How the Biden Administration Might Restore Bipartisan Support for Israel

Nov. 11 2020

Examining the president-elect’s record on Middle East policy, Joshua Muravchik is cautiously optimistic about what the next four years might have in store for Israel:

Joe Biden can be expected to reverse a few of President Trump’s policies. He pledged to reopen the U.S. consulate in eastern Jerusalem, a de-facto embassy to the Palestinians; to allow the Palestine Liberation Organization to reopen its Washington office, which Trump had shut down; and to restore various aid programs to the Palestinians. But on the more important matters of [the American embassy in] Jerusalem and [recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the] Golan Heights, Biden’s camp indicates he will preserve Trump’s actions, thus giving them a bipartisan imprimatur that will prevent later reversal.

And, too, Biden is committed to the process of “normalization” between the Arab states and Israel that Trump, in what may stand as his sole diplomatic triumph, facilitated. [As many as] four other Arab states might follow the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan in recognizing Israel, and the Biden administration will undoubtedly encourage this.

That leaves one issue as a likely source of friction between the Biden administration and Israel, and it is a big one: Iran’s nuclear program. . . . Biden has said he seeks to “rejoin the [2015 nuclear] agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations . . . to strengthen and extend it.” He also pledges to “push back against Iran’s destabilizing activities, which threaten our friends and partners in the region.”

President Obama, with his extended letter-writing to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his . . . refusal to support rhetorically the millions of peaceful Iranians who nearly toppled the regime in 2009, harbored some odd delusion . . . of a transcendent reconciliation. Biden, despite his strong commitment to the 2015 deal, entertains no such illusion. Thus, the differences between Washington and Jerusalem, with the Sunni Arab states on its side, might be narrowed to manageable proportions.

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Read more at Fathom

More about: Abraham Accords, Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Joseph Biden, PLO, US-Israel relations

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform