As Biden Nears Presidency, Israeli Minister Says His Iran Policy Could Lead to War

With former Vice President Joe Biden on the verge of victory in this week's presidential election, ministers in Israel are already discussing what the Democratic candidate's proposed Iran policy would mean for their country.

Biden is now leading Trump in Nevada, Arizona and Georgia, and is fast closing the gap in Pennsylvania—where his campaign is confident of a comfortable win. Though the president is expected to take North Carolina and Alaska, these will not be enough to win a second term.

Biden is now the overwhelming favorite to be president come January, though the Trump campaign is expected to continue its disinformation campaigns and legal challenges to stop him.

America's allies—and its enemies—will now be privately considering how to engage with a Biden administration. Some will be wondering how best to chart the next two months of a lame duck but aggrieved and unpredictable president.

In Israel, the Iran nuclear deal is a huge priority. Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 with the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will be in power until at least 2021 when he is due to hand the reins to centrist defensive minister and coalition partner Benny Gantz.

Biden wants to rejoin the deal that was negotiated by President Barack Obama's administration, in which Biden was the vice president. For many in Israel, this would be a strategic mistake and present an existential threat to Israeli national security.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Settlements Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Army Radio Wednesday that Biden's position could result in war, firing the starting gun for anti-Iran deal pressure from Israel.

"Biden has said openly for a long time that he will go back to the nuclear agreement," Hanegbi said of the Iran deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. "I see that as something that will lead to a confrontation between Israel and Iran."

Biden is a pro-Israel candidate, and dismissed calls from the progressive wing of his party to re-evaluate America's relationship with its long-time ally.

Democratic critics of Israel argue that Netanyahu has overseen a raft of human rights abuses; pushed ahead with settlements on Palestinian land considered illegal by the United Nations and most of the international community; and annexed occupied foreign land, with the threat to do the same in parts of the West Bank.

But Biden has vowed an "unshakeable" commitment to Israeli security. His administration is likely to try and rebuild bridges with Palestinian representatives burned by Trump, but Biden is not expected to chart a radically different path on Israel regardless of concerns about Netanyahu's conduct and politics.

Though Hanegbi told Army Radio he is not generally concerned about a Biden administration, the former vice president's willingness to re-engage with Iran is a problem for him, Netanyahu and much of Israel.

He said the JCPOA was "mistaken—and that's an understatement...If Biden stays with that policy, there will, in the end, be a violent confrontation between Israel and Iran," he warned.

Iran announced it would no longer abide by the JCPOA after the U.S. assassination of top commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in January. Biden will have to get Tehran to comply again, but has also suggested he would try and curb Iran's ballistic missile program and its use of regional proxies.

Experts are skeptical he will succeed. And he has a small window—in June the Iranian presidency will change hands, and most expect a hardline conservative to take power.

Still, Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Zvi Hauser told Army Radio Thursday he expected Biden to improve the JCPOA. "I assume that even if the Iran Deal is renewed... it will be better than the previous one," he said. "There is broad agreement that it had significant holes when it comes to the interests of the free world."

Hauser said Biden must accept that the original deal had faults, and that Iran has had four more years of weapons research and arsenal expansion. "This is a Middle East in which Iran is much more dangerous, in which its weapons and technology are much more accurate and much deadlier, he said. "This is not just Israel's problem, but the whole world's problem."

"Neither the Americans nor Israel will allow a nuclear Iran," Hauser added.

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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at the Queen Theater on November 5, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Getty