Pollak: Naftali Bennett’s 3 Colossal Strategic Blunders at the White House

Naftal Bennett and Joe Biden (Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty)
Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made three great strategic blunders in his meeting Friday with President Joe Biden in Washington.

He gave up Israel’s right to oppose the Iran deal publicly; he gave up the principle of a united Jerusalem; and he failed to pressure the Biden administration on funding Palestinian terrorism.

At the end of it all, Bennett claimed he “achieved and surpassed” his goals for the trip, which should provoke questions about what his true goals really are.

It is unfathomable that a sovereign nation would not to oppose publicly a deal that threatens its very existence. Moreover, Bennett did not have to give up that right.

The Biden he met on Friday was a shattered president, his credibility ruined by the Afghanistan debacle. Biden needed Bennett more than Bennett needed Biden.

When critics of the meeting suggested that Bennett was wasting his time with a weakened Biden administration, others pointed out that by showing friendship to Biden in his hour of need, Bennet could earn goodwill.

But sometimes, as Obama and Biden have said so often when pressuring Israel, the best thing a friend can do is offer constructive criticism. And Bennett was in a unique position to suggest Biden abandon the posture of appeasement he has adopted around the globe.

Instead, Bennett appears to have listened to his political partners, Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, who echo the Democratic Party’s criticism of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They say Bibi made Israel a partisan issue by criticizing President Barack Obama’s Iran deal in Congress.

That false theory absolves Obama of blame — not just for the Iran deal, but for creating “distance” between the U.S. and Israel from Day One, with then-Vice President Biden even condemning Israel over housing in Jerusalem.

Reports from Friday imply Bennett also secured a reciprocal commitment from Biden not to criticize Israel in public. But criticism from Biden is meaningless. Just ask OPEC, which laughed at Biden’s request to increase oil production.

Biden needed to reassure the world that the U.S. was not a pushover for terrorists. Bennett should have urged Biden to end talks with Iran, to show he meant it.

Instead, it was Biden making demands of Bennett — insisting, for example, that the U.S. be allowed to open a consulate in Jerusalem to cater specifically to Palestinians.

The existing U.S. embassy is capable of servicing those needs. The only purpose of a consulate would be to grant Palestinians a foothold in Israel’s capital city — and on the western, predominantly Jewish side. Bennett appeared to have acquiesced, meekly asking Biden to wait until after his budget passes in November.

Finally, Bennett failed to raise publicly the issue of Biden’s decision to restore funding to the Palestinians, in violation of bipartisan legislation that prevents U.S. taxpayer funds from going to the Palestinian Authority while it continues to fund and support terror. Biden’s decision this spring presaged the Palestinian war against Israel in May.

In the wake of Biden’s failure in Afghanistan, Bennett was in a position to demand Biden obey U.S. law. Instead, he let Biden get away with it.

So when Bennett claims that he “achieved and surpassed” his goals, the question must be what his real goals actually are.

In a subsequent conference call with Jewish leaders, the White House reportedly suppressed questions from pro-Israel groups, giving half the questions to critics of Israel. Such groups are well-funded and play an increasing role in Israeli politics.

Bennett, supposedly more “right-wing” than Bibi, is dancing to their tune. Last week, Israel paid the price.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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