It is understandable that President Joe Biden would want to hire people with government experience to help get his administration up and running. As many feared, however, he has decided to lean on former Obama officials who were involved in the failed policies of that administration. I suppose it was too much to expect that he would seek new blood with original ideas, but the rapidity with which his team has moved to repeat their past mistakes is alarming.
Candidate Biden said he would return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. He has put the same people who refuse to acknowledge the flaws in the loophole-filled agreement they negotiated in charge. Iran said it has no intention of renegotiating the deal to incorporate the elements Biden’s advisers gave up the first time (sponsorship of terror, ballistic-missile development and regional destabilization). Meanwhile, Iran has advanced its nuclear-weapons program to the point where U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken says they are “weeks away” from having sufficient fissile material to build a bomb despite the deal’s supporters insisting it cut off all avenues to a bomb.
Predictably, the State Department has trotted out the old formula about supporting a two-state solution, oblivious to changes in the political and demographic landscape. Recall that former President Barack Obama rejected former President George W. Bush’s letter to former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in which he acknowledged the need to take into account these changes. That was in 2004, when there were 246,000 settlers; today, that figure is more than 475,000.
Biden’s team plans to restore aid to the Palestinians. This is a return to the policy of rewarding them for their intransigence. The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with Israel’s prime minister since 2009, have not ceased incitement or terror, and have been manufacturing the usual lies and propaganda, such as the specious claim that Israel is denying them coronavirus vaccines. The return of Obama Arabists has also resurrected the policy of “evenhandedness” whereby our democratic ally Israel is treated the same, if not worse, than the anti-American autocratic Palestinian Authority.
The administration seems determined to ignore U.S. laws barring aid to the Palestinians. The Taylor Force Act, aimed at preventing American taxpayers from subsidizing terror, prohibits providing aid so long as the P.A. continues to pay salaries to terrorists in Israeli jails and the families of suicide bombers. A second law bars aid to the P.A. if Palestinians initiate or support an investigation of Israelis by the International Criminal Court, a step they took a few days ago.
It is also disturbing the administration is anxious to restore funding to UNRWA, the U.N. agency that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem and expects the United States to pay to support 5.7 million refugees, when the actual number that left in 1948 and is still alive is less than 40,000.
Ironically, just as Biden wants to restore funding to UNRWA, the European Union is raising questions about its taxpayers subsidizing the agency’s teaching materials that are filled with hate speech, anti-Semitism and the glorification of jihad.
The new/old advisers also are rushing back to the U.N. Human Rights Council, an organization composed of some of the world’s worst human-rights abusers, which spends most of its time investigating and condemning Israel. The argument that this will allow the United States to influence the HRC is belied by the fact that our previous membership during the Obama administration failed to reform the organization.
While it was reassuring that Biden said he plans to keep the U.S. embassy where it belongs in Jerusalem (and 97 senators voted to endorse that policy), it was alarming to hear Blinken dodge the question of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. This was another shocking example of being divorced from reality. He acknowledged the Golan is important to Israeli security as long as Syrian President Bashar Assad is in power in Syria and Iran has a foothold there, but he said, “Legal questions are something else. And over time, if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we’d look at.”
It is myopic for the administration to pursue the same old two-state ideas without recognizing that no Israeli government is going to evacuate tens of thousands of Jewish citizens from their homes. It is equally absurd to think that after 11 years of civil war on its border and the infiltration into Syria of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps troops, Hezbollah terrorists and jihadis, any Israeli government would consider any change in the status of the Golan.
The Blinken team may also undo former President Donald Trump’s breakthroughs in securing peace agreements between Israel and four Muslim nations. Biden immediately suspended the F-35 sale to the United Arab Emirates, which had been the price the U.S. paid (actually, they pay billions) to convince the emirates to sign the Abraham Accords. Rather than build on Trump’s success, Biden is sending the signal that once again America believes appeasing the unsatisfiable Palestinians is more important than promoting peace between Israel and the rest of the Arab/Muslim world.
It’s not clear how much of the foreign policy is being driven by the president—he is acting on some of his campaign promises—and how much is influenced by those around him. Many people are already criticizing some of Obama’s appointees as anti-Israel, and several have a history of hostility. The real problem, however, is that the retreads have terrible judgement, can’t admit they were ever wrong and continue to advocate discredited policies. It is a rather discouraging start for an administration that promised to “build back better.”
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”