Prof. Eytan Gilboa, an expert on US-Israel relations from Bar Ilan University, spoke to Arutz Sheva on Monday about the fact that US President Joe Biden has yet to call Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since taking office.
Biden is “methodically ignoring” Netanyahu, said Gilboa, adding, "I do not accept the explanations of the spokespeople of the White House and State Department for this. There are two reasons for this ignoring. One is that Biden wants to prove that there is now a new White House and there will not be the intimate relationship Netanyahu had with Trump and therefore Netanyahu is in a low priority.”
“The second reason has to do with the elections [in Israel]. Biden does not want to be seen as helping Netanyahu. He remembers, perhaps traumatically, that three weeks before the 2015 election, Netanyahu arrived in Washington to address the two houses of Congress against Obama's plan for a nuclear deal with Iran."
"It is difficult to accept the arguments made by the White House, that he apparently has more important internal issues to deal with such as the coronavirus and the interracial crisis, because the Americans do deal with Middle Eastern affairs all the time. They want to reach a nuclear agreement with the Iranians. They talk about suspending or freezing arms deals with the United Arab Emirates and Morocco and talking about changing attitudes toward the Palestinians such as opening a consulate in East Jerusalem and restoring $400 million in aid to the PA, restoring aid to UNRWA and reopening the PLO office in Washington that Trump shut down. Therefore, it is not true to say that the Middle East does not interest them as much, but rather that Netanyahu does not interest them as much," argued Gilboa.
Prof. Gilboa estimated that "Biden would like a different Prime Minister," and to that end he would prefer even a more right-wing Prime Minister provided it is not Netanyahu.
"There are two main reasons for this. One is that [Netanyahu] represents problematic policies, especially regarding the settlements, and the second is that Netanyahu does not seem credible because he made promises to American administrations and did not keep them. Therefore, even another right-wing Prime Minister would be better than Netanyahu [as far as Biden is concerned]. He would prefer Bennett and Sa’ar over Netanyahu for these reasons," Gilboa asserted.
"The interesting thing is that the White House says that Biden has not spoken to any leader in the Middle East. That is true, but he can’t both not talk to Netanyahu and also bypass him and talk to leaders of Arab countries. He will not be able to talk to Arab leaders without talking to Netanyahu. Until now he has spoken to US allies, he spoke to China, which is going to be one of the important issues in his foreign policy. The fact that he did not call Netanyahu does not mean that he does not see Israel as an important ally. This is about Netanyahu himself and not necessarily about Israel."
Gilboa added that "past disagreements are having an impact, from Netanyahu's support for Mitt Romney and Trump in the previous election campaigns, the close relationship with Trump and the famous speech Netanyahu gave against Obama on the Iranian nuclear issue and relations with the Palestinians. This has left a lot of impact and most of the people in the administration who are engaged in foreign relations are people who have accounts to settle with Netanyahu. It can harm the relationship."
On the proposals made by various personalities in Israel to gravitate more toward Russian President Vladimir Putin and China and thus make it clear to Biden that Israel is not in the pocket of the Americans, Prof. Gilboa said that this is impossible.
“Our dependence on the US is significant so no one can replace them. China and Russia have dictatorial governments that the values that Israel represents are the last thing that interests them, so they cannot be trusted,” he said.
“In addition, we receive $3.8 billion worth of military aid from the United States, all of our equipment and aircraft are from the United States. We will not get such planes from anywhere else. The support for Israel in international organizations, even if it is not the same as it was during the Trump era, is still significant. Same goes for the International Criminal Court and for other organizations and institutions. Our dependence on them is irreplaceable," added Prof. Gilboa.