What Is Going to Change in the Middle East under Biden?

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser - President-elect Joe Biden and his entourage have announced that they are interested in lifting sanctions on Iran and returning to the nuclear agreement. They also expressed the view that the new administration intends to renew U.S. ties and assistance to the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, Biden and his advisers have asserted that their strategic objectives are no different from those of previous administrations, i.e., preventing Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons; restraining Tehran's dangerous activities in the region and the domestic arena; fortifying Israel's security, in part by continuing security assistance and preserving Israel's qualitative military edge (QME); opposing Israel's delegitimization; and promoting an agreement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Significant parts of the changing reality in the Middle East appear irreversible, notably, the normalization of relations between Israel and the pragmatic Sunni states. For instance, in the agreement with the UAE, the Emirates recognized the existence of a Jewish People for the first time – a clear contradiction of the central principle underlying the Palestinian narrative that rules out the existence of such a people. It is unlikely that the new U.S. administration will ignore the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits financial aid to the PA if it insists on continuing to pay salaries to terrorists who murdered Israelis (and Americans). The Palestinians are considering changes in the system of payments, but it is doubtful that they really mean to stop this practice or change it in any significant way. In the Iranian context, it will be difficult for the Biden administration to turn the wheel back quickly. Some sanctions were deliberately imposed through mechanisms that cannot be readily repealed (such as those set under anti-terrorism legislation). Moreover, the Iranians are unwilling to agree to changes or additions to the original nuclear agreement, such as limitations on intercontinental ballistic missiles. Ultimately, Biden will have to take into account that relations with Israel are crucial to protecting American interests in the region and that the pragmatic Arabs are close allies of the United States. The writer, former head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence, is a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Center.

2020-11-23 00:00:00

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