Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the US will not shrink from its unwavering support for Israel despite stark differences with prime minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu.
Joe Biden’s administration also has reservations about potential members of Mr Netanyahu’s incoming right-wing government.
Speaking to a left-leaning group that some on the right accuse of being too sympathetic to the Palestinians and Iran, Blinken said the United States will remain a stalwart friend of Israel even as it pursues goals that Netanyahu has opposed, including a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a restoration of the languishing 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
The US-Israel “partnership — and all that it’s produced for the people of our nations and the world — has always been underwritten by the United States ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, a commitment that has never been stronger than it is today,” Mr Blinken said.
Mr Blinken said the Biden administration would engage with Mr Netanyahu’s government based on its policies and not on personalities, including potential senior Cabinet ministers who have expressed vehement anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab views in the past.
But, Mr Blinken also warned that the US would object to policies that marginalise the Palestinians, diminish their “horizon for hope”, or make a two-state resolution more difficult.
He said those would be detrimental to Israel’s long-term security or future as a Jewish democratic state.
“We expect the new Israeli government to continue to work with us to advance our shared values, just as we have previous governments,” he said.
“We will gauge the government by the policies it pursues rather than individual personalities. We will hold it to the mutual standards we have established in our relationship over the past seven decades,” Mr Blinken said.
US officials have previously expressed concerns about the possible positions in Mr Netanyahu’s government of at least two right-wing Israeli politicians: Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.
Mr Ben-Gvir, a lawmaker known for anti-Arab vitriol and provocative stunts, has been offered the job of national security minister, a powerful position that will put him in charge of Israel’s police force.
Meanwhile, Mr Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party, which shares anti-Palestinian and anti-gay views, has been offered oversight over the Israeli agency for Palestinian civil affairs.
Mr Blinken’s comments came at the annual conference of J Street, a pro-Israel group that has distinguished itself from the much larger and older American Israel Public Affairs Committee by advancing positions often supported by the Democratic party.