Biden to Israel: There won't be a nuclear Iran

(Abir Sultan, Pool Photo via AP, File)

To say that the relationship between the United States and Isreal has changed ever since both Donald Trump and Bibi Netanyahu left office would be an understatement. But which direction is that relationship heading? The Israeli leadership has to be getting nervous, considering how many of Biden’s supporters count themselves among the boycott, divest and sanction movement. Far too many leading Democratic voices in Congress are openly antisemitic and want to see Israel punished for whatever perceived offenses they claim have been committed. But the Biden administration at least made the effort to reach out this week and reassure Israel on one of their major concerns. We’re not going to allow Iran to gain nuclear weapons. (Or at least so we say today.) More from the Associated Press.

President Joe Biden sought to assure Israel that he would not tolerate a nuclear Iran as he met with outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday amid a major shakeup in Israeli politics and growing angst in Tel Aviv over the U.S. administration’s effort to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden noted that he had ordered airstrikes a day earlier targeting facilities the U.S. military says were used by Iran-backed militia groups near the border between Iraq and Syria. The rhetoric seemed to underscore that he would remain tough on malign Iran activity even as he seeks a diplomatic track to stem Tehran’s nuclear program.

“What I can say to you is that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch,” Biden said at the White House meeting.

To give credit where due, Joe Biden is saying all the right words. He reaffirmed America’s support for the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab/Muslim nations in the region, which began in earnest under Donald Trump’s presidency. He also committed the United States to resupplying Israel’s Iron Dome missile supply which was significantly depleted during the recent attacks by Hamas.

This meeting came close on the heels of another conversation between the Secretary of State and Israel’s Foreign Minister in Rome on Sunday. So the White House is clearly trying to do some housekeeping and solidify our partnership with one of America’s closest allies. But that doesn’t really do anything to alleviate one of Israel’s biggest concerns. Just last week, Jake Sullivan took a meeting with the chief of staff of Israel Defense Forces. He was once again told that Israel completely opposes any resumption of the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu opposed it and Naftali Bennett clearly does as well.

The Trump era probably set the high water mark for relations between Israel and the United States. We shouldn’t be terribly surprised if things go downhill a bit now that a Democrat is in office. But this is a very tight balancing act for Biden to pull off. If he’s seen as essentially abandoning Israel, it would be disastrous not only for the Israelis but likely for Biden’s political career as well. But at the same time, any military aid to Israel (or really any aid, for that matter) is going to draw criticism from the “squad” and the rest of the Democrats in the Blame Israel Club.

Biden is already in the middle of a civil war in the Democratic Party over the filibuster, voting reform, police reform, and other liberal priorities that aren’t making much progress during this administration. If he pushes things much further, he’s going to be hearing more vocal calls from his own left-wing for a method to put Kamala Harris in his place sooner rather than later. And a divided party typically doesn’t do all that well in the midterm elections.