In recent weeks, as the US presidential elections are getting closer, the debate in Israeli media concerning which candidate — incumbent president Donald Trump or his Democratic challenger Joe Biden — is “better for Israel” is discussed more and more. This is but a mere side-effect of a broader discussion, concerning policy, vision and leadership styles promoted by the US president, all examined through the lens of what’s “good for Israel.”
It is reasonable to ask that question, and the desire for it to have a simple answer is human, but as the reality is complex and full of details, there is no simple answer to the simple question of who or what is “good for Israel.”
However, there is one thing that would benefit Israel and its strategic standing. Israel is a regional power, with the most advanced military in the Middle East, a thriving economy and a vibrant democratic society, but it needs the support of its allies; first and foremost among them is the United States. For decades, American presidents from both sides of the aisle supported the Jewish state and promoted its interests, either by promoting peace with Egypt and Jordan; advancing the military, economic and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the US; mutually developing missile-defense systems like the Iron Dome; or providing international protection in the UN and its bodies.
The US-Israel relations are a key pillar of Israel’s national security, and in order to maintain that pillar, Israel has to be able to endure the political shifts of power in Washington.
In recent years, however, it seems that the bipartisanship of Israel is eroding: President Trump, a supporter of Israel and its policies, is using his support for Israel to turn the latter into a political football in the inter-American politics. The Democratic party, while led by long-time supporters of Israel like Biden and Senator Kamala Harris, is changing in front of our eyes, as its progressive branch views Israel only through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and not as the strategic friend and ally that it is to the United States.
We can discuss policy. We can argue for or against returning to the Iran nuclear deal, protect or attack the “Deal of the Century,” and describe the Abraham Accords as historic peace in the region or as smoke and mirrors distracting from the lack of progress in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But what we should all be able to agree upon is that it is crucial for Israel’s security, prosperity and peace aspirations that Israel beyond the political debate in the US.
A reelection of Trump means that we can and should work with a friendly administration, but that we also need to stay out of the domestic political conflict between him and the Democratic Party. A President Biden might disagree with some Israeli policy decisions, but the government in Jerusalem needs his assistance in order to reach to the progressive branch of the party, a branch that otherwise might not be familiar with Israel, its story, the challenges it faces and the interests and values it shared not just with the US, but with the progressive movement in particular.
Israel should not fear one party or the other taking control of the White House. If anything, it should fear the day it fears one party or the other taking control of the White House. Being a bipartisan issue is crucial for the US-Israeli relations, and that is what makes it definitely “good for Israel.”