The Joe Biden Administration prepares for political change in the Israeli government, the first in twelve years without Netanyahu, a moment that the US president sees as an opportunity to redefine relations with the Hebrew state.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s express 24-hour visit to Washington on Thursday to meet with US government officials appears to confirm this. Gantz, who is expected to continue in his position in the next cabinet, met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with the main focus on Iran, amid ongoing negotiations on a new nuclear deal. The Israeli official estimates that some kind of new agreement could be reached in the next two weeks, before the June 18 elections in Iran.
The meeting with Gantz followed up on the conversation started in Jerusalem between the two during Blinken’s visit to Israel, his first as secretary, to consolidate the truce after the Gaza offensive. Another public indication that the American Administration is preparing for the possibility of a Government without Netanyahu was Secretary Blinken’s off-agenda meeting with the leader of the centrist opposition Yair Lapid, which took place at the David Citadel Hotel near the old city. for 30 minutes, and which was released with an image shared on Twitter. In revealing detail, Israel’s ambassador to Washington Gilad Erdan, who was present at other Blinken meetings with Hebrew state officials during the day, was not at the meeting.
Change of ambassador
The White House is also preparing the announcement of the appointment of a new ambassador to Israel, who will most likely be Tom Nides, vice president of the investment bank Morgan Stanley and a former official in the Barack Obama Administration. Following the recent escalation of violence in Jerusalem and Gaza, Washington has faced increasing pressure from Democratic lawmakers to appoint a new ambassador, to renew the diplomatic post still held by the same staff from the previous Administration.
Netanyahu, a figure who has radically polarized the country, has strongly identified with the Republican Party, a dynamic that has alienated relations with the Democrats. From Donald Trump he even borrowed his dictatorial style to retain power and it has ultimately taken its toll. Enraging their enemies, an intense cult of personality, trying to win and maintain power with a slim majority, foment division and racism against the Arabs and undermine the democratic institutions of Israel, the press and the rule of law are some of the the aspects of the profound political drama that the country is experiencing.
After more than a troubled decade in power and numerous investigations and legal proceedings for bribery, fraud and breach of trust, in the words of Senator Bernie Sanders, few will “miss” Netanyahu’s departure from Israeli politics. Now one can only hope that a government without him will provide a better relationship with the Democrats in Washington.
According to political pollster Mark Mellman, Lapid’s longtime advisor and founder of the Democratic Majority for Israel organization, the opposition leader (Lapid) knows President Biden well, with whom he has had numerous conversations in the past prior to his presidency, from which they “have an excellent relationship to build on.”