The Middle East has long been one of the hottest trouble spots in the world, home of hereditary despots, military coups, rebellions, fanatical religious movements, expansionistic states, ethnic cleansing, and civil wars. Meddling by one Middle East state in other Middle East states, and meddling by great powers outside of the region, exacerbated many of these problems.
For seventy years American foreign policy has focused on satisfying the Palestinians as the key to resolving conflict in the region. The State Department apparently never noticed the historical and current conflicts between Sunnis and Shias, Arabs and Persians, Turks and Arabs, Turks and Persians, Kurds and Arabs, Kurds and Turks, and Kurds and Persians. No, everything in the entire Middle East was, in the view of the State Department, the result of the Arab-Israel conflict, of which the Palestinians were the critical party. Thus American foreign policy aimed to roll back Israel to satisfy the "moderate" goals of the Palestinians: "Palestine from the river to the sea." There was never much love for Jews in the State Department.
For decades, the U.S. viewed satisfying the Palestinians as key to resolving regional conflict.
The Middle Eastern favorite of the Obama-Biden administration was Iran, even though it is one of the top terrorist states in the world. The Obama policy was to appease Iran by removing sanctions, sending billions of dollars, and making an agreement with Iran (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—JCPOA) to hold off making nuclear weapons for a few years (10-15: until 2025-2030), after which it would be fine. Israel, identified by Iran as the country it wanted to wipe off the map, provoked the anger of Obama by objecting to the pandering to Iran, and the Israeli Prime Minister became persona non grata to the Obama administration. The Obama administration also wanted Israel to handle the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist movements, both funded by Iran, with kid gloves, and tended to see proportionality not as defined in military law (civilian losses proportional to military objectives), but as equal numbers killed on both sides.
President Trump turned American policy toward the Middle East right side up. He withdrew from the appeasing JCPOA agreement and placed heavy sanctions on the extremist, theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran. Substantial American military assets were stationed in and around the Persian Gulf. Trump did not look with favor on Hamas and Hezbollah.
Trump sided with Israel rather than the Palestinians, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem to conform with standing legislation and to the promises of multiple previous U.S. presidents, and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Trump withdrew U.S. funds from the Palestinians, who were using them to support their "pay for slay" programs to reward terrorists who killed Jews, and closed the Palestinian lobbying office in Washington.
It was gospel in the State Department and the Foreign Ministries of the European Union and most European countries that there could be no peace anywhere in the Middle East until the Palestinians made peace, and that Israelis could only be at peace in the region if the Palestinians made peace with them. Those who held this conventional view were not deterred by the Palestinians' century-long unwillingness to make peace with their Jewish neighbors.
President Trump found another way to bring peace to the Middle East.
President Trump found another way to bring peace to the Middle East. It was not lost on the Arab states that one of their traditional enemies, Iran, was imperialistically intruding into their region, blatantly in Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria, and more subtly in other Shia populations. Over recent decades, Arab countries began to see Israel in a different light: as a highly successful technological and economic innovator, and as a strong and advanced military power. Israel came to be seen as a potential partner and ally in any conflict with Iran. After all, the enemy of your enemy....
Trump's diplomacy brought additional Arab countries into peaceful relations with Israel, three so far, and perhaps more to come, beyond the cold peace with Egypt and Jordan. All previous American governments had, in spite of heroic efforts, failed to advance peace between the Arabs and Israel. Trump succeeded by going around the Palestinians, whose place in the region has taken a more realistic proportion.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris intend to return to Obama administration policies, putting the Palestinians first. As Harris has said, "We will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington."
This would mean that U.S. taxpayer dollars are going to the Palestinians' slay or pay program, contributing directly to the murder of Israel civilians: men, women, children, and rabbis. The "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, leaving aside the many tons of necessities sent by Israel every day to Gaza, is the result of the terrorist entity Hamas' commitment, according to their own 1988 proclamation, "The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement," to destroy Israel and to murder Jews: "Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Moslem people. 'May the cowards never sleep.'" As Hamas delicately puts it, "The Zionist Nazi activities against our people will not last for long."
Many officials of the Democrat Party, even leaving aside those who descend from Palestinian families and those who are Islamists, adhere to far-left theories and objectives. These socialists and communists frame the Arab-Israel dispute as Jewish colonialist invaders and settlers oppressing and displacing indigenous Palestinians. Inspired by identity politics, these leftists characterize Palestinians as "people of color," and as intersectional allies of black and brown people, despite the fact Arabs are classified as white by the U.S. government, and the fact that Arabs despise Africans, calling them "abid," the Arabic word for "slave."
The history of the Holy Land is ignored, for the Marxist framework does not fit the historical facts. For example, when the Romans invaded ancient Israel—it was the Romans who named it "Palestine"—all of Israel, "from the river to the sea," was inhabited by Jews, and Islam, which was not invented until six centuries later, and Muslims, were unknown.
The Biden-Harris administration will demand that Israel withdraw to suicidal boundaries.
Harris also asserts that "We will also oppose annexation and settlement expansion," by which she means Israeli presence beyond the 1949 green armistice line into the heartland of ancient Israel: Judea and Samaria. She even opposes the building of new houses within communities to accommodate population increase. We can fully expect the Biden-Harris administration to demand that Israel withdraw to suicidal boundaries and that Palestine be given independent state status with an independent military.
The Biden-Harris Administration will rejoin the JCPOA, remove the sanctions from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and perhaps repeat the Obama-Biden policy of sending pallets of cash to the mullahs so that they will have more money to pass on to Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iranian Revolutionary Guard legions in Syria. The Islamic Republic will be better able to ramp up its military, rocket, and nuclear capacity development, and to pursue its aim of destroying Israel.
How will Israel respond to this American abandonment of keeping Iran in check? Israel will return to its "blue and white" strategy of self-reliance, as it did in the past in destroying Iraqi and Syriannuclear facilities. In other words, Israel will consider striking Iranian nuclear facilities, which would probably entail pre-emptive strikes on Hamas and Hezbollah as well. In this case, Iran would not stand idle, and the result could be an all-out war in the Middle East.
Expect Biden to return to all of Obama's failed policies in the Middle East.
Joe Biden, in collaboration with Democrat Party socialists and Islamists, will return to the post-American stance of the Obama-Biden administration, which demanded that America be transformed into a democratic socialist state and that America apologize to the world for its ill deeds, and bow to international organizations such as the United Nations, now run by a majority of third-world despots. An integral part of this plan is a return to all of the Obama failed policies in the Middle East and the conflict and loss of blood and treasure that will inevitably follow.
Philip Carl Salzman is an emeritus professor of anthropology at McGill University and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.