This week, the Jewish Democratic Council of America held a webinar with Senator (and Joe Biden surrogate) Chris Coons (D-DE) and Biden foreign policy advisor Tony Blinken. Both were asked about Biden’s potential opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to annex the West Bank. While Biden’s previous stance on the issue was cited, neither of the two men suggested any aggressive response would be coming soon.
In regards to annexation, Coons said it was, “hard to exactly prejudge the circumstances on the ground as of January of next year.” This position was echoed by Blinken, who said that it would be a mistake to “prejudge” what might happen during a Biden administration. He indicated that Biden was, “on the record several times [that] unilateral steps taken by either side that makes the prospect of a negotiated to a two-state outcome less likely is something he opposes, and that includes annexation.”
Netanyahu and former political rival Benny Gantz are in the process of establishing a coalition government in Israel and cabinet discussions about extending the illegal settlements are scheduled to begin in July. Last week, Netanyahu said he was sure that the United States would allow him to begin annexing the West Bank within the next couple months. The Prime Minister told a a European Christian group that President Donald Trump had promised to support such a plan in January. “A couple of months from now I am confident that that pledge will be honored,” said Netanyahu.
As Foundation for Middle East Peace president Lara Friedman tweeted, only two Democratic congress members have spoken out against the plan so far.
It remains unclear how Biden would stop Israel’s government from acting, even if he ends up beating Trump. In November, he made it very clear that he won’t condition military aid to the country if he becomes president.
“Not me. Look, I have been on record from very early on opposed to settlements, and I think it’s a mistake,” Biden told a reporter at the time, “And Netanyahu knows my position. But the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find it to be absolutely outrageous.”
“Anyway, no I wouldn’t condition it and I think it’s a gigantic mistake. And I hope some of the candidates who are running with me for the nomination–I hope they misspoke or were taken out of context.”