(JNS.org) Amid a rough patch in U.S.-Israel relations, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said disagreement and honest conversation are “what friends do.”
“Like all close friends, we talk honestly with one another,” Biden said Monday, Nov. 10, at the 2014 General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America in National Harbor, Md. “We talk directly with one another. We disagree with one another. We love one another and we drive one another crazy. That’s what friends do. … We are straight with one another, and we talk directly about a wide range of issues, including Iran.”
Biden’s comments come in the aftermath of the recent report that an anonymous senior Obama administration official called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “chickenshit.” The revelation of the Netanyahu slur followed harsh U.S. criticism of newly announced Jewish construction in Jerusalem neighborhoods located beyond the 1949 armistice line. Israel and the U.S. are also at odds about what a final nuclear deal with Iran should look like ahead of a Nov. 24 deadline for an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 powers.
Yet Biden said that America “will not let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. Period.”
“I can guarantee you one thing. We will not sign a bad deal. … And I would not put my 42-year reputation on the line if I were not certain when I say we mean it,” he said.
Biden said that protecting Israel is more than a moral obligation for the U.S., but “a security necessity.”
“We will never, ever abandon Israel, out of our own self-interest,” he said.
The vice president also urged Israel to take advantage of its current alignment with Arab neighbors like Egypt and Jordan on fighting threats such as the rise of the Islamic State terror group. For the “first time in the history of Israel,” the Jewish state and Arab nations have a “common and consistent concern about the same threats,” said Biden.
At the same time, Biden said that Israel and the Palestinians “need to avoid incitement and demonstrate restraint” and make progress towards peace. There is “a better path” and the U.S. is “not going to stop working” on that path, said Biden, referring to American efforts to bring about a two-state solution.
Biden also praised the Jewish Federations for responding to Jewish needs around the world and fighting anti-Semitism.
“Silence is never, ever acceptable,” he said. “And I must say, I’ve always been proud to associate myself with the Jewish Federation. … You have treated the world as your backyard, responding wherever and whenever anti-Semitism raises its ugly head.”
Biden was one of dozens of speakers from across the political, philanthropic, business, religious and cultural landscapes, who addressed thousands of Jewish community leaders from 124 communities at the three-day GA. The roster of notable speakers at the event’s plenaries and panels also included: Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Academy Award-winning actress and activist Marlee Matlin; NBC’s political journalists Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell; Alon Davidi, mayor of Sderot, Israel; Elliot Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies; Josh Harris, owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils; bestselling author A.J. Jacobs; Mark Wilf, owner of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings; and Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf.
Among the wide range of topics discussed were rising anti-Semitic attitudes confronting Jewish communities in Europe, the dangers facing communities in Southern Israel, the future of Jewish education in North America, freedom of choice in marriage in Israel, the rising challenge posed by the BDS movement, Jewish life on college campuses throughout North America and improving disability inclusion in the Jewish community.