By Jack Rosen, President of the American Jewish Congress
Originally published in Times of Israel.
After the close relationship between President Trump and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, many expected the US-Israel relationship to falter. Ruth Margalit, a writer with the New Yorker, wrote in January 2021 that “American support (for Israel) now relies on an unlikely alliance of Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians… Biden may be understandably wary of meaningful gestures.” However, as new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, the bilateral relationship with the United States is at once very different from the past, but fundamentally stronger for the future.
For one, public support for Israel remains very high. A recent Gallup poll found 75% of respondents viewed Israel favorably, compared to 74% in 2020, 69% in 2019, and 75% in 2018. And at the policy level, the two nations remain aligned: defense of democracy and resistance to the threat from Iran are just two areas of strategic overlap.
Importantly, President Biden and Prime Minister Bennett are committed to building upon the Abraham Accords that truly changed the dynamics of the possibilities for peace in the region. Bennett has not only solidified the diplomatic momentum between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain, and Sudan, but he has also reinvigorated Israel’s relations with its two original peace partners, Egypt and Jordan. In these efforts, he has found a strong ally in President Biden, who is fully backing all of these deals – something that was initially uncertain amongst Democrats because President Trump achieved them.
At the same time, the new Israeli government recognized from the beginning of its term the need to maintain bipartisan American support for Israel as a strategic imperative. As a result, on day one of his premiership, Bennett and his team made it clear that they would seek to maintain the historic bipartisan balance that Israel has enjoyed for decades. Any questions about the future of the relationship were answered with the warm Oval Office meeting between Bennett with President Biden just last month.
There is ample evidence of the strengthening of the foundations of the relationship, including Biden’s support for Israel’s right to self-defense during the recent outburst of Palestinian violence from Gaza. More fundamentally, Bennett has assembled a governing coalition that spans the gamut of Israeli politics, and this has meant compromise and accommodation at home and abroad. He is investing in Israel’s Arab communities, reengaging with the Palestinian Authority, and promising not to make unilateral moves that could turn the situation into a hot conflict. Bennett understands that the Palestinians need economic support and a healthier way of life and has publicly committed himself to achieve that goal. These moves have not harmed him at home politically, as he is on his way to passing a national budget for the first time in Israel in several years. Israel is finally enjoying domestic political stability while reengaging the Palestinians.
There is also a major concrete benefit of this renewed and budding American-Israeli relationship: how to deal with the challenge coming from Iran. Under Biden, the US is fully engaged in confronting the Iranian threat, conducting hard diplomacy alongside our allies to achieve an effective nuclear deal, and in advancing the mutual security goals of both us and our regional allies. The outcome is far from certain, and American-Israeli cooperation has been robust. Notably, this cooperation has been both active and behind the scenes. Bennett has made it clear that a public breach with the US over Iran is neither in Israel nor America’s interest – a sentiment welcomed both by Joe Biden and pro-Israel Americans from both parties.
In their August meeting, Biden pledged unshakable support for Israel, including a tightened front against Iran, additional budget support for Israel’s Iron Dome infrastructure, and strong opposition to Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel. Biden will need bipartisan Congressional support for each of these, and he is now able to get it, demonstrating the true breadth of support for Israel across America under his leadership.
When Naftali Bennett speaks at the UN, there’s one thing he can be assured of – that Israel’s relationship with America has never been stronger.