Israel’s policies are undermining support for the country in the United States among young people in both political parties, Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden warned Sunday in a prerecorded video address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, DC.
In the speech, Biden warned that any future Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank along with last week’s announcements of construction projects would prevent a future possible contiguous Palestinian state.
“Israel, I think, has to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity, like the recent announcement to build thousands of settlements in E1,” Biden said referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement last week that he had ordered the promotion of a plan for some 3,500 homes in the controversial corridor between East Jerusalem and the West Bank Israeli city of Ma’ale Adumim.
Critics charge the project would bisect the western West Bank, substantially curbing the possibility for development in the center of a future Palestinian state.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) March 1, 2020
“That’s going to choke off any hope for peace. And to be frank, those moves are taking Israel further from its democratic values, undermining support for Israel in the United States especially among young people in both political parties,” Biden said.
“That’s dangerous,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. We can’t let Israel become another issue that divides Republicans and Democrats. We can’t let anything undermine the partnership.”
Saying that he would “always stand with and for a secure, democratic Jewish State of Israel,” the presidential hopeful also called on the Palestinians to “eradicate incitement on the West Bank” and “end the rocket attacks from Gaza.”
Jeremy Ben Ami, head of the liberal Jewish J Street organization, tweeted his support for Biden’s comments. “Two states, peace, anti-annexation – that’s what pro-Israel looks like,” Ben Ami tweeted.
This year’s AIPAC conference has been the subject of controversy with Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren choosing not to address the policy forum.
Sanders cited his concerns about AIPAC when declining to speak at this year’s conference, saying that the organization gives a platform to “express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday castigated the Democratic presidential front runner for his comments, calling the charge “libelous” and “outrageous.”
Addressing the conference via satellite, the Israeli premier urged the 18,000 in attendance to push back against what he characterized as an attempt to diminish US-Israel ties.
“This year AIPAC was accused of providing a platform for bigotry. These libelous charges are outrageous,” Netanyahu said. “The best way to respond to that outrage is to do what you have done — by gathering in Washington today, in full force, as Democrats and Republicans … You send a great message to all those who seek to weaken our alliance, that they will fail.
Minnesota senator and Democratic candidate Amy Klobuchar, also addressing the conference via video link Sunday, said she was “committed to a peace process that could lead to a two-state solution that allows Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace and security.”
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.