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‘The good cop’: Joe Biden and Israel during the Obama years

Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu give joint statements to the press in the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. PHOTO: JTA/Debbie Hill/AFP/Getty

By Ron Kampeas | 29 October 2020

JEWISH TELEGRAPH AGENCY — Talk to the folks who handled the Israel file and who were close to Joe Biden between 2009 and 2017, and his boss, Barack Obama, more often than not comes up, even if not by name.

Biden was the guy Israelis looked to for support, they say, implying that Obama was … less supportive. Biden was the guy who bridged differences created by the mutual distrust between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency spoke with half a dozen people who saw the Biden-Israel relationship up close during the years that Biden served under President Obama as vice president. What emerges is a picture of a man who did little to innovate policy but who was a loyal lieutenant to Obama and remained a friend to Israel — and he was often left to use the negotiating skills he honed through decades in the Senate to bridge the divide.

“If the kishkes question haunted Obama right through his presidency, Biden passed by flying colors,” said Shalom Lipner, who worked in the prime minister’s office throughout the Obama-Biden years, using the Yiddish word for “guts” that kept coming up in interviews, including, joltingly, with non-Jews. The term, dating at least back to the Clinton presidency, is used to describe politicians who have a visceral understanding of Israel. […]

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