US Vice President Joseph Biden .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Israel’s ability to clinch alliances with Sunni governments across the Arab world, aligned against Islamic State and an empowered Iran, is at risk without a two-state solution, US Vice President Joe Biden said on Monday.
Speaking to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in National Harbor, Maryland, the vice president acknowledged the existence of “quiet talks” between Israel and Arab neighbors over shared threats.
But he said violence in Jerusalem risks “another intifada on the ground,” warning against incitement from all sides that would sideline those talks.
“They have all of this in common,” Biden said, referring to Islamic State and the “regional tension” with Iran.
Israel is tasked with “taking advantage of this, for the first time in the history of the State of Israel” – and the United States is tasked with its facilitation, he said.
While addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on September 29, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he believed it was the other way around, saying that “leading states in the Arab world” now “increasingly recognize that together, we and they face many of the same dangers: principally this means a nuclear-armed Iran and militant Islamist movements gaining ground in the Sunni world.”
He even spoke of the possibility of a “productive partnership” developing between Israel and these states.
“Many have long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can help facilitate a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world,” he told the General Assembly. “But these days I think it may work the other way around: Namely, that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
Biden acknowledged tensions between Washington and Jerusalem on major issues, notably negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and recent Israeli decisions on building homes over the Green Line.
“We talk honestly with one another,” he said. “We love one another and we drive one another crazy. We are straight with one another.”
On Iran, he called criticism of the US-led talks “malarkey” and said the most “sustainable” solution is a verifiable agreement guaranteeing its nuclear program remains peaceful.
Come November 24 – the deadline on those talks – “Iran has to make a choice,” Biden said, warning of “increasing pressure” should a deal not be reached.
And he repeated a line long held by the Obama administration: The United States will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Israel hopes to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapons capacity – the ability and means to build such weapons in short course should its political leadership choose to do so.
Biden has decades-old ties to the Jewish community, which he cited in his speech to the crowd. The General Assembly, held at a convention center just outside Washington, also featured Jewish Supreme Court Justices Elana Kagan and Stephen Breyer.
The Obama administration has provided historic levels of funding to Israel to maintain its qualitative military edge, amounting to $17 billion over six years – a fifth of Israel’s defense budget, Biden said.
But tensions have mounted nevertheless since October, after a series of construction plan announcements out of Jerusalem angered the White House.
One senior official, speaking anonymously, was quoted in The Atlantic earlier this month calling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit” for his policy on Iran, further aggravating relations.
Biden addressed that flap in character: with a joke.
“You better damn well report to Bibi that we’re still buddies,” he said. Recalling a note he once wrote the prime minister, he added: “I don’t agree with a damn thing you say, but I love ya.”