Powered by WebAds

Monday, June 07, 2010

Is Biden an effective advocate for Israel or is his job just to feel the pain?

With Israel desperately seeking friends in a largely hostile Obama White House, Ben Smith wonders whether Vice President Joe Biden could be the friend for whom we are looking.
Biden’s instinctive embrace of Israel at a moment it was under fire from the international community was the most vivid example yet of Biden’s emergence as the West Wing’s most prominent public supporter of the Jewish state. But the live question among close watchers of the Obama administration’s frustrating approach to the Middle East is whether Biden’s role is merely to feel Israel’s pain — or whether in private counsels he’s an effective advocate for a more pro-Israel policy.

As Israel and American supporters look for an ally in the White House, many say they believe Biden is pressing for a softer line on the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a harder one on Hamas. Biden and his advisers have privately upheld the public administration position, they say, of opposing an American-backed peace plan, something reportedly championed by National Security Adviser James Jones.

And while administration officials insist that Biden has no foreign policy other than the president’s — “there’s not a lot of daylight” between Biden’s recent statements and Obama’s own, National Security Council chief of staff Dennis McDonough told POLITICO — pro-Israel members of Congress and pro-Israel groups see Biden as their top administration ally.
Unfortunately, the pro-Israel groups may be doing some wishful thinking.
But there’s no evidence that Biden has, in fact, taken a different stance from Obama on specific matters of policy. When his trip in March fell apart with the East Jerusalem announcement, it was Biden himself who — after a long discussion — issued a statement applying the charged verb “condemn” to the Israeli move.

Still, Biden has also assumed an unusual role in the Obama foreign policy process, as the figure most willing to challenge the prevailing internal wisdom, as when he opposed escalation in Afghanistan.

“He sees himself as the guy who develops alternatives within the policy framework,” said Steve Clemons, a fellow at the New America Foundation who moves widely in foreign policy circles.

“He’s supposed to be the Israel hugger,” said Clemons, who sees Biden’s reassuring words on Israel as part of his “portfolio.”
And as some of you may recall, Biden was chosen specifically for his foreign policy experience, because foreign policy was an area where Obama was seen as particularly weak.

But Obama is stubborn and will promote his worldview regardless of whether it makes any sense, just like he has done on the domestic front. I don't believe that Biden will matter.


Post a Comment

<< Home