Biden’s ties to Israel stem from a long career: ‘From his gut to his heart to his head’ | ET REALITY


Biden did not show the same empathy for the Palestinians early in his career. “There was very little public appetite in the United States for pro-Palestinian sentiments, or even for a relatively balanced approach,” Blank, her former aide, recalled. “That has changed: recognizing the humanity of the Palestinians is no longer political suicide.”

Still, he has long supported a separate state for the Palestinians and at times pressured Israeli contacts to do more to achieve peace. Even in that much-celebrated meeting with Ms. Meir, he warned against “creeping annexation” and urged the unilateral withdrawal of some occupied lands. according to a classified Israeli summary that came to light in 2020.

“He used to call me at the embassy a lot whenever he thought there was something I should know,” recalled Zalman Shoval, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Washington twice during the 1990s. Among other issues, Biden would oppose expansion. of settlements in the West Bank. “He wanted us to know that he wasn’t happy when something happened about it.”

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who served on the Foreign Relations Committee with Biden and traveled with him to Israel a couple of times, said the future president was always in favor of an equitable resolution for the Palestinians.

“It didn’t automatically give the Israelis carte blanche,” said Hagel, who later served as defense secretary under President Barack Obama when Biden was vice president. “I have never seen him err on the impartiality he has on the Palestinian situation, the two-state solution, although he has been very clear that he is a strong supporter of Israel.”

However, Biden’s relationship with Netanyahu has been particularly complicated. The president likes to say they have been friends for 40 years despite their ideological disagreements, and some advisers say that’s not as much of a political stretch as it sounds.

Former Sen. Ted Kaufman of Delaware, a longtime Biden aide and close friend, said the future president and prime minister really bonded because Netanyahu grew up in Philadelphia, not far from Biden. “From the beginning, it was like finding a kindred spirit,” Kaufman said. “He has had a very good relationship with Bibi for a long, long time. He speaks our language.”

In fact, Biden has at times been more lenient toward Netanyahu than other Democrats. The Israeli government announced a new housing project in East Jerusalem in 2010 while Biden was in Israel, embarrassing the US administration, which had pushed for a moratorium. Obama was furious and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sharply criticized Netanyahu by phone, even though Biden wanted to avoid a public dispute.

In fact, it was Biden who sprang into action four years later, when Israel was attacked by Hamas rockets in Gaza and needed replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system. The Israeli ambassador arrived at the White House on a Thursday night asking for help, as Blinken recalled, and the next day Obama assigned Biden to get the money.

“He was on the phone all weekend calling the relevant members of Congress and by Tuesday morning we had $250 million,” Blinken said.

Biden and the Israeli prime minister have been more at odds since Netanyahu returned to office last December and sought to limit the power of Israeli courts. Biden publicly rebuked him for undermining democracy and refused to invite him to the White House for months.

For his part, Netanyahu has bristled at Biden’s efforts to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran, calling them reckless. Some Republicans in the United States have even gone so far as to blame Biden for the Hamas attack, saying he has coddled Iran, the group’s patron.

But any friction between Biden and Netanyahu was put aside after October 7. From that moment on, Biden was fully involved. He took in the shock and devastation of some of those close to him who are Jewish. including Blinken, whose stepfather survived the Holocaust, and Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, who has helped lead the administration’s anti-Semitism efforts.

A few days after the attack, Biden walked into the White House State Dining Room with Blinken and Harris behind him and gave a speech expressing outrage on behalf of Israel with more fury than perhaps any American president has ever delivered. .

“He worked on it very deliberately and spent a lot of time on it,” Blinken said. “But in terms of how he phrased it, his investment in what he was saying, that’s not something that’s written down or practiced. It really is all him. And I think that’s a big part of the moment.”

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