Home inSight Joe Biden, Not a Friend

Joe Biden, Not a Friend

Shoshana Bryen

As Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) arrived, the White House released a statement from President Joe Biden mourning “the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis during one of the darkest chapters in human history” and recommitting to “heeding the lessons of the Shoah and realizing the responsibility of ‘Never Again.'”

In Israel, after the Hamas pogrom of October 7, the mantra became “Never Again is Now.”

The first lesson of the Shoah is that Israel will defend the Jewish people in the Land of Israel as an independent, democratic country; allies are essential and friends are welcome, but Jews will no longer sit at the mercy of governments that may be friendly one day but not the next. Israel has the right and obligation to make decisions about its safety and security.

The second lesson is that American choices that empower Israel’s enemies, and that constrict the flexibility and defensive capability of Israel, ignore the first lesson and engender a rift in the relationship.

That is exactly what has happened under Biden’s presidency.

Israel’s essential security problem is Iran. The Iranian military poses a direct threat, of course, but Israel also faces the indirect problem of Iranian proxies surrounding it with arms, money, and political support. The administration made it clear early that it had a view of U.S.-Iranian relations that paid only rhetorical attention to Israel’s security concerns. This was coupled with an insistence on replacing the Abraham Accords with a “two-state solution” that would result in an independent Palestinian state.

In February 2021, less than a month after Biden’s inauguration, the administration made three announcements: it would restore funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA); it would have South Korea release at least $1 billion in frozen assets to Iran as a step toward returning in some form to the 2015 nuclear deal; and it would lift the terror designation from Iranian-sponsored Houthi rebels in Yemen. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel protested the latter two moves.

The administration’s “I know what you need better than you do” attitude demeans Israel. And it’s coupled that attitude with an absolute determination to engage and negotiate with (or simply appease) countries that have a penchant for armed conflict created a collateral determination to enforce its will.

Relations moved along reasonably for a while, notwithstanding the heavy-handed insistence on a “maritime border deal” with Lebanon that was supposed to make Hezbollah a “responsible stakeholder.”.

In the summer of 2023, there was civil protest in Israel over the issue of reform in Israel’s judiciary, a domestic issue if ever there was one. But the Biden administration weighed in, again demeaning Israel’s democracy and independence. At the same time, the White House bragged that it had given more than $315 million to the Palestinians in 2023—and nearly a billion dollars since the administration took office, ignoring Israel’s concerns.

Then came the Hamas pogrom of October 7, changing the terms of the relationship.

Israel had three goals in its retaliation: destruction of Hamas as a military and governing body; security for Israel’s borders and citizens; and the release of hostages. The Israeli government believed these goals would be accomplished through armed conflict. The Biden administration, however, wedded itself to two different principles: a negotiated release of the hostages and protection of the Palestinian civilian population.

Then President Biden called the Israeli campaign “over the top” and said the civilian suffering must stop. He signed an executive order to impose sanctions on four West Bank settlers who the administration says have committed violence against Palestinians, with the implicit threat that sanctions could be extended to members of the Israeli government or military. In the same way, the administration initiated an investigation of an Israeli defense company, accusing it of receiving what the U.S. considers illegal subsidies from the Israeli government because it is in a government development zone. The implicit threat here is that larger parts of U.S.-Israel defense trade could be targeted.

It’s just been one slap in the face after another. Even after 10/7, Biden extended the oil sanction waivers for Iran, and declined in November to veto the expiration of the UN embargo on Iran’s production and sale of ballistic missiles. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an effort to forestall Israel’s entry into Rafah, announced that the U.S. will change its policy toward Israel if it doesn’t “adequately address” the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Secretary Blinken also promoted the PA as the future ruling party in Gaza despite the announcement that the PA would pay stipends to more than 650 Hamas terrorists from Gaza.

Finally, the U.S. declined to veto a UN Security Council Resolution that called for a ceasefire in Gaza without condemning Hamas for the war and calling for the release of Israel’s hostages only after the ceasefire was in place.

Time and again, Israel’s decisions and policies on issues crucial to the security of its people came under attack by the Biden administration’s determination to have its way.

President Biden has been rhetorically good on Israel’s security requirements since October 7, and the coordination of Israel’s defense against Iranian attack was excellent. But his undermining of Israel’s decision-making is a mockery of the “mourning” on Yom HaShoah.