The famous quote attributed to Albert Einstein—that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity—might be relevant to the Biden administration’s reverting to Obama-era policies in relation to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Iran. But since there is no indication that it expects “different results” this time around, the question is: Why adopt failed policies with abysmal results at all?
The wide consensus surrounding the Abraham Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain—brokered by former President Donald Trump—is that the treaty is a major achievement where peace in the Middle East is concerned, particularly as Sudan and Morocco quickly followed suit, with reports that other Arab countries are on the verge of doing so, as well.
Despite claiming that it wishes to build on this success, the Biden administration decided to reverse Trump’s Mideast policies. Unsurprisingly, then, no additional Arab countries have normalized relations with Israel since Biden took office.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer publicly stated that it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address in 2015 to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, warning against signing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Tehran, which led to positive clandestine relations between Israel and several Arab countries.
Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018 and imposition of strict sanctions on the Iranian regime not only met with widespread support in Israel and the Arab world, but clearly paved the way for the Abraham Accords. His move came on the heels of Mossad’s seizure of 110,000 documents from a warehouse in Tehran proving that the regime never ceased its nuclear-weapons program in violation of the terms of the JCPOA.
And this was while the nuclear deal provided the regime with sanctions relief and more than $100 billion, which it used to increase its defense budget by 40 percent, expand its ballistic-missile program (not covered in the JCPOA) and widen its terrorism outreach through enhanced funding of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen.
Understanding that Iran was part of what former President George W. Bush once called the “axis of evil,” the Trump administration canceled U.S. participation in the JCPOA and slapped sanctions on the regime that led to its economy and funding of terrorist organizations contracting significantly. It’s not surprising, thus, that the missile and other attacks against Israel by the Iran-backed Hamas regime in Gaza, which had been rampant during the Obama administration, dissipated.
The Biden administration appointed Robert Malley to lead its negotiations with Iran. Malley has been explicit about his goal to get Iran and the U.S. back to the JCPOA, and for Washington to again provide Iran with sanctions relief. In February, the Biden administration rescinded the designation of the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist group. The escalation of the Houthis’ attacks on Saudi Arabia—from three in January to 25 in February and 70 in March—should therefore not come as a surprise.
With U.S.-Iran talks beginning in Vienna—and probable accompanying sanctions relief—Mideast and global terrorism can be expected to spike.
The same correlation between U.S. appeasement and terrorism can be seen where the Palestinian Authority is concerned, as well. During the Obama administration, the constant flow and increase of funding to Ramallah did not serve to bring peace any closer. On the contrary, P.A. behavior only worsened, with its “pay for slay” budget—incentivizing and rewarding terrorists and their families for murdering Jews and Americans—increasing to more than $150 million. Such a policy, enshrined by law, is not surprising, as P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, a Holocaust denier, financed the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympics.
The Taylor Force Act mandates that U.S. aid can no longer be used to fund the P.A.’s “pay for slay” program. But as soon as Biden was elected last November, his team announced the intention to renew funding (to the tune of $125 million) to the P.A., despite no change in Ramallah’s legislation and policy.
The P.A. received this significant gift after Abbas refused in February to take a phone call by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on the grounds that he would only accept “president to president” overtures.
In this context, it is worth remembering that the Obama administration ended its tenure with an abstention on the anti-Israel U.N. Resolution 2334, which referred to eastern Jerusalem as Palestinian territory. The resolution was followed by the speech by Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, who blamed Israel for his administration’s failures in the Middle East. Kerry is also infamous for claiming that Israel could never obtain separate peace agreements with Arab countries until matters were resolved with the Palestinians. It’s an assertion that the Abraham Accords showed to be fallacious.
The P.A. had previously egregiously violated the Oslo Accords by filing suits against Israel at the International Criminal Court. In September, the Trump administration sanctioned ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, head of its Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, for their “illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction.”
This week—two months after Bensouda ruled that the ICC has the jurisdiction to investigate Israel for alleged “war crimes” in Gaza—Biden lifted those sanctions. The ICC was established to try cases involving crimes against humanity (such as those committed by the Nazis in WWII). Today, it is being used against Israel, a democracy with an independent judiciary and not a party to the ICC—for its defensive actions against Palestinian terrorist attacks on its civilians.
If anything, the Biden administration’s decision to remove the sanctions on Bensouda and Mochochoko will only serve to embolden the ICC to continue its actions against Israel.
The renewal of Obama’s failed Mideast policies is already producing similar disastrous results. Sadly, the Biden administration appears determined to proceed, without even the expectation of achieving a different result. What would Einstein have to say about it?
Farley Weiss, former president of the National Council of Young Israel, is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy. The views expressed are the author’s, and not necessarily representative of NCYI.