News from November 2 to November 8
U.S. Election, Honorable Mentions
Hey everyone! As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments, or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need good Jewish/Israeli shows or movies, make sure to check out this newsletter. Since the election is dominating the news cycle, I’ll focus on that today.
Another announcement–I had an article published in the Jerusalem Post this week! As some of you may know, I’m very interested in space and foreign policy, so I wrote about how the Abraham Accords will be great for NASA. If you’re interested, you can read it here.
In case you hadn’t heard, there was an election last week. Though the states still have to certify the election results, the Associated Press (and the rest of the mainstream news organizations) has projected that Joe Biden has won the 2020 election and will be the 46th President of the United States (note that recounts and legal challenges are ongoing). Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, will be the first female Vice President in American history.
Do Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have any connection to Judaism? Yes! Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, will be the first Jewish spouse of a Vice President or President. Emhoff had a Bar Mitzvah, went to a Jewish summer camp, and was even described as the “Second Mensch” by Forward (Jewish publication). Emhoff’s children from his first marriage reportedly call Harris “Momala,” which may be a reference to the Yiddish word “Mamaleh” (little mama). I encourage you to watch this clip of Harris from a couple of years ago where she talks about the first time she met her Jewish mother-in-law (and imitates her heavy Brooklyn accent):
The President-elect has Jewish connections too. All three of Joe Biden’s children married Jews. Before he passed away in 2015, Biden’s first son, Beau, was married to Hallie Olivere, who Forward describes as a “Jewish Delaware native.” Biden’s other son Hunter had a brief relationship with Olivere after Beau’s passing and has since married Jewish South African filmmaker Melissa Cohen. Biden’s daughter Ashley is married to Jewish otolaryngologist Howard Krein.
Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images.
How do Joe Biden and Kamala Harris feel about Israel? Biden and Harris both have long histories of supporting Israel. The Democratic Majority for Israel (DFMI) put together great sites highlighting the Presidential candidates’ historical support for the Jewish State. Here are some quotes from the DFMI’s Biden site:
“The conditions under which the Israeli people live, the sense of vulnerability, the constant fear of attack is real. It is not imagined. It’s real. And the people of Israel have lived under siege since the beginning. They’ve built a nation in defiance of relentless threats from their neighbors. They sustain that nation in the face of rocket attacks, terrorist tunnels, and now this unconscionable spate of stabbings…Israel is a nation of uncommon courage.”
“We have to work on renewing that will for peace. We must remind and mend the constituencies among both the Israelis and Palestinians for creating a fundamentally different future, a future where the grievances of the past are not visited upon future generations. And that means the terrorist attacks must stop. The rhetoric that incites violence against innocents, against mothers, babies, pregnant women, grandfathers, it must stop.”
“We have to stand up against the attempts to delegitimize Israel on the world — no nation, including Israel, is immune to legitimate criticism, but it should not be unfairly singled out. So we’ll continue to stand against the biased resolutions and attempts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations. We’ll continue to assure that Israel is represented on critical committees just like other nations. And we will continue to push back against the call here in the United States for people to boycott, disinvest, or sanction Israel. It’s wrong. Because as the Jewish people know better than any other people, any action that marginalizes one ethnic or religious group imperils us all. It’s incumbent upon all of us to stand up against those who traffic in pernicious stereotypes, who seek to scare and divide us for political gain. Because the future belongs to the bridge builders, not the wall builders.”
Some quotes from Harris’s DFMI site:
“Israel is a critical ally and friend and its security is a top priority. I absolutely support a two-state solution because it is the best way to ensure the existence of a Jewish, democratic, and secure Israel. Palestinians should be able to govern themselves in their own state, in peace and dignity, just as Israelis deserve a secure homeland for the Jewish people.”
“As President, I would start by reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity, while simultaneously working to rebuild the broken relationship between the United States and the Palestinians. Among all of our international partners, the U.S. is uniquely positioned to facilitate negotiations toward peace, but for that to have any chance of success, we have to start by re-engaging in honest, respectful dialog with both sides.”
Speaking to the New York Times in 2019, she said, “I think Israel as a country is dedicated to being a democracy and is one of our closest friends in that region, and that we should understand the shared values and priorities that we have as a democracy, and conduct foreign policy in a way that is consistent with understanding the alignment between the American people and the people of Israel.”
Additionally, the first resolution she co-sponsored as a senator was a condemnation of President Obama’s decision not to veto a UN Security Council resolution that called out Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
How will the U.S.-Israel relationship change under a Biden administration? First of all, I would encourage you to check out this event I moderated a couple of weeks ago on this exact question! You may find some answers there. Otherwise, this is a good article that does a good job analyzing Biden’s victory. Here are some of my thoughts:
President Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan is probably going to be shelved. That doesn’t mean it was not useful or will not continue to be useful; for better or worse, the plan reflects a better understanding of reality on the ground in Israel and the West Bank/Gaza that will better inform future efforts at peace. The plan will also be helpful in the future because it represents an acceptable solution for Israel. One of the hardest parts of peace negotiations is getting the parties to say what they are willing to accept. In this case, Israel has essentially declared what exactly it is looking for in a long-term arrangement. That has value!
United States-Israel cooperation will continue despite any political hiccups. Israel and the United States are incredibly close defense and intelligence partners, and their collaboration will continue regardless of partisan politics in Congress.
Joe Biden will likely return the United States to the JCPOA (Iran deal). What that means for Israel is uncertain. Could it lead Israel to launch preemptive or preventative military strikes on Iran’s nuclear capabilities? Perhaps. Whatever new equipment Israel gets from the United States due to the UAE F-35 deal could embolden Israel. It’s also worth considering that Biden is entering his term in an enviable position. Presently, the United States has many sanctions on Iran (and is planning more), meaning it has tremendous leverage over Iran. Could Biden use this leverage to extract concessions that go beyond the original terms of the JCPOA before rejoining it? It’s certainly possible.
I would expect the normalization deals to continue. Normalization between Israel and the Arab world has long been a bi-partisan objective. As you may recall, there was a lot of speculation that Saudi Arabia, Oman, Morocco, and other Arab countries would normalize relations with Israel before the election. They likely want to form agreements with Israel, but they were waiting to see the outcome of the election. Why would Saudi Arabia normalize before the elections when it could wait and earn goodwill with the incoming administration by making an agreement next year? Still, though not officially linked, the UAE’s F-35 deal was probably an integral part of the Abraham Accords. Will Saudi Arabia normalize without a similar deal that Democrats would almost certainly object to? Keep an eye on this space.
Biden will likely restore funding to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, but Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in the near term are unlikely. Israel has a volatile political situation and will probably head to elections soon. At the same time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is getting very old, and he has no clear successor. Though that makes fruitful negotiations unlikely in the short-term, it means that the political winds could change direction in favor of more amicable leadership very quickly during Biden’s term. Middle East politics will remain dynamic over the next four years.
The Embassy will stay in Jerusalem. Biden has already said he will not move it.
Here is Joe Biden’s plan for the Jewish community.
“Jonathan Sacks, former UK chief rabbi and Jewish ‘intellectual giant,’ dies at 72” by Ben Harris, Cnaan Liphshiz, and Gabe Friedman (JTA)
“I grew up with Jonathan Sacks. What his loss means for the Jewish world.” by Julian Ungar-Sargon (Forward)
“Vienna Chief Rabbi: Terror attack ‘assault on coexistence, tolerance’” by Jeremy Sharon (JPost) (In case you missed it, four people were killed in a shooting in Vienna, Austria, close to a synagogue)
“Malawi vows to open embassy in Jerusalem by next summer” by Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
“Pro-Israel groups say new congressional makeup bodes well for bipartisanship” by Matthew Kassel (Jewish Insider)
“How a nascent Israel was a key issue in Truman’s stunning 1948 election upset” by Rich Tenorio (Times of Israel)
“Rep. Ilhan Omar Accuses Israel of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’” by Aaron Bandler (JTA)
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