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Netanyahu and Erdoğan – Mutual Concern Over Biden

Netanyahu and Erdoğan – Mutual Concern Over Biden

Al-Nahar, Lebanon, February 17

US President Joe Biden has had two disappointing experiences with both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his term as Vice President under Barack Obama. In 2010, during Biden’s visit to Israel, Netanyahu announced a new settlement project in East Jerusalem. The Obama Administration considered the move direct defiance of the American stance opposing settlement expansion and believed that the Israeli prime minister sought to deliberately embarrass Biden during his visit. In 2014, as the Islamic State group rose to prominence across the world, Biden delivered a speech at Harvard University, in which he singled out Turkey as one of the countries that encouraged the emergence of jihadist organizations due to its involvement in the Syrian war. These remarks angered Erdoğan, who demanded that Biden issue an apology. Indeed, a phone call was scheduled between the two leaders later that year, in which Biden was forced to clarify his position and qualify his statements. Now, a month into the Biden presidency, fears run in Israel and Turkey that the new US president may not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who was extremely tolerant of both Netanyahu and Erdoğan. In Israel, Netanyahu fears that Biden will initiate a new peace plan in the Middle East, based on a return to the two-state solution, which will cause embarrassment to the Israeli prime minister, in addition to imposing restrictions on settlement expansion. These two matters were conveniently ignored by Trump in his “deal of the century.” Indeed, Trump gave Israel free rein on settlement construction. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even made it a point to visit Israeli settlements in the West Bank and claimed that they are “legal” and “not an obstacle to peace.” Biden confirmed that he would not reverse the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He also praised the normalization agreements between Israel and the Arab world, declaring his encouragement for such steps. But for Netanyahu, this is not enough. He wants to be reassured that Biden will not revive any peace plan with the Palestinians, nor that he will return to the nuclear agreement with Iran. Erdoğan, in turn, has plenty of reason to be alarmed by Biden. The Democratic president appears intent on raising human rights issues with the Turkish president. The new US administration’s rush to demand that Ankara “immediately release” Turkish businessman Osman Kavala, who was imprisoned three years ago under false accusations about his involvement with the failed coup attempt in 2016, is a discouraging sign of the future of the relationship between Washington and Ankara. Further, Biden will have zero tolerance toward Turkey’s growing military ties with Russia, especially with regard to the S-400 missile deal. About a year before his election, Biden said in an interview with The New York Times that Washington should help the Turkish opposition get rid of the “tyrannical” Erdoğan regime. Despite their many disagreements, both Netanyahu and Erdoğan have a large geopolitical concern in common: their country’s future relations with the United States under the presidency of Joe Biden. –Samih Saab (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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