New foreign policy headache for Biden as Israel forms its most right-wing government ever

The Biden administration is trying to decide how to deal with a new Israeli government that will be the most right-wing in the country’s history and stand in the way of major US goals in the Middle East.

The new government will be led by Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, who was removed from office just a year ago and is on trial for corruption. To regain his footing, Netanyahu has forged an alliance with controversial political figures known for their extreme anti-Arab views that likely doomed any peace deal with the Palestinians.

Working with a Netanyahu-led government will pose serious problems for the Biden administration, which wants a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and greater recognition of Israel in the Arab world.

Republicans in the US, who are keen to present themselves as true friends of Israel, are sure to question any Biden administration criticism of the new government.

Netanyahu and the Republican Party have grown closer over the past decade, undermining decades of bipartisan support for Israel.

In 2015, Netanyahu, who was invited by Congressional Republicans to speak at a joint session of Congress, used speech criticize President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Former President Trump moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and acknowledged Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, delighting Netanyahu. Just this week Netanyahu made a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, a partisan detachment.

Netanyahu and President Biden have both said that US support for Israel must remain bipartisan.

However, Netanyahu’s new allies may make this task more difficult. Some U.S. officials have already privately said they will not meet with Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezazel Smotrich, two likely members of the Netanyahu government.

Ben-Gvir and Smotrich advocate the recognition of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, where most Palestinians live, and the eventual annexation of most or all of that territory. They oppose the creation of a separate Palestinian state. Netanyahu needs their support to secure a majority in the Israeli Knesset or parliament.. Their support could also help him pass legislation that would allow him to avoid a corruption trial.

The two men also called for much tougher crackdowns on Palestinian militants and their supporters, including strict curfews in Palestinian villages, mass deportations and targeted killings of terrorist suspects. They advocate making it easier for Israeli security forces to use live ammunition against stone-throwing Palestinians.

Ben-Gvir also expressed sympathy for the late ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose ideology the Anti-Defamation League described as reflecting “racism, violence and political extremism” and whose organization was until recently considered a terrorist group in the US. government.

For years, Ben Gvir had a poster of Baruch Goldsteinan Israeli-American terrorist and student of Kahane who killed 29 Muslim worshipers in Hebron in 1994 by hanging them in his home, according to Israeli media. In 2007 an Israeli court convict Ben Gvir about inciting racist violence and supporting a terrorist organization.

Ben-Gvir and Smotrich want to head the departments of public security and defense, respectively, whose portfolios have the closest contact with US officials. On Friday, Netanyahu’s Likud party and Ben Gvir’s Jewish Power party announced an agreement. Ben Gvir becomes security minister.

“This country is a democracy that has elected leadership, and I intend to work with them,” US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides said in an interview with Israeli media, quickly adding: “However, we must stand up for what we believe in, here what are American values. We have a very strong ally in the State of Israel, but there will be times when we will articulate where we think our differences lie.”

Nides and other US officials have said points of contention between the two countries include the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and the possible annexation of territory.

“The administration will have to decide what the real red lines are,” said Michael Koplow, a senior analyst with the Israel Policy Forum, an American pro-Israel organization that advocates a two-state solution. “This will test the US borders on all fronts.”

Negotiations to form a government are ongoing and could take days or even weeks. A fair amount of haggling is part of the process, so it remains unclear which politicians will take which posts. According to Israeli media reports, Netanyahu offered Smotrich a finance ministry instead of a defense ministry, but Smotrich has so far given no sign of backing down on his original demand.

“We give the Department of Defense almost $4 billion a year… and are we willing to put our money in the hands of these guys?” said Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel who now teaches at Princeton University. “I would say no.”

Netanyahu is reportedly considering Ron Dermer as his foreign minister. Dermer has been Israel’s ambassador to the US since 2013 and through the Trump administration, with whom he has been particularly friendly. He arranged for Netanyahu to speak to Congress in 2015. According to Kurtser, the appointment of Dermer will be “a poke in the eye” for Biden.

Republicans remain ready to criticize anything but the Biden administration’s unconditional support for Israel. Atti was demanded by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after the Israeli government said the US Department of Justice had launched an investigation into the May murder of Palestinian American journalist Shirin Abu-Akle near the West Bank city of Jenin. Gene. Merrick Garland and “everyone involved in this debacle” will be “fired or impeached.”

Numerous investigations by independent human rights and journalistic organizations have concluded that an Israeli soldier likely fired the shot that killed the veteran journalist. Israel eventually admitted that one of its soldiers was probably responsible. Nobody is punished.

If the new Israeli government decides to try to annex the West Bank, it would jeopardize the Abraham Accords, a deal brokered by the Trump administration that opened up business and some diplomatic ties between Israel and several Gulf states such as the United Arab Emirates. which had previously refused to acknowledge the existence of Israel.

The UAE’s entry into the agreement was based on Netanyahu’s previous premiership abandoning plans to annex West Bank territory.

“If they go too far, it will stop any movement forward” in regional relations, said Aaron David Miller, a former US envoy to the Middle East and now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Miller believes that Biden and Netanyahu will try to avoid open conflict in order to protect their domestic and global positions: “Biden wants to avoid a public fight with Netanyahu,” Miller said, while Netanyahu “craves the international stage and intends to flaunt it.” “.

Publicly, U.S. officials remain cautious, saying they want to see what kind of government Netanyahu will eventually form, reaffirming their “iron” commitment to Israel while emphasizing American “values” that include freedom and prosperity “in equal measure” for Israelis and Palestinians.

“The administration has the right to be concerned … and report it by telegraph,” the senator said. This was stated in an interview by a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chris Van Hollen (Democrat, Maryland). He is one of several Democratic lawmakers who strongly support Israel but express dismay over potential members of the new government. These include Sept. Bob Melendez of New Jersey, chairman of the committee, and member of the California House of Representatives. Brad Sherman (D-Northridge).

But Ben-Gvir further alienated Biden administration officials by winning an election at a memorial service for Kahane, who was assassinated more than 30 years ago.

“Celebrating the legacy of a terrorist organization is disgusting – there is no other word for it,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in remarkably blunt comments. “We remain concerned about the legacy of Kahane and the continued use of rhetoric by violent right-wing extremists,” he said.

Ben-Gvir reached an agreement with Netanyahu that would allow him to significantly expand the powers of the police and remove the officers from the control of other legal authorities.

The appointment of a man convicted on terrorism-related charges to head the Israeli National Police has alarmed many Israelis.

“This means the police will become politicized in favor of the far right,” the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz said in an editorial this week. “Those who should defend democracy have become soldiers in the service of politicians. This is what happens when those accused and convicted of crimes take control of the institutions responsible for maintaining law and order.”

The prospect of a Ben-Gvir-led police force also alarmed American supporters of Israel. Ben-Gvir “promised an unhindered crackdown on terrorism and an increased presence of police and border guards,” Yulia Shalomova of the American think tank Atlantic Council said in a recent webcast. According to her, his party “constantly fuels internal ethnic and social tensions.”

Netanyahu’s right-wing partners will also push for other laws that will affect more than just Palestinians and Arabs. They threatened to criminalize homosexuality and ban non-Orthodox Jews from obtaining Israeli citizenship. Many US-born Jews are members of more progressive branches of faith, such as Reform or Conservative Judaism, and may not be able to obtain Israeli citizenship under the proposed laws.