When it comes to the relationship between Israel and Washington, everything changes. And nothing changes at all.
A political bomb has hit Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule is set to end with the likely and imminent swearing-in of an ideologically broad but numerically narrow government.
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Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid as coalition chairs are on hold
Instinctively, the end of Netanyahu’s exclusive right-wing rule would be cause for increasing celebration of the progressive, anti-Israel wing of the US Democratic Party.
Netanyahu’s public defiance of former Democratic President Barack Obama and his tight embrace of his Republican successor Donald Trump have made him anathema to a segment of Democrats and problematic for others, even those generally seen as supportive of Israel.
“For decades, the Israeli leadership has developed relationships across both corridors on Capitol Hill,” says Representative Andy Levine, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Netanyahu has decided to share everything with the Republicans. It has undermined the confidence of Democrats.”
Domestically, the formation of the new government is likely to stem the growing divide between Israel and the Democratic Party, which came to light last month during the latest round of violence between Israel and Hamas, perhaps temporarily.
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Pro-Palestinian protesters in New York during last month’s fighting between Israel and Gaza factions
(Photo: Getty Images)
Even some staunchly pro-Israel centrist Democrats joined members of the party’s progressive wing in issuing statements critical of the government’s behavior before and during the conflict.
But, can Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett, a right-wing man for Netanyahu politically, be expected to restore relations?
“The fact that Bennett doesn’t have a lot of political baggage in America, and that he was key in ousting Netanyahu, gives him room to maneuver with the Democrats, despite his personal political preferences,” says George Birnbaum, Bennett’s US political advisor.
It will also be much more difficult for those who instinctively criticize the Israeli government for being right-wing to do so on the basis of the broad coalition being offered and the mechanisms in place to balance the range of views. The question will begin to be asked: Are you against Netanyahu, are you against the policies of the Israeli right, or are you simply against Israel? Birnbaum says.
The White House and State Department will not comment on any change in the Israeli government unless an agreement is reached until it is finalized, but both Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki have said in recent days that the administration of US President Joe Biden will do so. Work with any existing government.
Perhaps the most important question is whether Bennett really needs to restore relationships.
Biden has shown foreign and diplomatic support for Israel during last month’s escalation with Hamas, and has already shown enthusiasm for approving massive additional security assistance to Israel to refurbish the Iron Dome missile interceptors that have been used to shoot down as much as 4,000 Hamas. missiles.
Biden’s sentiments come despite calls from his party’s left wing to halt or review arms sales and security assistance to Israel.
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US President Joe Biden talks about the conflict in Gaza shortly before the ceasefire went into effect last month
The Democratic leadership of Congress, including such institutional figures as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DNY, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat, gave no indication that they were willing to stipulate Providing aid to Israel based on Israeli policy choices, and all three issued statements of support for Israel last month.
In addition, Israel will continue to enjoy primary support from the Republican Party, which controls half of the Senate and, based on historical patterns, is likely to regain the House of Representatives in next year’s midterm elections.
The new government takes effect as Democrats begin the process of crafting an annual foreign aid bill that provides billions of dollars in taxpayer money to Israel in defense aid and hundreds of millions of dollars in development and humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.
Defense Secretary Benny Gantz, who will continue in that role in the potential new government, met with a group of Biden administration officials on a whirlwind visit to Washington on Thursday about the matter and others.
The new political situation [in Israel] “It creates new opportunities to work with the Americans,” Gantz said during a briefing that concluded his visit.
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Defense Secretary Benny Gantz and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stand together during a reinforced collar of honor for Gantz at the Pentagon, June 3, 2021.
The Biden administration views Gantz, who has a long relationship with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as a symbol of the modest balance that a potential new alliance would bring to the US-Israel relationship.
We will continue the important strategic dialogue on Iran in a private discussion. Gantz said during his briefing, referring to his recent public rift with Netanyahu after the prime minister stated he was willing to risk falling out with Biden if it meant neutralizing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.
Bennett will likely spend the greater part of his time as prime minister trying to preserve his lean coalition, leaving his would-be foreign minister and eventual successor, Yair Lapid, to serve as the face of Israel abroad.
Lapid was particularly cognizant during his political career of building relationships with foreign political leaders across the spectrum, and his chief strategist, American Mark Millman, is a Democratic agent.
Notably, Blinken made time to meet with Lapid, as the leader of the Israeli opposition, during the Secretary of State’s recent quick visit through the region.
“Listen, there will be policy differences with this government. But, when you take Netanyahu out of the equation, they are easier to deal with,” says Melman.
“The new Israeli government will, assuming it exist, have a more bipartisan dynamism,” he says.
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Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with close ally Donald Trump at the White House in 2019
But, even a government that includes a pair of left-wing parties and an Islamist faction will not abruptly withdraw from the West Bank or divide Jerusalem, which means improved relations between Israel and progressive Democrats with specific political prescriptions are not necessarily taken for granted. .
“The key now is trying to get the United States more aggressive in enabling a dialogue that hasn’t happened for a long time now,” Rep. Mark Buchan, D-Wess, a leading advocate of a tougher American stance against Israel, said with the current situation.
We’ve talked to a wall there in Israel years ago. A new government with new ears may be at least amenable to a fruitful dialogue.”
“But, we need to put pressure on our government to make it happen, rather than just dealing with people who are not openly hostile to us. It wasn’t just about Netanyahu. It was about values, politics, and the occupation around Palestinian independence.”
Progressive Democrats may be able to open a new avenue of conversation. But with an Israeli government that will include more progressive elements than it has in decades, a government that includes an Islamic party for the first time and a government that has only one religious Jewish party, that same wing of the Democratic Party may find that even more frustrating is that their push for major changes in American politics With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian file, it is unlikely to move forward.
They will no longer be able to blame Netanyahu’s rebellion.
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