The Netanyahu Era in the Biden Era

Every Israeli prime minister and no shortage of world leaders see the first meeting with the new U.S. president as crucial for the country. Israel needs this meeting; historically, it has happened shortly after the president has been inaugurated.

Weeks after the installation of the Joe Biden administration, the de rigueur telephone conversation between President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not yet happened. Given that this is the fourth American administration attended to by Netanyahu, the delay in the call is somewhat uncomfortable. Yet, it is not unexpected.

As Barack Obama’s vice president, Biden had various disagreements with Netanyahu, who is often referred to as “Bibi.” This stemmed from the former administration, as Obama and the Israeli prime minister never got along particularly well, since Netanyahu regularly defied him. For example, the issue of the Iran nuclear deal was a constant point of contention. Israel did not feel it was being properly heard or protected. During his time in office, Obama used the silent treatment, and the prime minister was not always received in the White House when he visited the United States.

The biggest factor that exacerbated the distance with Israel is probably the close relationship between Donald Trump and Netanyahu. Trump’s support for Israel was unequivocal; directly and indirectly, he boasted about this as much as he highlighted the less supportive behavior of the Democrats during the eight years of the Obama presidency. The trust and closeness between Trump and Bibi appears to be repaying its debt today. This is not all that surprising.

However, despite the above, the silent treatment is neither fair nor what Israel deserves. First and foremost, Israel is America’s ally in the region, as well as in the world. Regardless of who is in power, Democrats or Republicans, the values intrinsic to democracy, freedom and respect form the common ground between both countries, and they often find themselves isolated on the world stage with respect to those matters.

Israel has committed no sin by having its current prime minister reap the benefits of his own prestige and perseverance, and even less so for its gratitude. The subject of Jerusalem, the recognition of Golan, the necessary defense in the United Nations, and most importantly, the firm stance of the U.S. toward Iran, are all issues that have greatly helped Israel, both in current policy and in laying the foundation for future negotiation and treaties. Not to mention the considerable importance of the Abraham Accords and their effect of plainly mapping out a new Middle East, this time under a different and more pragmatic premise than the well-intentioned premise advanced by Shimon Peres in previous years, with its unfortunately limited results.

All Israel’s prime ministers, and no shortage of world leaders, see the first meeting with a new U.S. president as crucial for the country. Israel needs this meeting; historically, it has happened shortly after the president’s inauguration. This is to be expected. Even with its military prowess, its relative economic prosperity, and now with its global vaccination record, the relationship Israel has with the leading global power is very important from a number of different perspectives. Israel’s sense of well-being depends on a certain degree of harmony with the United States despite inevitable disagreements. Biden’s coldness toward Israel comes across as unfair and capricious—especially among those who boast of having interests first and friends afterward.

It is true that the Netanyahu era has faced up to good and bad times during the administrations of Bill Clinton, Obama, Trump and now Biden. What also remains true is that the Netanyahu era has lasted longer than that of any of his predecessors and any of his counterparts in power.

The statistics lend a slight advantage to Bibi. There must be a reason why he is still there and why he also has a chance of continuing in office. Thus, it is the Netanyahu era in the Biden era — or should that be the other way around?

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