President Joe Biden in Israel
President Joe Biden in Israel screenshot

US President Joe Biden defended his pursuit of returning to the Iran nuclear deal in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News on Wednesday, describing a return to the deal as the only path forward to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

“The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons and if we can return to the deal we can hold them tight,” said Biden, who is in Israel as part of a Middle East trip that will also see him visit Saudi Arabia. “I think it was a gigantic mistake for the last president to get out of the deal. They're closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before. It doesn't have anything to do with whether or not the Quds Force is going to stop or whether they're going to continue to be engaged in activities. We can act against them and still have a deal where they curtail their nuclear program.”

“I still think it makes sense. We've laid it out on the table, we've made the deal, we've offered it, and it's up to Iran now,” the president explained.

He added that he was still committed to keeping the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a designated terrorist group, even if that meant a deal would not be reached.

Biden stressed that he would not allow Iran to go nuclear – "I'm not going to speculate on that. But Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon" – and described using military force as still on the table but as a “the last resort.”

Speaking about his historic trip to Saudi Arabia, which he will be visiting after Israel, Biden said meeting with the Saudis was not about oil prices or Iran but about “stability in the Middle East.”

“[It’s in] the interest of the United States of America to have more stability in the Middle East, number one. It's overwhelmingly the interest of Israel, and I think the United States and the region, that Israel is more integrated in the region and accepted as an equal,” Biden said.

“And so for every reason, it makes sense to me that I would go to the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]. It's not just Saudis, it happens to be held in Saudi Arabia now… There are those who thought with the last administration that we sort of walked away from the Middle East, that we were going to create a vacuum that China and or Russia would fill, and we can't let that happen. And secondly, the more Israel is integrated into the region as an equal, and accepted, the more likely there is going to be a means by which they can eventually come to accommodation with the Palestinians down the road.”

On the possibility of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Biden said: “That's going to take a long time. But increasing the relationship in terms of acceptance of each other's presence, the working together on certain things, it all makes sense to me.”

When asked about anti-Israel progressive Democratic members of Congress who call for an end to American aid for Israel, Biden recalled that when he was vice president, the Obama administration approved the Iron Dome.

“There are few [anti-Israel Congressional Democrats]. I think they're wrong. I think they're making a mistake. Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend. And I think that I make no apologies. We've provided for, my administration, 4 billion dollars, plus another billion for Iron Dome. And we're working on a laser project to be able to replace Iron Dome. It's overwhelmingly [in] our interest that Israel be stable.”

Biden was adamant that the future of the relationship between Israel and the Democratic Party was sound.

“No, there's no possibility of the Democratic Party or even a significant portion of Republican Party, walking away from Israel,” Biden said.