By Stuart E. Eizenstat
I have worked with Joe Biden for over 40 years, both when he was a U.S. senator and vice president. Having devoted a substantial part of my life to government and beyond, to supporting Holocaust survivors and to strengthening the Israel-U.S. relationship, I strongly support him as president of the United States. He is the only Democratic candidate who reflects Jewish values of social justice and tikkun olam. He has been a lifelong champion in the fight against global anti-Semitism; he led the historic effort to assist American Holocaust survivors; and he has been an unconditional supporter of Israel.
For Joe, a key motivating factor in deciding to enter the 2020 presidential race was the horrifying neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic demonstration in Charlottesville, and President Trump’s statement that there were “very fine people” on both sides.
The growth of anti-Semitic incidents since then has been a significant theme in Joe’s campaign as well as bringing the country together and restoring American values such as tolerance and respect for the rule of law. Likewise, he has spoken out forcefully and repeatedly against the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement, another form of anti-Semitism, which seeks to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state and uniquely hold it out for opprobrium.
During the Clinton and Obama-Biden administrations, I led the negotiations to provide belated justice to Holocaust survivors and, together with my ongoing role as special negotiator for the Jewish Claims Conference with Germany, have negotiated over $17 billion in recoveries.
Joe Biden was my strongest supporter. In 2013, he launched an unprecedented initiative that came to fruition in 2015 for the U.S. government to aid poor, elderly Holocaust survivors in our country, more than a third of whom live in or near the poverty line in their advanced years, after suffering so greatly in their youth. The Biden-led initiative resulted in $12 million being allocated to the Jewish Federations of North America for survivors in need of help. Combined with matching private funds, this supported $4.1 million annually for crucial services to survivors.
His support for a Jewish state began as a young boy at his parent’s table, and ever since, Joe Biden has been the staunchest supporter of Israel. His first foreign trip as a freshman senator was to Israel on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, where he met Prime Minister Golda Meir and saw, in his own words, the “sense of vulnerability, the constant fear of attack.” He worked tirelessly in Congress and as vice president to ensure that Israel always had a qualitative military edge, including funding for the life-saving Iron Dome anti-missile system. His leadership was essential in the decision by the Obama-Biden administration to boost U.S. military aid to Israel to historic levels of $3.8 billion for 10 years.
Joe believes, as do I, that a two-state solution is essential to maintain Israel as a democratic, majority Jewish state, and that continued settlement expansion in the West Bank, outside the established three major settlement blocs, takes us further from this goal. But critically, almost alone among the Democratic presidential candidates, Joe Biden unequivocally opposes conditioning Israel’s military aid on its settlement policy. He recognizes that U.S. military assistance helps protect Israel from threats from its dangerous enemies: Hamas in Gaza, radicals on the West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon, supported by over 100,000 Iranian missiles, and Iran itself in Syria.
Joe understands how dangerous it is to impose conditions on U.S. aid, upon which Israel depends for its vital security. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Pete Buttigieg have suggested that U.S. military aid might be reduced depending upon Israel’s policies on West Bank settlements. Sen. Bernie Sanders has gone further, stating that he would use U.S. military assistance as “leverage” to pressure Israel to stop building settlements, so aid is “conditioned on Israel taking steps to end the occupation and move toward a peace agreement.” Remarkably, he would shift some of the funds to Gaza when Hamas, a corrupt terrorist group under U.S. law, controls Gaza with an iron fist. Sanders, who has called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a “racist,” has a long record of criticizing Israel. In 2001, he was one of the few members of either party to oppose a resolution blaming the violence of the Second Intifada on Palestinian terrorism. In 2014 he incorrectly alleged that Israel had killed “over 10,000 innocent people” in Gaza, when Israel responded to a month-long unprovoked barrage of 300 rockets by Hamas into southern Israel, after multiple public warnings of missile sites that Hamas placed in civilian buildings, getting a rebuke from the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League for exaggerating the figures even well above those from Palestinian sources that include Hamas members.
Joe Biden supports Palestinian aspirations for a state and recognizes this is also critical to Israel’s long-term security as a majority Jewish democratic nation. He alone among the Democratic candidates has the diplomatic skill and experience, the trust of the Israelis over a lifetime of unwavering support and the confidence of the Palestinians to get us back on track to a two state solution, as president of the United States.
Stuart E. Eizenstat was chief White House domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter (1997-1981) and U.S. ambassador to the European Union in the Clinton administration (1993-2001). He has been the principal negotiator for Holocaust compensation and restitution issues in the Clinton and Obama administrations (1993-2017), and a leading negotiator with Germany for the Jewish Claims Conference (2009-present). He does not have an official position in the Joe Biden presidential campaign.