspect that, happily, this is no longer the case.