A Bad Bet..

Joe Biden and the Future of the Palestinian Cause

Joe Biden is a veteran democratic politician who managed to impose his existence on the American political scene since the seventies of the last century. His strong support to Israel along with his close relation with its figures was crystal clear since his very early days in the Senate. Biden occupied the position of the vice president during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017 during which he backed all the Obama’s decisions on the Palestinian Cause – decisions that seemed to be unbiased to Israel.

Biden now won the American elections since he got about 306 electoral votes, giving thereby a room for controversy and expectations on the future of the Middle East’s essential issues topped by the Palestinian Cause to occupy people’s minds.

So, will Biden adopt the same polices of the American ex-presidents, who all showed unconditional loyalty to Israel, regarding this very issue, or will he adopt policies that are actually able to stir up the stagnant water?

Joe Biden Administration’s View on the Palestinian Crisis

During his election campaign for presidency, Biden highlighted his future strategy towards the Palestinian Cause and the Palestinian-Israel conflict. Some aspects of this strategy were unveiled during the statements released by Biden himself along with the members of his election campaign and other Democratic Party figures, as follows: – 

1-Opposition to the “unilateral” annexation for parts of the West Bank

Joe Biden opposed the Israeli Prime Minister “Benjamin Netanyahu’s” decision on the unilateral annexation for parts of the West Bank, maintaining in more than one occasion that he would not allow this to happen in case he won the presidency election. Besides, he declared that he opposed building of settlements in the West Bank in light of the international consensus that the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian lands violate the international law. 

The annexation plan was temporarily suspended since the signing of the normalization agreement; a point considered by Biden as a good indicator on Netanyahu’s readiness to retreat his plans. However, convincing him of such retreat, from Biden’s viewpoint, will be via the diplomatic ways, not through practicing pressure or issuing a threat with suspending the American aids from Israel, as the leftist wing in the Democratic Party calls for.

Joe Biden, the American president-elect

2-The Two-State Solution 

“He firmly believes that the two-state solution is a necessity for ensuring the Jewish and democratic of Israel as well as the legitimate rights of the Palestinians”, Daniel B. Shapiro, the American ambassador to Israel under the Obama Administration. 

Biden was, still is, an ardent supporter to the two-state solution, viewing the Israeli settlements activities as the main obstacle that prevents it. Biden has been calling for the establishment of a Palestinian State that is able to live beside Israel and where the Palestinians would be able to rule themselves and decide on their future away from any unilateral works that might undermine their rights to independence. 

So, it is expected that Biden would urge the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to take serious steps towards the establishment of two states that are fully able to coexist with each other, with the aim of avoiding the unilateral annexation and the settlement activities as well as avoiding provocation and violence that shatter the hope of peace between the two sides, according to the website of his campaign. 

3-Resumption of Diplomatic Relations with the Palestinian Authority 

During his election campaign, Joe Biden pledges to resume diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority after the destructive severance of relation led by the outgoing administration when it cancelled the aid programs that used to support the Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation and the economic development along with the humanitarian aids of the Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza. 

Besides, Biden administration plans to reopen the American Consulate in the Eastern Jerusalem, since it has been serving the interests of the Palestinian community for long. The administration of the president-elect furthermore plans to allow the Palestine Liberation Organization to resume its work in Washington after it was shut down by Trump’s administration two years ago, making its mind to take serious and instant steps to resume the economic and humanitarian aids for the Palestinian people. 

On the other hand, Biden undertakes to convince the Palestinian Authority to abandon its policy of paying the salaries for people jailed on grounds of being part of the resistance, which points out that in case the diplomatic relations with the PA are resumed, the new US administration would resort to bargains and compromises that won’t be in favor of the Palestinian Cause in case the PA positively responds to them.

The President of the Palestinian Authority and Joe Biden

Future of the Deal of the Century in the post-Trump Era

With Trump’s loss, the main supporter and sponsor of the Deal of the Century and all Israel’s unilateral activities, there is a new chance to discuss the future of this Deal after the democratic candidate Joe Biden won the American elections. This discussion might adopt one of the two following scenarios: – 

First: Making Necessary Modifications to the Deal 

It is possible that Biden would not officially abandon the Deal of the Century, yet he might introduce some necessary modifications to it, like ignoring some of its items or even replacing them in light of his very vision. For example, he may ignore that very item on “allowing Israel to annex the settlement blocks”, or he may add other items to encourage economic development and international investment in the Palestinian lands. As such, he would be holding the stick in the middle, meaning that he would neither lose his relation with Israel nor abandon his own vision on settlement of the conflict. 

Second: Replacing the Deal with a New Peace Plan 

Under the international legitimacy laws, Biden may be forced not to apply the Deal of the Century or, in other words, to cancel it – a case under which he would be required to introduce an alternative solution for the crisis. 

So, Biden might search for another approach to put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – an approach he would take after reaching an agreement with the Netanyahu’s government to abandon the idea of annexing parts of the West Bank, hoping that this would help the two parties of the conflict to continue negotiations, with the aim of settling any unsolved issues. 

Biden may, therefore, introduce an alternative peace plan for settling the Palestinian Cause, with this plan to be based on the two-state solutions, which means that it would be different from the Deal of the Century.

What are the threats preventing the implementation of this vision?

There are some reasons that cast doubt on Biden’s seriousness on implementing his strategy to the Palestinian Cause, with the following as the most important of which all: – 

First: Biden’s Close Relations with Israel

“He has a deep feeling towards Israel”. Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassadors to the US during Obama’s Administration. 

A son to a Catholic parent who fervently supported the Jewish State, Joe Biden is one of the close friends and staunch supports of Israel. His relations with it even deepened when he visited it in 1973 only few months after he was elected a Senator for the first time. 

Biden was actually one of the supporters for the American aids for Israel. On that, he said in the Senate in June 1986, “Now is the time to stop offering apology for supporting Israel. This is actually the best investment we do. In case there was no Israel, the US would have to invent Israel to protect its interest in the region”.

A vice president of Obama, Biden pledged, within a speech delivered in 2015, that the US is committed to “a holy promise to protect the home of the Jewish people”.

Furthermore, Biden and Netanyahu have been close friends for more than 45 years, a matter that previously announced by Biden in a debate dated back to 2012 when he was faced with criticism on the way Obama’s administration deals with Israel at which he replied that he and Netanyahu have been friends for 39 years. 

During his 2020 election campaign, Biden was one of the democratic candidates who declared that he would not use the American aids to Israel as a means of pressure to make it offer concessions, whereas other democratic candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demanded the US to stop its military funding estimated by 3.8 US $ annually in case the Jewish state insisted on the annexation plans.

Joe Biden in a Meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister

Second: Pressure of the Jewish Lobby 

The Jewish communities existing within the US have the ability to modify the American polices in favor of Israel, since they have effective control on the American media, a matter that might create a pro-Israel’s political environment. 

In addition, these groups are able to affect the Congress, let alone the fact that they control the American think-tanks that greatly affect the process of decision-making by the Americans, a matter that might prevent the new American president from the ability to independently take decisions, especially when it comes to the Palestinian Cause and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

For example, as far as the decision on moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is concerned, it was the congress that enacted it, not Donald Trump, which means that Biden would be unable to retreat it upon assuming the office of the president. 

It is thus clear that keeping Israel safe and secure is a major priority for the Jewish lobby within the US, a matter that might prevent any forthcoming attempts in favor of the Palestinian Cause, regardless of the fact that Trump, more than any other American president, has shown more bias towards Israel as may be reflected in his controversial situations like confessing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and approving the Israeli control over the Syrian Golan Heights.  

Both Trump and Biden declared their commitment to the security of Israel more than one time. Besides, Biden would not be totally free to retreat all the decisions taken by the outgoing administration, especially in the existence of the pressure practiced by the Jewish lobby on all the decisions and resolutions relating to the Palestinian Cause, let alone the fact that he might earn the enmity of many extremist far-right parties in Israel, a matter that would not make him take the risk. 

Consequently, the American vision on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not expected to change totally, stressing that what is likely to happen is that change would be connected with the behavior and administration of the new president within the boundaries of the American vision on the crisis. 

In conclusion, while the Palestinians hope Joe Biden would win the election of the American presidency in light of his promises and announcements viewed by them as a glimpse of hope and an opportunity to come back to the table of negotiation, it is impossible that Biden’s policies would harm Israel, for the following reasons: – first: Biden does not have the authority to cancel the very main decisions taken by Trump, and second: he has close relations with the Israeli figures and he would not jeopardize these relations under any circumstance.

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Suhir Al-Sherbini

An Egyptian Researcher in Political Sciences

Participating

Ahmed Beca

Graf

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