Biden's First Month
Tracking Developments in the Progressive Field - Trend Detector No. 10
Written by Daphna Kaufman
The period between January 25 and February 20, 2021, which represents most of the Biden presidency’s first month, has hewn largely to conventional Democratic positioning towards Israeli and Jewish agendas. However, it is worth noting several developments during these weeks that may indicate areas of vulnerabilities:
▪ While the administration has taken predictable positions vis-à-vis the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, clearly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not as central to the current administration. Iran presents an early friction point between Israel and the administration, Broadly, the perception that ‘the road to Washington runs through Jerusalem’ may erode over time.
▪ While Jewish communal organizations largely embraced Biden’s picks for key administration positions, some discontent has surfaced regarding the potential for filling second tiers of foreign policy positions with individuals who are perceived as challengers of Israeli and Jewish agendas.
▪ Against this backdrop, political polarization in both the U.S. and in Israel undermine the robustness of bi-partisan U.S. support for Israel and may accelerate a process in which support is increasingly expressed through cooperation where political or national interests and values converge, and condemnation where they don’t.
▪ Despite current relative progressive-moderate cooperation the next election cycle may open progressive influence avenues, which will challenge the administration’s foreign policy on Israel and Israel-related issues.
▪ Moreover, on key priorities, Israel and Jewish communities do not share a common threat assessment. Within the Jewish community, a neutrality on Iran comes in stark contrast to an Israeli sense of urgency on this issue. Likewise, whereas many pro-Israel groups seems to be more concerned by the intersection between anti-Semitism and left-wing agendas, most Jewish communal organizations are focused on fighting right-wing anti-Semitism.
▪ Moreover, Jewish organizations’ Israel positions continues to be a wedge issue. Jewish communal association with Israel is framed by progressive groups as undermining the authenticity of Jewish engagement on social justice agendas. Thus, despite the Biden administration announcement of embracing the IHRA definition for anti-Semitism, Jewish communal division around this definition continues to surface. In this climate, the credibility of ideologically driven Jewish activist organizations grows, and several such organizations serve as a reference for national political figures seeking guidance from Jewish constituents.
Finally, serious conversations continue to arise around the critical theories underlying identity political-driven organization, and addressing a potential conceptual mismatch that arises when skin color and economic-based concepts used to categorize societal groups meet the Jewish experience.
Delegitimization of Israel