Biden’s Untimely Assault on
By Elliot Abrams
Council on Foreign Relations
April 19, 2016
Yesterday, Israel was assaulted
twice: once by terrorists, and once by the Vice President of the United States.
The physical attack was in
Jerusalem, where a bomb injured 21 people in a bus, several of them seriously.
On the very same day, the VP addressed
the group called J Street and shared with it not solidarity with Israelis
under attack but–with remarkable timing–a rhetorical attack on the
government of Israel.
Here is some of what he said,
according to a report in The
Times of Israel:
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 Middle East.
“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
“That reality is dangerous,”
Put aside the exquisite timing of
Biden’s remarks on a day when Israel suffered a terrorist attack, and they are
still quite something. For one thing, President Obama is about to join a GCC
summit in Saudi Arabia. Does Biden really think the Arabs pay no attention to
how we treat our closest friends and allies? Does he not know that they will
read all of this and not gloat– but instead wonder when they will be getting
the same treatment?
Then there are the facts. How do
you get to a “one-state reality” when the people and government of Israel
refuse it? Who will force them into it? How do you get to “systematic”
expansion of settlements when just about every analyst understands that
Netanyahu has been constraining many aspects of settlement growth–to the great
anger of the settlers? And finally, why is Biden not familiar with the history
of his own administration’s peace efforts? As Dennis Ross made clear in his
most recent book, Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from
Truman to Obama, Netanyahu was in fact ready to take significant political risks
to meet American requests–and Abbas was not. As Martin Indyk put
it in July 2014,
“Netanyahu moved to the zone of
possible agreement. I saw him sweating bullets to find a way to reach an
agreement,” said Indyk. Abbas, for his part, did not show flexibility,
None of this was reflected in
In his book, Ross wrote
that“Obama believed Israel was capable of doing more on peace. And it could
help change the regional realities, and our place in the region, if it would
only move on the Palestinians. But what if the Palestinians were not prepared to
move? What if they were not capable of moving, regardless of Israeli actions? He
never seemed to ask that question.”
Neither did Biden.