Loving, but realistic: Biden's criticism should resonate in Israel

Commentary: The harsh statements of the US president, an ardent supporter of Israel for many years, is a clear message to Netanyahu against the real 'landlords' in his government. The timing is no accident

US President Joe Biden's CNN interview, in which he sharply attacked the ministers in the "most extreme government" in his memory, indicates that the problem is very deep –because Biden has been our friend for many years. And as a true friend, his diagnosis is that the current government is causing disaster for the State of Israel.
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The problem goes beyond relations between the countries; In fact, it touches on the question of whether Israel continues to be a strategic asset for the U.S. In addition, Biden is trying to exert internal pressure on Israel, and in fact "supports" the demonstrations on the eve of the law to repeal the reasonableness standard clause.
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נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן
נשיא ארה"ב ג'ו ביידן
U.S. President Joe Biden has been a friend of Israel for many years
(Photo: Reuters)
The timing is not accidental. Biden is sending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a very clear message: if you don't keep the extremists in your government at bay or control your policies, you can forget about an invitation to the White House - and also about normalization with Saudi Arabia and the expansion of the Abraham Accords.
The condition of the Americans for the expansion of normalization is that the Palestinians should also enjoy the benefits, but in the current security situation it is difficult to see how this will happen. Netanyahu understands the situation, and in recent weeks has been promoting steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, including Israeli consent to gas exploration off the coast of Gaza and a series of economic concessions in the West Bank.
Netanyahu thought this would calm the Americans, but after they heard the cold reactions of the real landlords in the government – Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who oppose the relief measures – they doubt if Netanyahu can even get them approved. And so, in the Cabinet certain concessions were approved for the PA – but a very essential part of them was blocked by the ministers.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who is considered an ally of the US administration, is not strong enough to get the measures past the Smotrich/Ben-Gvir axis. Biden is talking about the settlements because it is easier for him, since they are contrary to international law. But, he is actually signaling that the US prefers that the Netanyahu government in its current composition does not exist at all.
Biden is not against the State of Israel. On the contrary: he is against the extremist government that in his view controls it
In the current state of affairs, Netanyahu will not receive a meeting at the White House even in September, when he is expected to give a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. If anyone was looking for another indication of how discouraged and disappointed Biden is with Netanyahu, he could have gotten it by noting that he actually invited President Isaac Herzog. The goal, it seems, is to differentiate between the two – and to make it clear to the Israeli public that Biden is not against the State of Israel. On the contrary: he is against the extremist government that in his view controls it.
Biden emphasized that normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia may take a long time.
"We are very far from there, we have a lot to talk about," he noted in the interview. "We are making progress in this area. It depends on the conduct, and what will be required of us for them to recognize Israel." Among other things, he referred in his words to the ministers from the religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parites - and said that "ministers who say 'we can settle wherever we want' are part of the problem."
A senior American said today that "Biden was asked his opinion on the situation, and it is clear that he is also following with concern what happened in Jenin. He loves Israel but is concerned about what is happening and expects Netanyahu to take control of the extremists in his government." The official noted that "if the interviewer had asked about the protest, I assume the president would have addressed it – and expressed his opinion that a broad consensus should be reached."
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