Joe Biden’s trip to Israel fits neatly into the context of the Obama administration’s internal struggle over Israel policy. Since January 2009, two factions have promoted alternate mechanisms for getting Jerusalem to do Washington’s will: The far left seeks to achieve this through confrontation, while the center left seeks to reassure the Israelis through close cooperation.
The far left prevailed initially, as evidenced by Hillary Clinton’s May 2009 declaration that Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions.” But this approach bombed, permitting the center left to take over in about September 2009.
The center left still rules the roost, as Biden’s twin statements yesterday indicate. First, he offered his administration’s “absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security.” Then he slammed an Israeli decision to build new housing units in Jerusalem as a step that “undermines the trust we need right now.”
The center-left approach is better than the far-left approach, but neither has a chance of succeeding. What Israel needs is not hectoring about its residential housing policies but an American ally that encourages it to win its war against the irredentist Palestinians of both Fatah and Hamas.