Biden reassures Israel on Teheran

US VP: Progress in ME occurs when there is no space between US, Israel.

March 10, 2010 03:30
4 minute read.
U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, center, gestures

biden arrives in israel 311 ap. (photo credit: AP)

The US is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Vice President Joe Biden said in Jerusalem on Tuesday, stressing that when it came to Israel’s security, there was “no space between the United States and Israel.”

Following a two-hour meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in his office, about an hour of that in private conversation, Biden – standing next to Netanyahu – said the cornerstone of the US-Israeli relationship was “our absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel’s security.”

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“Bibi, you heard me say before, progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the United States and Israel,” Biden said. “There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security. And for that reason, and many others, addressing Iran’s nuclear program has been one of our administration’s priorities.”

Biden said that the US determination to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons was the reason Washington was working with countries around the world to “convince Teheran to meet its international obligations and cease and desist.”

In addition to halting its nuclear program, Biden said the Islamic Republic must “curb its other destabilizing actions in the region,” such as continued support for terrorist groups that threaten not only Israel, but US interests as well.

Netanyahu, who has called on the US and the international community to impose paralyzing sanctions on Iran’s energy sector, said he appreciated the US efforts to lead the world to impose tough sanctions.

“The stronger those sanctions are, the more likely it will be that the Iranian regime will have to choose between advancing its nuclear program and advancing the future of its own permanence,” the prime minister said.

“I think that the international community and the leading countries in the international community have to join the American effort. And Israel has been helping out with key countries and continues to do so,” he said.

Earlier, Biden – who arrived with his wife Jill and key staffers on Monday night for a three-day visit – met President Shimon Peres, who advocated surrounding Iran with an “envelope” of missile defense systems, “which will be an additional weight in limiting the danger of Iran.”

Peres also called on the US to couple economic sanctions against Iran with “moral sanctions.”

“A person like [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad that calls openly to destroy the State of Israel cannot be a full member of the United Nations,” he said.

Peres said Ahmadinejad should be treated as a military dictator, a term US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used recently in reference to the Iranian leader. A man who calls for acts of terrorism and hangs people in the streets “cannot go around almost like a cultural hero,” Peres said.

Apparently prodding the US into more active support of the opposition movement in Iran, Peres said these “moral sanctions” will “also help the people of Iran, the Persians, to continue their struggle to defend their culture. They are ashamed of him. In my judgment, this should be done strongly, clearly, vocally.”

Biden said that the “moral sanctions” had begun and were being imposed not by the US, but by the Iranians themselves.

“The people of Iran are making that argument clearly, engaging in their own form of morally sanctioning their government as we have and as the rest of the world is,” he said.

Biden, who expressed staunch support for Israel in all his public statements, also met with opposition leader Tzipi Livni.

The vice president is scheduled to meet with Quartet envoy Tony Blair on Wednesday morning in Jerusalem, and then travel to Ramallah for meetings with the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He is also set to travel to Bethlehem and tour a Palestinian marble factory there.

Following the meeting with Netanyahu, Biden returned to his hotel, the David Citadel in Jerusalem, and taped an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

He then went to Mount Herzl and laid a wreath on the graves of Theodor Herzl and former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. The wreath on Herzl’s grave read, “Your vision inspires our commitment to peace,” while the one on Rabin’s grave was inscribed, “The case of peace for which you fought has become our own.”

Biden was flanked by his wife and joined in the ceremony by Rabin’s children, Yuval and former deputy defense minister Dalia Rabin-Pelossof.

Biden then went to Yad Vashem and, after signing the guest book, said he had taken his sons to Dachau as teenagers so that they could understand as young men that “mankind could be so brutal.”

He said he had also taken his sons to Israel, “to let them know that the indomitable spirit of human beings is not able to be snuffed out.”

Biden and his wife then joined Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, for a private dinner at the Prime Minister’s Residence.

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