Does Biden hold grudge over Israel?
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Analysis

Does Biden hold grudge over Israel?

Despite burned fingers, Biden is still an unequivocal friend of Israel’s, telling rivals last year that conditioning US military aid to Israel would be 'a gigantic mistake'

Stephen Oryszczuk

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Joe Biden is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Mrs. Sara Netanyahu, upon arrival for his bilateral meeting at the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem on January 13, 2013. (Photo By Matty Stern/State Department/Sipa USA)
Joe Biden is greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Mrs. Sara Netanyahu, upon arrival for his bilateral meeting at the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem on January 13, 2013. (Photo By Matty Stern/State Department/Sipa USA)

Some suspect that the new man in the White House may harbour old grudges when it comes to Israel, at least while Benjamin Netanyahu reigns in Jerusalem.

Relations were famously bad between the Israeli PM and Biden’s former boss Barack Obama, nosediving over Iran in 2015 when Bibi accepted a Republican invitation to address the US Congress without first asking the US president.

Days later, key Obama lieutenants – including Biden – schmoozed Isaac Herzog, then Netanyahu’s main domestic rival. When Netanyahu arrived in the US, Obama and Biden were both pointedly absent.

Obama was unimpressed by Bibi’s manners and logic, saying his argument amounted to “regime change,” and on policy Biden’s Iran stance remains a question, yet the personal antagonism he has navigated goes back a decade at least.

In 2009, still new to the post, Obama sought to help Netanyahu’s challenger Tzipi Livni form a government but did not succeed. Three years later, in 2012, Netanyahu repaid the compliment, backing Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

In 2010, Biden felt ambushed after Netanyahu’s government waited for his first official visit as US Vice President to announce a major building programme in East Jerusalem, exactly the kind of settlement expansion Obama had sought to avoid.

A year later the White House returned the favour. Just before Netanyahu was due to fly to Washington, Obama gave a speech about the Arab Spring in which he said the 1967 borders should be the starting point for peace talks.

Biden visited Jerusalem again in March 2016, a year after Netanyahu spoke to Congress, and returned bullish, telling the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC the following week that Israel “may not get all it wants, but it will get all it needs”.

In front of 18,000 die-hard lovers of Israel, he also criticised Israel’s “steady and systematic process of expanding settlements, legalising outposts, seizing land,” and chastised the lack of “political will… to move forward with serious negotiations”.

Despite the burnt fingers, Biden is still an unequivocal friend of Israel’s, telling Democratic rivals last year that conditioning US military aid to Israel would be “a gigantic mistake”.

On that principle, Trump does not appear agree, high ranking Jewish American soldier Lt Col Alexander Vindman testifying that Trump withheld weapons to Ukraine because he wanted Ukraine’s new president to investigate someone’s son. Three guesses whose son it was.

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