Naftali Bennett’s Meeting with Joe Biden Began to Repair the Cracks in the U.S.-Israel Alliance

On August 27, the Israeli prime minister met with the American president in the White House, in what the former hoped was an opportunity to move away from the tensions between Washington and Jerusalem—and specifically between Jerusalem and the Democrats—of the past twelve years. Eran Lerman is sanguine about the meeting, but notes there are serious threats to the Jewish state’s most important alliance.

Israel’s new prime minister, despite being politically identified with the right wing and with Judea and Samaria settlements, has been given an opportunity to shake off his predecessor’s “baggage,” as it is referred to in American political jargon. . . . As far as we know, Bennett did find common ground with Biden. On a personal level, their interaction was amicable. Bennett is not perceived by the president and his staff as tainted by overidentification with Republicans. Although Biden was distracted by the Afghanistan crisis, he spent longer than expected in conversation with Bennett and reportedly found in the prime minister an attentive listener.

[Moreover], it can be argued the prime minister’s visit to Washington at this sensitive time reminded the public, the professional echelon, and U.S. politicians of Israel’s value as a democratic, reliable, and strong ally that does not ask American soldiers to bleed in its defense. In other words, Israel is everything that Afghanistan never was and never could be. Therein lies the importance of the U.S.-Israel “special relationship,” now more than ever.

Nonetheless, Lerman writes, the Jewish state faces a serious challenge from the growing influence of anti-Israel sentiment in the left wing of the Democratic party, which it “needs the help of American Jews” to counter. But getting this help requires:

an intensive and consistent effort to restore significantly Israel’s relationship with American Jewry, which has reached a dangerous threshold of erosion. . . . Improvement in the Washington-Jerusalem relationship has implications for the atmosphere in ties with members of the Jewish community.

Israel’s top political leadership must be harnessed for this effort, alongside relevant ministers and ranking professionals in the [government]. It must also be reflected in policies on sensitive issues in Israel, especially the Western Wall question and attitudes toward non-Orthodox denominations. Only if a strong foundation of support is rebuilt within American Jewry and with both sides of the party divide that is tearing America apart will the Israeli government be able to conduct a pragmatic conversation [with the U.S.] on the complex subject of Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: American Jewry, Israel and the Diaspora, Joe Biden, Naftali Bennett, US-Israel relations


Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority