Admits to ‘Overwhelming Frustration’ with Israeli Government
By Rebecca Shimoni
Times of Israel
April 19, 2016
Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged “overwhelming
frustration” with Israel’s government on Monday and said Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration has led the country in the wrong
direction, in an unusually sharp rebuke of America’s closest ally in the
There is no will for peace among Palestinian and Israeli
political leadership, Biden bemoaned during J Street’s annual gala Monday
evening. Painting a dim picture of a conflict that is becoming increasingly
intractable, the vice president stressed that the United States would maintain
its security support for Israel through an extensive defense aid package
delineated in a renewed Memorandum of Understanding.
“I firmly believe that the actions that Israel’s
government has taken over the past the past several years — the steady and
systematic expansion of settlements, the legalization of outposts, land seizures
— they’re moving us and more importantly they’re moving Israel in the
wrong direction,” Biden said.
He said those policies were moving Israel toward a
“one-state reality” — meaning a single state for Palestinians and Israelis
in which eventually, Israeli Jews will no longer be the majority.
“That reality is dangerous,” Biden added.
“I didn’t come away from my recent meetings with Prime
Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu or President [Mahmoud] Abbas feeling encouraged
about the prospect for peace in the near future,” Biden recounted. “There is
no will for peace,” he added, asserting that “the trust that is necessary
for peace is fractured on both sides.”
Biden cited unilateral recourse to international
organizations such as the International Criminal Court on the part of the
Palestinians and Israeli settlement policies as “damaging moves that only take
us further from the path toward peace.” Biden noted that he has “opposed
settlements for more than three decades because I believe they are
counterproductive to security,” and took pride in recounting a shouting match
on the topic between himself and former prime minister Menachem Begin.
“Both sides have to take responsibility for
counterproductive steps that undermine confidence in negotiations,” Biden
While seeming to despair of any real possibility for peace
in the short term, Biden argued that “our common task now is to encourage
meaningful steps that reduce tension while rebuilding a constituency for
In another dig at Netanyahu and his Likud party, Biden
singled out for praise Stav Shaffir, a young member of Israel’s parliament and
Netanyahu critic from the left wing of Israeli politics.
“May your views begin to once again become the majority
opinion in the Knesset,” Biden said.
But despite his criticism of the Netanyahu government’s
policies, Biden stressed that his administration’s support for Israel remained
“No matter what political disagreements we have with
Israel – and we do have political disagreements now – there is never any
question about our commitment to Israel’s security,” Biden told the
The United States and Israel are currently negotiating a
new 10-year multibillion dollar agreement to provide defense assistance – and
Biden argued that this renewed Memorandum of Understanding will be the most
generous security package in the history of US aid to Israel.
“Israel will not get everything it asks for, but it will
get every single solitary thing it needs,” he said, reiterating a talking
point that he delivered during last month’s AIPAC Policy Conference.
In his address, Biden also singled out Palestinian leaders,
including Abbas, for declining to condemn specific acts of terrorism carried out
against Israelis, in a nod to the seven-month wave of Palestinian stabbings and
other attacks. He said he didn’t know whether Monday’s bus explosion that
wounded scores in Jerusalem was a terrorist attack, but added that the US
condemns “misguided cowards” who resort to violence.
“No matter what legitimate disagreements the Palestinian
people have with Israel, there is never justification for terrorism,” Biden
said. “No leader should fail to condemn as terrorists those who commit such
Turning to Iran, and in a reference to a push by hawkish US
lawmakers to renew the expiring Iran Sanctions Act, Biden also warned that
“adding further sanctions legislation would be counterproductive at this
point,” arguing that Iran would use such a move as an excuse to back out of