OpinionMiddle East

Why should Biden bother visiting the Mideast?

He should not come without a concrete agenda for confronting Iran.

U.S. President Joe Biden on June 4, 2021. Source: POTUS/Facebook.
U.S. President Joe Biden on June 4, 2021. Source: POTUS/Facebook.
David M. Weinberg (Twitter)
David M. Weinberg
David M. Weinberg is senior fellow at the Misgav Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy, in Jerusalem. His personal website is davidmweinberg.com.

Why should U.S. President Joe Biden bother traveling to the Middle East? Does he have a credible vision to share for tackling the real problems of this region?

Of course, Biden should be welcomed in Israel no matter what, since he is a friend, and the US is Israel’s greatest ally and most important strategic partner. But without a worthwhile agenda for a visit, Biden could end up doing more harm than good.

If he is coming to convince Israelis, Saudis and other parties of the wisdom of his effort to renew the 2015 JCPOA nuclear accord with Iran, forget it. Don’t bother trying.

If Biden is coming to preen about the “diplomatic pressure” he is applying against Iran, such as last week’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) censure of Iran for nuclear violations, skip it. Nobody takes this seriously, least of all the Iranians.

If the president is coming to broker a sulhah (“reconciliation”) between the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood-supporting country of Qatar (to which Biden recently extended non-NATO major ally status), back off. It’s better for him to stay in Washington to fight global warming.

If Biden is coming to lecture Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman or Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi about human rights, drop it. Best to do this from far-away and removed-from-reality Washington.

If the president is coming to insist that Saudi Arabia back away from its war against the Iran-backed rebel Houthi forces in Yemen, call off the visit. Does Biden have a better way to prevent Iran’s takeover of the Bab el-Mandeb straits, which are the strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea?

If Biden is coming to praise Palestinian Authority leader-for-life Mahmoud Abbas for his “commitment to peace,” stuff it. I don’t know how any global leader can stand beside Abbas and praise him while Abbas continues to glorify and pay for terrorism against Israel, reject normalization with Israel, launch criminal suits against Israel in global fora and support sustained violence in Jerusalem.

If Biden is coming to lavish more U.S. aid on the thoroughly corrupt P.A., for whatever humanitarian or political reasons (you know the arguments: good Palestinians need not suffer and Abbas is less bad than his successors would be), best to do this unceremoniously and quietly from distant Washington.

If he is coming to appoint a special presidential envoy to coddle the Palestinians, or worse yet, to brazenly reopen a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem tasked with forging diplomatic ties with the P.A., in defiance of Israel and thus undermining Israel’s sovereignty in united Jerusalem, no thanks. “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control,” as the eternal lyrics of Pink Floyd put it.

If Biden is coming to criticize and slow Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria and greater Jerusalem, pull back. Construction in Beitar Illit, Beit El and E-1 is not an obstacle to peace. Better that Biden rail against the P.A.’s dash to gobble up vast tracts of Area C in the West Bank through illegal building and hundreds of Bedouin encampments, supported by the European Union and American anti-Israel NGOs.

If Biden is coming to attempt to impose new arrangements on the Temple Mount that roll back the minimal security control and national-religious rights that Israel currently maintains—and shift control to Jordan or any other Muslim group—scratch it. Israel ought to torpedo such an initiative even before Air Force One revs up its engines at Andrews Air Force base outside of D.C.

If the president is coming to handcuff the IDF and the Mossad in their current or future operations against Iranian militia, military and nuclear targets in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, his trip will be a washout. Again, nobody here will accept limits on Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself, as it deems necessary.

Unless the Biden administration is prepared to give tangible substance to its vow to confront Iran’s malign activities in the region, including operational planning for crushing strikes on the Islamic republic’s nuclear facilities and other tough measures to contain Iran, Biden should do himself (and Israel) a favor and really, really stay home.

David M. Weinberg is a senior fellow at the Kohelet Forum and Habithonistim: Israel’s Defense and Security Forum. His diplomatic, defense, political and Jewish world columns over the past 25 years are archived at: www.davidmweinberg.com.

This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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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