Biden and Bennett Are Permanently Wobbly | Opinion

Two weeks after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the UN Security Council passed a resolution imposing an embargo and maritime blockade on Iraqi shipping. Then-President George H.W. Bush was trying to figure out how to forcefully enforce it, and he discussed the issue with then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher listened to Bush's dilemma and warned, "Remember George, this is no time to go wobbly."

Months later, after the U.S.-led coalition victory in the Gulf War, Bush presented Thatcher with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. At the ceremony, he recalled the conversation and how influential it was on his thinking that day—and throughout the broader crisis.

As he put it, "We used that expression often and have used it during some troubling days."

In theory, tomorrow's meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Joe Biden in the Oval Office could be an opportunity for Bennett to fill Thatcher's shoes, and for Biden to fill Bush's.

Bennett will arrive at the White House in the midst of the gravest crisis of U.S. strategic credibility in American history. Biden's failed leadership of the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan has placed the U.S. and its allies under grave threat and empowered U.S. enemies. NATO allies in Germany, Britain and beyond have lost faith in U.S. leadership. China is wasting no time replacing the U.S. as the great power in Afghanistan.

Iran is also reaping the rewards of its partnership with the Taliban. Russia and China's first response to the Taliban takeover was to accept Iran's long-standing request to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. It was followed by an announcement that they will be conducting joint naval exercises with Iran in the coming months.

The Russians and Chinese are embracing Iran as the ayatollahs move quickly to the nuclear finish line. According to the UN's nuclear watchdog, Iran has doubled the amount of uranium it is enriching to near bomb-grade level.

Bennett could theoretically be the voice of reason that Biden needs to hear. The U.S. leader continues to dismiss criticism of his surrender to the Taliban and his abandonment of U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked with the U.S. in Afghanistan. Bennett could warn Biden of the consequences for the U.S. and its allies if he fails to take dramatic action immediately to safely evacuate Americans and allied Afghans from Afghanistan. He could also explain that the problems of Afghanistan were born in nuclear-armed Pakistan. U.S. reluctance to properly reckon with the nuclear-armed terror-sponsoring state was a key factor in its failure to destroy either the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

Since Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is what protected the Taliban and its terror partners, Iran must be blocked at all costs from becoming a nuclear state. As Iran's near-breakout nuclear capacity demonstrates, nuclear diplomacy at this point is simply counterproductive. As a senior Arab official recently said in off-record discussions, "the nuclear negotiations are Iran's path to a nuclear arsenal."

As the leader of Washington's closest Middle East ally, Bennett could theoretically be the right man in the right place at the right time. Bennett could convince Biden that if the president wishes to begin repairing the damage to U.S. superpower credibility he just caused in Afghanistan, then he needs to work with Israel to militarily block Iran's path to the bomb.

Unfortunately, neither Biden's nor Bennett's record give much reason to believe that either is cut from the same cloth as Bush and Thatcher. To the contrary, they both appear to have adopted wobbling as a career choice.

On Afghanistan, Biden is adamantly wobbly. His statements since the Taliban took over Kabul have been an exercise in indignant indifference to the plight of the tens of thousands of Americans and Afghans who worked with the Americans who are now stranded—and quite possibly doomed—behind Taliban lines. His apparent indifference to their fate is exposed not only by his words. Unlike his British, French and Ukrainian counterparts, Biden has refused to permit U.S. forces at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport to leave the airport to find and safely evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan partners.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks before
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks before parliament votes on a new government on June 13, 2021 in Jerusalem, Israel. Amir Levy/Getty Images

Likewise, Biden's responsibility for the Afghan catastrophe has made no dent in his overall appeasement-based foreign policy. His envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, told Politico last week that if the new Iranian government refuses to reinstate the restrictions the 2015 nuclear deal placed on its nuclear activities, the U.S. is willing to negotiate a completely different agreement with distinct parameters. Malley added that a second alternative would be to impose punitive responses in coordination with European allies, but he gave no details of what those might be.

Biden's refusal to acknowledge the damage he has caused or to reconsider his foreign policy in light of the Afghanistan disaster stems from his own blinkered perception of the world. Biden's team announced in April that he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 11 and that conditions on the ground would not impact his decision. Biden would have the boys and girls home by the 20th anniversary of the jihadist terror assault on America, no matter what.

The message was clear. Biden intended to declare the war over and not give the Taliban a vote on the matter. The fact that Biden doesn't get to decide whether the Taliban have a vote appears not to have occurred to him. And even now, as the Taliban is executing its vote—much as it did when it enabled al-Qaeda to attack Washington and New York 20 years ago—Biden refuses to acknowledge that it is voting and saying the war is still on.

Indeed, Biden, who sees America as the lone actor in the world, cannot understand that his actions have consequences. As he is condemned by the British Parliament and German Chancellor Angela Merkel implores Russia for help in evacuating German nationals and Afghan partners from Afghanistan, Biden and his advisors insist that U.S. credibility has not been adversely impacted in any way.

This brings us to Bennett. If Biden is the anti-Bush, Bennett is the anti-Thatcher. He doesn't think an American president can go wobbly.

Ahead of his trip to Washington, Bennett's office detailed his plan to work with Biden to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state. Bennett's advisors noted that he opposes returning to the 2015 nuclear deal and added that he is convinced the good rapport he has developed with Biden will pave the way for cooperation on the matter.

Although Afghanistan will no doubt be on the top of Biden's mind, a Bennett advisor told reporters, "The Americans still are saying this meeting is of top importance, which reflects the good rapport and the American commitment to Israel."

Bennett's good rapport with Biden is based on his own embrace of wobbling.

In the weeks preceding his trip, Bennett and his government opted not to respond forcefully when Hezbollah attacked Israel with missiles from the north. His government opted not to respond forcefully when Hamas attacked Israel with missiles and incendiary balloons from the south, or even when a Hamas mob violently stormed the border and a Hamas gunman shot an Israeli soldier at point-blank range and left him fighting for his life. As one of Bennett's ministers explained in a radio interview, "Bennett can't arrive in the U.S. ...with a war in the south [with Hamas]."

Polling in both countries over the past week shows that neither leader will have the support of their publics when they meet at the Oval Office. Bennett is trailing his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu by 20 points in recent polling. Bennett's party, which has a mere 5 percent of the seats in Israel's parliament, is still polling at 5 percent. Such low numbers at this stage indicate that Bennett may not even make it into the Knesset in the next round of elections.

To survive politically, Bennett is completely dependent on all of his government coalition partners. Seventy-five percent of his government is comprised of parties on the center-left and far-left. Islamists aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood comprise 5 percent of his government. All of them have veto power over his policies because all of them can bring him down as prime minister. None of them are interested in confronting either Iran or Biden.

As for Biden, in his weakened political state, he will not abandon his base. And his base is full-on wobbly, particularly with respect to Iran. The administration forced Bennett to stand down in the face of Hezbollah's missile assaults because it didn't want to anger Iran. Under the circumstances, then, the chance that Bennett will steel Biden to confront Iran is nil.

Thatcher's "don't go wobbly" warning to Bush placed her next to Winston Churchill in the pantheon of foreign leaders beloved by Americans for their roles in bringing out the best in America. Tragically, at this dark moment, it is hard to think of a pair less capable of rising to the occasion than Biden and Bennett.

Caroline B. Glick is a senior columnist at Israel Hayom and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, (Crown Forum, 2014). From 1994 to 1996, she served as a core member of Israel's negotiating team with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts