Biden needs to stick to a plan for his Middle East trip to be successful

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There’s an ancient rabbinic adage that goes like this: “There’s no greater form of happiness than the absence of doubt.” During the previous administration, it was the recipe for peace in the Middle East. 

President Trump had a plan that was not only comprehensive and straightforward, but also backed by principle and clear markers of success. Without a similarly robust vision, President Biden’s trip to the Middle East this week—his first as commander in chief—will not succeed. Even worse, it could lead to a reversion to U.S. foreign policy that went stale decades ago. 

Biden needs to stick to a plan for his Middle East trip to be successful

President Joe Biden (L) is welcomed by Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, on July 13, 2022. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) 

Indeed, since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, but even more so since the Six-Day War in 1967, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East had been ambiguous, at best—cryptic about its goal, unclear about its enemies, opaque about its friends. Instead of bringing stability and prosperity to the region, this approach, not surprisingly, yielded confusion, which led to chaos and an even more dangerous region. 

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President Trump and his senior policy team—namely comprised of U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz—injected clarity into geopolitical morass. 

Biden needs to stick to a plan for his Middle East trip to be successful

Abraham Accords signing ceremony at the White House on September 13, 2021.
(Getty)

To be fair, this brought both popular and unpopular decisions to the region. But finally, all the relevant parties grasped where all the others stood. Honesty cut through layers of ossified diplomatic niceties and put everyone on the same page, which is the only place that enables progress.

The Trump administration appreciated the reality of the situation, which is that each nation is made up of many different people and personalities with many different interests. 

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For far too long the Middle East was looked upon as a bloc with a rather uniform worldview. That would be like someone in the Middle East saying that California and Texas are virtually identical because they’re both in the United States. 

Biden needs to stick to a plan for his Middle East trip to be successful

An America First policy made perfect sense to the diverse peoples of the Middle East. The Trump administration’s decisions might not have always been wildly popular in the region, especially from the outset. But at least the Arab nations knew where the United States was coming from, where it stood, and where it wanted to go. Lo and behold, the frankness dissipated many heavy clouds of distrust and misunderstanding, which led to peace and prosperity. 

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President Biden’s Middle East trip this week will feature stops in Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. All Americans should root for the success of the commander in chief. But success necessitates concrete targets and metrics, neither of which have been set out. 

With regard to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, getting the nation to produce more oil when the current administration has crippled our own domestic production would be a pyrrhic victory. 

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With respect to the Palestinians, myriad demands will be made by them during meetings, but how Biden will respond remains unknown. At the same time, there has been zero articulation of our nation’s expectations of the Palestinians to earn the privilege of a meeting with the sitting president of the United States.

Biden needs to stick to a plan for his Middle East trip to be successful

President Joe Biden (C) is welcomed by Israeli President Isaac Herzog (L) and caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid upon his arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, on July 13, 2022.  (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden administration’s approach is indicative of a misunderstanding of leverage. This lack of groundwork and transparency doesn’t just damage America’s image in the eyes of the Palestinians, it reverberates throughout the Middle East. It sends an impenetrable message that will lead to mixed results, if not chaos and death.

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During the Trump administration, every single visit to the Middle East had purpose, and every milestone achieved unlocked greater potential for the region. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, acknowledging Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, bluntly telling the Israelis that they couldn’t be both tech partners with China and best friends with America all led to the diplomatic breakthrough of the generation, the Abraham Accords. 

The Abraham Accords involve five Muslim-majority nations that chose to normalize relations with Israel in order to build a future unencumbered by past. An America First approach removed longstanding doubt from the region. President Biden has before him an obvious road map for success in the region. Let’s hope he eschews partisanship to choose it over tired and broken ways.  

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