WASHINGTON – US Vice President Joe Biden told a packed American Israel Public
Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Monday that America’s commitment to
Israel remained ironclad, and implied that the White House is preparing for the
possibility of confrontation with Iran over its nuclear
“President Barack Obama is not bluffing,” Biden said of
America’s stated commitment to prevent rather than contain an Iranian nuclear
While he stressed that the US is not looking to go to war and
there is still time for diplomacy to work, Biden also said it was important to
pursue negotiations so that the international community would know the US had
tried to avoid resorting to military action.
“God forbid the need to act
occurs, it’s critically important for the whole world to know we did everything
in our power to avoid confrontation,” Biden said. “It’s important that the whole
world is with us.”
The administration’s firm position, he emphasized, “is
to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, period.
discussion. Not contain, prevent.”
Biden spoke of Obama’s anticipation of
his trip to Israel later this month, which will be his first as president, but
gave few details about the visit.
He did, however, speak of America’s
continued interest in peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
no apologies for continuing to pursue that goal,” the vice president
“We’re under no allusions about how difficult it will be to
“It takes two to tango, and the rest of the Arab world has to
get in the game,” he said to applause.
He reiterated several times the
importance the US places on its relationship with Israel and preserving the
Jewish state’s security, often to standing ovations, but did give a nod to some
of the tensions that have characterized the relationship between Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama during his first term.
disagreed on tactics, but ladies and gentlemen, we’ve never disagreed on the
strategic imperative,” Biden said.
Biden also expressed his connection to
Israel by saying he was sorry not to be going to Israel in the days leading up
to Passover, as Obama is.
“I have to admit I’m a little jealous that he
gets to be the one to say, ‘This year in Jerusalem,’” he said.
who followed Biden in addressing the approximately 13,000 AIPAC activists at the
three-day policy conference, also referenced the well-known conclusion to the
Passover Seder in his remarks, which were delivered from Israel via video-link,
because his need to focus on building a coalition prevented him from traveling
“This year in Jerusalem, next year in Washington,” he said,
eliciting applause from the audience.
Netanyahu said he looked forward to
welcoming the American president to Israel this month and pursuing peace in the
“With President Obama, we shall work for peace,” he
He noted that “Israel is prepared for a meaningful compromise,” but
indicated he would not take steps that he felt endangered his country’s
“We gave up territory. We got terror. We cannot allow that to happen a third time,” he said. “We must work
together to find a realistic path forward. And I think that path has to be a
measured, step-by-step process in which we work to advance a verifiable, durable
and defensible peace.”
Netanyahu also warned against allowing Iran to
manipulate the diplomatic process.
“Diplomacy has not worked,” he
declared. “Iran ignores all these offers. It’s running out the clock. It has
used negotiations, including the most recent ones, to buy time to press ahead
with its nuclear program.”
He continued, “Thus far, the sanctions have
not stopped the nuclear program either.”
While Iran has not yet crossed
the “red line” Netanyahu drew at the UN last September in terms of the amount of
uranium it has enriched, the prime minister cautioned that Iran has drawn closer
and has positioned itself to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do
“To prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we cannot allow
Iran to cross that red line,” he said to applause.
“Words alone will not
Sanctions alone will not stop Iran.
Sanctions must be
coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions
Netanyahu also offered some lighter comments on his efforts to
form a governing coalition, noting that he was sorry not to make it to
“Unfortunately, I had to stay in Israel to do something a lot
more enjoyable: putting together a coalition government. What fun!” he said to
Despite the gridlock in Washington over spending and other
major policies, he argued that in Israel it was worse.
“If I can offer a
free piece of advice, don’t adopt Israel’s system of government,” he
“Believe me, it’s a lot easier finding common ground between two
parties than it is to find common ground among 10 parties.”