Institute for Research:
Middle Eastern Policy

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Biden Could Reverse Six Harmful Israel Policies

...with the only power that stops Israel’s lobby - January 20, 2021

Public confrontations with the Israel lobby’s systemic encroachments are the only means for politicians to beat it. In 2020 Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum stopped a massive coordinated Israel lobby media smear campaign in its tracks by accurately labeling AIPAC as a “hate group.” Biden has the power to do the same, but unfortunately his entire career has been in servitude to injustice when it comes to Israel Palestine.

biden2The Biden administration assumes power claiming it will reverse Trump administration policies it claims are harmful to Americans and the rest of the world. Biden will end the so-called Muslim ban—Executive order 13769— on travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The US will rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change and cancel the Keystone XL pipeline. Biden will issue mask mandates, extend moratoriums on evictions and even rejoin the World Health Organization.

Absent from the announced Biden 100-day program are any proposed reversals of Israel policies implemented by the Trump administration that seriously harm the United States and rest of the world. Rolling back those policies would require bucking the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which closely coordinates its activities with the Israeli government. One way to corral AIPAC would be to actually enforce the 1962 Department of Justice order that AIPAC register as an Israeli foreign agent.

An easier and more proven tactic to disentangle the U.S. from harmful Israel lobby policies is going public with grievances. George H.W. Bush did it when fighting to withhold loan guarantees to Israel which was continuing to build settlements on Palestinian land. Barack Obama also did it in a speech when he laid out the facts. By opposing the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal, Israel and its lobby were essentially demanding that the U.S. go to war with Iran, claimed Obama. Americans overwhelmingly agreed with him. If Israel and its lobby decide to whip up another phony crisis, Biden could immediately take it to the court of public opinion rather than suffer in silence.

A long public and private battle against AIPAC—which has become increasingly belligerent over the decades—could create breathing room for pursuing productive, rather than exclusively Israeli, policies in the Middle East.


Israeli Knesset member briefs AIPAC’s Board of Directors on January 12, 2021, Source: Twitter

The Trump policies that Biden could immediately reverse include:

Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Images of Ivanka and Jared Kushner alongside the smug Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin celebrating the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem were juxtaposed against horrifying video of Israeli deadly force against Palestinian protesters. The move was a long-term coercive Israel lobby program that began with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, requiring administrations to jump through hoops to constantly justify why they refused to flout international law to bestow legitimacy to Israeli efforts to block Palestinian claims on the city. The Biden administration could reverse the move and—since former embassy properties were sold off to an Israel lobby donor to burn bridges—reestablish a modest and reduced embassy and residence in Tel Aviv commensurate with Israel’s marginal—if not entirely negative—strategic and economic value to the United States.

Extorting Arab countries to recognize Israel. The so-called “Abraham Accords” are a joint Israel/lobby program whereby the U.S. extorts Arab countries to recognize and give trade benefits to Israel in exchange for being removed from U.S. terrorist watch lists, taxpayer funded aid packages and relief from U.S. pressures. The program’s key goal is to undermine Arab solidarity with Palestinians so they can be further dispossessed and marginalized by Israel. Normalization—signed with autocrats who enjoy virtually no legitimacy within their countries—is wildly unpopular with the “Arab street” according to representative polling across the region. The accords only fortify regional beliefs that U.S. regional policy is unjust, the very beliefs that led directly to the 9/11 attacks.

US participation in Israeli “nuclear ambiguity.” Desmond Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate, former archbishop of Cape Town and, from 1996 to 2003, chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called on Biden to halt the most damaging Israel/lobby nuclear proliferation policy. On December 31, 2020 Tutu called on Biden to stop obscuring Israel’s nuclear weapons development program and deployed arsenal which allows “Israel to dictate terms to others.” The arsenal sustains Israeli apartheid against the Palestinians, charges Tutu, while making the country the unlawful recipient to U.S. foreign aid. The stance, which only benefits Israel, undermines U.S. moral authority on nuclear non-proliferation. Americans also generally support cutting all U.S. foreign aid to Israel when polled.

US recognition of Golan Heights as part of Israel. On March 25, 2019 Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation claiming that Syria’s Golan Heights is part of the state of Israel. Israel seized the territory after launching the 1967 Six-Day War and has been colonizing it ever since.  The diktat has no international legitimacy and was condemned by the UN, EU, UK and most major countries. Since the proclamation, Israel has accelerated encroachments on Golan’s remaining population in order to expropriate untapped energy resources.

Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Israel came close to annexing and receiving U.S. recognition of a similarly unlawful seizure of the West Bank. Israel instead acquiesced to the “Abraham Accords” while continuing de facto settlement, exploitation of resources and displacement of the indigenous population. Israel retains the option to formally annex in the near future. The Biden administration should return to the proper and traditional US posture of opposing illegal Israeli settler colonization of stolen land. Biden’s party supports cutting aid to Israel whenever it engages in illegal acts and a plurality of Americans do not support Israeli annexation.

Assassination of Foreign Leaders. “Since World War II Israel has assassinated more people than any other country in the Western world.” Though many Israeli assassinations have been well-documented, some are unattributed according to Ron Bergman, author of the presumptuously titled “Rise and Kill First.” US assassination of foreign leaders was banned after the 1975 Church Committee uncovered a raft of CIA plots to kill foreign leaders. Though continually challenged by subsequent administrations, in 2020 Donald Trump flouted the US assassination ban and brought the US down to Israel’s level by killing Israeli rival Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The U.S. should return to refusing to assassinate foreign leaders, no matter how great the Israeli/lobby pressure to do so.

Public confrontations with the Israel lobby’s systemic encroachments are the only means for politicians to beat it. In 2020 Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum stopped a massive coordinated Israel lobby media smear campaign in its tracks by accurately labeling AIPAC as a “hate group.” Biden has the power to do the same, but unfortunately his entire career has been in servitude to injustice when it comes to Israel Palestine.

Biden’s unconditional support for Israel has spanned his entire half-century career as a politician. He helped usher through the $38 billion unconditional Obama administration aid package while embracing Israel lobby tropes that Palestinians could not avail themselves of the International Court of Justice or other means because it would jeopardize the mythical “two-state solution.”

Most damning of all, Biden was a key supporter of the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq, an event that Israel and its US lobby strongly promoted. Senate hearings on the matter were stacked with warmongers and pseudo experts. No opponents were allowed to present facts.

Biden administration Middle East policy begins today with his chosen Secretary of State’s affirmation that the U.S. embassy will stay in Jerusalem. Americans should therefore remain deeply skeptical that much will improve in US Middle East policy under a president long beholden to a foreign power, its US lobby and unwilling to use the most effective tool at his disposal.

Grant F. Smith is the director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington and the author of the 2016 book Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby Moves America, available in paperback and audio book.


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