United States Vice President Joe Biden raised the pressure on Iran by appearing to give a green light for Israel to conduct a military strike against the Persian theocracy.
In his appearance Sunday on ABC News’ "This Week," Biden was asked three times by host George Stephanopolous if the Obama Administration would stand in the way of an Israeli military strike.
Three times, he said that Israel was free to do what it needed to do. “If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice,” Biden said.
For now, he said, President Barack Obama’s offer to meet with Iran over its nuclear program remains “on the table.” However, he rejected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for more US concessions before such talks begin.
“The ball’s in their court,” Biden said of the Iranians. “If they choose to meet with the P-5 [the United Nations Security Council permanent member states – ed.] under the conditions the P-5 has laid out, it means they begin to change course. And it means that the protestors [against the results of Iran's presidential elections -- ed.] probably had some impact on the behavior of an administration that they don’t like at all.”
The transcript of the conversation between Biden and Stephanopolus regarding Israel is as follows:
BIDEN: If the Iranians seek to engage, we will engage.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And meanwhile, the clock is ticking...
BIDEN: If the Iranians respond to the offer of engagement, we will engage.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the offer is on the table?
BIDEN: The offer's on the table.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it pretty clear that he agreed with President Obama to give until the end of the year for this whole process of engagement to work. After that, he's prepared to make matters into his own hands.
Is that the right approach?
BIDEN: Look, Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Whether we agree or not?
BIDEN: Whether we agree or not. They're entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that's going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed.
What we believe is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world. And so there are separate issues.
If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be clear here, if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?
BIDEN: Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they're existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You say we can't dictate, but we can, if we choose to, deny over-flight rights here in Iraq. We can stand in the way of a military strike.
BIDEN: I'm not going to speculate, George, on those issues, other than to say Israel has a right to determine what's in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what's in our interests.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he agrees to give President Obama’s engagement policy until the end of the year to bear fruit. He hinted, however, that Israel would feel free to take on the Iranian “existential threat” after that deadline had passed.