OpinionMiddle East

Biden was right to buck J Street’s advice

The U.S.-Israel relationship is a force for good in the world.

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.
U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on July 14, 2022. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Jeff Mendelsohn
Jeff Mendelsohn

During U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Israel, he correctly reiterated that American support for Israel is not only in the national and strategic interests of the United States but also a moral calling, rebuking the egregiously out-of-touch recommendations that he received from J Street and the far-left. Instead of isolating and threatening our strategic ally—key pillars of J Street’s ideological agenda—he reinforced our inviolable bond with Israel and made commitments to further build and strengthen partnerships that will expand peace, security and economic opportunities.

On the eve of the president’s trip, J Street’s executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami penned an op-ed in The Washington Post urging Biden to confront Israel and “reset”—not strengthen or reinforce—U.S policy towards the Jewish state. Ben-Ami asked the president to scold and threaten Israel publicly for its policies towards the Palestinians in a misguided effort to force Israel to accept unrealistic policies that undermine its security.

Unsurprisingly, the J Street agenda was largely that of the Palestinian Authority. Ben-Ami encouraged the president to reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, a move strongly opposed by Israel. He also lobbied to declare the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City, Gaza and the Golan Heights, as “occupied territory”—a term used by anti-Israel activists and international organizations to delegitimize Israel.

Instead, Biden used his first visit to Israel as president to reassert and reinforce America’s close relationship with Israel. He and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed “the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration” that reaffirmed the close relationship between America and Israel, a common commitment to deny Iran nuclear weapons and mutual support for expanding the success of the Abraham Accords. If it were up to J Street, the U.S. administration would be forcing Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians (and indirectly, to the Iranians), rather than support Israel’s ability to defend itself against the constant threats and terror attacks lodged by regional adversaries that seek to destabilize the region and wipe the Jewish state off the map.

The United States also made clear its strong support for the Abraham Accords, much to the chagrin of J Street. In his op-ed addressed to Biden, Ben-Ami unconscionably minimized the value of the normalization agreement as a sellout of the previous administration to the cause of peace when, in fact, the accords have the potential to reset Arab relations with Israel in profoundly meaningful ways.

They Abraham Accords have already expanded trade and tourism between Israel and Arab countries, and provided Middle East countries the opportunity to work together against common threats, including environmental ones. As a result, Israel has become more integrated and secure in the region, which the president rightly noted is important to advancing peace.

The president hosted the I2U2 Summit that brought together Israel, India, the United Arab Emirates and the United States to promote prosperity through food security, clean energy, water development and health technology, among others, and announced that Israel will, for the first time, be allowed to fly commercial airliners over Saudi Arabian airspace.

The president also met with the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and announced renewed funding requested by the Palestinians (and supported by J Street) and made clear his support for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Unlike J Street, however, the president recognized that pushing now for a grand solution would be unwise and even dangerous. Biden was not prepared to repeat past mistakes that would only alienate Israel, embolden Palestinian recalcitrance and make peace less likely.

J Street’s anti-Israel and anti-peace ideological agenda has sewn destructive division within the United States and provided cover for some of the most vocal opponents of the Jewish state. J Street would rather isolate Israel diplomatically and hold it to a double standard than promote mutual cooperation and increased prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Fortunately, as the president’s recent trip to Israel demonstrated, J Street’s positions remain far out of the mainstream. Helping our allies build partnerships in the region—not imposing a Western solution to the conflict that neither party supports—will further expand peace and prosperity. That is what gives us all hope for a brighter future.

Jeff Mendelsohn is the executive director of Pro-Israel America.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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