Israel’s special relationship with the US is a cornerstone in Israel’s foreign policy and national security. In recent years, alongside Prime Minister Netanyahu’s close bond with outgoing President Trump, many challenges and residues have accumulated undermining the bipartisan consensus in American support of Israel. The advent of a new administration in Washington provides an opportunity for Israel to change course, but for that to happen, Israel needs to first and foremost strengthen its obligation to liberal-democratic values and the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Strengthening Israel’s Obligation to Liberal Democratic Values
Over the years, there has been much discussion about the common democratic principles that underlie the special alliance between the US and Israel, and leaders on both sides emphasized those values in almost every visit and meeting. However, in recent years, the Israeli leadership acted in a way that undermines Israel’s obligation to liberal democratic values and subsequently, drew increasing criticism from a wide variety of publics in the US. Among them are old friends of Israel that traditionally refrained from condemning Israel’s behavior.
Israel’s annexation plan, its policy in the West Bank, the treatment of migrant workers, political alliances that Netanyahu forged with racist parties, his delegitimization of political rivals, of the judiciary and more, have all changed the perception of Israel in the US. Alienating noteworthy publics such as the American Jewish community, the Democratic Party, young people and minorities, who once considered Israel’s aspiration to belong to the world’s liberal democratic countries as a source of pride. The Biden administration will reset America’s moral compass after Trump’s four years in office and it is, therefore, important that the new administration will consider Israel as a partner, adhering to the same values and not as a nation drifting towards the paths of populist and illiberal rulers.
Promoting the Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Above all, Israel needs to advance peace with the Palestinians because it is necessary and important for its own sake. Beyond the benefits at home, the adoption of a pro-peace foreign policy by the Israeli government will reap many fruits on the international stage, including the relationship with the US.
Even if the Palestinian issue will not stand on top of Biden’s foreign policy priority list, it will still be one of the important topics where Biden is expected to take a different approach from his predecessor. Biden is expected to restore Washington’s traditional position in support of the two-state solution, revive the relationship with the Palestinian leadership damaged during the Trump administration, and supplement its renewed commitment to the peace process with concrete measures. While Biden’s policy will not substantially differ from Trump’s predecessors in the oval office, the main difference will happen in Congress and in the US public, where vast liberal and progressive circles whose influence is growing, are increasingly critical of Israel’s policy in the West Bank and vocal in their demands for Palestinian self-determination and equal rights.
Repositioning Israel as a pro-peace country, striving for the two-state solution, seeking to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the Palestinian leadership and willing to accept territorial compromises, while safeguarding its security interests, will not only facilitate to promote peace, but will also strengthen Israel’s relations with American politicians and various publics.
** A short version of the article was published on The Jewish News, 18 January 2021