U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will arrive in Israel for a two-day visit this afternoon, following stops in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He will also visit the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.
His visit comes at a time when U.S.-Israeli relations improved significantly after last year’s fracas between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama over Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress against the Iranian nuclear deal.
It also comes as the end of Obama’s presidential term is in sight – a time when past presidents have typically ratcheted up pressure on Israel to make peace.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Zalman Shoval says ongoing discussions on U.S. military allocations to Israel have never stopped. Rather there has always been “an element of continuity,” he said. “One should not expect that something that was one way today will completely change tomorrow.”
According to Shoval, both sides are interested in bringing the discussions to a successful conclusion before the end of the present administration.
“In today’s Middle East, what is happening around us, in Egypt, Libya and potentially Jordan, makes it vital for America not only to have a strong Israel, but also a projection of a strong Israel militarily,” he said in a conference call to journalists Monday morning.
With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, they’re “basically stuck because the Palestinians don’t want to engage Israel,” he said. “Without a basic change in the attitude of Palestinian leaders,, it won’t happen.”
A lot has changed over the past several years, with some analysts saying the region may be in a new 30-year war. That has made security-related issues more important than ever before.
Any two-state solution must factor in increasing security concerns for Israel and the growing danger of Iran resulting from the Iranian nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions.
These issues decrease the probability of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians, at least for now.
“We are not going to run into a situation where ISIS or Hamas will be the leadership of the P.A.,” Shoval said. “One can still believe and hope for a two-state solution, but this is not the time to put this into operational practice.”
Asked about the French initiative, which basically says if international intervention doesn’t resolve the stalled talks within approximately three months, France will recognize a Palestinian state unilaterally, Shoval said, “There are problems that cannot be solved by the stroke of a pen.”
“He [the vice president] is in the Gulf States now – countries that are traditional allies of America. There’s a certain amount of worrying and questioning about how America thinks of its own position with the Middle East,” he said, adding that there’s a “great deal of common understanding” between Israel, the Gulf States and some African countries.”
America, he said, must impress the Gulf countries that it’s here to stay and will not abandon the Middle East to others.
“From that point of view, the mission of Vice President Biden can be important for Israel, the Middle East and America,” he concluded.
This article originally appeared on CBN News, March 7, 2016.