Photo Credit: gpo
Then United States Vice President Joe Biden at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (not seen) at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 9, 2016, during Biden's official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

 In a recent terrorist attack in Beersheva, four Israelis (including a rabbi and two women) were murdered. A Hamas spokesman predictably responded with “salutes [to] the executor of the heroic operation in occupied Beersheva.” The crimes of occupation, he added, “shall be met with … stabbings, [vehicle] rammings and shootings.” Beersheva, identified in the Bible as the southernmost Israelite city, has long been inhabited, not occupied, by Jews.

During a press conference several days later, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, without mentioning the attack, told reporters that he and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had “discussed ways to foster a peaceful Passover, Ramadan and Easter across Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.” And especially in Jerusalem, ”a city of such profound importance to Jews, to Christians, to Muslims.” His need for multicultural political correctness was checked.


Achieving this goal, Blinken suggested, depended upon “working to prevent actions on all sides that could raise tensions.” But his view of “all sides” was, to say the least, constricted—indeed, blatantly biased.

Among these “tensions,” he included such items as “settlement expansion, settler violence, incitement to violence, demolitions [and] evictions of families from homes they’ve lived in for decades” (but do not own)—all of which, hardly coincidentally, focused blame on Israel. Palestinians—their terrorist attacks (as recently as April 7 in Tel Aviv) notwithstanding—were not included among the villains.

This has become a familiar trope among President Joe Biden’s appointees. Back in October, State Department spokesman Ned Price stated: “We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm, and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution.” There was no mention of what Palestinians have done—terrorist attacks, for example—to lower tensions and ensure calm. Nor does Price seem aware that Jordan is a de facto Palestinian state. Located in “Palestine,” defined by the League of Nations a century ago as the land east and west of the Jordan River, it now has a Palestinian majority population. Two Palestinian states are unnecessary.

Thomas Nides, Biden’s newly appointed ambassador to Israel, contributed his own voice last month to the chorus of criticism of the Jewish state. As though anyone cared, he announced his refusal to visit settlements because “the idea of settlement growth infuriates me.” He absurdly cited “settlement growth in East Jerusalem,” but ignored the fact that some Arabs are living in homes owned by Jews ever since the 19th century that were seized by Jordanians during Israel’s Independence War. For Nides, evil “settlements” include certified Jewish property.

Biden has frequently repeated the familiar trope that resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a two-state solution, which Palestinians have repeatedly rejected. He has claimed, preposterously, that “no president has ever done more to support Israel’s security” than his idol, Barack Obama, the least friendly American president towards Israel since its proclamation of modern-day independence in 1948.

Biden has even claimed to be a Zionist. “Everybody knows I love Israel” he asserted at an Israeli Independence Day celebration in 2015. Five years later, in a speech to AIPAC, he defended “the right of a secure democratic and Jewish state of Israel.”

All well and good until, as Democratic presidential nominee, Biden stated, “I do not support annexation,” declaring that settlement activity “will choke off any hope of peace.” In translation, Israel should return to its vulnerable pre-1967 borders, relinquishing its biblical homeland in Judea and Samaria.

It is worth comparing the Biden administration’s record towards Israel, to date, with that of his predecessor. Former President Donald Trump relocated the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, implicitly recognizing the ancient Jewish city as Israel’s capital. He reversed previous government positions on settlements, no longer viewing them as inconsistent with international law (as had Barack Obama). The United States became the first country to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory (mentioned in the Bible as a city of refuge) crucial to Israel’s safety that was captured from Syria in the Six-Day War.

All that remains to be done is recognition of Israeli sovereignty over biblical Judea and Samaria, Jordan’s “West Bank” until 1967. No matter how passionately Biden proclaims his “love” for Israel, it is unlikely that this will appear on his Middle East agenda.


{Reposted from the JNS website}

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Jerold S. Auerbach, professor emeritus of history at Wellesley College, is the author of “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel, 1896-2016."