“With friends like Israel, who needs enemies?” is a refrain reportedly heard by almost every occupant of the Oval Office since 1967, the year Israel launched a pre-emptive war against its Arab neighbors to seize Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
“With friends like Israel, who needs enemies?”
Except for former US President Donald Trump, who gave the Netanyahu government a green-light to pursue the Zionist-Likud agenda no matter the economic, political, and human cost exacted on the Palestinians, every President since Richard Nixon has unsuccessfully tried to cajole or coerce Israel into halting its unlawful Jewish-settler-colonial enterprise in the Palestinian Territories.
In his White House memoir, Nixon wrote:
“One of the problems I faced…was the unyielding and short-sighted pro-Israeli attitude in large and influential segments of the American Jewish community, Congress, the media and in intellectual and cultural circles. In the quarter century since the end of World War II, this attitude had become so deeply ingrained that many saw the corollary of not being pro-Israeli as being anti-Israeli, or even anti-Semitic. I tried unsuccessfully to convince them that this was not the case.”
Despite an expressed understanding of the Palestinian aspect to the occupation, US-Israeli ties would consolidate under Nixon’s leadership, and he would oversee a then record $2.2 billion military aid package to Israel during the final year of his presidency – 1973.
And despite publicly stated opposition from the United States government for the past 54 years, Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and expansion of its Jewish-settler-colonial project has continued unabated, growing from a few thousand settlers in 1970 to more than 800,000 today, increasing at a rate 1.75 times faster than the general Israeli population.
Under Trump, the construction of new Jewish-only settlements (a euphemism for colonies for Jews only) grew at its fastest pace since the NGO Peace Now started collecting data in 2012, with 12,159 settler homes approved in 2020 alone.
Today, however, President Joe Biden, a man who vowed on the 2020 election campaign trail to right Trump’s moral and legal transgressions by advancing human rights, international law, and democracy worldwide, occupies the White House, and leads a growing and vocal pro-Palestinian caucus within the Democratic Party.
While Biden has long described himself as a “staunch” ally of Israel, he has also established a track record of condemning the Jewish-settlement undertaking in the Palestinian Territories, saying during an official visit to Israel in 2010 as Vice President, “I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units,” adding, “It undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”
Biden’s commitment to Palestinian statehood is being tested by the new Israeli PM Naftali Bennett.
Eleven years later, President Biden’s commitment to Palestinian statehood is being tested by the new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, whose government announced plans on October 26 to build an additional 3,000 Jewish-only settlement units in the occupied West Bank.
Biden’s State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by the move, adding, “As we have said, this administration is strongly opposed to the expansion of settlements,” while Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly protested the plan during a phone call with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
That said, the Biden Administration also expressed “concern” for Israel’s 11-day military siege of Gaza in May. However, days later, the US government approved the sale of $735 million worth of precision-guided missiles to the Netanyahu government, the same kind of armaments used to kill 266 Palestinians, including 66 children, in the encaged Palestinian enclave from May 10 to 21.
“The US administration has words, and no deeds, to change the [pro-settlement] policy that had been put in place by Trump,” Bassam al-Salhe, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization told Reuters.
A source close to the Israeli Prime Minister affirmed Palestinian concerns and suspicions, telling an Israeli newspaper that despite public objections to the approval of new illegal settlement housing units, the Biden administration doesn’t actually care, and will not act to prevent future settlements.
Despite public objections, the Biden administration doesn’t actually care, and will not act to prevent future settlements.
“Contrary to the impression they’re trying to make, the Americans don’t care that much about the Ministry of Construction and Housing’s decision, and they have no problem tolerating it, the Israeli government source told Zman Yisrael, an affiliate of the Times of Israel.
Adding: “This construction is not part of the conversation we are having with the Americans. We noticed that. The Americans understand the political situation here very well, and they do not want to see us go down over this [issue]. They also know what the alternative is.”
The “alternative” being the return of Netanyahu or an even more extreme right-wing Israeli government.
Since taking office, Biden has shown nothing but total indifference towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, taking days to offer empty platitudes to raids on Al Aqsa Mosque, forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, and aerial bombardments of Gaza.
With countering China and climate change at the top of his foreign policy objectives, and rebuilding US infrastructure and the American middle class at the forefront of his domestic priorities, Palestinian liberation aspirations are being sacrificed in the name of geopolitical and political pragmatism.
While much has been made of stronger and louder pro-Palestinian voices within the Democratic Party, they remain too small a minority to matter, as evident in the recent resolution to approve $1 billion in additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, whereby 420 voted in favor of the spending bill and fewer than ten voted no.
Biden and much of his party have accepted what is now undeniably true – that Israeli annexation of the Palestinian Territories is all but complete.
It seems that Biden and much of his party have accepted what is now undeniably true – that Israeli annexation of the Palestinian Territories is all but complete, lacking only a formal declaration from the Israeli government, a declaration that will inevitably come as Israeli politics moves ever right-wards.
What Biden and his party also know is that a formal annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is a death knell to Israel’s democracy and the state itself. If a formal annexation is declared, the self-proclaimed Jewish state will then officially rule over more than four million Palestinians denied equality and voting rights – leaving Israel out in the diplomatic cold as an apartheid state and international pariah.
Put another way – in refusing to halt the construction of new illegal settlements, Biden is bringing forward the official end date of the democratic Jewish State.