An Update from CUFI Action Fund
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We join our fellow Americans in mourning the loss of 13 American servicemembers in Afghanistan last week. They were killed by ISIS suicide bombers as our warriors attempted to shepherd innocent civilians to freedom. We pray for the fallen and their families.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met for the first time in the White House with President Joe Biden. There’s been a lot of news coverage of the meeting, and in this week’s Action Update we break down the key takeaways.

Off to a Decent Start

The US-Israel relationship is vital to the national security interests of both nations, and we’ve seen what happens when an American President doesn’t place an emphasis on good relations with Israel, but rather seeks to create “daylight” between Washington and Jerusalem. Initial indications are that President Biden has not taken the same approach as some of his predecessors.

For example, during the recent conflict with Hamas, the White House didn’t overreact, and in fact enabled Israel to have the operational space the Jewish state needed to deal an extensive blow to the terrorists of Hamas. The administration has also supported Israel’s request to replenish it’s Iron Dome interceptors.

The above could not be said of President Obama who too often attempted to prematurely curtail Israeli action and leverage security assistance. And as a result, he and former Prime Minister Netanyahu did not enjoy a good personal relationship. The reports from the Biden-Bennett meeting are that the two got along fine. This may seem trivial in the high-stakes world of international foreign policy, but it isn’t. The two leaders come from dramatically different political perspectives, but they agreed on a number of things and any disagreement on other issues seems to have been respectful and kept behind closed doors. It is important to remember that it is not just Americans and Israelis watching the dynamics of this relationship, but also our common enemies. Sometimes the perception is just as important as the substance.

In her recent op-ed in JNS, CUFI Action Fund Government Affairs Director Alexandria Paolozzi addressed such disagreements directly:

An essential part of the Biden administration’s commitment to Israel should include rock-solid assurances that disagreements between the two stalwart allies remain private. Such is a long-standing principle in the U.S.-Israel relationship, which too often has been violated. Biden must make it clear that there is no place in his administration for any official who uses the press to undermine Israeli security or the U.S.-Israel relationship.

We can’t be sure such a commitment was made, but thus far, we haven’t seen the type of leaks and frankly backstabbing we saw in previous administrations.

Iran and the Arab World

At the top of the Israeli agenda for the meeting was Iran. Publicly, at least, Bennett seems to have made progress on this front. No, the Biden administration hasn’t overtly acknowledged that the Iran nuclear deal is indeed dead in the water. However, Biden did state a commitment that the Islamic Republic will “never” acquire nukes. He also stated that he would consider “other options” besides diplomacy if the latter fails.

Though he didn’t use the phrase Abraham Accords, Biden also noted that his administration recognizes the benefits for “deeper ties” between Israel and its Arab neighbors. This is good for all involved as an Arab-Israeli alliance is incredibly value to curbing Iran’s malicious activities. Moreover, normalization agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors benefit the economies of all involved.

We would’ve liked the President to layout more specifics on both of these topics, but reports are that senior Israeli and American officials will be communicating privately on these topics in the near future and that the Israeli approach of death by a thousand cuts to the Iranian nuclear program is going to be a key topic of discussion. 

Some Sticking Points

Despite the commentary and news above, there remain some important sticking points. For example, according to reports, the Biden administration raised the prospect of opening a US consulate to the Palestinians in Jerusalem. It is ultimately up to Israel to decide if such a consulate is appropriate, and we strongly urge the Biden administration to respect Israel’s sovereignty and international norms in this context. In fact, we would argue that if the Biden administration is so committed to a consulate exclusively for the Palestinians, the city of Ramallah is the appropriate location as that is within territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and is effectively the PA’s seat of government.

Given the PA’s corruption and continued support for terror, we recognize that a Ramallah based consulate could present a serious security challenge for the US, and, we should all be able to agree that, one should never put a single American servicemember in harm’s way unnecessarily. As such, perhaps the Biden administration would consider moving on from this sideshow of an issue until such time as the PA proves itself to be a true partner for peace and thus the security concerns are lessened.

We also feel Biden’s statement on Iran still indicates an almost obsessive need to solve problems in a manner that’s proven a failure time and again. “We're putting diplomacy first. If diplomacy fails, we're ready to turn to other options,” Biden said. Spoiler alert: pure diplomacy doesn’t work with Iran (or the Taliban or Hamas or…. well, you get the idea).

The Israelis have survived in a region committed to their destruction for a long time. We don’t know what else was said in the meeting, but let’s hope Biden was truly listening to America’s stalwart ally.


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