US election: Joe Biden and the Middle East

IIn Joe Biden’s career, there is an encounter that shaped the 77-year-old future US president’s view of the Middle East. His first trip abroad took the newly elected senator to Israel in 1973. The Jewish state was on the verge of the Yom Kippur War and became Prime Minister Golda Meir showed Biden maps of the Middle East. Smoking the chain, the old woman explained to the young man the precarious situation in her country, which was surrounded by enemies.

Biden looked dejected. Meir tried to cheer him up: “The Israelis have a secret weapon against the Arabs,” she said mischievously. “We have nowhere else to go.”

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International reactions

This visit, Biden often said later, was one of the most impressive experiences of his life. And it should be a key to answering the question, which especially in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, but also in Iran, in the Gulf and in Egypt, are now worried – for contradicting reasons:

Will Biden Donald Trumps Embark on extremely pro-Israel policies or return to the critical course of Barack Obama, of which he was vice-president?

Trump’s gifts to Israel

It is no secret that Jerusalem is disappointed with the election result. According to a survey by the National Democracy Institute, 70 percent of Jewish Israelis wanted another term for Donald Trump. For in the past four years the Republican has strengthened the position of the Jewish state in the Middle East like no American president before him.

Trump hat die US embassy Relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and thus recognized it as the undivided capital of Israel – to the anger of the Palestinians, who claim (at least) the eastern part, in which the Jewish Wailing Wall and the holy Islamic sites are located.

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Trump also advocated Israel’s sovereignty over the controversial Golan Heights, which the country captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. And in contrast to Obama and Biden, he approved of the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Biden will hardly take back these gifts to Jerusalem. But the Democrat should endeavor to resume the role of the honest broker in the Middle East conflict and to appease the Palestinians who have severed all relations with Washington.

Biden’s future deputy did that Kamala Harris In an interview with “The Arab American News” shortly before the election it was clear that the financial aid for the Palestinians, which Trump had cut, would be renewed immediately, said Harris.

A heart and a soul

Once they were bitter competitors, now they demonstrate unity: The common opponent Donald Trump has welded Joe Biden and Kamala Harris together. In the frenzy of victory, Joe Biden even accepts his deputy into his family.

Source: WELT / Christoph Hipp

The US consulate in East Jerusalem and the representation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington are also being reopened. After the election, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas quickly announced that he could hardly wait to work with Joe Biden.

Biden and Harris are in favor of the two-state solution. The annexation plans of parts of the West Bank, which Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cherished, should be finally off the table. But Netanyahu needn’t fear that Biden will force him to make major concessions to the Palestinians, as Obama has tried in vain.

U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee talks with Palestinian presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas (R) in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 9, 2005. Palestinians voted on Sunday for a successor to Yasser Arafat and looked likely to elect Mahmoud Abbas, a pragmatist who has promised to revive a peace process with Israel after years of bloodshed. REUTERS/David Furst CLH/WS - RP5DRIIACRAA

Biden in conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2005

What: REUTERS

Biden, for example, firmly rejects the demands of some Democrats that American financial and military aid for Israel be subject to conditions. Israel’s security is non-negotiable for him.

And: “Biden is facing so many domestic and foreign policy tasks that he will probably not muster up a lot of energy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which so many have worked on before him,” says the former Israeli US ambassador Daniel Ayalon. Biden’s relationship with the Israelis causes far greater stomach pains Iran.

The nuclear deal with Iran

In 2015, Tehran committed to reducing its uranium enrichment and having its nuclear program checked by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In return, the United Nations, the European Union and the USA gradually lifted their economic sanctions against the Shiite regime. Obama and Biden were the driving force behind the deal.

However, Donald Trump unilaterally terminated it in 2018 after the Israeli intelligence Had presented evidence that Iran had broken its commitments. Joe Biden, however, has announced to rejoin. He also wants to tighten the conditions for Tehran. Nevertheless, Israel is watching the renewed willingness to negotiate with great concern.

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A view of the White House is seen through a temporary security fence as the 2020 US presidential election remains undecided on November 4, 2020, in Washington, DC. - President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling it out for the White House, with polls closed across the United States -- and the American people waiting for results in key battlegrounds still up for grabs. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

Negotiations per se involve compromises, and any compromise represents a potential threat to the Jewish state, the destruction of which is the declared aim of the clerical regime.

“Should Biden Obama’s course of appeasement towards the Ayatollahs or radical forces like the Muslim Brotherhood continue, that could lead to a new war in the Middle East, ”said the former Israeli ambassador and Middle East expert Yoram Ettinger to WELT. Not least because Jerusalem may feel compelled to launch a pre-emptive strike against a nuclear-capable Iran.

Peace treaties with the Gulf States

The Trump administration’s greatest success in foreign policy is the brokerage of the so-called Abraham Agreement between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan.

The US broke the principle that the Palestinian question must first be resolved so that Israel can find peace with its Arab neighbors. Benjamin Netanyahu gave his friend Trump the idea to reverse the order and go first to the Gulf States.

Joe Biden also praised the agreements. There is little to prevent him from building on this and trying to persuade other Arab states to recognize Israel. However, that should be more difficult for principled Biden than for “dealmaker” Trump.

“In fact, even Saudi Arabia is on board”

For example, Trump apparently promised the Emirates F-35 fighter jets in return for the peace treaty. Biden’s foreign policy advisor, Tony Blinken, has already expressed surprise at the “quid pro quo” character of Trump’s negotiating style.

Under Trump, the authoritarian rulers could also rely on the fact that disregard for human rights would not be a diplomatic disruptive factor. In particular Saudi Arabia, the journalists critical of the regime Jamal Khashoggi murdered and thus triggered worldwide outrage.

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After the presidential election in the US - Trump

The American Congress then wanted to block arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia. But Trump defended Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and continued the trade. Under Biden, Riyadh will probably have to put up with more criticism again. The Democrats also want Saudi Arabia’s controversial military operation in Yemen to end.

If they want to win other Muslim states over to normalization with Israel, however, they have to accommodate the regional power. Saudi Arabia Israel itself has not officially recognized it, but has encouraged other states to take the step.

Indispensable Egypt

It is already clear that the future US president will adopt stricter tones towards Egypt. In July, Joe Biden tweeted: “No more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator'”. This is what the current US president once called Egypt’s head of state Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (without any ironic undertone), who has brutally suppressed all opposition in the country since he came to power in 2013.

After the bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by General al-Sisi, Obama wanted to end the military and financial aid that the USA had been offering since Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel in 1978 Kairo numbers. The much more experienced politician Biden will not go that far. He knows all too well that Egypt is America’s and Israel’s most important partner in the fight against terrorism.

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Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Harris celebrate onstage at their election rally in Wilmington

For Egypt, as for the entire Middle East, the following applies: Biden is not Trump, but neither is Obama. He will probably choose a middle course that does not neglect human rights issues but, when in doubt, takes American security interests first. He will try all sites to include whatever didn’t occur to Trump. And he will certainly not alienate old allies like Obama, whose first visit to the Middle East was not to Jerusalem, but to Cairo.

Israeli diplomats who worked in Washington during Obama’s presidency like to tell anecdotes these days that distinguish Biden as a critical but reliable partner.

Even at the lowest point in relations between Obama and Netanyahu in 2015, the then Vice President came to the embassy, ​​like every year, to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day and gave a rousing speech: “I promise you,” said Joe Biden, “if you are attacked and overwhelmed , we will fight for you. “

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