Skip to main content

Biden's visit: When a politically weak president meets an interim prime minister - analysis

US PRESIDENT Joe Biden has been riding a new wave of populism that will become the central theme in the next decade’s election campaigns across the Western world: disparaging big tech corporations; Yair Lapid at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference.  (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS, LIOR LEV)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden has been riding a new wave of populism that will become the central theme in the next decade’s election campaigns across the Western world: disparaging big tech corporations; Yair Lapid at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference.
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS, LIOR LEV)

This will not be a tête-à-tête between two leaders at the height of their political strength with a strong mandate and few immediate electoral concerns.

When Prime Minister Yair Lapid greets US President Joe Biden on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday, it will be an interim premier who very well may not be in office in another five months, meeting with a president whose own political future is looking increasingly uncertain.

Top Articles By JPost
Read More

These are the roads that will be closed during Biden's visit to Israel

In other words, this will not be a tête-à-tête between two leaders at the height of their political strength with a strong mandate and few immediate electoral concerns.

Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, according to the most recent polls, is trailing Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud significantly and would find it highly difficult right now to put together a government after November’s elections.

Likewise, Biden is at perhaps the lowest point in his presidency in terms of public support.

According to the New York Times/Siena College poll this week, Biden’s approval rating is a measly 33%, lower than Donald Trump was at an equivalent point in his presidency. According to an average of five polls on the polling website FiveThirtyEight, Biden’s approval rating over the last week was 38.6%, the lowest at this point in a presidency since Harry Truman.

PM Yair Lapid at a cabinet meeting of the 24th Knesset, July 10th 2022.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)PM Yair Lapid at a cabinet meeting of the 24th Knesset, July 10th 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

How US president came to Israel in the past

But even more striking, fully 64% of Democrats do not want him to be the party’s candidate for president in 2024. In other words, Biden is reaching the mid-point of his first term in office with only 26% of his party ready to chant, “four more years.”

In this regard, Biden’s visit is markedly different from Trump’s visit here in 2017,and Obama’s first visit in 2013 (he also came for a brief one-day visit in 2016 for Shimon Peres’ funeral).

When Obama came in March of 2013, he was just five months off of a decisive reelection victory, and his approval rating was a robust 47%. Obama was a leader who was going to be in office for nearly another four years, and who had the strong backing of the American people behind him. He could speak with authority.

Greeting him at the airport was Netanyahu, who also just came off an election which he too won handily. He met Obama at the airport only two days after his new government, with 68 seats in the Knesset, was sworn into office. Obama might have wanted to exert pressure, but Netanyahu, fresh off that election victory and with a newly-minted government, was politically secure and had the electoral backing to withstand it.

When Trump came here in March of 2017, he too was just five months beyond his election victory. While his approval rating was low for a president at that point in his tenure — 40% — it was still higher than where Biden is now. The Republicans controlled both the Senate and House, and — unlike Biden — he commanded the allegiance of the vast majority of his party. He came to Israel and Saudi Arabia in a position of political strength.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, was the head of a stable right-wing government that was two years into its term, and — as far as Israeli governments are concerned — was pretty secure. Neither Netanyahu nor Trump nor Netanyahu and Obama were in precarious political positions when they met in Jerusalem.

That definitely cannot be said of Biden and Lapid today.

So what does that mean?

For Biden it means that he will have a hard time bending people to his will — this is something more salient when he goes to Saudi Arabia, than when he comes to Israel.

When Biden goes to Saudi Arabia, and tries to get the Saudis and the leaders of the other Gulf countries, Egypt and Jordan with whom he will meet to do as he asks, he will be asking from a weak political position.Those leaders, especially Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may ask themselves why heed his requests, when it is likely that he won’t be in office in another two and one-half years. Why not just bide time and run out the clock until there is someone in the White House who might be more amenable?

In Israel, this is less likely to be much of an issue, since it is doubtful that Biden — who clearly prefers Lapid as prime minister to Netanyahu — will press Lapid too hard, so as not to complicate things for the Yesh Atid leader during the campaign.

For instance, Biden is unlikely to push Lapid into any dramatic concession to the Palestinians — such as agreeing to open a US consulate in east Jerusalem — because to do so could hurt Lapid electorally. For this reason, it is actually fortuitous for Israel that Biden’s visit is taking place during an election campaign — the very timing lessens the application of any serious US pressure.

It is fortuitous, as well, that this trip is taking place before the US midterm elections in November.

Why? Because it looks now as if the Democrats are heading for a thrashing, and are likely to lose control of both chambers of Congress, or — at the very minimum — at least the House. What that means is that in the second half of his first term Biden will have an even more difficult time getting his domestic agenda passed than he has had already.

 So what does a president do when he can’t move anything domestically because of Congressional opposition? He looks for victories abroad, where he has much more leeway and is not dependent on Congressional support. And where have all presidents since George H. W. Bush gone to try and leave an indelible foreign policy mark? The Middle East.

Biden is the first president since Bill Clinton who has not presented a dramatic diplomatic vision to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue. But after the midterms, if the president has no chance of pushing through his domestic agenda, he may turn his sights in that direction. This could be especially true if it looks as if Biden will not be his party’s candidate in 2024, because then he will be looking as well for a legacy, and the Mideast is one place where so many previous presidents have gone in search of theirs.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dr. Vladimir Zelenko has now treated 699 coronavirus patients with 100% success

ORIGIN OF THE AKAN - Onyeji Nnaji

GARDEN OF EDEN FOUND IN WEST AFRICA - Onyeji Nnaji

FIVE WAYS A WIFE CAN REST HER HUSBAND ON HER

THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF NSUKKA by Onyeji Nnaji

THE HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF THE ZULU PEOPLE

STEP FOUR: LEARN TO PACKAGE YOURSELF

BRIEF HISTORY OF NKALAHA.

The Meaning of "5" in the Igbo Cosmology - Onyeji Nnaji

TYPES OF PREPOSITION - Onyeji Nnaji