Rabbi Steven Pruzansky in Israel National News: Biden’s Zionism
March 11, 2024

by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky in the Israel National News

President Joe Biden laid down the gauntlet and I accept.

In his State of the Union address (what Sen. Marco Rubio indelicately called a “proof of life speech”), he declared: “I say this as a lifelong supporter of Israel, my entire career. No one has a stronger record with Israel than I do. I challenge any of you here. I’m the only American president to visit Israel in wartime.”

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I accept the challenge. Indeed, Biden was the first president to visit Israel in wartime, a brief visit in which he expressed support, said some positive things, and promised to aid Israel’s war effort. The flow of weapons has been critical to the success of the war.

It is also true that Biden’s repeated references to being “the only American president to visit Israel in wartime” bears some similarity to his visit to the United States’ porous southern border: he visited the southern border so that he could say he visited the southern border, and he visited Israel in wartime so that he could say he visited Israel in wartime.

It is also true that his interactions with Israel since the first week of the war have been schizophrenic.

-He helps with his right hand and harms with his left.

-He praises and castigates.

-He smiles and he scowls.

-He provides weapons to Israel and demands that we feed and fuel our enemy, something that is unprecedented in wartime.

-He may have helped to thwart a Hezbollah attack from the north back in October – but they attack every day now.

-He supports our war effort – as long as we don’t win.

-He has financially penalized Israeli citizens without charge or trial.

-He backed our war against Hamas – but then has attempted to place so many restrictions on our conduct of the war that he prolonged it and impaired our effort to liberate our hostages.

(It is odd that he noted the presence of hostage families at the address but then did not mention their names or introduce them to the audience, the traditional custom in that venue.)

He “demands” an end to civilian casualties in Gaza and massive provision of aid to the enemy population – and then kills five of them by clunking them in the head with airdropped American aid.

And then he says we “must” find a different way to defeat our enemy who invaded, murdered, raped, marauded, and seized our citizens as hostages. But he does not suggest another way – so he evidently prefers stalemate and the survival of Hamas.

Is Biden the reason for the delayed invasion of Rafiach? Note that because of Biden, Israel telegraphs every move to the enemy. They knew exactly when we would enter Gaza City and Khan Yunis. They knew when we would search Al Shifa Hospital and when we would uncover the Hamas headquarters underneath. It should be no surprise then that wherever our soldiers go they do not find hostages and the Hamas leadership. What are the odds that there are still hostages or Sinwar in Rafiach? Slim, and that is no way to win a war.

For that we can blame Biden – and blame our leaders for going along with it.

Biden is at least consistent. He distinguishes between Hamas and the people of Gaza, even though those same people voted for Hamas and cheered – and many joined – the massacre on October 7.

Similarly, Biden now distinguishes between the Netanyahu government and the people of Israel – the same people that elected the Netanyahu government to power and overwhelmingly support the war objectives of the government. Perhaps he doesn’t understand how democracy works or accept its results unless they accord with his own preferences. But elections have consequences, as do invasions.

Biden’s failure to realize that, as well as his gross and unacceptable interference in Israel’s domestic affairs, undermines whatever goodwill he gained by his visit. He may not like the electoral choices of the Israeli people but it is the essence of hypocrisy even for a politician to try to manipulate Israel’s elections and then complain (falsely, as it turned out) that Vladimir Putin interfered in America’s elections. Is sauce for the goose not also sauce for the gander?

Alas, we break no new ground here by using “hypocrisy” and “politician” in the same sentence.

Are his contentions accurate? Has he been a “lifelong supporter” of Israel? Is there no one in the Senate or in the US government, past or present, who does not have a “stronger record”? Can Biden’s challenge be met? Of course.

Biden’s support for Israel paralleled that of traditional Democrats when he began serving in the Senate in 1973. Back when support for Israel was overwhelmingly bipartisan (unlike today), Biden showed his support mainly by voting for the annual foreign aid budget for Israel and a host of other countries. That was normal, nothing exceptional. Back then, Democrats always voted to give money away – some to Israel and other countries but mostly to their own favored projects (it is true today, as well).

It is the simplest thing to do; it is not their money, it is the people’s money, and yet the politicians including Biden reap the reward of directing other people’s money to the favored causes.

Is it true that “no one has a stronger record with Israel” than Biden? Hardly. I lived in New York for more than two decades while Biden first served in the Senate. My Senators were Jacob Javits, Daniel Patrick Moynahan, and Al D’Amato. All three were far more supportive of Israel than was Joe Biden. They never tried to dictate policy to Israel and they never threatened Israel as did Joe Biden.

In one well known Biden outburst in 1982, he hectored then Prime Minister Menachem Begin about Jewish settlements in, of all places, Judea, and threatened to halt all aid to Israel unless Begin froze construction. Begin famously responded: “Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”

And when Biden lost his temper and banged on the table, Begin added: “This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats.”

We could use a few more such “proud Jews” in our government today. Biden is currently trying to destabilize the Netanyahu government and force new elections. He wants now to come to Israel and address the Knesset to try to browbeat Israel into accepting the two-state illusion and the delusional diplomatic gambit that partitioning the land of Israel again and giving it to our enemies will save us, not destroy us. Proud Jews should inform him that, no, thank you, such a visit is unnecessary now and will not be necessary in the future until proper respect is shown to our elected government and all of its ministers.

Biden in his State of the Union speech then proclaimed: “I challenge any of you here” to show a “stronger record” on Israel. That would have been a good time for some heckling because every present Republican member of the Senate (except maybe for Rand Paul) is far more supportive of Israel than Joe Biden ever was – Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Jim Risch, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, even the underdressed Democratic Senator John Fetterman, and a host of others. This was just another empty Biden boast that is deflated on faint reflection.

What is it then? How can the same person harbor such inconsistencies – friendship and hostility, generous and menacing words? How can Biden proclaim – as he does repeatedly to Jewish audiences in his stock speeches – that he is a Zionist?

The answer is that Biden is a certain type of Zionist. He is the type who believes that Jewish history began in 1948, maybe 1933, but not before 1897. To Biden, Israel’s sole purpose is as “refuge from a Holocaust.” Such a refuge need not be strong, should not be aggressive, should always be accommodating to its enemies, and should certainly not settle the entirety of the land of Israel.

Biden is not a “Zionist” who has any knowledge of or interest in Jewish destiny, in the grand return to Israel after millennia of exile as foretold in the Bible, or in the great mission of the Jewish people. That is why he is so solicitous of our enemies, stipulating that we feed and fuel them, release their murderers from our jails, and consistently construes our land as their land.

What exacerbates his myopia and makes it especially grating is an ignorance of American history. He touts his Scranton roots, oblivious to the fact that Scranton was built on the land of the Lenape Indians who were killed or driven off. He then moved to Delaware, which was also Lenape territory. Biden grew up on occupied lands and still lives there, proudly, unabashedly – and yet lectures us about Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of Israel.

He also doesn’t seem to realize that Americans marching west to fulfill their “manifest destiny” was entirely based on the concept that “might makes right,” and nothing more elegant than that. But Israel is the only nation on earth that has a real “manifest destiny,” recorded again and again in the Bible that Joe Biden purports to covet, that connects us to this land – G-d’s land – like no other nation is connected to any other land on earth (see Keepgodsland.com).

Moreover, again to quote Menachem Begin, our residence in the land of Israel is based on “right makes might.” The “right” came first and with the blessings of Divine Providence our generation was rewarded with the might to conquer the land and retain all those areas that we have not foolishly surrendered to our enemies.

Joe Biden is a “refuge” Zionist – not a “destiny” Zionist or a Biblical Zionist. That is why he can endorse whatever little Israel needs to do to retain the “refuge” but nothing more than that. But the age of those Zionists is long gone and can only hinder our destiny going forward. Thus, he sees no inconsistency in demanding a cease-fire, in halting our march to victory, or in courting the radical Arab vote in America.

It should be alarming to American Jews that Biden’s recent turn against Israel is motivated, many say, by a desire not to lose the “Arab vote” in the fall election. Apparently, he does not fear losing the Jewish vote! Will American Jews see the writing on the wall? It is there, in neon lights.

We should realize that for all his support – and it has been needed and welcome – Biden is ultimately contemptuous towards Israel’s government and, by extension, the people that voted for that government. He is a “lifelong supporter” of a certain type of Israel – docile, concessionary, secular, and deferential to American interests, however flawed, misguided, or fanciful those interests are.

In the Rabbinic axiom, “kabdehu v’chashdehu,” we should respect him and suspect him. He has done some good things and some terrible things – but his geo-strategic vision is so limited that it endangers our future. In his own mind, he has a strong record of support for Israel, and he will not be convinced otherwise. We should keep him at arm’s length.

Originally published in the Israel National News

Photo Credit: US Embassy Jerusalem on Flickr

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