With Benjamin Netanyahu returning to Balfour Street and a Democrat in the White House, writes Herb Keinon, we can expect to read “story after story about how U.S.-Israel relations are deteriorating and entering crisis mode.” But Keinon urges caution:
First, Joe Biden is not Barack Obama, and his feelings for Israel are deeper and more heartfelt than Obama’s ever were. Further, he does have a personal chemistry with Netanyahu that Netanyahu never shared with Obama. Secondly, two of the major sources of friction between Israel and the U.S. that existed during the Netanyahu-Obama years are not immediately on the agenda: Iran and the Palestinian issue.
While Biden’s team seemed hell-bent in the late summer to re-enter the nuclear deal with Iran, efforts to that effect later stalled and the negotiations broke down. Nevertheless, there was an expectation that—with the administration keen on finalizing a deal—the negotiations would resume after the midterm elections. But now the midterms are over, and much has transpired in the interim to render overwrought concern that Washington is on the verge of a new deal with Iran.
The same is true of the Palestinian issue. Biden is the first president in recent memory who has not put brokering an Israel-Palestinian deal at the top of his agenda.
While there is unlikely to be friction over the marquee issues, there will be constant friction over settlement building—as there has been for the last 50 years—and instances where Israel uses force that Washington will deem “disproportionate.” And each time this friction will come to the fore, there will be dire warnings in some quarters about a crisis in ties and the inevitability of a breakdown in the U.S.-Israel relationship. But all this should be taken with a grain of salt. Not every dispute, nor even every public slap on the wrist, presages a crisis.