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President Biden’s Wise Balancing Act

Published: (Updated: ) in Jewish News by .

He took some heat along the way, but Joe Biden aced his first foreign policy test.

The post President Biden’s Wise Balancing Act appeared first on Jewish Journal.

He took some heat along the way, but Joe Biden aced his first foreign policy test.

Depending on how you count such things, Biden is the most experienced person to be elected president since either Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson. For the last several decades, the years of preparation that Biden brings to the job has largely fallen out of favor, as American voters in the post-Watergate era have become enchanted with outsiders who promise to bring change to Washington.

Donald Trump was either the apogee or the nadir of this tendency, but he was less of an aberration than an intensification of an almost half-century trend. Trump’s most immediate predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, both accomplished significant achievements during their terms in office. But neither Bush’s six years as governor of deep-red Texas or Obama’s even shorter tenure as a state legislator and Senator from equally deep-blue Illinois adequately prepared them for the partisan maelstrom of Washington, D.C. Both men might have realized much greater successes if they had come to the presidency with a better understanding of how to work with disagreeable parties. And neither had much foreign policy background at all before becoming the leader of the most powerful country on earth.

Biden is still deciding whether he can and should work with congressional Republicans on domestic policy. But over the last two weeks, as the new president was forced to deal with his first international crisis, we received a welcome reminder of the benefits that such experience brings as the United States begins to re-establish itself in a changing and dangerous world.  For those of us who care about the safety and security of Israel — but who also do not see the perfect as the enemy of the good — the temporary cessation of large-scale violence between Israel and Hamas marked a notable success for Biden.

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More importantly, Biden’s ability to guide the combatants to a ceasefire – quietly and respectfully with Israel and by remote control with Hamas — reestablished the U.S. as a critical leader in Middle Eastern geopolitics. In the process, he achieved the best possible short-term outcome for a 11-day outbreak that could have been much worse.

The strongest defenders of Israel will argue correctly that a great deal of Hamas’ weapons capability survived and will be used against innocent Israelis on another day. But Israeli security officials had been telling their American counterparts that they had accomplished most of their goals before Biden publicly began to publicly encourage Benjamin Netanyahu to step back. Only those who would have liked to have seen the Israeli military replace their “mow the grass” approach with a full-on paving of Gaza should be dissatisfied with the level of damage incurred on Hamas terrorists.

Biden did a number of smart things to get this result. Most importantly, he treated Netanyahu with respect. Unlike Obama, who had backed Netanyahu into a corner during the last Gaza War in 2014 by repeatedly calling for a ceasefire, Biden recognized that such a blustery approach would be counter-productive and simply prolong the conflict. By keeping the two leaders’ conversations private and by keeping his public statements measured, Biden created space for Netanyahu to agree to the ceasefire without looking as if it was a result of external pressure.

Unlike Obama, who had backed Netanyahu into a corner during the last Gaza War in 2014 by repeatedly calling for a ceasefire, Biden recognized that such a blustery approach would be counter-productive and simply prolong the conflict.

Biden also recognized how dramatically the political mood regarding Israel has shifted in this country in recent years, especially within his own Democratic Party. While he never compromised on the importance of Israel defending itself, Biden did first announce his “support” for a ceasefire (as opposed to more proactive advocacy) and then later let it publicly known that he had told Netanyahu that it was time to sign on as well (although within a day of when he knew Netanyahu would agree to a ceasefire anyway).

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Although Biden did not speak out as forcefully or as quickly to end the violence as his party’s progressives wanted, he paid just enough attention to the Palestinian cause to prevent a full-fledged revolt from the left. Those who fault Biden for not standing even more closely with Israel must recognize that the Jewish community and our allies must do a better job of improving the political landscape on which this debate takes place. The last few weeks should tell us that we need to step up our game if we expect pro-Israel Democratic politicians to be as unequivocal in their support as we would like them to be. But that’s a column for another day.


Dan Schnur teaches political communications at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. He hosts the weekly webinar “Politics in the Time of Coronavirus” for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall.

The post President Biden’s Wise Balancing Act appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/columnist/336975/president-bidens-wise-balancing-act/

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