For Israel, damning Biden with faint praise
Israelis who lean left are conflicted. On the one hand, they want a Democrat to win because, as principled non-conservatives, they hate everything about Trump. On the other hand, Trump has been the most Israel-friendly president in Israel's history, while Biden is still tied to one of the most anti-Israel presidents. With a possible Biden presidency, all they can do is hope for the best.
Shmuel Rosner is the Tel Aviv–based political editor at The Jewish Journal, a paper out of Los Angeles that describes itself as "the largest U.S. Jewish weekly outside New York City and one of the most widely read Jewish newspapers in the world." The Journal cares about all things Jewish. On Sunday, the New York Times published an opinion piece Rosner wrote damning Biden with the faintest of praise.
The essay has a title that, taken alone, sounds like an endorsement: "Israel Will Be Perfectly Happy with President Biden." However, it's the subtitle that tells the real story (emphasis mine): "It's the best we can do — for a Democrat."
That bit about "for a Democrat" reflects the fact that, except for the hard-line leftists, Israelis like Donald Trump. This is because Trump, in turn, likes the only liberal democracy in the illiberal, totalitarian Middle East:
The United States is Israel's main ally in a difficult world. The relationship is a major part of Israel's national security strategy. Without the backing of the United States, Israel looks weaker — and in the Middle East, weaker countries are the prey of stronger countries.
Israelis could be extra worried about the coming election because we fear losing President Trump. For many reasons, he is seen by Israelis as one of the friendliest leaders in the history of the United States-Israel alliance. Israel is one of few countries in the world in which the president is highly popular: A whopping 56 percent of Israelis prefer Mr. Trump in the upcoming election, compared to 16 percent who support Mr. Biden.
This is the kind of support, as I can attest, that resonates with pro-Zionist Jews in America, including people who otherwise actively support the Democrat party. The latter are beginning to realize that, while America can survive Trump and the Republicans, little Israel might not be able to survive a president and party that are hostile to her very right to exist.
Rosner, therefore, tries to reassure these pro-Israel, Democrat Jews that Israel can probably survive a Biden presidency. According to him, back in 2008, Biden repeatedly told Jewish audiences that he'd met "every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir." As late as April 2015, Biden was boasting, "My name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel."
While this boast is inherently suspect, coming as it does from a politician, Rosner reports that a senior Israeli official said, in essence, that for Israel, Biden is the best of the Democrats. Again, when you think of the Democrat party's new and chronic hostility to Israel, that's damning Biden with the faintest praise.
In addition to worrying about the new American left, Israelis haven't forgotten Obama's hostility to Israel:
Would his administration allow Israel to use military force against Hamas, Hezbollah or Iranian forces in Syria? (The Obama administration once suspended a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel because it was displeased with Israel's use of force in Gaza.) Will he restore the Iran nuclear deal, as he says he intends to? Will he pressure Israel to evacuate settlements as the Palestinians want and as more Democratic voters demand?
Biden was less overt in his hostility to Israel, but that did not make him Israel's friend. Instead, he offered a "tough love" paternalism that threatened Israel's existence. Matthew Mainen explained Biden's blinkered and dangerous views:
Biden remains a fervent adherent to the failed, groupthink-driven international consensus on resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which erroneously places the burden on Israel to make concessions.
In the mid-'90s, Biden saw firsthand what happened when Israel agreed to allow Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Liberation Organization to relocate from Tunisia to the disputed territories. Israel gave the Palestinians self-government, and they, in turn, gave Israel suicide bombings and overall carnage.
Rather than learning from the repeated mistakes of the past, in which each Israeli concession only served to embolden Palestinian militancy in its quest to erase the Jewish State, Biden doubled down on this formula as vice president and victim-blamed Israel until his last days in office.
No wonder the hard-left, anti-Israel J Street endorsed Biden, an endorsement he gladly accepted.
In the last sentence of his opinion piece, Rosner repeats that subtitle: "Mr. Biden is as good as it gets — for a Democrat." Even that statement assumes that Biden is mentally competent if and when he takes office. The greater likelihood is that the Israel-haters will be in the driver's seat. In that case, the sentence should be amended to read, "Mr. Biden will be as good as it gets — if you want to see a Palestine from the river to the sea."
Image: Joe Biden by Gage Skidmore; Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0.