Israel is Between Governments. Will Biden’s Visit Help Yair Lapid?

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JERUSALEM — President Biden, who prides himself on having known every Israeli prime minister over half a century, is meeting on Thursday with a new one: Yair LapidThe leader of a caretaker state.

Unusual for a presidential trip, Mr. Biden is in Israel as Israelis are preparing to vote on Nov. 1. Yet given the country’s long political impasse and government instability, American officials would have been hard pressed to find a time when Israel was not in campaign mode.

In June, the last governing coalition, an unwieldy group of eight ideologically dissimilar parties led by Naftali Bennet, lost its razor-thin majority in parliament. collapsedJust one year after being sworn into office. This will be Israel’s fifth election in under four years.

While protocol demands that Mr. Biden avoid being drawn into domestic politics, his very presence could provide a boost to Mr. Lapid, who is running for the premiership and is polling second after Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. An incumbent’s success is not guaranteed by a presidential visit.

President In March 1996, Bill Clinton visited Israel for 22 hours.Four months after the assassination by a Jewish extremist opposed to the peace process, and just ten weeks before a highly charged national elections. Shimon Peres was the prime minister at that time. However, a series of suicide bombings by Palestinians which killed more than 60 civilians had harmed his national standing.

Mr. Clinton had clearly come to try to bolster the prime minister’s chances, and to try to revive Israeli faith in the peace process. However, Peres was defeated by Netanyahu who served three years, 1999 to 1999 and then returned to office a decade later.

Mr. Lapid (58), the leader and founder of the centrist Yesh Asid has previously served in government as a Minister of Finance, Strategic Affairs and Foreign Affairs, as well as as an Alternate Prime Minister, as well as as serving as the leader and leader of opposition. He also lacks security credentials, which is a problem for many Israelis. He could be a strong statesman if he can discuss important topics like the Iranian nuclear threat.

“In Israeli history, the people who naturally entered the prime minister’s office had a security background,” Nahum Barnea, a veteran political commentator for the popular Yediot Ahronot newspaper, said in a recent interview, citing decorated generals who went on to become prime minister, such as Mr. Rabin, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon.

“It used to be a prerequisite,” Mr. Barnea added, noting that Mr. Lapid had spent most of his obligatory army service as a writer for a military magazine.

In remarks broadcast at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Mr. Lapid said that Mr. Biden’s visit would deal with “both challenges and opportunities,” with the discussion of the challenges focusing first and foremost on the issue of Iran, its enrichment of uranium, and Israel’s efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.

“Israel will not stand idly by while Iran tries to attack us,” Mr. Lapid said, echoing the tough messages of his predecessors. “Our security services know how to reach anyone, anywhere — and they will do just that. We will discuss with the president and his team expanding security cooperation against all threats.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden welcomed Mr. Lapid to the country and extended his arm over his shoulder like they were old friends. At a welcome ceremony moments later, Mr. Lapid called the American leader “a great Zionist and one of the best friends Israel has ever known.”

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