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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Mideast Peace Plan Can Help Biden Win Re-Election

Some excerpts from “Biden’s New Plan for the Middle East Is More of the Same,” by Matthew Duss, the executive vice president at the Center for International Policy, published February 14 of this year In Foreign Policy:

Last month [January 2024], the administration offered a preview of its new plan for the Middle East via New York Timescolumnist Tom Friedman, a longtime favorite of the president’s. “We are about to see a new Biden administration strategy unfold to address this multifront war involving Gaza, Iran, Israel, and the region,” Friedman wrote, “what I hope will be a ‘Biden Doctrine’ that meets the seriousness and complexity of this dangerous moment.”….The Biden plan he lays out offers little that’s new or promising—and threatens to keep U.S. policy stuck in the same failed rut it’s been in for decades.”

As relayed by Friedman, the plan has three parts: a revitalized push for a Palestinian state; a U.S.-backed Israel-Saudi normalization deal that would include a U.S. security alliance with Saudi Arabia but would be contingent on Israeli support for the first part; and a more aggressive response to Iran and its regional network.

First, let’s focus on the positive. One of the main problems with the U.S.-managed peace process is that it has generally imposed consequences on the weaker side, the Palestinians. For Israel, only carrots. For Palestinians, mainly sticks. There are a few signs now that the administration is prepared to change this. A recent executive order enabling sanctions to be imposed on extremist settlers in the West Bank, as well as organizations that support them, is a small but important sign that the U.S. is finally willing to impose consequences on both sides. (Anyone claiming that the order is simply window dressing should take a look at this FinCEN notice, and then find someone who can explain it to them.)

So, too, with the recent White House memorandum conditioning military aid on adherence to international law, an idea Biden previously referred to as “bizarre.” While the necessity of the memorandum is questionable, as the administration already has the tools and authorities required to condition aid (and is, in fact, legally required to do so), it’s still a step in the right direction. Provided, of course, the administration keeps stepping that way and doesn’t treat the new process as simply a method to bury credible allegations of Israeli abuses in more layers of paper.

if Duss is right, Biden should consider reformulating his plan to take a tougher stance against U. S. funding violence against Gaza and its people. He should emphasize easy-to-understand points and his campaign should sell it widely, so that, by November most voters and media commentators get it that this is the most serious and practical plan for peace in the Mideast. Many won’t like it, regardless of the content. But if it seems fair to Palestinians and Israelis and strives to stop the bloodshed, Biden and the Democrats  can experience some political benefit.

For their part, the leaders of the student demonstrations should carefully consider the political dangers to America if the protests become violent. That would provoke a backlash, turn public opinion in favor of Trump and the Republicans and give Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a blank check to do his worst. The protest strategy of blocking traffic is already generating negative buzz, even in normally liberal media. It could backfire further and hurt the Palestinians and their student supporters.

It’s a presidential election year. Biden, Democratic candidates and pro-Palestinian protesters should all park the high horses and get politically strategic.

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