WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden told US Jewish donors Tuesday that he would “reverse” US President Donald Trump’s Israel policies that he said damaged the chances of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
In a Zoom teleconference, the former vice president pledged to restore diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority and push both sides toward a two-state solution, reiterating his opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed West Bank annexation while vowing to maintain the same levels of American security assistance to the Jewish state.
“I do not support annexation,” Biden told the donors, according to a recording of the call shared with The Times of Israel. “I’m going to reverse the Trump administration’s steps that I think significantly undercut the prospects of peace.”
That included repairing frayed ties with Palestinian leaders and resuscitating aid to the PA and funding humanitarian programs. Trump cut aid to the Palestinians after they refused to engage with the White House following the president’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there.
Biden did not address the possibility of reversing the US embassy move. But last month said he would not seek to return the embassy in Jerusalem back to its status as a consulate.
He also did not say whether he would seek to reverse annexation moves if the Netanyahu government enacted them before the November election.
Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has reportedly been pressing Trump officials to swiftly give Jerusalem the green light to move forward with extending sovereignty to the settlements before the election, in case Biden wins.
While Biden told the Democratic Jewish donors he opposed annexation, he did not specify what the US policy response should be.
That said, he told them that he would not touch US aid to Israel and would preserve the 2016 memorandum of understanding (MOU) reached between the Obama administration that allocates $38 billion to Israel over 10 years.
“I’m not going to place conditions on security assistance, given the serious threats that Israelis face,” Biden said. “This would be, I think, irresponsible.”
Over the course of the 2020 Democratic primary, several of Biden’s former challengers floated the idea of leveraging aid to Israel as a mechanism to disincentivize the Israeli government from implementing policies that damaged the possibility of a two-state outcome.
Biden said that he would honor the Taylor Force Act, legislation passed in 2018 and signed into law by Trump that withholds portions of American aid to the Palestinians unless it ceases to issue payments to the families of terrorists who murder Israelis.
“I’m going to fully support the Taylor Force Act,” Biden said.
He recalled being in Tel Aviv in 2016 when Force, a 28-year-old American West Point grad, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant on the Jaffa Port.
At the time, he was meeting with the late Shimon Peres several blocks away at the Peres Center for Peace.