JERUSALEM – This may be President Biden’s first visit to the Middle East since taking office, but he is no stranger to regional politics and diplomacy. Few leaders can match his claim to have known every Israeli prime minister for half a century, beginning with Golda Meir in 1973, or his long record of support for Israel.
Biden’s first overseas visit to Egypt and Israel, when he was a young senator, was a baptism with fire. The 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Yom Kippur War, broke out soon after, beginning with surprise Egyptian and Syrian attacks against Israel.
Mr. Biden has become a staunch advocate of substantive annual economic and military assistance to Israel, once calling it “the best $3 billion investment we’ve made.”
He was also a staunch opponent in the 1970s and 1980s of the sale of advanced US weapons to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, arguing for maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.
In 2007, Mr. Biden He told one of the interviewees This is, “As early as as a child, I would say, when I was a young senator, I would say, ‘If I was a Jew, I would be a Zionist. “I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.”
But Biden’s dealings with Israeli prime ministers have also been tense. In 1982, he participated in bitter exchange With Menachem Begin on Capitol Hill on Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Mr. Begin, a proponent of a Greater Israel extending beyond the narrow pre-1967 borders to the territories captured from Jordan and Egypt, described the discussions as “live”.
While attending Ariel Sharon’s funeral in 2014, Biden described the former prime minister – who championed settlement building and the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 – as a “complex man” who “also lived through complicated times in a complex neighborhood.”
As vice president during the Obama administration, Biden ran through some tough episodes with Benjamin Netanyahu, a conservative who was in office continuously from 2009 through 2021. When Mr. Biden was in Israel in 2010 in part to press for a resumption during Palestinian peace talks, she agreed Israel’s Interior Ministry is building 1,600 new housing units for Jews in Ramat Shlomo in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, an area still considered occupied territory by most of the world. A temporary and partial settlement freeze in Jerusalem was not implemented at that time.
Washington took the announcement as a slap in the face, and Biden condemned the move as “exactly the kind of move that undermines the confidence we need right now.” Ramat Shlomo has since grown exponentially.
In Israel again as Vice President in 2016, Biden sharply criticized the failure of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority to condemn a series of bloody attacks. A Palestinian assailant stabbed an American graduate student and veteran along the waterfront near Tel Aviv, about a mile from where Biden was meeting with Israel’s former prime minister, Shimon Peres.
After the Palestinian leadership severed most ties with Washington under the Trump administration, which recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, Biden reconnected and restored the aid cut off by his predecessor.
But the Biden administration has not reversed many of the Trump-era policies that have affected Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sought to lower expectations of any imminent resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
According to experts, the tit-for-tat between Mr. Netanyahu and President Donald J. Trump has further damaged bipartisan support for Israel in Washington, which the country has long viewed as a strategic asset.
Biden took nearly a month after his inauguration in January 2021 to make the traditional courtesy call to Mr. Netanyahu, in what many analysts viewed as contempt, though the White House denied that any was intentional.
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