The Biden administration is interested in the survival of the Bennett-Lapid government and is consequently expected, at this stage, to continue granting it comfortable wiggle room, according to a senior American official close to the White House.
The administration, the U.S. official said, wants the current Israeli coalition to remain intact and, as a result, isn’t likely to challenge it or pose firm demands until it passed the national budget.
“Officials in the administration understand that passing the budget is the definitive test for the government’s survivability. Hence, until it is passed, they don’t intend to cause any shockwaves that could jeopardize it,” the official said.
The American desire to prevent Opposition Leader Binyamin Netanyahu from returning to power, the official added, along with the fact that the present coalition includes left-wing parties and the Arab Ra’am party, are among the reasons for the Biden administration’s favorable approach.
The senior American official said he believes that until the state budget is passed, the administration won’t raise politically sensitive issues in Israel.
The government plans to pass the budget in three months, after which, as stated, the situation could change from the American perspective. Although even then, according to the American official, the U.S. administration will likely tread lightly in terms of pressure and will prefer to avoid any head-on confrontations with Israel.
It should be noted that contrary to the Obama administration, the current American administration has taken a moderate approach toward Israel, even when Netanyahu was in office, and has opted not to criticize or condemn the Jewish state too vehemently.
Among the issues the administration is expected to raise after the budget is passed is the reopening of the American Consulate in Yerushalayim, which acted as a de facto mission to the Palestinians, and was shut down under the Trump administration.
In the meantime, at Israel’s request, the Biden administration has delayed the consulate’s reopening.
The U.S. decision follows requests from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed in principle to the reopening of the consulate, arguing that this contradicts the U.S, recognition of Yerushalayim in 2017 as the capital of Israel.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, meanwhile, has conveyed to the Americans the political sensitivity of such a move – which essentially signals a future partition of Yerushalayim.
Another matter the Americans are expected to raise is the de facto transfer of land to the Palestinians in Yehudah and Shomron, but not through altering the sovereignty status of said lands. The intent, for example, is to put a plan back on the table to establish industrial zones in Yehudah and Shomron for the Palestinians and to develop residential neighborhoods adjacent to Palestinian cities.
Likud MK Nir Barkat, meanwhile, has met with several Republican and Democratic congressmen and senators in Washington in recent days within the framework of a public relations campaign he is spearheading to explain the dangers of reopening the consulate for the Palestinians in Yerushalayim.
“To my pleasure, I found many partners and allies in Washington who will preserve the status of Yerushalayim as the unified capital of Israel,” he said.
Barkat, a former mayor of Yerushalayim, submitted a bill earlier this month that would prevent the U.S. from reopening its Yerushalayim Consulate to the Palestinians.