After Clinton, Biden Defends Obama on Israel

May 8, 2012  

Vice President Joe Biden vigorously defended the Obama administration’s record on Israel on Tuesday, crediting President Barack Obama for strengthening America’s position in the region and for imposing “the most damaging sanctions in this century” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Biden spoke before an annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly.

“We were the problem,” Biden was quoted by NBC as having said of the global view of the United States before the president took office. “We were diplomatically isolated in the world, in the region, in Europe. The international pressure on Iran was stuck in neutral.”

He added, “We were neither fully respected by our friends nor feared by our opponents. Today it is starkly, starkly different.”

Biden argued that Obama “deserves the credit” for coordinating harsh sanctions against Iran that he says are bringing that nation’s negotiators back to the table, although he warned that the time for diplomacy may be waning.

“The window has not closed in terms of the ability of the Israelis if they choose on their own to act militarily,” he added, noting that he understood Israel’s desire not to “contract out” its security to allies like the United States.

He repeated that the U.S. does not have “a policy of containment” towards Iran and added, “We will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon by whatever means needed, period. Period.”

Citing dissension between Iran’s own leaders, the vice president also predicted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad will be forced from power within two years.

Biden’s remarks come a day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to defend Israel for its actions in the Middle East.

During a visit to Kolkata, India, Clinton said, “The United States believes that whatever differences one might have with the situation in the Middle East, Israel has been defending itself for 60 years and has made numerous overtures to bring about a peaceful resolution of the situation. It has thus far been unsuccessful in doing so.”

Obama has come under fire for his policy on Israel. In his foreign policy speech last May, Obama called for a return to the 1949 armistice lines (often erroneously called 1967 borders)  as a starting point for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

The speech drew criticism from Obama’s political opponents, with Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney accusing the President of having “thrown Israel under the bus.”

Obama’s policy on Israel may have come at a price. Recent reports have indicated that Obama has lost 16 percent of his support among U.S. Jews and may lose the elections in key states like Florida, come November.

The reports were based on a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, which showed that 62 percent of 1,004 American Jews surveyed said that they would vote for Obama. The key concern for Obama is that this is a sizeable downturn from 2008, when he got 78 percent of the Jewish vote.

Biden himself recently came under fire after he told rabbis in Florida that Obama was set to release Jonathan Pollard but that Biden thwarted the move.

“President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time,’” said Biden, adding, “If it were up to me, he would stay in jail for life.”

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