Stormy weather might be on the Middle East’s horizon. Following the U.S. presidential election, Iran offered a mafia-style protection deal to countries that have normalized relations with Israel: they must abandon Israel and align with Iran, or face the consequences. A Biden–Harris administration would likely undermine much of the progress towards Middle East peace that the Trump administration has made. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) have several policy positions that would jeopardize the progress towards Middle East peace brokered by the Trump administration.
While Biden has praised UAE–Israel normalization, a Biden–Harris administration could unravel it. Some believe that as part of efforts to renegotiate the Iran deal, the Biden–Harris administration could throw the UAE under the bus by cancelling the U.S. sale of F-35s to the UAE. This follows recent statements by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, indicating their preference to slow-walk the F-35 sale. Harris voted for a resolution (S.J. Res 37), vetoed by President Trump, which would have prevented arms sales to the UAE.
A Biden–Harris presidency would greatly lessen the chances that Saudi Arabia will follow the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan in normalizing relations with Israel. But anti-Saudi hostility from both Biden and Harris might persuade Saudi Arabia to cut a deal now during the Trump administration.
Joe Biden has called Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and has promised, if elected president, to stop selling it arms. In July 2019, Harris voted for a resolution (S.J. Res. 38), vetoed by President Trump, that would have prevented arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Reportedly, Saudi Arabia is expecting that normalization with Israel would be tied to a U.S.–Saudi arms deal of some kind, with some Israeli defense officials expressing concerns that this will include F-35s. Therefore, Biden and Harris’s opposition to selling Saudi Arabia arms, and F-35s specifically, could kill prospects for Israel–Saudi normalization.
Additionally, Harris has stated that “we need to fundamentally reevaluate our relationship with Saudi Arabia, using our leverage to stand up for American values and interests.” In March 2019, Harris voted for a resolution (S.J. Res. 7), vetoed by President Trump, that called on President Trump to remove U.S. troops from Yemen that were supporting Saudi Arabia in its proxy war against Iran. In November 2018, she voted for a similar resolution (S.J. Res. 54) that also failed to pass. While opposing Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen’s civil war, it is unclear what Harris feels about the Jew-hating, Nazi-saluting Houthis, Iran’s proxies in that war.
If Saudi Arabia gets cold feet on a normalization deal, then an Oman normalization deal would be far less likely. While unnamed “Israeli officials” had predicted an Oman deal after U.S. presidential elections, Oman could have a change of heart if Saudi Arabia grows wary. But chances are much better if Saudi Arabia signs on during the Trump administration.
A Biden–Harris presidency will greatly lessen the chances that Morocco will normalize relations with Israel. But this might persuade Morocco to cut a deal now during the Trump administration.
As I have mentioned previously in The American Spectator, in the recent past, Democrats like President Obama, Susan Rice, and other progressives have shown sympathies with the Polisario Front, a “a Marxist and autocratic proxy which Algerian and Cuban intelligence created in order to pursue Sahrawi [Western Saharan] nationalist claims.” If Joe Biden becomes president, he too might be more willing to side with the Polisario Front against Morocco.
The Trump administration has brokered first-round talks between Israel and Lebanon to delineate their maritime border, with a second round scheduled for October 28. Before the U.S. presidential election, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, as well as his daughter, indicated that they would be amenable to peace with Israel under certain circumstances. If President Trump doesn’t finish the maritime deal during his administration, it would be unlikely to be done under a Biden–Harris administration given the Biden–Harris team’s promised revival of the Iran deal. While there is at present a very slim chance of a more comprehensive Israel–Lebanon peace, that chance is eliminated if an appeasement-like Iran deal similar to the Obama administration’s is negotiated.
A Biden–Harris administration might be more likely to broker a normalization deal between Israel and Qatar. Some believe that Biden would be more likely than President Trump to pressure Saudi Arabia and the UAE to break its blockade on Qatar. As I have mentioned previously in The American Spectator, however, others think that Qatar, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for it being allowed to purchase F-35s from the United States. It would be difficult for a Biden–Harris administration to justify the sale of F-35s to Qatar while denying them to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Further, a deal with Qatar may result in a zero-sum game and may weaken the existing normalization agreements with UAE and Bahrain, further diminish prospects of a deal with Saudi Arabia, and erode U.S. relations with UAE, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia generally.
A Biden–Harris Iran deal would cause further problems than the ones mentioned above. It would likely further inflame the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, as well as further destabilize Lebanon and Iraq, as Iran would have more money to pour into its proxies in these countries.
A Biden–Harris administration would likely take several positions in favor of the Palestinian Authority that would likely be non-starters for Israel in peace negotiations. These include:
Opposition to “settlements.” Contrary to popular wisdom, Israel has a right to build the so-called “settlements,” which are Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, the ancestral homeland and heartland of the Jewish people. Historically, the Carter and Obama administrations were the toughest on “settlements,” labeling them as “contrary to the Geneva Convention” and “illegitimate,” respectively. The Trump administration, in the Pompeo Doctrine, stated that it does not recognize the “settlements” as illegal. But Biden and Harris are openly hostile to the “settlements.” Biden has said that continued “settlement” building “will choke off any hope for peace,” despite the Palestinians’ consistent rejection of any peace proposal regardless of the presence, absence, and number of “settlements.” Harris recently stated that a Biden administration would oppose Israeli “settlements.”
Opposition to the “occupation.” Also contrary to what many think, Israel’s claim to Judea and Samaria is not one of “occupation.” While the Trump administration does not use this term, Biden opposes the “occupation.”
Opposition to Israel applying sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. The Trump administration’s peace plan allows Israel to exert sovereignty over about 30 percent of Judea and Samaria, and, in return, Israel would cede land in the Negev Desert to a future Palestinian state. Both Biden and Harris oppose Israel exerting sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. Biden has said, “I do not support annexation. The fact is, I will reverse Trump’s undercutting of peace.” Harris has also opposed Israel unilaterally annexing Judea and Samaria and recently repeated her opposition to Israel moving to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.
Reopening U.S. consulate to the Palestinian Authority. Further, Biden supports reopening the U.S. consulate to the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem, which undermines Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Restoring aid, reopening PLO mission without PA cutting terror funding. Harris recently said that a Biden administration would restore aid to the Palestinians and reopen the PLO mission in Washington, D.C. If these measures are not connected to the Palestinian Authority dropping its financial support for terrorism, then they do nothing to further peace.
All indications show that a Biden–Harris administration would undermine prospects for Middle East peace vis-à-vis virtually all actors in the region. A Biden–Harris administration would likely only benefit Iran and possibly Qatar. Knowing this, U.S. allies in the region should double their efforts to negotiate further peace with the Trump administration. At the very least, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Morocco should normalize relations with Israel before January with the assistance of the Trump administration. The Trump administration should “green-light” Israel’s inalienable right to unilaterally annex land in Judea and Samaria, and Israel should apply sovereignty and keep building “settlements” to the greatest extent possible and practical. Bold moves by the Trump administration made in conjunction with U.S. allies will increase the likelihood that Middle East peace will survive the destructive policies of any Biden–Harris administration.
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