North America Joe Biden’s jostle with Jerusalem

Joe Biden’s jostle with Jerusalem


During his one-term presidency, Donald Trump had withdrawn the U.S. from the Iran Nuclear Deal and, furthermore, imposed sanctions against Tehran. Trump was under the illusion that “maximum pressure” on Iran would lead to regime change in the country. On the other hand, the Donald had weakened the previous administrations’ “two-state resolution” policy by moving the U.S.’s Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also shuttered the American consulate in Jerusalem, which had been built for the Palestinians as part of the “two-state” policy. To add insult to injury, the Trump administration fully endorsed the annexation policies of Netanyahu, who had been in power in Israel for many years by then. However, the thick-as-thieves relationship between Trump and Bibi has blown a gust of cold winds between Democrats in Washington.

Obama’s signing of the Iran Nuclear Deal had met with a wrathful reaction from the Netanyahu administration. The Trump government, however, reversed Obama’s policies. So much so that Trump was declared as the “most pro-Israel president in U.S. history.” Trump and his followers tried to win the support of American Jews who largely voted for the Democrats, by accusing the Party of adopting an anti-Israeli policy.

November 2020  brought with it Biden’s victory for the Democrats in the presidential elections. In June 2021, Netanyahu’s reign came to an end. Biden had pledged that the U.S. would re-join the Iran Nuclear Deal, and re-open the American consulate in Jerusalem. Current Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett objects to these pledges being fulfilled, however, he is avoiding openly challenging the Biden administration. Bennett also wants to mend the ties between Israel and the Democrats that were severed during the Obama and Trump eras.

One of Biden’s first acts as president was to return the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement, which had been botched by Trump. However, it seems that when it comes to Israel, Biden moves at a snail’s pace. At the end of this month, nuclear negotiations will be kickstarted once more between Tehran and Washington in Vienna. Biden could have returned to the “Iran Nuclear Deal” as quickly as he did with the “Paris Climate Agreement.” Instead of doing it right away, the Biden administration is stipulating conditions it knows Iran cannot accept.

Under no circumstances whatsoever does Israel want the U.S. to return to the Iran Nuclear Deal and, instead, wants the Biden government to put military options on the table, continuing to put maximum pressure on Tehran. The Biden administration, for its part, believes that this policy is futile. Ever since Biden started his political career in the early 1970s, he has made it no secret that he’s a hardline Israel supporter. However, new-generation politicians of the Democratic Party question the unconditional support of the U.S. to Israel. Therefore, Biden’s Israel policy is “one step forward, two steps back.”

One of the most discussed topics between Israel and Biden these days is the re-opening of the American Consulate in Jerusalem. The opening of the consulate is a symbol of the American commitment to the “two-State solution” and its reinstatement represents a continuation of this policy. Israel is firmly against a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is why Biden is in a deadlock. Let us not forget that when Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to Biden at the White House in August, he warned that, in the event of the American Consulate’s opening, the Israeli Cabinet could dissolve.

In 2022, midterm elections will be held in the U.S., with the issue of the Consulate in Jerusalem becoming a bone of contention used in domestic politics. Last Wednesday, Elise Stefanik, the Trumpist chair of the “Republican Conference”, an important organ of the Republican Party in the American Congress, made a statement, saying: “President Biden must immediately abandon any plans to open this consulate and reaffirm America’s unambiguous support of an undivided Israeli capital in Jerusalem.” Stefanik described the re-opening of the American consul-general in Jerusalem as being “destructive” to U.S.-Israeli ties. In the days to come, this matter will only be debated more feverishly. That’s when we’ll see whether Biden was sincere in his pledge to re-open the consulate in Jerusalem.

Abdullah Muradoğlu
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