Earlier this month, President Biden addressed the recent increase in violence in the West Bank refugee camp of Jenin. After opining that the terrorist attacks against Israel were carried out by “extremist” elements among the Palestinians, the president added an interesting caveat—that the terrorism was to some extent provoked by Israel’s “extreme” right-wing government. In other words, the president of the United States created a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists murdering Israeli civilians and the duly elected government of Israel trying to defend them, simply because Israeli politics are not to his liking.
The president would do better to face the grim reality that the over $1 billion in taxpayer-funded foreign aid that his administration has poured into the Palestinian Authority (and the United Nations programs propping it up) over the last two and a half years has done nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people and has instead been diverted to fund the very terrorism for which he blames Israel. If Biden refuses to recognize this fact, Congress will have to act to protect the American people from inadvertently funding attacks on one of our closest and most critical allies.
Contrary to the Washington establishment’s preconceived notions of what works in Israel, Trump-era policy proved that defunding the Palestinians for their venomous anti-America rhetoric and abuse of American funds to reward terrorists and their families does not in fact result in a significant spike in violence. This despite the theoretically incendiary corollary policies such as moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognizing the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory. Rather than stoking Palestinian violence, Trump’s policies led to the first peace deals between Israel and Arab states in 25 years.
Nonetheless, a top foreign-policy priority for the Biden administration was to reverse this progress and restore Palestinian funding, starting with $15 million in emergency Covid relief in March 2021. This down payment was swiftly followed with larger sums, such as $235 million in April 2021 to fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which President Biden proudly announced had ballooned into $316 million by July 2022. By the end of 2023, the administration will have provided more than $650 million to the Palestinians, with another $250 million requested for fiscal year 2024. (While this funding was recently stripped out of the State and Foreign Operations bill by the House, Democrats in the Senate will almost certainly add it back in.) All this money is supposedly intended to bolster the Palestinians’ quality of life, which would then reduce violence and increase the possibility of getting to the two-state solution to the conflict that Biden has long pursued.
In reality, Biden’s misguided policy has achieved almost the opposite of its aims. The last year has been the deadliest for both Israelis and Palestinians in decades. In Jenin, for example, which was the direct beneficiary of much of the UNRWA funding, the Palestinian Authority has lost security control and ceded space to Iranian-backed militants who packed the camp with fighters and weapons until the Israel Defense Forces moved in to clean them out. This intolerable threat, not the presence of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, is what prompted the biggest Israeli military action in the West Bank in 20 years and the corresponding loss of life. Biden’s insistence that Israel’s provocations are to blame is disingenuous at best. At worst, it could be a self-inflicted blow to one of America’s most important alliances, needlessly damaging our interests in the Middle East and increasing the threat of terrorism right here at home.
In addition to suggesting a moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians, President Biden also pettily refused to issue an invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit Washington, insisting instead that it was sufficient for Israel’s symbolic head of state, President Isaac Herzog, to visit and address a joint session of Congress. Of course, given that Herzog served in the Knesset as Netanyahu’s chief political opposition and has no practical executive power, this is yet another veiled insult to Israel’s prime minister, which will encourage one of our most important allies to look elsewhere for support.
Today, the damage that Biden is inflicting on the U.S.–Israel partnership, and thus damage to the security of the American people, is too important to ignore. If his administration refuses to reverse its disastrous pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel policies that will do nothing to promote a real solution to the conflict, then Congress must step in. Going forward, all members who support Israel need to stand strong against the noxious anti-Israel bias in the progressive caucus and aggressively counter requests for funding to the Palestinian Authority, which is incapable of stemming the violence, and vehicles such as UNRWA that only increase aid dependency, antisemitism, and violence in places such as Jenin. And if the president can’t summon the good manners to formally schedule a visit for one of our closest allies to the White House, the speaker of the House should use his authority to invite the real leader of Israel to address a joint session of Congress, and the American people, about the state of affairs in his country.
This piece originally appeared in the National Review