In these polarizing times, bipartisan support for a strong U.S-Israel relationship is more important than ever. As a Member of Congress representing South Florida from 1997-2010, I appreciate that many voters carefully consider both domestic and foreign policy when making their choice for president. I want to assure these voters that we can count on Joe Biden to fight for Israel’s safety and security. Under his administration, the United States will take steps to strengthen our ties with Israel and enhance Israel’s ability to survive and flourish as a democratic, Jewish state.
Elections are binary choices. We don’t pick and choose the best qualities of each candidate. Regardless of your assessment of President Trump’s performance on Israel, you can vote for Biden with confidence, knowing that his presidency will reflect the deep friendship he has shown toward Israel throughout five decades in public service.
Opinion | 38 billion reasons to vote for Joe Biden
As Vice President, Biden took a leading role in negotiating the 10-year, $38 billion U.S. aid package to Israel that Congress passed in 2016 — the largest in U.S. history. Biden opposes conditioning aid to Israel, even when the U.S. and Israel disagree on policy. Biden is also committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. Based on Biden’s past support for Israel’s QME, it is unlikely that a Biden administration would authorize the sale of F-35s or any sophisticated arms to Israel’s neighbors without consulting with Israel and ensuring that safeguards were in place to protect Israel’s security.
Since the 1960s, American presidents have made commitments to Israel’s security and qualitative military edge, a core pillar of Israel’s security strategy that allows the Jewish state to defend itself despite its adversaries’ advantages in size, population, and resources. The Trump Administration’s promise of advanced weapon systems tied to the normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates has made reaffirming this principle all the more important.
Biden has been a strong friend of Israel since his first trip there in 1973. He opposed the sale of AWACs to Saudi Arabia in the 1980s because of his commitment to maintaining Israel’s QME, and within the Obama administration, he advocated providing Israel with crucial missile-defense systems like Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow 3.
Biden supports humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, which will stabilize the Palestinian Authority and enhance Israel’s security. But Biden has been clear that this aid must comply with the Taylor Force Act, which means that the Palestinian Authority must end payments to Palestinian prisoners and families of “martyrs” and eliminate any financial reward for committing acts of terror.
Biden would restart a positive dialogue with the Palestinians by unequivocally stating that U.S. policy is anchored in a vision of two nation-states — Israel, and a new Palestinian state — living side by side in peace and security. Taking steps with both parties designed to simultaneously improve lives, narrow the conflict, and build a two-state reality would strengthen Israel’s security and bolster bipartisan support for Israel in the U.S.
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Effective diplomacy requires that the U.S. be a credible interlocutor, with open channels to leaders and publics on both sides. This is why the Trump Administration’s decision to close the PLO office in Washington, and transfer the functions of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem to the Embassy, have been counterproductive. It is not clear that Israeli officials even advocated for these measures.
Reestablishing official channels to Palestinians will enable the U.S. to once again play the leading role in encouraging Israeli-Palestinian engagement and prevent actors less favorable to Israel from filling the leadership vacuum.
Iran remains Israel’s greatest external threat. Israelis — and American Jews — are understandably concerned about Iran’s malign activities across the region, including Tehran’s support for terrorist groups that attack Israel. Whether it be confronting Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza, Israel is on the front-line against Iran-supported terrorism.
Trump unilaterally withdrew from an imperfect international deal that was restraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and left us with the worst of both worlds: An Iran increasingly unconstrained by international sanctions in both the nuclear and non-nuclear spheres. Trump’s “maximum pressure” strategy has proven to be a failure, his efforts at the United Nations to extend the arms embargo and snapback sanctions against Iran failed.
Iran is now closer to nuclear capability than when Trump left the deal, and because Trump’s actions have unraveled the international coalition that Obama and Biden assembled, Russia is now poised to sell its advanced S-400 missile-defense system to Iran after the arms embargo against Iran expires on Oct. 19. Biden would work to restore our international front against Iran and negotiate a deal that addresses both Iran’s nuclear program and its other nefarious activities.
Opinion | 38 billion reasons to vote for Joe Biden
Biden will keep the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and be in position to broaden recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But it’s worth noting that few countries followed suit after we moved our embassy to Jerusalem in 2018. In fact, Trump’s policies have led many countries to double-down on maintaining a diplomatic footprint outside Jerusalem. The Trump Administration’s inability to cement Jerusalem’s status is another example of its failed unilateral approach to international relations, a failure that a Biden Administration will remedy.
Trump’s tragic incompetence at home is not the price we must pay for strong U.S.-Israel relations. Biden has proven that he is committed to Israel’s security, and under Biden, bipartisan support for Israel will increase and flourish. We don’t have to compromise our values or our support for Israel. We can have both if we elect Joe Biden.
Robert Wexler was a Democrati member of the House of Representatives from 1997 to 2010, representing Florida’s 19th district.