Angry that Israel’s free and fair election resulted in a victory for Benjamin Netanyahu rather than the Biden administration’s preferred candidate, Yair Lapid, the administration has adopted a policy towards Israel characterized by petulance, insults and slights. While this policy undermines both the U.S.-Israel relationship and America’s national security interests, it serves to advance President Joe Biden’s ambitions as he prepares to run for reelection in 2024 and stave off a primary challenge from the progressive left.
The toxicity of this approach is demonstrated by three notable examples: The recently announced FBI investigation into the death of Palestinian-American Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh; the keynote address delivered by Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the left-wing lobby J Street’s annual conference; and the Biden administration’s craven attempt to revive the disastrous 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Shireen Abu Akleh
On May 11, 2022, Abu Akleh was shot and killed during a firefight between Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank village of Jenin, a well-known hotbed of terrorism. After the incident, the Israeli government undertook an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding her death.
The results were shared with U.S. State Department officials, who issued the following statement on July 4, 2022: “After an extremely detailed forensic analysis, independent, third-party examiners, as part of a process overseen by the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), could not reach a definitive conclusion regarding the origin of the bullet that killed Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Ballistic experts determined the bullet was badly damaged, which prevented a clear conclusion.”
The statement added, “In addition to the forensic and ballistic analysis, the USSC was granted full access to both Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian Authority (PA) investigations over the last several weeks. By summarizing both investigations, the USSC concluded that gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. The USSC found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation against factions of Palestinian Islamic Jihad on May 11, 2022, in Jenin, which followed a series of terrorist attacks in Israel.” (Emphasis added.)
Shockingly, despite a thorough investigation to which the U.S. was given unfettered access and the USSC’s conclusion that the death was “the result of tragic circumstances,” the Department of Justice announced it was unleashing the FBI to conduct an investigation inside Israel. As everyone expected, both outgoing Prime Minister Lapid and the incoming Netanyahu announced they would not cooperate with the FBI’s investigation.
To understand how extraordinary the FBI investigation is, one need only know that journalists are being killed around the world at an alarming rate. The UNESCO Observatory of Killed Journalists reports that 1,572 were killed from 1993-2021. None were killed in Israel. In 2022, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that 18 journalists have died in the line of duty thus far. One was killed in Israel.
Why did the Department of Justice announce the FBI investigation notwithstanding the USSC’s conclusions, as well as the certainty that Israel would never agree to such a violation of its national sovereignty?
One need look no further than a speech given by far-left Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) following Abu Akleh’s death: “I think it’s really important for us to have eyes on what happened with Shireen Abu Akleh in Palestine, she was killed by Israeli forces—a venerated journalist, a US citizen. … We can’t allow this stuff to be happening with our resources. … Our tax dollars are a part of this. We can’t even get healthcare in the U.S., and we’re funding this. … There has to be some sort of line that we draw.”
Although the nexus between Abu Akleh’s death and America’s ability to provide affordable healthcare to Americans remains a mystery, AOC’s message was clear: Progressives are demanding that the Biden administration put distance between the United States and Israel. As part of his 2024 reelection strategy, Biden appears happy to oblige.
Biden’s calculated and cynical effort to put his political ambitions above America’s national security interests and the U.S.-Israel relationship led him to approve Antony Blinken’s high-profile appearance as the keynote speaker at J Street’s annual conference.
J Street is the progressives’ answer to the more centrist AIPAC. However, unlike AIPAC, whose primary mission is to advance America’s national security interests by embracing and strengthening the U.S.-Israel alliance, J Street’s Mission Statement makes clear that the creation of a Palestinian state is its raison d’etre: “J Street organizes pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy Americans to promote U.S. policies that embody our deeply held Jewish and democratic values and that help secure the State of Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. We believe that only a negotiated resolution agreed to by Israelis and Palestinians can meet the legitimate needs and national aspirations of both peoples.” (Emphasis added.)
In other words, until there is a Palestinian state, Israel’s right to exist as a “legitimate” homeland for the Jewish people remains an open question.
Aside from the delusion that J Street has any right or power to confer “legitimacy” on Israel’s right to exist, J Street is based on the fantasy that the Palestinians are actually interested in a two-state solution. But as we learned in 1948, 2000, 2005 and 2008—when the Jews said “yes” to a two-state solution and the Arab states, Yasser Arafat, Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas respectively said “no” and declared war on Israel instead—the Palestinians have no interest in a state of their own unless it includes the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. That goal aligns with the progressives’ vision of a “two-state solution”: A Palestinian state living next to a Palestinian-dominated Israel.
One need only look at the roster of J Street’s supporters and speakers to know that the Biden political machine is putting the president’s narrow personal agenda ahead of America’s national security interests.
J Street’s leading donor is progressive darling George Soros. No more need be said about that. As for speakers, Matt Duss—Bernie Sanders’ chief foreign policy advisor—is another headliner. In addition to questioning Israel’s right to exist, Duss believes that Israeli Jews are attempting to “replace” Palestinians in “Palestine.”
“In the Israeli-Palestinian contest, the great replacement theory is expressed as opposition to the Palestinian right of return, which treats Palestinians as a ‘demographic threat,’” he said.
However, the “right of return” as defined by the Palestinian leadership is not based on demographics, but on the idea that the Jews have usurped Palestinian land. Therefore, the Jews must “return” not just Jerusalem, but Haifa, Tel Aviv and Eilat as well. The “right of return” and Israel’s existence are simply incompatible.
It is a disgrace that our secretary of state is taking the stage with these enemies of the Jewish state. For Biden, however, it’s a convenient way to cozy up to his progressive base in anticipation of 2024.
The Iran Nuclear Deal
The Obama-inspired Iran nuclear deal remains the crown jewel in the effort to create daylight between the United States and Israel. There has never been an honest explanation of how America benefits from a deal that gives the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism a legal path to a nuclear weapon, a ballistic missile system to deliver it and billions of dollars in sanctions relief that will be used to fund its military, terrorist network and hegemonic goals in the region.
Yet this administration continues to beg the ayatollahs to reenter the deal no matter how weak and humiliated the president appears as a result. Desperate to shore up his progressive base, Biden likely believes it would damage him politically if he walked away from the deal, because it would give the appearance that he had given in to Israel and was cozying up to the evil Zionist entity—an outcome the progressives will not tolerate.
It seems more likely than ever that Joe Biden will run for reelection. As a result, look for the U.S.-Israel relationship to become more fraught as Biden tries to consolidate his progressive support. Netanyahu’s reelection is just a convenient excuse for the Biden campaign to champion the Palestinian cause at the expense of a coherent and sensible foreign policy that serves America’s interests.
Eric Levine is a founding member of the New York City law firm Eiseman Levine Lehrhaupt & Kakoyiannis P.C. He is an essayist, political commentator and Republican fundraiser with an emphasis on the United States Senate.