Maintain an open line of communication with Biden’s assistant

I was on the phone last week with an aide to the President of the United States, Joe Biden. The adviser is familiar with the Middle East and has reported to me periodically on administration discussions involving Israel and regional affairs. He is also Jewish.

Suddenly, in our most recent conversation, he asked me about the weekly Torah portion. It was Chayei Sarah, which begins with Sarah’s death in “Kiryat Arba, which is Hebron” and Abraham’s purchase of the land to bury his wife in the “Cave of Macpela”, as mentioned in the Bible. .

These days, Jews pray in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, which traditionally marks the burial site of not only Sarah, but also Abraham himself, as well as Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah.

In particular, Jews descend to this place in massive numbers on Shabbat when we read Chayei Sarah, in other words, this past Shabbat. Before the occasion, Biden’s assistant and I struck up a conversation about the Jewish connection to Hebron.

He pointed out to me that Muslims also pray in this place. “Abraham is also his ancestor,” he noted.

United States President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference at the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome, Italy, on October 31, 2021 (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS).

“One point among those involved in the Abrahamic Accords,” I replied, “is that these accords bring home the Abrahamic connection between Jews and Muslims, but in a peaceful way, rather than using it as a point of contention.”

“The Biden administration, and the president himself, have stated that we would encourage the development of these agreements,” he responded.

I am not at liberty – at this stage – to report in greater detail on the White House aide’s comments on the future of the Abraham Accords, as well as where the Palestinian process could be headed, but I told him that “if you see what Hebron means to many Jews, you can certainly understand why there are strong feelings when it comes to reinstalling a consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem. “

“I know about Jerusalem,” he replied.

In fact, I have found him far more knowledgeable about Jewish and Israeli affairs than an aide in the Obama White House with whom I had dozens of conversations over the course of nearly the full eight years of that presidency.

My history of maintaining informal ties with White House aides began, in fact, just a few months after Barack Obama’s first term when a high-ranking figure in a US Jewish organization told me about the difficult times that They were already brewing between the US president and Benjamin Netanyahu. , who was returning to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009.

“David, this is going to be difficult. Maybe he can put you in touch with someone from the administration, and you can just chat with him from time to time without using anything in the log in your reports. Just tell him about your life in Israel and your experience in Israel, ”said the Jewish figure.

So I did it. Just before Obama’s second term ended, I had the opportunity to speak with the president himself.

When Donald Trump walked into the White House, the American Jewish official told me, “We don’t need you now.”

Exactly one year ago, when Biden won the presidency, an Israeli journalist told me that she was sure that my old Obama contact, if we are still in contact, could put me in touch with a similar senior adviser in the Biden administration.

We kept in touch periodically. I followed the advice of the colleague and a new relationship was established.

The conversations, even when it comes to the most important topics, have been harmonious. I knew right away that Biden’s aide was understanding because in early February, just a couple of weeks after the new presidential term, he asked me to speak to some US senators who were “undecided” about keeping the US embassy in Jerusalem earlier. of the vote on an amendment dealing with the issue.

I did not discuss politics with the senators; I spoke of Jewish history.

There was already overwhelming support in the Senate to keep the embassy where it is, even without my report, but all three senators voted in favor of the amendment, bringing the support much closer to unanimity, 97-3.

The only senators who ultimately voted against were Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tom Carper. In that spirit, Biden’s aide has since told me about the pressures the president sometimes feels from progressives on various issues, including Israel.

As in the days of my contacts with Obama’s aide, I have been asked not to reveal too much information about my discussions, including the names of the people involved in my encounters, because they would gain “too much exposure” if I did. .

However, after Obama left office on January 20, 2017, he agreed to let me release the details of my conversation with him. As already reported in The Jerusalem Post, the president told me about an idea that he was floating around to present a UN Security Council resolution that would set the parameters for a final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a timetable for reaching an agreement on the final status.

The parameters would be a Palestinian state based on the pre-Six Day War lines and the deadline would be up to two years to complete the negotiations. I told the president that I was not sure that even the left-wing Israeli political parties would not support such a resolution because, although they could endorse the parameters, they would prefer an agreement drawn up directly with the Palestinians, perhaps with US facilitation but not by dictation. international. .

I was later told that the US Embassy in Israel then conducted a poll of political parties and found that there was indeed widespread opposition and therefore Obama abandoned the idea.

I have spoken directly to Biden, but it was on the occasion of Remembrance Day, before Independence Day, in April and it was a courtesy and a ceremony, which is not about substance.

I am not exaggerating what I am accomplishing with these conversations. However, I consider it a privilege to have been put in this position and I hope to use the discussions to show a face of Israel that American officials, no matter how familiar they are with the Jewish state, have never been exposed. to before.

The writer is an opinion editor for The Jerusalem Post.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *