Biden's Failure on Palestine is the Failure of his Presidency
On much of foreign policy, the President's legacy will be how he established Trump's in stone.
“You don’t have too many friends here, buddy. I’m the one friend you do have. So call me when you need to.”
- Vice President Joe Biden to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2009
Three years ago, Jared Kushner published an opinion piece taking credit for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This piece, printed by the Wall Street Journal with the title “Opportunity Beckons in the Mideast”, is really something to behold. Published on March 15th, 2021, it marked the first time Kushner had surfaced publicly since his father-in-law was forced to leave office in disgrace. He wasted no time in congratulating himself. In the very first paragraph, Kushner declared that, as a result of his Abraham Accords, “We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict.” To explain why this was the case even though the Israelis and Palestinians were nowhere near a permanent settlement, Kushner laid out the philosophy that had guided all of Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy. According to him, the Palestinians didn’t matter. At all. In his words, “The Abraham Accords exposed the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict as nothing more than a real-estate dispute.” The idea that things “could be solved only after Israel and the Palestinians resolved their differences” was “never true”—just a “myth.”
You’d be hard pressed to find a better articulation of the moronic theory that was shattered into a thousand pieces on October 7th. Beyond that, though, it’s easy to question why this piece matters today. After all, Kushner is out of office. He’s not determining policy. The Biden administration is, and it’s full of people who mocked and dismissed Kushner as a lightweight nepo hire when he was in power. Given this, wouldn’t the outbreak in hostilities happening after Kushner left actually vindicate him? Biden is a Democrat, and Democrats have been constantly accused by Republicans of being too soft on the Palestinians. Is it any wonder, then, that things went to hell under him? If only we ignored Gaza even more. True Kushnerism has never been tried!
It’s a shame for those trying to push this line that, throughout the entirety of his time in office, Biden never actually broke from any of the former Senior Presidential Advisor’s policies.
It’s the biggest, worst-kept secret of the current administration. For the past seven years, stopping Trump and everything he represents has supposedly been the raison d'être of Joe Biden’s entire political life. In his own words, he only ran for president in 2020 because Trump was the incumbent, and he’s only running again in 2024 because Trump is running again. He has framed his opposition against the 45th President and his agenda as nothing less than a “battle for the soul of the nation”, with the highest, most existential stakes. But when it comes to many of Trump’s signature policies, the Biden administration has quietly maintained them. This hasn’t just been the case regarding Palestine, but it’s now clearly at its most disastrous there.
Don’t just take it from me. While anyone would expect an op-ed like Kushner’s to take his successors to task, he never actually did. In fact, he commended the Biden administration throughout his piece. He praised their “tough” attitudes from China to Iran, and worked to take pre-emptive credit for any efforts to expand his Accords to Saudi Arabia. Despite not being particularly bright, Kushner managed to make an impressively early call that the Biden administration would embrace, rather than repudiate, his legacy and worldview. And he was right.
If Jared Kushner can recognize this, we should be able to, too. Any telling of the story of the Kushner doctrine towards Palestine, and its failure, needs to consist of two parts. The first is what, exactly, this doctrine was: where it came from, how it worked, and what its assumptions were. The second part is how the Biden administration quietly adopted Kushner’s folly as their own, strengthened it, and set themselves up for catastrophic failure. In this article, I will go over this decade-long saga and the truth it reveals at the core of the Biden presidency: that he is the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Part I: Masters of Technology
If you read any coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in American media, the one thing you’ll be nigh-guaranteed to see is a reference to the fact that there have already been several attempts at peace talks in the past, and that they all failed. This is a truth that a lot different people bring up for a lot of different reasons. At its most sympathetic, it’s used to highlight just how tragic the continuation of the conflict is. This is true, if not all that insightful. But more common, and more insidious, are those who bring up these failed negotiations as an implicit justification for continued occupation and violence. You had it your way, they say. Look where it’s got us. There’s just no solution other than what Israel is doing now.
It’s quite a weighty charge. In light of such wide-ranging implications, its best to look back at what, exactly, happened during these failed negotiations.