US Vice President Joe Biden denounced those in the international community and in the Palestinian Authority who have failed to condemn Palestinian terror attacks against Israel.
“Let me say in no uncertain terms the US condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts,” Biden said in Jerusalem on Wednesday at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
He spoke just one day after a Palestinian terrorist went on a stabbing spree in Tel Aviv and Jaffa, killing a Vanderbilt graduate student, Taylor Force, 29, and wounding 12 others.
Force was a US veteran who had served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan only to be killed on the Jaffa boardwalk by the Mediterranean sea on Tuesday evening.
The attack occurred just a short distance away from where Biden was meeting former president Shimon Peres.
Biden noted that his wife and his grandchildren who have joined him on this trip, were having dinner on the beach nearby.
“It just brings home that [terror] can happen anywhere at any time,” Biden said.
When the issue of the attack came up during his meeting with Netanyahu, they had wanted to jointly visit with the other Vanderbilt students who had been with Force, but learned that the group had departed or were departing.
“The kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop," Biden said.
“This cannot become an accepted modus operandi. This cannot be viewed by civilized leaders as an appropriate way in which to behave even if it appears to inure to the benefit of one side or the other. It’s just not tolerable in the 21st century,” Biden said.
“They’re targeting innocent civilians, mothers, pregnant women, teenagers, grandfathers, American citizens,” Biden said.
“There can be no justification for this hateful violence, and the United States stands firmly behind Israel’s right to defend itself as we are defending ourselves at this moment as well,” Biden said.
Force is the second US citizen to be killed while visiting Israel since the wave of terror began. In November, US citizen Ezra Schwartz, 18
, was killed by a Palestinian terrorist who shot at cars that were stuck in traffic at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank.
Biden also called on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, something they have refused to do.
Israel has been known as a Jewish state since its inception in 1948, he said.
“We should get over all of this. It was a Jewish state that was set up,” said Biden.
He called on both Israelis and Palestinians to find a way to move beyond the impasse in the peace process and to resolve the conflict so that there can be two states for two peoples.
“The status quo has to break somewhere along the line here in terms of a two state solution. Even though it may be hard to see the way ahead, we continue to encourage all sides to take steps to move back toward the path to peace – not easy – and for the sake of Israel, and I might add, for the sake of the Palestinians in the region,” Biden said.
“There can't be, there cannot be unilateral steps to undermine trust. That only takes us further away, further and further away from an outcome we know in our hearts is the only fundamental outcome, the only outcome that is the ultimate guarantor,” he said.
Netanyahu thanked Biden for his strong support and denounced the PA for failing to condemned his people’s terror attacks against Israelis, including the one in which Force was killed.
“Unfortunately President Abbas has not only refused to condemn these terrorism attacks. His Fatah party actually portrays the murderer of this American citizen as a Palestinian martyr and a hero. This is wrong. This failure to condemn terrorism should be condemned itself by everyone in the international community,” Netanyahu said.
Palestinian society itself persistently incites against the Jewish states and glorifies those who kill its citizens, Netanyahu said.
Civilized societies must stand together to fight terrorism, said Netanyahu who added that his country had no better partner in this battle than the United States.
“I look forward to continuing to work together with you and President Obama to strengthen the remarkable and unbreakable alliance between our two countries,” Netanyahu said.
Biden promised Netanyahu that the US would insist that Iran must comply with the terms of the deal it worked out with the six world powers to curb its nuclear program.
“If in fact they break the deal, we will act. We will act,” Biden said and explained that the US would also work to halt Iran conventional military aggression.
But he did not clarify what that meant.
He noted that he had come to talk with Netanyahu, who he considers to be a decade long friend, about regional issues even though he did not have any concrete plans in his back pocket.
“I did not come with a plan. I just came to speak to a friend and to be able to have an open discussion in a closed room, where we brainstorm the whole range of things,” Biden said.
He swore ISIS, which is losing ground in Syria and Iraq, would be crushed.
ISIS had helped regional states change their attitude toward Israel, Biden said.
“They've realized that they'd rather be in your orbit than in the orbit of Daesh and ISIS and terrorism, and al-Nusra, et cetera,” he added.
Similarly, he said, Israel’s natural gas reserve which is about to make it the epicenter of energy in the region” has also had a positive impact on its relations with its neighbors.
Biden expressed the same sentiments when he met with President Reuven Rivlin. He then visited the Western Wall and is expected to meet this evening with Abbas in Ramallah.