Alex Fishman
Alex Fishman
Photo: Ynet
U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office shortly after he was sworn in

Israel must kick its Trump-era habits

Analysis: Jerusalem must accept that the new occupant of the White House won't have long, unscheduled telephone calls with Netanyahu and the Mideast conflict will be delegated to lower-level officials until there is real need for Biden to intervene

Alex Fishman |
Published: 01.21.21 , 23:42
The Israeli political and security establishment on Wednesday began the painful detox and withdrawal process from four years of the Trump administration.
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  • Washington is reverting to working by the book. There will be no tricks and no shticks - that party is over.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    ג'ו ביידן נשיא ארה"ב החדר הסגלגל הבית הלבן
    ג'ו ביידן נשיא ארה"ב החדר הסגלגל הבית הלבן
    U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office shortly after he was sworn in
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The new president, a supporter of Israel such as he is, will not be available for long impromptu trans-Atlantic phone conversations with the occupants of the prime minister's residence, and both Jerusalem and Ramallah will be far down on his list of priorities.
    President Joe Biden will intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict only if it reaches a critical stage. And until that happens, lower level officials will be tasked with handling the matter.
    The resumption of an orderly mode of operation is not exclusive to the Oval. It is also the case in the National Security Council.
    Should Israel's National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat wish to discuss any pressing Mideast matter, he will find he cannot simply reach out to his new American counterpart Jake Sullivan, but he will be able to talk with a lower-ranking aide like Brett McGurk, the NSC coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    מאיר בן שבת ובנימין נתניהו
    מאיר בן שבת ובנימין נתניהו
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat
    (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
    Traditionally, the national security advisor prepares briefings and recommendations to be presented to the president. That was how the Obama White House operated too.
    But during the Trump administration, all existing procedures were thrown out of the window and policy was conducted by Twitter.
    Secretaries of state and defense made their decisions independently, causing cracks in messaging that Israel was quick to take advantage of.
    But Biden has handpicked a unified team with an agenda that aligns with his own. They all have extensive experience in diplomacy and security in the Middle East and are experts on Iran, the Gulf, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
    When discussions begin in the next few weeks between Israel and the U.S. on Iran and other important issues, the Israelis must come prepared.
    Biden's nominee for defense secretary, Gen. Lloyd Austin, also has hours of discussions with Arab leaders under his belt, and knows the region well.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    לויד אוסטין ביידן ארצות הברית שר ההגנה אמריקה
    לויד אוסטין ביידן ארצות הברית שר ההגנה אמריקה
    Gen. Lloyd Austin has deep knowledge of the Middle East
    (Photo: Getty Images)
    Israelis may find it helpful when trying to kick the Trump habits by sticking to relations with American officials who share the same rank.
    Personal ties can thrive over endless discussions and meetings as long as the military officials talk to the military, Foreign Ministry officials talk to the State Department and so on.
    It is these conversations that will ultimately set the tone of bilateral ties during the Biden administration.
    There will no doubt be disagreements, crises and hurt feelings compounded by some Israelis' feelings of abandonment following the arrival of the new leadership. But it is important to remember that the joint Israeli and U.S. military forums dictate policy more than the politicians when it comes to the Middle East.
    This relationship must be preserved no matter how great the temptation to derail it and any potential for successful cooperation with the Biden administration.
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