Home/Daniel Larison/Biden’s Bizarre ‘Pro-Israel’ Posturing

Biden’s Bizarre ‘Pro-Israel’ Posturing

Vice President Joe Biden in 2017 By Drop of Light/Shutterstock

Joe Biden thinks it is “bizarre” to call for conditioning military aid to Israel:

“In terms of Bernie and others who talk about dealing with Zionism, I strongly support Israel as an independent Jewish state,” Biden said in rural northeastern Iowa. He added, “The idea that I’d withdraw military aid, as others have suggested, from Israel, is bizarre. I would not do that. It’s like saying to France, ‘Because you don’t agree with us, we’re going to kick you out of NATO.”

Biden’s defense of unconditional support for Israel isn’t new, but it does show how outdated his foreign policy views are and how out of touch he is with a large part of his own party. There is much less support now than there used to be among Democrats for giving Israel a blank check while it occupies Palestinian territories and routinely abuses Palestinian people. It makes no sense for the U.S. to refuse to use the leverage that it has to influence the Israeli government. Biden is wrong on the substance, which shows once again that his foreign policy judgment is not very good. Biden’s position is a throwback to previous decades. It simply isn’t credible when Israel doesn’t need U.S. aid and it engages in flagrant, ongoing violations of international law. Sanders and other candidates that have called for conditioning aid on changes in Israeli behavior are proposing a relatively moderate response to Israel’s aggressive policy of settlement, dispossession, and apartheid, and Biden still has the nerve to say that it is “bizarre.”

The former vice president’s comparison of conditioning military aid to Israel with attacking a formal alliance is revealing, but it doesn’t make the point that Biden thinks it does. Conditioning military aid to a client state is very different from trying to eject a state from an alliance. The reality is that Israel not a U.S. ally, and the behavior in question is not just a policy disagreement but a matter of respect for human rights and international law. U.S. aid to clients is supposed to advance U.S. interests. Giving Israel a blank check to do what it likes with weapons subsidized by our government achieves just the opposite. Unless Biden wants to argue that the U.S. should be encouraging indefinite Israeli occupation and the continued abuse of millions of stateless Palestinians, he shouldn’t have any objections to conditioning aid to Israel. Biden may think he is scoring points against Sanders and his other competitors, but he is just advertising the bankruptcy of the conventional “pro-Israel” hawkish position.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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