The Obama administration has been better for Israel than the last eight administrations, Vice-President Joe Biden told a large crowd at the AIPAC conference Monday. “We've stood shoulder to shoulder over the past 40 years defending the legitimate interests of Israel,” Biden told an enthusiastic audience, “but no administration, no President has done as much to physically secure the State of Israel as Barack Obama,” Biden said. In the midst of what Biden called “the Great Recession,” the U.S. has upped its aid to Israel, providing $1.3 billion in military aid in 2012.
In addition, Biden said, President Obama has worked more closely with Israeli security officials than any other president in the last thirty years. “I can say with certitude that I don't know when anytime in the last eight administrations that there has been as much security coordination,” Biden said. “The teams working with Israel are tired of all the international flights, they go so much,” the Vice-President quipped. “Our commitment to Israel has not changed and it will not change as long as he and I are President anf Vice-President of the United States.”
Biden acknowledged that there were policy differences between Israel and the U.S., but said they were not relevant to U.S. support for Israel. “I have been there for a lot of Prime Ministers, and we have always disagreed on tactics. But we have never disagreed on the principles - that Israel must do it on its own,” Biden said, adding that it was the role of the U.S. to ensure that that was the case.
“We invested $275 million in Iron Dome, including $70 million in emergency aid last year. And all this in the wake of the Great Recession. We are committed to ensuring that Israel does not lose its qualitative edge.
“It was our unique partnership that developed this technology and funded it. And now we are working on new systems to fight long-range threats, David's Sling and Arrow,” Biden added. “And we are working on a new radar that will ensure that Israel can better defend itself. That is what we do.”
The United States supports the “two state solution,” with the Palestinian Authority setting up a state in parts of Judea and Samaria - but so have nearly all Prime Ministers of Israel in recent years, including Prime Minister Netanyahu. But such a state can come about only through direct negotiations. “We will continue to oppose unilateral actions by the Palestinians. There is no substitute for looking into the other party's eyes.”
The PA, as well as Arab countries, have resisted Israel's ministrations for a settlement, and Obama realized this as well. The U.S. “is under no illusions a bout how difficult it is to achieve,” he said. But quoting former President Bill Clinton, Biden said, the U.S. “has to get caught trying. We remain deeply engaged” in the peace process, “and while there are those who question whether this goal will be reached, we continue to pursue it.”
Regarding Iran, Biden said, the U.S. was committed to doing whatever it took to keep nuclear weapons out of Tehran's hands. “It is not only in israel's interest that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons, it is also in the interests of the United States, and the rest of the world.”
The question of how to do this is a difficult one, said Biden. “We are not looking for war, we are looking for negotiations, but all options are on the table.” With that, he said, “the world's preference is for a diplomatic solution. That window is closing but we believe there is time still. We are in constant contact with Israeli security and intelligence on this.”
And there really was no way around going through the whole negotiation process, said Biden. “G-d forbid there is a need to act. It matters that the world knows that we did everything reasonable to stop Iran diplomatically. We have a mighty international community behind these sanctions.” Those sanctions had been having the desired effect. “When we entered office Iran was on the ascendancy. It is no longer on the ascendancy.
Biden also explained his long-standing commitment to Israel. “It was at my father's table I learned the phrase 'never again,' and it was there that I learned that the only way to prevent another Holocaust was to establish a Jewish state,” Biden said. “My father used to say that were he a Jew, he would never entrust the security of his people to another nation, including the United States.”
President Obama understood Israel, its needs, and its fears – and was 100% committed to the security, survival, and thriving of Israel, the Vice-President said. Obama will discuss these and other issues when he comes to Israel in several weeks, said Biden, “right before Passover. I have to admit that I am a little jealous of his being able to say 'Next Year in Jerusalem,'” the traditional phrase recited at the conclusion of the Passover seder.