Biden is currently on his first official tour of the Middle East as president of the United States.
A joint declaration between Israel and the United States was signed in Jerusalem on Thursday, amid President Joe Biden’s first official visit to the occupying state and region since taking office.
Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Biden signed the joint declaration which outlines a strategic partnership and “unbreakable bonds” between the two allies, as well as Washington’s “enduring” and “unshakeable” commitment to Israel’s security.
“Our countries further reaffirm that the strategic US-Israel partnership is based on a bedrock of shared values, shared interests, and true friendship. Furthermore, the United States and Israel affirm that among the values the countries share is an unwavering commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and the calling of “Tikkun Olam,” repairing the world,” the declaration reads.
The document, published by the White House just moments ahead of the official signing ceremony in Jerusalem,
“The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter its enemies and to defend itself by itself against any threat or combination of threats. The United States further reiterates that these commitments are bipartisan and sacrosanct, and that they are not only moral commitments, but also strategic commitments that are vitally important to the national security of the United States itself,” it added.
The declaration pointed out Iran, Israel’s regional nemesis, as well as a number of militant groups in the region.
Washington “stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome.
“The United States further affirms the commitment to work together with other partners to confront Iran’s aggression and destabilising activities, whether advanced directly or through proxies and terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
The allies noted “unprecedented” Memoranda of Understanding on security assistance signed by successive US administrations over the last few decades that stipulates billions in funding to Israel to bolster its military.
“The United States strongly supports implementing the terms of the current historic $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding in full, which honors the United States’ enduring commitment to Israel’s security, as well as its conviction that a follow-on MOU should address emerging threats and new realities. In addition, the United States is committed to seeking additional missile defense assistance in excess of MOU levels, in exceptional circumstances such as the hostilities with Hamas over eleven days in May 2021,” it said, referring to a brutal bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces that killed hundreds of Palestinians and levelled homes, health facilities and vital infrastructure in the besieged strip.
“The countries express enthusiasm to move forward the US-Israel defence partnership through cooperation in cutting-edge defense technologies such as high energy laser weapons systems to defend the skies of Israel and in the future those of other US. and Israel security partners.”
On the controversial Abraham Accords that saw the normalisation of ties between a number of Arab states and Israel in 2020, Israel said it “thanked” Washington for its ongoing and extensive support for deepening and broadening the historic” accords.
“The countries affirm that Israel’s peace and normalisation agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco constitute a critical addition to Israel’s strategic peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, all of which are important to the future of the Middle East region and to the cause of regional security, prosperity, and peace. The countries note that the historic Negev Summit, initiated and hosted by Prime Minister Lapid, was a landmark event in joint US-Israeli efforts to build a new regional framework that is changing the face of the Middle East.”
“The United States welcomes these developments and is committed to continue playing an active role, including in the context of President Biden’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, in building a robust regional architecture; to deepen the ties between Israel and all of its regional partners; to advance Israel’s regional integration over time; and to expand the circle of peace to include ever more Arab and Muslim States.”
Boycott, Divest and Sanctions
The declaration also touched on ongoing calls to boycott Israel as part of the peaceful and global Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement (BDS), describing Israel’s attacks on the campaign as well as pro-Palestine activists worldwide as “self defence”.
“The United States and Israel affirm that they will continue to work together to combat all efforts to boycott or de-legitimise Israel, to deny its right to self-defense, or to unfairly single it out in any forum, including at the United Nations or the International Criminal Court.
“While fully respecting the right to freedom of expression, they firmly reject the BDS campaign.”
On that note, the declaration said the allies “commit to continuing to discuss the challenges and opportunities in Israeli-Palestinian relations,” condemning “deplorable series of terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens in recent months” without making mention of ongoing Israeli violations and crackdown on the native Palestinian population.
“President Biden reaffirms his longstanding and consistent support of a two-state solution and for advancing toward a reality in which Israelis and Palestinians alike can enjoy equal measures of security, freedom and prosperity. The United States stands ready to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and regional stakeholders toward that goal. The leaders also affirm their shared commitment to initiatives that strengthen the Palestinian economy and improve the quality of life of Palestinians.”
Amnesty calls out Biden
The signing of the declaration comes as global rights organisation Amnesty International called out Biden for his ongoing support of Israeli human rights violations and crimes.
“The Biden administration must stop its brazen support of shocking crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations committed by its allies, knowingly facilitating rampant abuses with impunity,” said Paul O’Brien, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director on Wednesday.
The statement comes as Biden tours lands illegally occupied by Israel as part of his first regional visit since coming to office last year. The US president arrived on Wednesday and is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.
Amnesty said Biden should “prioritise the advancement of human rights over short-term interests, and make clear that there can be no double standards when it comes to promoting human rights.”
“If the US continues on its current course, it will only embolden abusive governments to further silence dissenting voices, oppress minorities and ruthlessly crush the rights of millions of people in the region,” added O’Brien.
Since announcing his visit, rights groups have called on the US president to address the Israeli regime’s crimes against Palestinians.
The Biden administration has also come under fire for not holding the Zionist state to account for the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The veteran journalist was killed by an Israeli sniper on 11 May while covering Israeli occupation forces’ raids of Jenin.
“The lack of accountability for the government of Israel’s serious violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, is perpetuated by US policy,” said the Amnesty official.
To date, the US has failed to label Israel as the perpetrator of the crime, despite the eyewitness testimonies, various investigations by leading American media outlets, and rights groups. The Israeli sniper has admitted to the crime though claimed the killing was “unintentional”.
Despite reputable rights groups worldwide describing Israel as an apartheid state, Biden dismissed those claims during an interview with Tel Aviv’s Channel 12 air hours after his arrival.
“Israel is a democracy, Israel is an ally, Israel is our friend,” said Biden.