Israel must brace for change in Washington

Dr. Norman Bailey

Given the current makeup of the Democratic Party, a Joe Biden presidency will probably reverse recent trends in US-Israel relations.

There can be no doubt that the most important country in the world for Israel is The United States. From the time President Truman recognized the new State of Israel in 1948 in the face of opposition from all of his advisors, through a series of presidents, all of whom supported Israel to a greater or lesser extent, to Barack Obama, the most anti-Israel of American presidents to date and now Donald Trump, the most pro-Israel president since Truman, Israel has ridden a political/military roller-coaster in its relations with the US.

In November of this year the US will either re-elect Trump or replace him with a Democrat. The significance of this cannot be overstated. If Trump is defeated, it is most likely that the Democrats will take control of the Senate, and maintain their control of the House of Representatives. The Democratic Party is sharply divided into moderate and left-radical wings; its radical wing is virulently anti-Israel and in many cases openly anti-Semitic. Although former Vice-President Joe Biden, a moderate, is at this point almost certainly going to be the Democratic candidate, as president he will be faced with a Congress heavily influenced by the radical wing. He can be expected to attempt to find a middle-ground which would likely end up resembling the Obama policies with reference to the Middle East, increasing support for the Palestinian cause and rapprochement with Iran, while maintaining military support for Israel but political distancing.

The coronavirus crisis will have an important effect on the results of the upcoming election. It should not be forgotten that in 2016 Hillary Clinton, a divisive figure, actually polled almost three million votes more than Trump, who was elected due to a majority in the Electoral College. Trump will have to face that reality, added to the natural erosion of support due to being almost four years in office. His base is solid, but represents at best somewhere around 35% of the electorate. Despite Mr. Biden being a very uncharismatic candidate, the Democrats will unite around him in order to retake the White House. Thus the moderate Republicans and independents who voted for Trump in 2016 will have to massively support him again if he is to be elected. In the best of circumstances he might again win in the Electoral College, but is again very unlikely to gain a majority of the popular vote.

Even for that to be the case, he will have to be seen as having handled the pandemic crisis effectively, and the country will have to be functioning more or less normally again. Otherwise his strongest arguing point, the fact that until March of this year the US economy was booming, will be completely erased.

All in all, it is very likely that Biden will be the next president of the US come January 20, 2021. Israel will have to live with that, and a right-wing government in power in Jerusalem would not be conducive to good relations with the new US administration.

Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft, The Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. He was formerly with the US National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on April 20, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

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