The Biden administration tried to sabotage an Israeli-Arab summit by raising the Palestinian issue. It shouldn’t use terrorism as an excuse to resurrect the failed policies of the past.
By: Jonathan S. Tobin
After a week of terror attacks that took the lives of 11 people, Israelis are wondering whether they are on the brink of a third intifada. The Jewish state’s security forces are redoubling their efforts to try to anticipate or prevent further such atrocities. But the Israeli government needs to worry about more than just whether these seemingly random accounts will lead to more violence from Hamas or elements linked to the Palestinian Authority. It also has to be concerned about whether its sole superpower ally and other Western countries will use these tragedies as an excuse to revive failed policies of the past, whose goal is to pressure Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians.
Throughout much of the last 30 years, that was the pattern of events. But instead of taking an honest look at Palestinian political culture, which not only lauds terrorism but views violence as a legitimate and necessary expression of national identity, the West consistently treated acts of murder as a cry for help from the disadvantaged.
Such thinking was the product of a fundamental mistake about the nature of the conflict. Rather than Palestinian violence being caused by alleged Israeli oppression or the lack of progress towards peace, it was instead an expression of a long-held belief in the illegitimacy of a Jewish state and the need for action to eliminate it.
Given repeated Palestinian Arab refusals of offers of compromise on even the most advantageous terms dating back to the pre-state era, that much should have been obvious. The support for terror even on the part of so-called Palestinian moderates, who have continued to subsidize and applaud acts of terror against Jews, had to be ignored. The foolishness of a policy that responded to terror waves with diplomatic pressure on Israel essentially rewarded Palestinians for violence.
So if the events of the last week are the harbinger of more attacks inside Israel, the question is whether President Joe Biden’s foreign-policy team will respond to them by doing the same thing every past administration—with the sole exception being the government led by former President Donald Trump—did whenever terror attacks surged and announce a renewed emphasis on reviving peace negotiations.
If they do, they should not expect the results to be any different from what happened in the past. Instead of, as they claim, undermining the rationale for terror against Israel, it will send a message to the Palestinians that violence is the way to garner more support for their futile century-old war on Zionism and the Jewish presence in the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
That support for this delusion is still present in the Biden administration’s thinking was apparent earlier this week at the summit meeting in the Negev Desert held between Israel and four Arab states, at which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was not so much a participant but a saboteur.
While Israel and its Arab partners were focused on Iran at the meeting held in Sde Boker, Blinken had a different agenda. Unlike the representatives of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt, Blinken was not there to present a united front of opposition to Tehran and its bid for both regional hegemony and a nuclear weapon.
He may have paid lip service to that position with disingenuous assurances about an American commitment to opposing Iran’s terrorism and its nuclear goals, as well as to the idea of normalization with Israel. But his presence was more of a reminder that the Biden administration views the Abraham Accords as an impediment to its goals rather than one of American diplomacy’s greatest triumphs.
As Blinken made clear in his remarks in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Washington remains wedded to the assumption that peace in the region hinges on empowering the Palestinians. By downplaying America’s impending appeasement of Iran and trying to shift the conversation back onto criticism of Israeli policies, Blinken was out of tune with the priorities of the other summit attendees and the reality of the region.
The assumption since Biden took office has been that he and Blinken were not going to be tempted to devote any real effort to reviving the long moribund peace process with the Palestinians. Biden’s foreign-policy team is almost entirely made up of Obama administration veterans. Some of them, including Biden and Blinken, harbor some sympathy for Israel, though that is conditioned on the Jewish state doing their bidding and weakening itself with territorial surrenders and a willingness to countenance U.S. appeasement of Iran. Yet the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council are also full of people whose hostility to Israel is far from a secret.
They are also aware that the chances of getting the Palestinian Authority to seriously negotiate for a two-state solution or anything that resembles actual peace are negligible.
Though former President Barack Obama devoted a considerable amount of time, effort and political capital to pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians, the latter never reciprocated. In fact, they torpedoed Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2014 full-scale effort to bludgeon Israel by slighting the Americans and taking their case to the United Nations, where there was no danger of them being asked to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn.
Just as important, they are currently preoccupied with their largely ineffectual efforts to respond to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. That hasn’t prevented them from pushing ahead with a new Iran deal with the help of the same Russian regime that they are otherwise trying to isolate.
Still, if faced with another wave of Palestinian violence or a full-blown intifada if Hamas and the P.A. feel it’s in their interests in joining the violence, the temptation for the U.S. foreign establishment may be too much to resist. As Blinken’s comments at the summit indicated, they still don’t understand that the Abraham Accords and the normalization of relations between Israel and much of the Arab world aren’t just about a common fear of an Iran that is being enriched and empowered by a calamitous American commitment to appeasement of Tehran. It also reflects the Arabs’ understanding that the Palestinians have no interest in peace, in addition to their unwillingness to have their security and economic interests to be held hostage to their sickening fantasies about a world without Israel.
Sadly, a growing portion of the Democratic Party base is also buying into some of those same fantasies because of the power of intersectional myths and critical race theory ideology that falsely depicts Israel as an expression of “white privilege.” Thus, there will be support for a turn against the Jewish state from much of Biden’s political base—something that will be reinforced by the messages he gets from left-wing Jewish groups like J Street, as well as openly anti-Zionist ones like Jewish Voices for Peace and IfNotNow, which themselves traffic in anti-Semitic attacks on Israel.
The message the United States ought to send to the Palestinians now is a stern warning that rather than generating support for pressure on Israel, terrorism will only further isolate them. Those who remain fixated on a two-state solution, which the Palestinians have been ignoring these last 30 years of Palestinian refusals of peace offers, are closing their eyes to what happened every time—violence against Israel was rewarded with diplomatic support rather than punished. Biden and Blinken need to understand that the price for such a policy will be paid in more spilled blood inside Israel.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him on Twitter at: @Jonathans_tobin.