Ironically, the election of the Democratic candidate would strengthen the feeble relationship with the Democratic Party, return Israel to political consensus and help bring the Jews of America closer to Israel.
We are in the home stretch. In another 30 days, there will be an election in the United States and many Americans have already started to vote. Almost 2 million have already mailed in their votes, and many more will do so before Election Day on Nov. 3. Like many in the world, the eyes of Israelis are on the United States because, not only the fate of the Americans will be decided but, in a certain way, our fate will also be determined. The third prime minister, Levi Eshkol, described this correctly. When he was advised that there was going to be a year of drought, he asked immediately, “Where?” When he was told, “What do you mean? In Israel, of course,” he said, with a smile, “For a second, I was shocked. I thought it was in the United States.”
The United States is Israel’s greatest friend. We have no other friend like it. This is true all the more so today, when the connection is very close and quite a few countries believe that the path to Washington goes through Jerusalem. So, it would be easy to say that Donald Trump is the president that Israel needs for the next four years.
Over the last four years, he has been excellent for Israel: He transferred the American Embassy to Jerusalem, he managed an open peace between us and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran, supported Israel at the U.N. in every way, and more. If you compare these four good years with the eight difficult years that Israel had with Barack Obama as president, the comparison is clear: A Republican president is good for Israel. A Democratic president is not.
As part of the comparison, you could add the plain fact that the Democratic Party has moved left, and it is much less supportive of Israel. Just this week, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, canceled her participation in the memorial event marking the 25th year since the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, following pressure from pro-Palestinian organizations.
And still, despite everything, electing the Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, for the presidency would not be worse for Israel than electing Trump. It might even be better.
First, a reassuring note about Biden. Biden’s voting record on Israel in all his years in the Senate was nothing short of excellent. The Democratic senator always supported the special relationship between Israel and the United States, aid for security, economic and scientific cooperation, Israel’s right to protect itself and other essential issues.
Despite how much he loathes Trump, Biden has said that if he is elected he will leave the embassy in Jerusalem. Among the 21 Democratic candidates who started the race for the presidency, he was the most decisive and firm in his support of Israel. Biden was, and is still, a personal friend of all of the prime ministers from the days of Golda Meir to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, even though he does not agree with him on a number of issues.
And now for the big picture: Our main asset in the United States has been bipartisan support for Israel. It used to be that we always knew whenever any issue of importance to us came up for a vote in Congress, there would be broad agreement on the support of Israel, both among the Democrats and the Republicans. Even if the two parties could not agree on anything else, there would be consensus on Israel.
In the last 12 years, we have lost this precious asset. It is less important to name what is responsible, whether it be Israeli policy or just a tendency of the Democratic Party to move to the left. But right now, the one who can reverse the swing of the pendulum and the radicalism that is growing in the party is a pro-Israel Democratic president. He can restore the crown to its former glory and bring back the promise of security and bipartisan support of Israel that is so valuable to us.
There is another strategic path to restoring Israel’s relationship with the Democratic Party. Most American Jews vote for Democratic. More than 70% of them will do so also in the upcoming election. The distance and the rift between the party and Israel has cast a shadow for most American Jews, especially for the younger generation with whom we are losing touch. The second largest concentration of Jews in the world is in the United States and some will say that it is the only substantial concentration of Jews outside Israel, with the numbers in other places being relatively small. If we manage this challenge well, a new and strong relationship with the Democratic Party will be an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Jews of the United States.
There are those who say that an investment in Biden is likely to be short-lived because of his age. If he wins, he will be the oldest American president ever at age 78. But his running mate, Kamala Harris, who is married to a Jewish man, is an enthusiastic supporter of Israel. I met her once when she was the attorney general of California, and I came out of the meeting feeling that we had a true friend.
It’s true that Biden has criticized and will continue to criticize the settlements, saying that they are an obstacle to peace and that they damage Israel’s willingness and ability to remain Jewish and democratic. This may be the focus of disagreement with the Israeli government. But if you look at the overall picture, if Biden is elected president, it will be a great opportunity for Israel to repair its collapsed relationship with the Democratic Party and get a president who is completely committed to Israel’s strength. If we do this right, we can go back to having an American political consensus.
It is hard to say who will be the Democratic candidate for president in four years, but even in the best-case scenario, it would be hard to find someone who is more positively disposed toward Israel than Biden, whose father was a soldier in the U.S. Army in World War II and who explained to Biden that Jews must have their own country because only then would they be able to protect themselves.
Perhaps ironically, Biden’s election would strengthen the feeble relationship with the Democratic Party, bring Israel back to a political agreement with America, help to bring the Jews of the United States closer to Israel, and would turn some of the shakier topics of disagreement with America, like moving the embassy to Jerusalem, into established facts. If we play our cards right, we will be not only be able to sustain the relationship with America that Israel gained with Trump, but strengthen it.
The writer is the consul general in Los Angeles, political adviser in Washington and chief of staff to two foreign ministers.
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