In an interview this past weekend with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, President Joe Biden painted a dismal picture of one of America’s closest allies. Following up on previous statements damning Israel’s leaders, Biden claimed that the Jewish state was being run by “one of the most extreme governments” he’s ever seen. He went on to characterize the goings-on in the Israeli cabinet as a coalition with “problems” and one where Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu is struggling to maintain control by “moving toward moderation.”
The answer was a response to a question about why Biden hadn’t invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, though ironically, China—America’s chief geostrategic enemy—has asked him to visit Beijing. Biden answered by simply saying that Israeli President Isaac Herzog will soon be coming to Washington. That’s all well and good, but Herzog, despite his periodic attempts to intervene in politics, has a purely symbolic role in the country’s governance. The question of denying Netanyahu the courtesy of a visit is mere optics. What matters is that Biden has spent 2023 doing everything in his power to undermine the prime minister and aid those seeking to topple his government.
The very same day that Biden’s interview was airing on CNN, Netanyahu gave a clear demonstration that he—and not Ben-Gvir, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich or the haredi parties—is in charge.
Faced with a tottering Palestinian Authority on the verge of collapse due to its corruption, incompetence and refusal to accept responsibility to prevent terrorism (mainly, to fight efforts by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to turn Judea and Samaria into another Gaza), Israel’s Security Cabinet acted. It voted 8-1 to take emergency measures to help save it. The one “no” vote was Ben-Gvir.
The argument about what Israel should do about the P.A. is complicated. Mahmoud Abbas, its 87-year-old leader, is a big part of the problem, and the same is true for the rest of the Fatah Party kleptocracy that he leads. The P.A. works against peace in international forums. It foments violence and hatred of Israel and Jews in its official media and schools. It subsidizes terror in the form of a “pay-for-slay” program that rewards those who injure and murder Israelis and Jews. And its sheer ineffectiveness has turned the areas under its control into a worse mess than it would otherwise be.
But the alternative to its continued existence is for Israel to reassert direct control of all of Judea and Samaria—something that few in Israel want. In essence, it would mean resuming an actual “occupation” of all of the West Bank that ended decades ago after the Oslo Accords, although the international community and Israel’s critics and enemies like to pretend that never happened.
Yet Netanyahu is prepared to offer it financial assistance to keep Abbas’s corrupt regime afloat. Abbas formally rejected the Israeli offer but, as has often been the case in the past, it’s likely the Palestinian leadership will quietly take the help it publicly refused.