Under US President Donald Trump, the United States openly adopted the positions of the far-right Wing Benjamin Netanyahu led government in Israel, implementing many decisions which came to the detriment of the Palestinian people and cause. But will Joe Biden be any different?
Before analysing what a potential Joe Biden policy platform would look like towards Palestine-Israel, we first have to look at what the Trump era changed and what work would have to be done in order to balance the current divide. The changes implemented under Trump would have to be undone, in order to place the United States back in a position in which it could become a more even broker for any “two-State” solution that the Democrats could hope to achieve.
The reason for this, is that to be an honest broker -especially in a situation where one side has all the upper hands and the other side nothing to offer – you have to be completely neutral. Joe Biden is on record as having said he is a Zionist, which already confirms his Israel partisanship when dealing with the issue.
For the sake of argument, let’s ignore Biden’s pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian human rights record and say he is willing to attempt to follow through with the proclaimed Democrat position of attempting to become an honest broker in order to achieve a two-State solution. In order to do as such, he would have to deliver on what are regarded as the final status issues, namely borders, settlements, Jerusalem and refugees.
Keep in mind here that under International Law, Israel’s West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements are illegal. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1980 was also illegal and Palestinians are legally entitled to a Capital in East Jerusalem. On top of this Israel would have to give back land stolen, or achieve fair and mutual land swaps, dismantling its illegally built separation wall and in accordance with UN resolution 194, demand the right of return for Palestinian refugees, or as was stated within subsequent resolutions demanding a fair solution, provide for a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
What Biden Would Have To Undo
The Trump administration infamously recognised Jerusalem as being the “undivided capital of Israel”, in December of 2017, announcing that the US embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which occurred in May of 2018. On that day, over 60 Palestinian unarmed protesters were murdered in Gaza and roughly 2,500 injured. If Joe Biden is to be an honest broker for any future peace deal, he would have to reverse the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However Joe Biden has stated on record that he is not willing to do this, saying that it shouldn’t have been moved, “but now that is done, I would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv.”. The issue of Jerusalem, being a final status issue, cannot be ignored by the US and there is no possibility of any “peace deal” if the US will not allow for a Palestinian Capital in East Jerusalem. According to Biden’s statements on the matter, so far, he has no chance of achieving any peace deal.
The next is the issue of illegal settlement expansion by the Israeli regime, which for 2020 alone has surpassed 12,150 settler units having been authorised and constructed. In East Jerusalem and the West Bank, it is estimated that approximately 750,000 illegal settlers live on Palestinian land. The standard democrat position is that they oppose settlement expansion, yet they have never taken any measures, beyond soft criticism, to actually halt settlement expansion. In the case of a Joe Biden administration, little has been stated as to specify how he would manage the issue. Perhaps the best example we can use to estimate his positions, is the policy followed under Barack Obama, who supported Israel despite all of Netanyahu’s provocations and only as he was nearing the end of his second term in office did he abstain from a UN vote condemning settlement expansion and demanding a freeze. As for ordering Israel to abandon the settlements, he is extremely unlikely to do something like conditioning aid based upon this demand.
Then we have the issue of the US’s defunding of UNRWA, the UN agency set up to take care of Palestinian refugees. The Trump administration has attempted to deligitimise the status of Palestinian refugees, as even being refugees. The Trump White House hoped to completely take away the rights of Palestinian refugees and wanted to kill the issue as a final status issue. It is possible that Biden may choose to send funds to UNRWA again, but this is simply speculation. If Biden doesn’t at least begin funding UNRWA again, it is nearly impossible for him to even speak of helping create a just solution for the Palestinian refugee issue.
On top of this, the diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority have deteriorated dramatically under Trump’s regime. Trump went as far as kicking the Palestinian mission out of its office in Washington D.C. and after several attacks on the PA, the PA hit back by stating that it had abandoned the Oslo Accords. However, the PA has been extremely weak and is now stating that it will work with Biden with no conditions and that it will begin security coordination again with Israel, following confirmation of a Biden win. So on this issue, it seems that the PA are willing and ready to take American money again in order to sit around in their offices and talk about a non-existent peace deal. This here however, is not the result of a Biden initiative, but rather the PA’s lust for money and their lack of care for the cause they allegedly represent.
Under Trump, the US also signed a deal to work with Israel on scientific and other initiatives in the West Bank, defacto recognising Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank. Donald Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, also stated on record that the US no longer recognises the West Bank as occupied territory. In order to open up dialogue on a two-State solution, the United States would of course have to undo its recent deal with Israel and re-affirm its stance that Israel is occupying the West Bank. Although, again, on this issue we have no clear indication Biden will even do this.
Biden would also have to reverse US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights too and would have to seek out the Arab Regimes such as the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, in an attempt to revive the Arab Peace initiative. The reason Biden would have to do this, is because one of the biggest bargaining chips that the Palestinian Authority have, is Arab normalisation in return for a Palestinian State and peace. Yet, it is highly unlikely that Joe Biden is going to do this.
Ultimately, Joe Biden has a long track record of defending Israeli massacres inflicted upon the civilian population of Gaza and has been in the favour of the AIPAC and supporting Israeli Lobby Groups for the bulk of his career. Joe Biden’s single biggest campaign financier is Haim Saban, an Israeli partisan “one issue guy”, to quote from Saban himself.
Ultimately, the only way Joe Biden is going to deliver any peace for Palestinians, is if he, in his declining mental state, wakes up one day and believes he’s the former President of Egypt, Gamal Abdul Nasser. However, as this is unlikely, it seems that he will be pro-Israel to the core, but unlike Trump, will be more subtle about his contempt for the idea of Palestinians having Human Rights.