Published August 26, 2021
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Biden were expected to have their first meeting together on Thursday that surely would have been portrayed as a harmonious discussion among firm allies. But the meeting — delayed because of blasts outside Kabul’s airport — would have betrayed reality. The U.S.-Israel relationship will likely sour under these two men.
Biden has been transparent about his desire to change course in the Middle East from the path that his predecessor followed. He has stated he wants to rejoin the nuclear agreement with Iran that President Barack Obama negotiated and President Donald Trump withdrew from. He is a firm advocate of the two-state solution to Israel’s dispute with the Palestinians. Biden has restored $235 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority that Trump withheld and is a known skeptic of Israeli settlement of the West Bank. The only way this president could be more different from Trump on Israel would be for Biden to renounce the U.S. alliance with the nation.
Bennett, on the other hand, is arguably the most right-wing prime minister Israel has ever had. He is the first religiously Orthodox person to hold the position. His Yamina party split with the conservative Likud, for which he and his deputy Ayelet Shaked served as high-ranking members, because it wanted to pursue policies to Likud’s right. Bennett and his party favor annexing the West Bank to Israel, oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and want to increase Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He has always opposed the Iran nuclear deal. Aside from platitudes about the enduring U.S.-Israeli friendship, it is hard to see what Bennett and Biden can possibly agree on.
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Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics.