WASHINGTON – US Vice President Joe Biden declared Tuesday that the window had
not yet closed on an Israeli military strike against Iran, but that the window
for sanctions and diplomatic efforts to halt Tehran’s nuclear program would soon
Biden also stressed Israel’s right to take the action it sees
necessary and that Israel’s security is a “fundamental national interest” of the
United States, criticizing some in the American Jewish community for questioning
the Obama administration’s commitment to the Jewish state.
has not closed in terms of the ability of the Israelis if they choose on their
own to act militarily,” he said. “But diplomacy backed by serious, serious
sanctions and pressure – on that score the window is closing in the near
Speaking to the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement
during the group’s 2012 convention in Atlanta, Biden related a conversation he
had had with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in which the vice president told him,
“Were I an Israeli, were I a Jew, I would not contract out my security to
anyone, even a loyal, loyal, loyal friend like the United States.”
said he conveyed the White House’s perspective that, “If Israel reached the
conclusion, based on the facts as they best determined them, that Iran was on
the verge of eliminating their ability to respond physically, to set that
program back two to five years, I understood. We were not telling them [what]
Israel could or could not do.”
Biden also obliquely referenced the
Holocaust as a lasting lesson in the justification for Israel acting in its own
“I would not contract out my nation’s security, and clearly no
Jewish state should ever assume that history had changed so fundamentally that
they would do that,” he said.
Biden, who was warmly received by the
crowd, offered a lengthy defense of the Obama administration’s policy on Iran,
including the use of sanctions to isolate the Islamic Republic.
frustrates me is that some have asserted – particularly some of my friends in
the Jewish community, strong supporters of mine – that we’re not fully committed
to the preservation and security of the State of Israel,” he said.
pushed back on that charge with details of US military assistance to Israel –
currently at its highest level in history – and the unprecedented number of
contacts between high-ranking officials of both countries.
speech, which comes as the general election between Obama and his presumptive
GOP competitor Mitt Romney gets off the ground, also touched on some of the
partisan political attacks facing the administration.
He lambasted “the
criticism of the other team” on controversy over missile-defense sites in Europe
aimed at deterring an Iranian attack.
And toward the end of his speech,
Biden brought up economic and social issues in which he attacked Republican
stances, including the GOP House budget proposal drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan of
Biden also acknowledged that his words in the political arena
can sometimes get him in trouble, as the vice president has frequently been
cited for making gaffes. “No one’s ever doubted that I mean what I
say. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean,” he said to laughter
from the crowd.