President Biden is a weak leader, whose most pronounced characteristic is that he is an anti-Trump. Whatever Trump did, Biden does the opposite, without regard to whether the decisions were good ones or bad ones. In fact, Biden seems to govern in the curious way that he reverses all of Trump’s good policies, regardless of their effect on the country (immigration, taxes, the Abraham Accords), while maintaining Trump’s bad policies (a targeted withdrawal date from Afghanistan, restrictive trade, massive deficits).
Biden also has the modern man’s aversion to assuming responsibility for anything. It is hard to imagine that Trump would have presided over such a humiliation, aptly captured in the Wall Street Journal editorial: “Biden to Afghanistan: Drop Dead.” Trump’s withdrawal date was tied to certain conditions and never entertained the return to power of the Taliban, certainly not in the near future.
What is done is done, and for Israelis a few lessons are in order.
Most importantly, even Biden must realize his fecklessness. He has been fleeced by the Taliban, by Russia, and by China. He is looking for a foreign policy victory – some ceremony or good news for which he can claim credit and reverse his decline into irrelevance. Unfortunately for us, Israel provides for him the ripest opportunity. Biden won’t even say the words “Abraham Accords” and has done nothing to broker deals with the handful of other Arab countries anxious to make agreements with Israel. Worse, he has reversed Trump’s successful policy and again made the Palestinian “cause” the centerpiece of American diplomacy in the region.
That is disastrous for Israel as no good will come of it. For that matter, it would be foolhardy for PM Bennett even to visit Washington in the coming weeks. He would be expected to prop up Biden with some concession, mouth support for the two state illusion or otherwise bolster Biden’s falling standing. Bennett should stay away from Washington at least through the holidays – blame the holidays, blame Corona, blame the quarantine. Blame something or someone – but only harm will result from a United States visit at this juncture.
More ominously, but predictably, Israel has to recognize that America is not as reliable a friend and ally as it once was. This is not only due to its fractious politics and economic woes but especially now because of the decline of its global prestige and trustworthiness. For sure, Israel and Afghanistan are completely different countries with wholly different relationships with the United States.
It is interesting to note for those who complain about American aid to Israel – these days anyway it is a $3 billion grant that is almost entirely spent on American weapons – the United States poured into Afghanistan in twenty years an estimated 30-40 times what it has provided Israel in aid since its 1948 inception, and at least from Israel, the US has received benefit in return while no American soldiers have had boots on the ground.
But America today is not the America of two, twenty or forty years ago.
The happy talk that such a summit will frivolously produce does not justify a freeze on settlements, renewed negotiations with the PA designed to further partition the land of Israel, the release of prisoners, or a stayed hand against terror from Gaza.
A weakened America is no cause for rejoicing, as the free world suffers when America retreats and its (and our) enemies are thereby emboldened. We should beware as well some quick return to an Iran deal of any sort – but mostly the desire for a diplomatic victory at Israel’s expense. Similarly, it is appropriate to grieve over the loss of life and freedom that surely awaits the Afghan people.