Biden wants Israel and Palestinians to behave

Opinion: With U.S. embroiled with more pressing domestic and foreign challenges, the White House is seeking to ensure regional stability in the Mideast, exemplified by its renewal of PA aid, which is in line with Israel's security concerns
Nimrod Novik, Gadi Shamni|
The recently announced renewal of U.S. aid to the Palestinians is neither concession nor tribute from President Joe Biden, or a capricious move to eradicate predecessor Donald Trump's policies.
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  • This decision was made out of three main considerations:
    1. The needs of the Palestinian population
    2. Obligations under U.S. law
    3. American desire for Middle East stability
    Whatever the cause, however, it is a major boon for Israel's security.
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    ארכיון 2010 ג'ו ביידן אז סגן נשיא ארה"ב עם אבו מאזן ב רמאללה
    ארכיון 2010 ג'ו ביידן אז סגן נשיא ארה"ב עם אבו מאזן ב רמאללה
    Then-U.S. vice president Joe Biden embracing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a visit to Ramallah in 2010
    (Photo: AP)
    The current needs of the Palestinians are obvious, given the health and economic crises wrought by coronavirus in a society where the average income is just 5% of that of the average Israeli household.
    With regards to American law, the aid is enshrined in Congressional legislation and the U.S. is a democratic nation with a law-abiding administration that honors the separation of powers.
    However, when it comes to the third consideration, some explanation is required.
    It is no secret that the issue of the Palestinians is currently not a top priority for the Biden administration.
    The White House is currently dealing with an array of domestic problems, including bringing the pandemic under control and working to resolve racial injustices, as well as handling international challenges presented by China, Iran, Russia and North Korea and fighting climate change.
    This is why the administration middle ranks who are overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian front are primarily tasked with ensuring that the region does not spiral out of control, forcing the president and his most senior defense officials to give it their valuable attention.
    Given this current state of affairs, Washington is focused on small and attainable goals in the Mideast, rather than envisioning any drastic policy changes. And the main goal is stability.
    In practice, this means preventing any flareups between Israel and the Palestinians in a region teeming with potential for escalation.
    The U.S. Embassy issued a statement urging both sides to remain calm as tensions roiled this week between Israeli security forces and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.
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    מהומות בירושלים
    מהומות בירושלים
    Israeli security forces disperse Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday night
    (Photo: AFP)
    Another issue is the potential degraded cooperation between the IDF and the Palestinian Authority security apparatus. There has not necessarily been complete disruption in communications among the upper ranks, but in the lower ranks of the PA there has been refusal to follow orders.
    Again and again, IDF, Shin Bet and COGAT officials have highlighted the massive contribution the Palestinian Authority's security forces have made to fighting terrorism.
    And yet Israel has not recognized the drop in motivation among uniformed Palestinians to obey instructions and thwart potential terror attacks.
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    Palestinian security soldier
    Palestinian security soldier
    A member of the Palestinian security forces
    (Photo: Archive)
    As hopes fall for a renewal of peace talks and Israeli officials continue to advocate for the annexation of West Bank territory, Palestinian security officials are confronted by their neighbors who accuse them of being collaborators and traitors to Palestinian national aspirations and of working to preserve the Israeli occupation.
    Despite these issues, Washington has no plans to make painful decisions that could lead to some sort of diplomatic breakthrough, but rather wants everyone to behave responsibly. It remains to be seen whether this position is good for Israel's security and hints at increased cooperation with whatever Israeli government is eventually formed.
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    לויד אוסטין ובני גנץ בביקור בבסיס נבטים
    לויד אוסטין ובני גנץ בביקור בבסיס נבטים
    Defense Minister Benny Gantz hosting his U.S. counterpart Lloyd Austin at an IAF base earlier this month
    (Photo: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)
    Considering the laundry list of potentially explosive issues, Israel must ensure stability in the West Bank while reinforcing the security cooperation with Ramallah.
    The pandemic has also proven the importance of a Palestinian Authority able to care for the needs of its millions of citizens and shown the inherent danger for both sides when its ability to function deteriorates and contacts between Ramallah and Jerusalem are severed.
    There is a real need for all three parties - the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Americans - to draft a blueprint for cooperation that takes into consideration respective political limits but does not risk regional stability or human lives.
    This blueprint must be based on preventing further conflicts in a reality where Israel controls huge chunks of the West Bank, allow for gradual separation measures based on security considerations, and preserve and improve the conditions for a future peace settlement.

    Maj. Gen. (ret.) Gadi Shamni served as head of the IDF Central Command, its attaché to the U.S. and as military advisor to former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert
    Dr. Nimrod Novik is a former policy advisor to Shimon Peres, a member of the Executive Committee at Commanders for Israel's Security and a fellow at the Israel Policy Forum
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