If elections were held in Israel, Donald Trump would have won with a solid majority. After all, during his presidency, he moved the American Embassy to Jerusalem, recognised Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, brokered two peace deals, created a solid base for at least another three, and stopped the injustices perpetrated against Israel in international organizations such as UNESCO and the UN. However, the American people chose otherwise, and that decision is binding. Democracy has spoken.
Let us not forget: many Israelis do not remember the Obama administration positively. It should be noted that he maintained excellent security relations with Israel. However, Israelis, like the Sunni Muslim countries in the Middle East, felt he had sacrificed them at the altar of the scandalous Iran nuclear deal and betrayed them over his support for radical Islamist regimes, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. His supportive deputy was Joe Biden and so those Israelis hope for the best but will have many concerns. Alongside these concerns over Biden, many are watching apprehensively as the progressive movement, no fan of Israel, has been increasing its influence on the Democratic Party – whose figurehead is Bernie Sanders. The irony is that Sanders is a Jew who has relatives murdered in the Holocaust and who volunteered himself for a few months in an Israeli Kibbutz.
Biden, on the other hand, will see a different Israel from the one he knew four years ago when he finished his term as Vice President. Netanyahu has made Israel stronger, her position in the world more solid, and after four years Israel stands in the international arena as a regional superpower with a far-reaching global influence. She has new peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain under her belt, closer relations to Saudi Arabia than ever before, and better ties with other influential countries around the globe such as India and Brazil.
It is important to mention that despite the difference of opinion between Netanyahu and Obama about the two-state solution and the Iran deal, the United States and Israel still saw each other as allies and recognised their very important strategic alliance. It does not look like this will change in the foreseeable future under a Biden presidency. Our trade, cultural relations, and collaborative projects – the ones we know of and the ones we do not – combined with Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East, make sure of it.
In his first interview with NBC after his election, Biden said: “It will not be a third Obama term. We are facing a different world from the one we faced in that administration. President Trump has changed the landscape. It’s become America first. It’s been America alone.”
It is important to frame the relations between Israel and the United States in this context. Netanyahu and Biden have friendly relations that go back many years to the former’s days as a senior diplomat in Washington. Also, Biden knows that Iran continues to attempt to produce nuclear weapons and so he must move away from Obama’s position. He also knows that the Palestinian Authority’s corrupt government has refused to come to a diplomatic agreement. This will have to be resolved along with deep internal American issues.
There is no doubt that between the Biden administration and Netanyahu’s there will be a difference of opinion on some major issues. But unlike the Obama days, both parties will come with a constructive outlook, one that recognises the possibilities of reaching a practical resolution. At the end of the day, if they do not do that, their mutual enemies will be rejoicing.