Uri Pilichowski
Author, Educator and Father - Brother to All

Leaders Biden and Netanyahu Need Counseling

US President Joe Biden (L) meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, (Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

The US-Israel relationship is one of the strongest relationships each country enjoys. Tragedy tends to change relationships — for the better or for the worse. The October 7th Palestinian terror attacks were a tragedy that has forever altered the relationship between the two nations. At first, the attacks strengthened the relationship. President Biden vocally supported Israel, flew to Israel, and supplied Israel with the weapons it needed to fight effectively. Yet, over the past few months the relationship seems strained; both sides have been showing signs of resentment and impatience.

Like any relationship, the US-Israel relationship has its high and low points. When any relationship hits its low points, it can use external counseling to talk through the problems and find ways to reach common ground and understanding. I think President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu could use counseling to get past their issues and find common ground. Their relationship is too old, too established, and too important to let the resentment fester.

I imagine a counseling session between the two leaders would be set in a neutral location with the President and Prime Minister sitting on two opposite ends of a couch with a therapist facing them and it would go something like this:

Counselor: Gentlemen, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, what brings you here today?
The two leaders look at each other willing the other person to talk. After a few moments of awkward silence, President Biden starts.

PJB: I’m a Zionist, I love Israel. I’ve been friends with Bibi for over 40 years. In fact, I’ve known every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda Meir. Americans are grieving with you, they really are, and Americans are worried. I’ve tried being there for my good friends in Israel over the past few months, I’ve tried really hard. I kind of feel my efforts aren’t being appreciated.

PMBN: Joe, we’ve had a long & warm personal relationship for nearly 40 years, and I know you as a great friend of Israel. From the moment Israel was attacked, you’ve rightly drawn a clear line between the forces of civilization and the forces of barbarism. Lately though you’ve been saying some nasty things about me and Israel.

Counselor: I’m hearing both of you express admiration for each other, and that’s good, that’s positive. I’m also hearing some frustration and resentment in your words. I’d like to get into both your admiration and frustrations. Let’s start with what you admire about each other and your nations. Prime Minister Netanyahu, why don’t you go first this time?

PMBN: Israel has no better friend in the world than the United States, and no one better to watch that friendship than President Biden, my friend for over forty years. I want to thank you for the unequivocal support you have given Israel during these trying times, a support that reflects the overwhelming will of the American people. I’ve seen your support every day in the depth and breadth of cooperation that we have had since the beginning of this war, a level of cooperation that is truly unprecedented in the history of the great alliance between our two nations. We see that support in your steadfast commitment to provide Israel with the tools we need to defend ourselves. We see that support in the clear message you’ve sent our enemies not to test our resolve. Joe, your visit to Israel speaks to the depth of your personal commitment to Israel. It speaks to the depth of your personal commitment to the future of the Jewish people and the one and only Jewish state.

PJB: I look back on it all now, and I realize that I had the great honor of living part of the great history of this great — and I did say and I say again, you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist. The fact is that, since then, I’ve known every single Prime Minister and it’s been an honor, formed strong working relationships with each of them. We continue to provide military assistance to Israel as it goes after Hamas. And I’ve personally spent hours — hours, without exaggeration — talking to the Qataris, the Egyptians, the Israelis to secure the freedom of more than 100 hostages. And we’re not going to stop until every hostage is returned home, everyone.

Counselor: That was great, very healthy. It seems that lately, the two of you haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye. Let’s express some of that frustration in a healthy way. Mr. President, why don’t you go first?

PJB: Well, I will tell you, I think what he’s doing is a mistake. I don’t agree with his approach. What I’m calling for is for the Israelis to just call for a ceasefire, allow for the next six, eight weeks total access to all food and medicine going into the country. I think there’s no excuse to not provide for the medical and the food needs of those people. It should be done now. He has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas, but he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken. He’s hurting…in my view, he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel.

PBN: I don’t know exactly what the president meant. If you meant that I’m pursuing private policies against the majority, the wish of the majority of Israelis, and that this is hurting the interests of Israel, then you’re wrong on both counts.

It’s been hard fighting this existential war when the President is publicly accusing me of “indiscriminately bombing” Gaza, calling our actions, “over the top,” and people saying that at least rhetorically, the President and his administration treat me and my governing coalition worse than they do the ruling mullahs in Iran. I need more vocal support and less criticism, especially in public, from the President.

Counselor: I think that the two of you have outlined how much you appreciate each other and the actions and comments you’ve each done and said that have troubled each other.
In order to keep the U.S-Israel relationship strong, to keep a good working relationship between the two of you, and to ensure Israel defeats its enemies, going forward you both need to be cognizant of each other’s feelings and sensitivities.

I doubt this session or any like it will ever occur. Both Americans and Israelis are worried watching the interaction between the two leaders lately. The resentment, disappointment, and frustration are very public and daylight between the two countries is never beneficial to anyone but both nations’ enemies. Let’s hope that going forward, both countries and their leaders keep their critical comments to themselves and work in partnership together- sensitive to each other’s priorities.

About the Author
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator. As a teacher, author and speaker, he teaches Torah and Politics, where he specifically emphasizes rational thought and conceptual analysis.
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