Biden has made no secret of his opposition to the Trump peace plan.
By HERB KEINON MAY 7, 2020 – THE JERUSALEM POST
One of the cardinal tenets of American government is that there is only one president at a time.
Flowing from this principle is the notion that a sitting president has the right and authority to set and implement American foreign policy all the way up to the day when a new president is sworn into office.
This phrase – “one president at a time” – is ordinarily discussed during that transition period between when US elections are held in early November, and when a new president is sworn into office on January 20.
“The United States has only one government and one president at a time,” president Barack Obama said in 2008 in his first press conference after defeating John McCain in that year’s election. “We cannot be sending a message to the world that there are two different administrations conducting foreign policy. That is not safe for the American people.”
Sixteen years earlier, Bill Clinton said the same thing as he was about to take office, making clear that friends and enemies need to understand that “America has only one president at a time, that America’s foreign policy remains solely in his hands.”
If that is true during the two-and-a-half-month presidential transition period, it is certainly true when a first term president – who might be elected to a second term – has more than 10 months left until his first term formally ends.
This “one president at a time” policy makes perfect sense, since bypassing a sitting president by a president-in-waiting sends mixed messages to America’s partners abroad as to who is in charge, thereby undercutting Washington’s status.
US President Donald Trump’s transition team was sharply criticized in December of 2016 when it reached out to foreign governments to defeat a UN Security Council resolution – backed by the Obama administration – condemning Israel for settlement activity.
But now the shoe is very much on the other foot.
Now Trump’s “Deal of the Century” has green-lighted Israel’s extension of its sovereignty to some 30% of the West Bank in return for a commitment to the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state under certain conditions on the rest of the territory, while presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden – who may or may not win in November – is sending messages to Israel that it ought not annex.
In other words, Biden’s team and other high-profile Democrats are signaling Israel not to do what Trump’s plan considers acceptable, a highly unusual situation surely to be raised when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives here next week for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz.
Biden has made no secret of his opposition to the Trump plan, tweeting after it was rolled out in January that “a peace plan requires two sides to come together. This is a political stunt that could spark unilateral moves to annex territory and set back peace even more.”
And in a recorded message to the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in March, he said Israel “has to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity.”
Trump’s plan represents a sharp break from the peace process of the last 25 years, a process some of Biden’s close foreign policy advisers have been associated with, and whose formulas the former vice president continues to espouse.
“A priority now for the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace should be resuming our dialogue with the Palestinians and pressing Israel not to take actions that make a two-state solution impossible,” he said on Tuesday.
In comments made throughout the campaign, he has pledged allegiance to the two-state solution, though he has failed to spell out in any meaningful manner how his course of action to reach that goal would be any different from the course of action that failed up until now.