Friday, November 20, 2020

  • Friday, November 20, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon
On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made two major statements.

One was that the US will support labeling any goods manufactured or grown by Israeli firms in Judea and Samaria as being "Made in Israel."

The other was to announce that the US will potentially "boycott the boycotters," it will compile a list of organizations that support BDS for the purpose of ensuring that no US funds go to these organizations. 


Besides that, he became the first US official to visit Judea and Samaria as well as the Golan Heights in an official capacity. 

Some argue that these statements can be easily walked back in a Biden administration, as Lahav Harkov tweeted. She followed up with a more nuanced analysis of which pro-Israel policies can be canceled easily by the new administration and which would be more difficult. 

Biden opposes BDS. He has said so, and that opposition was written into his campaign platform. However, stopping funding to entities supporting boycotts of Israel or “any territory controlled by Israel” – in other words, Judea and Samaria – would narrow Biden’s options on another matter of policy: his promise to restore aid to the Palestinians.
Persistent reports say the Palestinian Authority is trying to scale back its policy of paying jailed terrorists and families of terrorists in order to get around the Taylor Force Act that bans US aid to the PA as long as the “pay for slay” program is still in place.
However, the PA has taken an anti-normalization stance towards Israel, and many Palestinian civil society organizations have ties to the BDS movement. Furthermore, stopping funding to groups that call for boycotts of “any territory controlled by Israel” would include many international human rights organizations.
She makes a good point - Biden will prioritize re-establishing relationships with the Palestinian Authority and Pompeo's anti-BDS statement seems to preclude that. However, at the moment Pompeo only required the State Department to identify groups that support BDS, not to automatically cut them off.  This is not inconsistent with contacts with the PLO - Pompeo is discouraging such contacts but not forbidding them.

Similarly, with the labeling goods issue, while Biden is very much against Jewish activities in Judea and Samaria, practically speaking there is no downside to labeling those goods to be "made in Israel." These goods are under Israeli regulations, policies and quality control, not Palestinian and not "occupied territories" which have no separate regulations. Consumers would care about those regulations, not the physical origin, unless they are anti-Israel in which case they wouldn't buy them anyway. 

The major argument that the Biden administration won't be so keen on immediately canceling these and other Trump policies is that optics is a powerful force in government. Simply put, it looks bad for the US to switch policies back and forth depending on the political party in charge.  It looks bad to Americans and it especially looks bad to non-Americans. If the US wants to be a world leader, it cannot be seen as whiplashing between positions every few years, or its allies will stop trusting any agreements made. 

Obviously Trump was a disrupter in this regard but there is not likely to be another president any time soon who disregards optics as much as he does. Biden is very sensitive to how things look, and he will not run to negate US policies except for those that he has based his campaign on, like the Iran deal. 





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