NEW ORLEANS – US Vice President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned speech in support of Israel at the Jewish Federations of North American’s General Assembly in New Orleans on Sunday, saying whatever differences have recently existed between the White House and Jerusalem these were tactical rather than fundamental.

He reiterated what he said was the Obama administration’s deep commitment to Israel’s security and to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

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“When it comes to Israel’s security there can be no daylight – no daylight – between Israel and the US,” he said.

Biden’s conciliatory tone toward Jerusalem make have come in response to controversy that emerged during his trip to Israel last spring, when he criticized the government for allowing Jewish construction in the eastern part of Jerusalem.

The vice president said the disagreement back then was settled in a private meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Iran featured prominently in Biden’s address in New Orleans.

“It is critical to keep the international spot light on the genuine threats to the Israel like the Iranian nuclear program, not Israel,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the vice president met with Netanyahu, who is said to have raised the threat posed by the Islamic Republic.

In his speech, Biden also upheld the Palestinians’ right to their own country, saying that objective was in line with Israel’s interests.

“There is no substitute for direct, face-to-face negotiations leading to two states, a secure state for Israel and one for Palestine,” he said.

Biden’s address got off to a precarious start. Just before he began talking, a man in the audience yelled out, calling on the vice president to help build a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, which would be instead of the Aksa Mosque. The hundreds of Jewish delegates let out a collective sigh of disappointment and Biden ignored the remark, proceeding unhindered with his remarks.

Biden, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972, told his audience the story about his encounter with Golda Meir on his first visit to Israel. He recalled how the US-raised prime minister told him that the Jews’ secret weapon was that they have nowhere to go, right before a joint press conference.

“I thought she said it only to me, but turns out she said it to thousands of people,” he said. “All these years later I still feel that our support for Israel must continue forever.”

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