Biden relieved by Netanyahu’s departure, but no US-Israel revolution in sight

Judging by the eagerness with which he congratulated the new Israeli prime minister, Joe Biden seems relieved by the departure of Benjamin Netanyahu. The contrast is stark: the President of the United States was on Sunday the first leader to promise to work with the government of Naftali Bennett, in a statement issued just half an hour after his parliamentary inauguration, then in a telephone conversation in the stride.

Arrived at the White House in January, the Democrat had yet let “Bibi” wait for 28 long days before meeting for the first time with him. The delay had sparked a controversy in Israel but also in Washington, where some Republican tenors had seen it as a sign of contempt for the Prime Minister of a key ally, particularly pampered during the mandate of Donald Trump.

“The Biden government hopes for a new start”, Natan Sachs, of the Brookings Institution think tank, explained Monday at a virtual conference. “They don’t like Bibi” and “Think they can have this new start with Bennett», An ultra-right-handed politician who«likes to present himself as an entrepreneur who has original ideas, a man of solutions ”, he added.

«Pari terrible»

Political change in Israel could therefore “Stabilize the bilateral relationship in an important way, especially because of the lack of trust that existed on a personal level with Netanyahu”Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank, told AFP. Benjamin Netanyahu got everything he wanted from Donald Trump who, anxious to galvanize the vote of the American religious right in his favor, recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and presented an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan which gave pride of place to the demands of the Hebrew state – breaking with the international consensus in favor of a two-state solution.

Increasingly to the right, the former Israeli head of government, on the other hand, had become a foil for Democrats, who resented the sustained support given him by Joe Biden at the start of the May war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. Israel’s new foreign minister, centrist Yair Lapid, accused the Netanyahu government on Monday of having “Made a terrible, reckless and dangerous bet by focusing exclusively on the Republican Party and thus abandoning the bipartisan approach of Israel”. He pledged to improve dialogue with Joe Biden’s Democratic Party.

However, this does not presage an upheaval in relations with the United States, especially on the explosive Israeli-Palestinian issue. The Bennett-Lapid government is the result of a grand coalition made up of parties from the right, the left, the center but also representing the Israeli Arabs: in other words, it will be difficult to agree on any progress. likely to revive a dying peace process. But for Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Joe Biden can hope that the new team “will be more careful to avoid any measure, in Jerusalem or elsewhere, that could inflame relations with the Palestinians.”

No Nobel

The recent spike in violence between Israel and Gaza showed the Biden administration needed more focus “To the management of the conflict”, “but neither this escalation nor the new government seems to have convinced her that the time had come to attempt any initiative to try to resolve it”, she added. In other words, according to Brian Katulis’ formula, the United States “Are not looking for the Nobel Prize” and will continue to be satisfied with measurements “Pragmatic”, in particular to improve the daily life of Palestinians.

“The Bennett-Lapid government and the Biden administration want the same thing: that this subject be put on hold for four years”, said Natan Sachs. “But it’s not going to be that way, as we saw last month”, he warned: even in the absence of a major decision by Israel, in terms of annexation or disengagement of occupied territories, the “Small events” likely to rekindle the conflict are legion.

On another subject of friction, finally, the Jewish state should not reverse its hostility to the Iranian nuclear agreement, and to Washington’s desire to join it again after the exit decided by Donald Trump. But according to Natan Sachs, the duo now at his head could, unlike Benjamin Netanyahu, refrain from going “In the political fight with Biden”.

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