Biden’s not Trump, but he won’t let Israel’s security be compromised

Written by on November 8, 2020

His 1973 meeting with then Prime Minister Golda Meir was one of his most “consequential meetings” ever. He’s been a friend to Israel since.

Then-US Vice President Joe Biden speaks as he delivers a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem March 9, 2016 (photo credit: REUTERS/DEBBIE HILL/POOL)

Then-US Vice President Joe Biden speaks as he delivers a joint statement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem March 9, 2016

(photo credit: REUTERS/DEBBIE HILL/POOL)

In two months’ time, four years after Joe Biden last walked out of the White House as vice president, he will be back, this time, taking the oath of office as president of the United States of America, with Kamala Harris, the first woman and woman of color to become vice president.

Taking over from Donald Trump, Biden’s administration will have many key decisions to make and policies to implement, many of them likely to reverse those implemented by the previous administration, especially on its approach to Iran and its hostile actions in the region.

So how will that affect Israel, mainly its security?

Opposed to the claims of his detractors, Biden has been supportive of Israel. He was involved in the 2016 negotiations between the two allies that cemented a $38 billion, 10-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) for defense aid – the largest military aid package in US history.

But his support for Israel didn’t start when he was vice president under Barack Obama. He has considered himself a Zionist, and for decades, he has been one of Washington’s most staunch advocates for US aid to Israel.

Biden has often retold the story of his meeting with then-premier Golda Meir in 1973, during his first trip overseas as a 30-year-old senator. That meeting, just 40 days before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, was “one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life.”

After touring Israel, he sat down with Meir, who explained why the Jewish state’s situation was dire.

Though impressed, Biden is said to have found the meeting depressing, and when Meir asked him why, he likes to recount: “I said, ‘Well, my God, Madam Prime Minister,’ and I turned to look at her. I said: ‘The picture you paint.’ She said, ‘Oh, don’t worry. We have’ – I thought she only said this to me – she said, ‘We have a secret weapon in our conflict with the Arabs: You see, we have no place else to go.’”

Close to 50 years later, Israel’s security situation is still not perfect. Although peace deals have been made with several Arab countries, there are still enemies such as Iran and their proxy, Hezbollah, as well as Hamas, who have vowed to destroy the Jewish state.

Israel considers Iran and its nuclear program to be its No. 1 concern, and hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw eye to eye with the Trump administration on how to deal with the Islamic Republic. But while Biden’s administration is expected to be as different as day is to night compared to Trump’s, he has campaigned and vowed to guarantee Israel’s QME and America’s “unbreakable commitment to Israel’s security.”

Since the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran deal in 2018, relations between Iran and the US have taken a turn for the worse. Biden has signaled that he will try to bring Iran back into the nuclear deal, although he has also acknowledged that there is no guarantee Iran will return to compliance with the agreement.

Tehran has not only continued to work on its ballistic-missile arsenal, but proxies such as Hezbollah have become emboldened and have strengthened their foothold in the Syrian Golan.

Despite what Trump supporters claim, Iran extended its tentacles across the Middle East during his administration. While the targeted killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani has put a major dent in Tehran’s regional aspirations, Iran has emerged as a dominant player in Syria, so much so that should the civil war ever end, it is unlikely that they would ever leave.

Israel has been carrying out its campaign against Iran since 2013, striking thousands of targets in Syria, according to foreign reports in neighboring Iraq, to prevent the smuggling of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the entrenchment of its forces in Syria, where they could easily act against Israel.

Tehran has ruled out halting its missile program or changing its regional policy, instead wanting the new US administration to change its policy. But despite not appearing to be as hawkish on Iran as his predecessor, Biden won’t go easy on the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian presence on Israel’s northern borders and its continued support to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip along with its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs are another issue with which Biden’s administration must contend.

Those are key issues for Israel’s security.

Israel’s military has in recent years carried out exercises preparing for a possible future war with Hezbollah, which, aided by Iran, has rebuilt their arsenal to some 130,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel’s heartland.

The most recent drill, Lethal Arrow, held two weeks ago, took place after the military completed several offensive plans for the northern front and was aimed to improve the IDF’s offensive capabilities at all echelons, from the chief of staff down to troops in the field.

Israel does not want a war with Hezbollah or Iran. There are still millions of Israelis in the North who do not have access to a bomb shelter, and the defense establishment has said such a war would be devastating.

Though Netanyahu has now lost a good friend in the White House with Trump gone, a full-out confrontation with the Iranians and Hezbollah is both Jerusalem’s and Washington’s worst nightmare. And both leaders will do anything they can to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Biden isn’t Trump. He consults and listens to his team before making decisions. And that, at the end of the day, is good for Israel.

Because being impulsive in the Middle East is not a winning strategy.

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