Together with the final chord in the act of assumption as president of the United States of America, Joe Biden will surely walk to his oval office in the White House. With his first steps inside he will be able to pay attention to a long list of hot topics in international politics awaiting him on his desk. Just as Trump felt the need to dedicate a large part of his function to those issues related to Israeli interests, it is to be assumed, for the same reason, that it is very likely that Biden will face the name of Israel in much of the list in his desk.
This theme is precisely what occupies many of the analysts in the future of Israel and the Middle East. Each one tries to describe what should be the practical vision that the new US president intends to carry out with reference to the Middle East in general and Israel in particular. A good example can be read in “Saudis worry, Iran and Palestinians hope: What a Biden presidency could mean for the Middle East” (CNBC, 11-11-20), as well as in “The government of Biden and the Middle East” from the Israeli strategy expert Udi Evental (In Hebrew, Center for Strategic Studies, IDC, Herzlya – Israel, 11-30-20).
This agenda surely cannot ignore the serious situation that has been created as a consequence of Trump’s decision to step aside in the pact of the powers with Iran and the consequent launch of severe economic sanctions on the Persian country. No less problematic is the prolonged stalemate in the situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also as a consequence of the unilateral decisions in favor of Israel of President Trump. In this regard, he will have to weigh his position on several urgent issues such as Israel’s annexation plans in the West Bank (which Netanyahu announced days ago that they were not shelved but are scheduled for the near future), resumption of relations between the USA and the Palestinian Authority, recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, financial support for Palestinian projects, recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, and finally, to what extent to limit relations between Israel with Russia and China in the context of the competition for world hegemony.
Presumably, according to the tradition of all the presidents that preceded Trump (with the exception of Obama in support of resolution 2334 at the UN), Biden also leans towards the vision that, despite disagreement regarding the fate of the territories conquered in 1967, sees Israel as the preferred ally granting it military supremacy, massive economic aid and unwavering institutional support in international organizations. The new US president will surely try to return to the old proposal of solving the conflict with the Palestinians according to the two-state formula, knowing that he will not be able to advance beyond a fragile balance based on the continuity of the status quo. He will probably harshly criticize the Israeli colonization in the West Bank and all measures in that regard, but it will not be prohibited and decisions that involve retaliatory sanctions will be avoided.
But, both from the new US administration and from the different analysts, no reference was made to an aspect that, if it materializes, may become the factor that breaks all the schemes that are evaluated as a possible future : This is the next decision of the International Criminal Court of The Hague (ICC) which has to respond to the request of its chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to prosecute political leaders and officers of the Israeli army as responsible in the campaign of civil colonization in West Bank framed in what is defined in international conventions as a war crime.
Prosecutor Bensouda addressed the Court a year ago and the response of the high court was scheduled for mid-2020. In order not to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC in the case, Israel refuses to participate directly in the process, but does so indirectly through third parties, especially the well-known servility of President Trump. In a typical act of a vulgar leader of a gangster group, Trump threatened ICC members with personal sanctions if they decide to investigate Israel for colonizing the West Bank (Ynet, 5-16-2020). So far, the Hague judges have not decided on the issue and the postponement was not only caused by the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic, but more likely, by the expectation of Trump’s non-reelection, as it was already evaluated as possible half a year ago.
In the event that ICC decides to prosecute politicians and officers of the Israeli army, Biden will face a serious dilemma: all the possibilities of the two-way game are over. Intermediate terms disappear. Complying with the Hague Court decision will represent a historic rift between Israel and the US with unpredictable consequences, including, most likely, a massive weakening of American Jewish support for the Democratic Party. Undoubtedly, for Israel it will represent the end of the dolce vita with the status quo that until today has allowed it to permanently expand the colonies.
The opposite alternative exposes Biden as a copy of Trump. The blind and unconditional defense of Israel spares no effort in consecrating servility and, in this way, breaking with the historic democratic trajectory of his party and country in support of the legal order and basic institutions, both national and international.
Surprisingly, although the appropriate conditions are in place, both in Israel and in the USA, there is no allusion to the possibility that the ICC responds positively to Bensouda’s request. It would be prudent for Biden not to forget that most likely in the coming weeks he will have to face, perhaps, a decision with unforeseeable implications in US-Israel relations and that apparently no one takes it into account.
Herzlya – Israel 11-12-2020