On November 7, 2010, Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly conference in New Orleans, LA. Below are some important highlights.
On both his personal relationship with Israel and the Obama Administration’s relationship with Israel, Biden said:
“I feel so absolutely certain that our support for Israel must continue ... forever.”
“And let me restate what probably does not need to be restated. But I’ve known many of you in this audience for a long, long time. President Barack Obama feels exactly the same way I do, I assure you.”
“I am proud, and I’ve always been proud, to stand with you. Our nation has been proud to stand with Israel from its founding 60 years ago. And I absolutely guarantee you as long as there’s a breath in me, this government, this nation, will stand with Israel. It’s in our own naked self-interest beyond it being an absolute moral necessity.”
”[T]he ties between our countries are literally, literally unbreakable. Our common values are interwoven in our cultures, in our mutual interests, none more urgent than the shared struggle against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorists.”
On the Obama Administration’s actions to bolster Israel’s security, Biden said:
“Folks, no administration has done more than ours to bolster Israel’s ability to defend itself. And no President has done more than ours. As you have heard said many times over this year, when it comes to Israel’s security—and you’ve heard me say this for the last 37 years. When it comes to Israel’s security, there can be virtually no daylight, no daylight between the United States and Israel, under any circumstances.”
“President Obama increased our annual $3 billion in military assistance to Israel with an extra $205 million to deploy Israel’s Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system. This is in addition to the multi-year commitments to jointly develop Israel’s missile defense systems as we work on this very day. Our military conducted Juniper Cobra, a ballistic missile defense exercise in Israel that involved 1,300 U.S. servicemen and women, the largest joint exercise our two countries have ever conducted, all in the last 20 months.
And the Security Cooperation Act of 2010, we made two changes to that Act. The first, we gave the Israelis the ability to purchase U.S. weapons for the first time on the same exact terms our NATO allies can purchase those weapons. And we increased by $400 million the authority to stockpile American military equipment in Israel as a tripwire, among other things.
Ladies and gentlemen, these actions demonstrate not only to the Israelis, but to the whole world that we are absolutely, unequivocally committed to Israel’s security, period—period.”
On the Obama Administration’s efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, Biden said:
“President Obama and I came to office prepared to attempt to resolve the long-standing differences with Iran through constructive engagement based on mutual respect…. The Iranian leaders responded to our overtures with continued defiance and the whole world saw it. No longer could the world say we were not attempting to deal with the problem diplomatically.”
“That [Iranian] defiance—that defiance is why President Obama instituted an effort and under his leadership this administration has helped build the most comprehensive and far-reaching sanctions regime that Iran has ever faced through the U.N. Security Council resolution 1929, and a host of other restrictions imposed by our allies and partners around the world, and by international organizations. These include the comprehensive Iran sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, which President Obama signed in July through broad, bipartisan legislation, it is the most far reaching Congress has ever passed on Iran. These sanctions have a bite. They are making it harder for Iran to acquire technology and funding for its nuclear and missile programs, and making it much more difficult for Iran to access hard currency to conduct business around the world.
Already, they are having measurable impact. Investors have withdrawn from energy projects, and several large, multi-national companies across a range of sectors not just in oil have ceased operating in Iran altogether, knowing that the harm to their reputation for doing business with Iran far outweighs the benefit that may accrue to their bottom line with dealing with Iran.
International banks are literally closing their doors to Iran, because of the persistent Iranian abuse of international financial systems to support its missile and nuclear programs. The sanctions, they are also highlighting the government’s inability to manage its own economy, even as it sits on the world’s largest reserves of natural gas.
Ladies and gentlemen, sanctions are not an end in themselves. They are a means to clarify the choices for Iran and to convince the Iranian government to bring its nuclear activities into line with its international obligations. The door to diplomacy remains open. But there is a price to walk through that door, acting rationally. We continue to seek a peaceful resolution and to hope Iranian leaders will reconsider their current, destructive, and debilitating course. But let me be very clear about this. We are also absolutely committed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”
On the Obama Administration’s attempts to counter the efforts to delegitimize Israel, Biden said:
”[T]he President has moved so forcefully and with such determination against the repeated attempts to de-legitimize Israel. There’s a worldwide campaign going on in some quarters to de-legitimize Israel. We’ve seen it before and we continue to see it, attempts to single out Israel for criticism or to deny it the right to self-defense like all other nations have.
The President has reinforced this for all the world to hear in his Cairo speech and to the representatives of all countries at the United Nations when he said, ‘After 60 years in the community of nations, Israel’s existence must not be subject to debate.’ The President went on to tell the assembly that Israel is a sovereign state and the historic homeland of the Jewish people. It should be clear to all. ‘It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by unshakable opposition by the United States of America.’
And these were not just words. This President has put those words into action. That’s why we withdrew from the Durban Review Conference in February of last year, due to anti-Israeli violence. That’s why in the wake of the Goldstone Report, we loudly and repeatedly claimed our support for Israel’s right to defend itself and the ability of its domestic institutions to conduct their own investigations. That’s why we have consistently opposed anti-Israeli resolutions in the U.N. Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in UNESCO.
Indeed, at the President’s instruction, we were the only no vote on two Human Rights Council resolutions in September—one, the flotilla incident and, one, the follow up to the Goldstone report. That’s why, at the direction of President Obama, as Bibi will tell you and the ambassador will tell you, I spent hour after hour in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, trying to put it in its proper focus and ensure that Israel had its right to conduct its own independent investigation.
And that’s why the President is continuing to fight to ensure that Israel is included in all international bodies to which it should rightfully belong, including regional groupings at the United Nations and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, which with our help and strong support, Israel joined for the first time this year.”
On the importance of achieving a negotiated two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Biden said:
“There is no substitute for direct, face-to-face negotiations leading eventually to states for two peoples secure, the Jewish state of Israel and a viable independent state of Palestine.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is the only path to the Israeli people’s decades-long quest for security and the only path to the fulfillment to the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations for nationhood.
Look, as we have long said, we oppose unilateral steps by either party that could prejudice the outcome of these negotiations. And we’ll continue—we’ll continue working to resume those direct negotiations as quickly as possible to give both sides—both sides the chance to reach the agreement their peoples deserve.”