What is keeping Benyamin Netanyahu’s mind busy in the post-Donald Trump era is the policy that Joe Biden will implement towards Iran, not towards the Palestinians.
Of course, the Palestinian National Authority is now making its voice heard, and Netanyahu doesn’t like this. And it is foreseeable that the future U.S. Administration will re-establish relations with President Mahmoud Abbas, which were interrupted after the recognition by Trump of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
It will also speak out against the colonization and unilateral annexation by Israel of parts of the West Bank. And it will make some proclamations in favor of the defunct Two-State solution (Israel and Palestine), distancing itself from Trump’s “deal of the century.”
But Joe Biden is not Barack Obama, who in his famous speech in Cairo in 2009 outlined a new direction of U.S. policy towards the Palestinians, which has not materialized. The new U.S. president embodies moderation, is part of the establishment tradition of the Democratic Party, has a personal friendship with Netanyahu, is in favor of the normalization of relations between Arab countries and Israel and has already said that he will leave the U.S. embassy where it currently is, moved two years ago from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the Trump administration. Not to mention that his future VP, Kamala Harris, is an ardent supporter of Israel and of close relations between the U.S. and the Jewish state.
The Iranian issue will therefore be the real bone of contention in the relations between Biden and Netanyahu, provided that the Israeli premier remains in power in the coming years. There are persistent rumors that the Israeli government will fall before the end of the year when trying to pass the budget law.
One should also not forget that from next January, Netanyahu will spend a not-insignificant portion of his time in a courtroom defending himself against accusations of corruption. Israel is heading towards the fourth general election in two years. Writing in Haaretz, the analyst Yossi Verter, reporting on the forecasts of the Israeli political-military summits, said that Biden will try to relaunch the 2015 agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, made when he was Obama’s VP and torn to pieces by Trump in 2018 to praise from Netanyahu. But he will not do it with a message of “sorry, we were wrong.”
The Israelis predict that Biden will choose a middle path, between Obama’s line of recognition of Iran and its weight in the Middle East and the iron fist that Netanyahu and his Arab allies want (with the Saudis in the lead). The future administration will aim at opening negotiations whose goal is amending and supplementing the 2015 agreement, at least with an agreement on ballistic missiles.
“It will not find easy ground,” the analyst Mouin Rabbani explained to il manifesto. “These four years have seen the U.S. and Iran one step away from war, the White House has launched heavy sanctions against Tehran and has had the Iranian General Qassem Suleimani assassinated. The clash has often materialized on the ground in Iraq. After all this, in Tehran, the hawks are much stronger than in 2015 and the voices in favor of dialogue are more feeble. President Rohani himself has partly changed the tone of his statements.” Iran, Rabbani predicts, “will demand the immediate suspension of all sanctions to even consider the idea of a negotiation.”
How will Israel move? Netanyahu’s ministers are already sending strong signals. If Biden uses the carrot and abandons the stick, “it will lead to a violent confrontation between Israel and Iran,” warned one of them, Tzaghi Hanegbi, floating once again the threat of an Israeli military attack against Tehran. A possibility made more concrete by recent normalization agreements that now allow Israel to look towards the Gulf, right in front of Iran, from the coasts of the Emirates and Bahrain.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.