The Cynical ‘Biden Doctrine’ Middle East Peace Plan is Dead on Arrival

According to a January 31 Axios article and a February 1 New York Times column by Thomas Friedman, the Biden administration is considering a major new Middle East peace initiative to end the Israel/Hamas War by quickly recognizing a fully independent Palestinian state. Friedman calls this “the Biden Doctrine,” which he describes as “big and bold” and potentially “the biggest strategic realignment in the region since the 1979 Camp David treaty.”

The real purpose of this plan is to counter Biden’s sagging poll numbers and growing criticism of his Middle East policy. Although the reported Biden Doctrine has absolutely no chance of being implemented, it could succeed in further isolating Israel.

According to Friedman, the Biden Doctrine is a Middle East peace plan with three parts: (1) a tough U.S. stand on Iran, including robust military retaliation against Iranian proxies; (2) the U.S. will push for recognition now or very soon of a Palestinian state that is demilitarized and led by a reformed Palestinian authority; and (3) a greatly scaled-up U.S. security alliance with Saudi Arabia with the aim of Saudi-Israel normalization if Israel agrees to part 2.

Part 1, a tough U.S. response to Iran and its proxies, is long overdue, but this is empty rhetoric.  Given how weak U.S. responses have been to attacks by Iranian-backed proxies, only a massive U.S. military response has any chance of stopping their attacks. It is hard to believe that President Biden will approve such a response. Moreover, the fact that Biden still has not ordered retaliatory air strikes in response to the January 28 attack on a U.S. base in Jordan that killed three U.S. servicemembers has further eroded his credibility.

Part 2, to promote an independent, demilitarized Palestinian state under the control of a transformed Palestinian Authority, is a complete fantasy. The real purpose of this idea is to salvage Biden’s abysmal Middle East policy and make him look like a peacemaker at home.  Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis will ever agree to this proposal.

Israeli leaders have made it clear that an independent Palestinian state under the two-state solution is off the table because of security threats in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack.

Max Abrams, a Northeastern University associate professor of political science who specializes in international security and terrorism, had long been an advocate of the two-state solution. After October 7, he explained the Israeli government’s view of the two-state solution when he said, “not all problems are solvable… Hamas has opposed every single two-state-solution peace process, explicitly. It has intentionally used terrorism to derail a two-state solution. And so there is no bargaining space.”

There is also the probability that if free elections were held to elect the leadership of a new, independent Palestinian state, Hamas would win. Israel will not allow this to happen.

But even if Israel was willing to accept Part 2 of the hastily-crafted Biden Doctrine, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas would not. Palestinian leaders have repeatedly rejected peace plans that were far better developed and more generous. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas will never agree to disarm or a demilitarized Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority’s corrupt officials are also unwilling to reform or give up power. And Hamas has been adamant that it will never give up control of Gaza.

Despite these huge obstacles, the Biden administration is insisting over Israeli objections that an independent Palestinian state under the control of the Palestinian Authority is the only route to peace. According to Axios, some Biden administration officials are considering having the U.S. recognize Palestine as an independent state as a first step to ending the Israel-Hamas War, and this could include allowing the United Nations to admit Palestine as a full U.N. member state. (Palestine currently has observer status in the U.N. without a vote.)

Part 3 of the Biden Doctrine plan is also farfetched. Aside from the fact that Israel will not accept a plan to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia on the condition of an independent Palestinian state, Saudi Arabia will not accept the Biden Doctrine plan because it will probably put Hamas in charge of running this new state. Moreover, given that the Biden Doctrine appears to primarily be a desperate attempt to salvage President Biden’s political fortunes at home, Saudi officials will be very skeptical about this plan.

In addition, because the Biden administration has badly mishandled U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, Saudi leaders will be reluctant to trust Biden officials in peace talks under this doctrine and probably plan to wait out this administration in the hope that Biden will be replaced by a new and more competent president in January 2025.

The so-called Biden Doctrine is for domestic consumption. It is a grandiose plan that Biden administration media allies like Thomas Friedman, CNN, and MSNBC will use to praise President Biden as an effective and decisive world leader and blame Prime Minister Netanyahu for obstructing Biden’s peace efforts. If implemented, this cynical plan will be a step backward for Middle East peace and will embolden Iran and its terrorist proxies to expand their attacks.

If the Biden administration moves forward with the Biden Doctrine, it will further isolate Israel and damage its global standing. This is a shoddy way for America to treat one of its closest and most important allies, but President Biden has put his animosity toward Prime Minister Netanyahu, radical left views of the Israel-Palestine dispute, and presidential politics ahead of standing with Israel at this desperate time in its history.

All Americans should speak out against the so-called Biden Doctrine as a perverse politicization of American foreign policy that could significantly harm a close U.S. ally. Because this proposal violates the pro-Israeli views of most Members of Congress, a strong bipartisan congressional majority must insist that Biden officials kill this betrayal of Israel ASAP.

Fred Fleitz is vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council chief of staff, CIA analyst, and a House Intelligence Committee staff member.

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Photo: TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden (L) listens to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he joins a meeting of the Israeli war cabinet in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. US President Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv on October 18, 2023 as Middle East anger flared after hundreds were killed when a rocket struck a hospital in war-torn Gaza, with Israel and the Palestinians quick to trade blame. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)