What will Biden’s policy be on Israel and Saudi Arabia?

Anne Gearan has an article in today’s Washington Post about Joe Biden and his likely approach to Israel and Saudi Arabia. I classify it as mostly good news, if true.

I’m thinking, for example, of this passage:

Biden has welcomed diplomatic deals among Israel and three Arab neighbors that Trump helped midwife and that are bitterly opposed by the Palestinian Authority. Biden also has said he will not revisit the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

I’m not sure Biden has much choice in these matters, but I’m also not sure that a Barack Obama wouldn’t try to undercut the deals and/or made Israel pay a price for our moving of the embassy.

There is also this:

[Biden] appears unlikely to revoke U.S. backing for Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, which like the embassy move was a political gift requested by Netanyahu and granted by Trump.

The Golan Heights tower over Northern Israel. With all of the chaos in Syria, including an Iranian military presence, it would be insane for the U.S. to oppose the annexation. But that doesn’t mean an Obama wouldn’t do it.

I was also glad to read this:

Biden is unlikely to offer his own peace plan anytime soon, said people who have advised his campaign or discussed foreign policy priorities with him over the past several months.

Why the U.S. should waste its time offering peace plans is beyond me. Even Trump got bogged down a little in this, thanks to his son-in-law.

Once, the conventional wisdom (which we at Power Line always disputed) was that a settlement of Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians was the key to good U.S. relations with the Middle East. But now the U.S. has good relations with most of the region without any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Our relations with Iran are poor, of course. But no intelligent person thinks this has anything much to do with the Palestinians, and even Biden now may share this understanding.

Speaking of Iran, this passage from Gearan contains good and bad news:

One person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations noted that Biden is more interested in pacifying Iran and thinks the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has skewed the U.S. approach to the region.

If true, it’s good that Biden recognizes the outsized role the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has played in U.S. Middle East policy. Trying to settle that conflict is a fool’s errand on a matter well outside our national interest.

On the other hand, if Biden wants to “pacify” Iran, that’s disturbing. Iran cannot be pacified.

Gearan has some cautionary news for those who hope to see the Iran nuclear deal revived:

In the case of the international nuclear deal with Iran, the most notable instance in which Biden has said he would reverse Trump, the ground has shifted profoundly. Biden cannot simply rejoin the deal that Trump left and that Iran has now abrogated.

Much of his Middle East policy will revolve around trying to rehabilitate and eventually replace the deal, although there is little indication now that Iran would go along or that Israeli opposition to such diplomacy could be overcome.

(Emphasis added)

For Iran to enter a new deal with Biden would require “pacification” to a degree that could only be obtained on terms massively favorable to the mullahs. No treaty offering such terms could be ratified by the Senate, which means that the new deal could be abrogated in less than four years. Thus, the concessions bribes would have to be all the more enticing.

It’s not clear that even Biden and his team would make concessions of that magnitude to Iran.

The Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia is skewed wildly (if understandably) by the Saudis’ killing of the paper’s columnist. Clearly, the Post hopes for a reversal of our friendly relations with the Kingdom.

Gearan notes that Biden and Antony Blanken have talked a good game on confronting the Saudis on human rights issues, for example. She expresses no opinion on whether this amounts to anything much more than talk. It likely would under an Obama, but I question whether it will under Biden.

Gearan ends on this note:

[S]ome of Biden’s advisers want him to pay less attention to the Middle East overall and more attention to Asia. The Obama administration tried something similar, only to see its “pivot to Asia” largely fizzle out.

Obama’s pivot fizzled out not because it was wrong to focus on Asia, but because the policies associated with the move weren’t serious enough about China. Unfortunately, a Biden pivot would likely be just as unserious.

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