If you are one of those who are holding their breath with the hope that the US Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Joe Biden, might play a more even-handed role in his dealing with future Middle East foreign policy, you may start breathing now.
If the former vice president is to be elected to the White House come November, he is likely to carry on with pro-Israel policies.
In fact, as destructively biased as Donald Trump has been in his support for Israel’s colonial policies in occupied Palestine, Biden might still be worse, for one simple reason: Trump’s policies are driven by pure interests, while Biden’s by decades-long ideological affinity with Zionism.
It came as no surprise, then, when Anthony Blinken, Biden’s adviser, announced on May 18 that the presidential candidate is in “complete” opposition of any reduction of US military aid to Israel, should the latter continue with its illegal annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank
To his credit, Biden’s pro-Israel views have never been masked by political platitudes or mediocre attempts at fairness and balance. In fact, Biden had argued, in an interview with Shalom TV as early as April 2007, that “you don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist”.
It was then that he declared with unmistakable clarity and pride: “I am a Zionist”.
It came as no surprise, then, when Anthony Blinken, Biden’s adviser, announced on May 18 that the presidential candidate is in “complete” opposition of any reduction of US military aid to Israel, should the latter continue with its illegal annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank.
No room for doubt
The language used by Blinken leaves no room for doubt that Biden, under any circumstances, will leverage Washington’s support for Israel to persuade Tel Aviv to respect US foreign policy in the Middle East, let alone international law.
On April 29, Biden also made it clear that he does not intend to move his country’s embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.
Trump’s decision to relocate the embassy on May 14, 2018, was a stark violation of international law which recognises East Jerusalem as an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
There is no doubt that Biden has embraced Trump’s aggressive agenda which was tailored by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and others, to meet the expectations of the most extreme elements within the Israeli government.
Two issues may have contributed to the misperception regarding Biden’s expected ‘fairness’.
First, Trump’s anti-Palestinian agenda is unprecedented, even according to the poor standards set by the inherently-biased American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Some argue that anyone, even Joe Biden, is better than Trump. Those who adopt this position are often ignorant of Biden’s protracted love affair with Israel.
Second, since the Barack Obama Administration was mistakenly perceived to be fairer to Palestinians and hostile to Israel than the previous administration, vice president Biden was erroneously linked to that period of American ’even-handedness’.
In truth, Obama proved the most generous of all American presidents as he bestowed upon Israel a largesse of $38 billion, in addition to his administration’s complete backing of Israeli wars on Gaza.
One of Biden’s most significant roles between 2009 and 2017, was to assuage Israeli fears and reassure Israel’s leaders of Washington’s unconditional love and support for Tel Aviv.
At an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference — Israel’s main lobby in Washington DC — in March 2013, Biden elaborated on his president’s commitment to “the Jewish state of Israel.”
He said: “I’ve served with eight presidents ... and I can assure you, unequivocally, no president has done as much to physically secure the state of Israel as President Barack Obama.”
The following year, Biden told the annual Saban Forum hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington: “If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one.”
Beyond political expediency
In this speech, Biden added a new component to the American understanding of its relationship with Israel — one that goes beyond political expediency or ideological rapports.
He said: “We always talk about Israel from this perspective, as if we’re doing (them) some favour. We are meeting a moral obligation. But it is so much more than a moral obligation. It is overwhelmingly in the self-interest of the United States of America to have a secure and democratic friend, a strategic partner like Israel. It is no favour. It is an obligation, but also a strategic necessity.”
Biden’s lexicon evolved further, to the extent that, in April 2015, he began his speech at the 67th annual Israeli Independence Day celebration in Jerusalem with these words: “My name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel.”
“Sometimes we drive each other crazy,” he said in reference to disagreements between Israel and the US over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to halt construction of illegal Jewish settlements.
“But we love each other. And we protect each other … As many of you heard me say before, were there no Israel, America would have to invent one. We’d have to invent one because you protect our interests like we protect yours.”
While Trump’s support for Israel has been expressed through successive steps aimed at winning Israeli, and subsequently, pro-Israel’s lobby’s approval in Washington, Biden’s love for Israel is demonstrated through an undeviating political message that has spanned decades.
With presidential campaigning now underway, both the Republican and Democratic candidates are likely to spar over who loves Israel more.
— Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta).