Joe Biden on U.S.-Israel disagreements: ‘that’s what friends do’

Vice President Joe Biden addresses the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly on Monday. Credit: Ronald Sachs.

( 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 at the 2014 General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in National Harbor, Md. “We talk directly with one another. We disagree with one another. We love 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.”

Posted on November 10, 2014 .