03:54 GMT03 March 2021
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    It’s been over three weeks since Joe Biden’s 20 January inauguration, but the US president has yet to telephone Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel – America’s closest ally in the Middle East. The silence has prompted some Israeli politicians to try to capitalise on the situation ahead of next month’s legislative elections.

    Dani Dayan, former Israeli consul general at the UN, has promised to work with Joe Biden and the Democratic Party to try to fix the cooling relationship between Washington and Tel Aviv, accusing Netanyahu and Likud of an excessively pro-GOP policy.

    Running for Knesset on the list of New Hope, a small party to the right of the Likud which split off from the prime minister’s party in late 2020, Dayan told The Times of Israel that he believes Netanyahu has “lost confidence in the feasibility of maintaining Democratic support.”

    “Israel didn’t invest in bipartisan support over the last years,” Dayan suggested.

    While saying that Netanyahu’s diplomacy had led to gains for Israel that were “really beyond any imagination,” including US recognition of Israeli control of Syria’s Golan Heights, the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and the brokering of the Abraham Accords, Dayan suggested that his policies were too heavily slanted in favour of the Republicans.

    “The prime minister and embassy in Washington were almost card-carrying members of the Republican Party,” the former envoy complained, arguing that “there is still a huge mainstream in the Democratic Party which we should work with.”

    Led by former Likud leadership contender Gideon Sa’ar, New Hope is said to be to the right of the ruling Israeli party on many issues, opposing any Israeli-Palestinian two state solution, and supporting the annexation of large swathes of West Bank. Dayan himself is a settler, and former chairman of Yesha Council, an umbrella organisation of councils of illegal settlements in the West Bank, whose efforts have also included "spreading Zionism online" and editing Wikipedia articles toward a pro-Israeli bias.

    US President Donald Trump speaks to the leaders of Sudan and Israel as he announces that Sudan will normalize relations with Israel at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 23, 2020.
    © AFP 2021 / ALEX EDELMAN
    US President Donald Trump speaks to the leaders of Sudan and Israel as he announces that Sudan will normalize relations with Israel at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 23, 2020.

    Biden-Bibi ‘Friendship’

    A government official rejected Dayan’s suggestion that the Netanyahu government had moved too far towards the Republicans during Trump’s tenure, telling the Times of Israel that Netanyahu “has a relationship” with Biden “that goes back four decades,” including a “friendship” with the Delaware Democrat since his time as a senator which “has been sustained over many years.”

    “It doesn’t mean that they necessarily always agree on the issues, but it means that because there is that long-term relationship, if there are differences, they’ll be able to deal with them,” the official suggested.

    Dayan himself admitted that he was hopeful about Biden’s cabinet picks, saying “the top echelon is good,” and that “there is no cabinet-level appointment that can be interpreted as courting not only to ‘The Squad,’ but also the Sanders-Warren wing of the Democratic Party.”

    Members of "The Squad," a small group of Democratic congresspeople from the party’s progressive wing, have expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, earning them ire from the Israeli government. During his 2020 presidential run, Bernie Sanders blasted Israeli militarism abroad, and attacked Trump for his decision to recognise Jerusalem as the country’s capital, saying it "dramatically undermined" the chances of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

    Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) logo
    © AP Photo / Amr Nabil
    Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) logo

    New Elections

    Israelis will go to the polls on 23 March, with elections called after the failure of the passage of the budget bill after months of bitter infighting between Likud and its Blue and White grand coalition partners throughout much of last year. The country has already had three elections in less than two years, with each vote failing to produce a viable right-wing or centre-right government led by Likud or Blue and White, respectively.

    Dayan promises that a New Hope victory in the elections would see the party “engage very intimately and very discreetly” with the Biden administration on the Iran nuclear deal “in order to convince them that first of all no sanctions should be lifted before any new agreement is achieved,” and “to amend some clauses in the [agreement], not restricted to the sunset clauses.”

    The Netanyahu government successfully lobbied Trump to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, with the Republican pulling the US out of the agreement in May 2018. The Biden administration has expressed a desire to return to the nuclear deal, but demanded that Tehran scale back its uranium enrichment activities first.

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