Biden affirms US support of Israel with pledge of F-35 delivery by 2016

"If you were attacked and overwhelmed, we would fight for you," the US vice president says at an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Washington.

US Vice President Joseph Biden  (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Vice President Joseph Biden
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The US will deliver to Israel fifth-generation stealth aircraft in 2016, Vice President Joe Biden said in Washington on Thursday as he pledged his country’s firm commitment to defend the Jewish state from its regional enemies.
“Next year we will deliver to Israel the F-35 joint strike fighter, our finest, making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft,” Biden said at an Israeli Embassy event to celebrate the country’s 67th Independence Day.
Israel bought 19 F-35s in 2010 for $2.75 billion and signed a contract in February to buy an additional 14 of the Lockheed Martin Corp. fighter jets for about $3b.
Biden’s appearance at the event comes after months of heightened tensions between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama over Israel’s fierce opposition to US support for a deal that curbs, but does not eliminate, Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Netanyahu and Obama’s public spat over the deal has fueled speculation that US-Israel relations have been harmed beyond repair and raised concerns about continued American support for Israel.
As he stood under a large Israeli flag, Biden promised that his country would always “have Israel’s back.”
The Obama administration, together with Congress, Biden said, “has provided $20b. in military assistance to Israel and cutting edge weapons to [help it] maintain a qualitative advantage against any potential opponent.
“We continue to discuss what more must be done in the near term and the long term to continue to strengthen Israel so it can maintain that edge,” Biden said.
The US commitment to Israel is nonpartisan, but his own allegiance to it is personal, he said.
There is speculation Biden could enter the 2016 presidential race, but he has yet to announce his intention to do so.
He told the audience the president also had a personal stake in the matter when it came to Israel, noting that during World War II, Biden’s father and Obama’s great-uncle were among the US troops that liberated Jews from the Nazi concentration camps.
Of the US-Israel relationship, he said, “It’s no secret that we have had our differences,” but just like a family would, “we love each other and we protect each other.”
When Obama says “Israel will never be alone,” he means it on a personal and diplomatic level, Biden said.
The US commitment to Israel’s security and survival is fundamental to its strategy in the Middle East, he said.
Biden used some of his time on the stage to argue for the Iran deal, which he said provides the best option to prevent Tehran from producing atomic weapons.
Iran’s capacity to produce enriched uranium would be reduced by two-thirds, he said, adding that its stockpile of low and enriched uranium would shrink by 98 percent.
Iran has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in two or three months, but with the deal that break out time would be rolled back to a year, Biden said, noting that the timeline would remain in place for at least a decade.
In addition, Biden said, the deal between Iran and six world powers, would “put in place the toughest transparency and verification requirement providing the best possible check against a secret path to a bomb.”
Israel does not believe transparency is possible and is concerned the deal, which only would be finalized at the end of June, would leave Iran with the ability to immediately produce a nuclear weapon after a decade. Israel also has claimed that the deal legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program as well as the continued growth of its store of conventional weapons.
But Biden said he believed the deal was in Israel’s best interest and did protect it from Iran.
“If the final deal on the table does not meet the president’s requirement, we simply will not sign it.
A final deal must effectively cut of Iran’s pathway to the bomb. If it doesn’t, there will be no deal,” he said.
If Iran fails to abide by the terms of the deal, all response options are available to the US including a military one, Biden said, adding that he believes Israel was essential to safeguarding the lives of Jews around the world.
“That is why you have never farmed out your security, you have accepted all the help we can give, the most admirable thing about you is that you have never asked us to fight for you. But I promise you, if you were attacked and overwhelmed, we would fight for you, in my view,” Biden said.
“We will never stop working to ensure that Jews from around the world always have somewhere to go, we will never stop working to make sure Israel has a qualitative edge.”
This would be the same whether it is a Republican or a Democrat president that sits in the White House, Biden said.
“The American people are committed. The American people understand,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, we need you, the world needs you, imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century were Israel not sustained and vibrant and free.”