During his address to the Yeshiva Beth Yehuda anniversary dinner in Detroit, MI, Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the steps taken by him and President Barack Obama to strengthen the relationship. At the outset of his remarks, Biden declared, “It’s an American national security interest that Israel remain free, secure in a democratic state in the Middle East.” He then spoke about how he and the President have worked to surpass security commitments made by previous administrations—in both quality and quantity—and emphasized that “[t]he Israelis know that they can count on us and on this President.” Below are excerpts from his address.
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Biden affirmed that he and Obama view Israel’s security as a critical American interest:
It’s an American national security interest that Israel remain free, secure in a democratic state in the Middle East….
As I said in a speech I recently made at Tel Aviv University, American support for Israel is not just an act of friendship; it’s an act of fundamental national self-interest on the part of the United States, a key component of our broader efforts to secure this region and the wider world as well as secure our own security. President Obama feels exactly the same way.
He characterized the state of U.S.-Israel relations by saying, “The Israelis know that they can count on us and on this President,” and cited Obama’s intervention to save the Israeli diplomats in Cairo as a prominent example:
The Israelis know that they can count on us and on this President. As recently as this September, when demonstrations in Cairo turned violent, and protestors breached the wall of the Israeli embassy there, tearing down Israel’s flag and threatening the security of the embassy staff, the Israeli’s asked for our help. President Obama immediately responded.
Afterwards ... the Prime Minister, Netanyahu, said of the President, I quote, ‘I requested his assistance at a decisive, I would say even fateful moment. He said he would do everything possible, and that’s exactly what he did. He activated all the United States’ means and influence, which are certainly considerable. I believe we owe him a special debt of gratitude.’
He spoke about the Obama Administration’s commitment to ensuring Israel’s security and defending its legitimacy:
When we came to office, when it came to standing up for Israel’s security both in terms of the threat it faces and countering those who seek to delegitimize Israel—this is the most concerted effort in my 36 years in the Senate and two and a half years as Vice President that I have seen an effort to literally delegitimize Israel as a nation state. It’s occurring in Europe. It’s occurring around the world.
The commitment we have made—all my colleagues in the Senate and House that are here, all our administration—is equal to and surpasses that of any of our predecessors. Early in our administration when the President gave his speech in Egypt to the Muslim communities around the world, he made our commitment plain as day, standing in Cairo in the midst of an Islamic audience.
He told the audience in the heart of the Arab world, and I quote, that ‘America’s bond with Israel is unbreakable.’ ... Listen to what he said this September at the United Nations General Assembly. He said, ‘Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombers on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country with less than 8 million people looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten and are committed to wipe it off the face of the map.’
That statement was not made at a Jewish dinner. That statement was made for the whole world to hear before what was a mildly hostile General Assembly.
Biden made it clear that he and the President are standing with Israel as it confronts new threats in the Middle East:
The threats against the Jewish state have changed dramatically since I first became a senator in 1973. Then, there was no concern about a nuclear armed Iran, Hamas armed with sophisticated rockets, Hezbollah with longer range missiles, uncertainty among Israel’s neighbors during what has become known as the Arab Spring.
So now, as a consequence of those changes our commitment to Israel’s security must and does reflect those new threats…. In spite of these tough economic times, the President with the help of the Congress has secured $3 billion in annual assistance for Israel, the most ever.
On top of that, the President asked for an additional $205 million to help Israel produce what is referred to as the Iron Dome, the short range rocket defense system that has intercepted dozens of rockets along the Gaza border, rockets that could have struck hospitals, schools, or homes. And it is now being installed along the Lebanese border.
President Obama saw firsthand the need for a system back in 2008, when he was—when he actually visited the region. He saw how the residents of the border areas were perpetually in the cross hairs of Hamas and Hezbollah. And he worked with Israel on two new missile defense systems—Arrow and David’s Sling—on a high-powered radar system that could detect missiles by satellite and give the Israelis early warning of a launch against them.
He listed just some of the actions taken by the President and his Administration to provide for Israel’s security by increasing its Qualitative Military Edge:
It’s not just the technology, but the human relationships that will ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge. Since taking office, we’ve launched the most comprehensive and meaningful strategic and operational consultations across all levels of our government, unprecedented in their scope, frequency and character.
The largest ever joint military exercise in our joint history—Juniper Cobra, it was referred to as. The most visits by senior high-level Department of Defense officials and their Israeli counterparts—over 200. Such cooperation, as you observed, only exists with the closes allies; cooperation that a friend of mine for 39 years, Benjamin Netanyahu himself, has rightly called unprecedented.
Biden spoke about the actions taken by the President and his Administration to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran:
The President is also keenly aware of the existential threat that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could and would pose to Israel. It would also be, I might add, a direct and serious threat to the United States. That’s why President Obama is absolutely determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period.
We have built up the strongest and most far-reaching sanctions that Iran has ever seen. As a result, Iran is increasingly isolated, and we are not—we’ve severely set back its ability to buy technology to continue its nuclear and missile programs. We’ve made it increasingly difficult for Iran to do basic business transactions around the world. For example, major multinational companies have suspended or stopped some $60 billion worth of energy projects with Iran, while banks, insurers and other financial institutions have ceased doing business altogether, just in the last 18 months.
And don’t take my word for it. Here’s what President Ahmadinejad—after saying initially the sanction had no consequence—here’s what he recently told the Iranian parliament, just two weeks ago. And I quote, ‘the West as imposed the most extensive and dastardly sanctions.’ He went on to say, ‘Every day our banking and trade activities and our agreements are being monitored and blocked. This is the heaviest economic onslaught,’ he went on to say, ‘in our nation’s history. Our banks cannot make international transactions anymore.’ And he went on.
He listed just some of the myriad actions taken by Obama that give Israeli leaders the utmost confidence in his commitment to Israel’s security:
Even—even as we remain vigilant to any and all threats to Israel’s security, we will have—and I can tell you for eight Presidents we always have had—tactical disagreements over policy. But none of these disagreements go to the heart of our relationship. They never have. And we will never allow it to occur.
That’s more important than it ever has been today, because, as I said, we are witnessing the most sustained aggressive attempt to de-legitimize Israel that I have ever seen. And I have been more deeply involved in this issue than anyone but four people who are still in the United States Congress.
The United States is fighting these efforts with everything we have. It was one thing to help stop the sale of AWACS to the Saudis—I voted against AWACS to the Saudis years ago. It’s a very different thing—it’s a very different thing to meet the pernicious undermining of Israel’s statehood that is occurring subtly all around the world.
We stood by Israel when the Goldstone Report on the 2009 Gaza War was issued, because we will always support Israel’s right to self-defense. We refused to attend events ... that legitimize the flawed ... 2001 World Conference Against Racism, which outrageously singled out Israel for criticism.
We vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution that declared Israel’s settlements illegal, and we’re working around the clock to prevent the United Nations and its agencies from further isolating Israel, and from prematurely endorsing a Palestinian bid for statehood. And we are strongly—strongly—opposed to the decision by UNESCO to in fact recognize Israel as part of its organization to approve the Palestinian bid for full membership.
We have repeatedly made clear to the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the international community, that long-lasting peace can only be achieved—as Israeli leaders have argued from the beginning—by negotiations between the two parties themselves, period. Period. As the President said of the United Nations last month, There are no shortcuts to peace….
With the United States, past Presidents and this President know, that Israel has nowhere else to go. That’s why we have done more than any administration on the security front with Israel because we know it has nowhere else to go. To make sure that Israel can stay exactly where she is—a Jewish state, secure and free. And that is why the bond between America and Israel is absolutely unshakeable…. I commit to you, as a supporter of Israel for 40 years ... I guarantee you we will stand with Israel because we know she has nowhere else to go. And we want her to stay right where she is.