At AIPAC, Biden slams settlement expansion, hails Iran nuclear deal

Pro-Israel gathering begins Sunday with 18,000 delegates gathered in DC, sees US VP condemn Abbas for tolerating terrorism, vow to ‘forever have Israel’s back’

US Vice President Joe Biden addresses the AIPAC 2016 Policy Conference on March 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Molly Riley/AFP)
US Vice President Joe Biden addresses the AIPAC 2016 Policy Conference on March 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Molly Riley/AFP)

US Vice President Joe Biden slammed Israeli settlement expansion, hailed the Iran nuclear deal, and condemned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for failing to condemn terror, in an address to the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby on Sunday.

During his visit to Israel earlier this month, “I condemned [Palestinian terror] attacks, not just those that happened when I was there, all of them. And I condemned the failure to condemn these atrocious acts of violence. No leader has the right to tolerate terrorism,” Biden recalled in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual Policy Conference in Washington.

“That’s exactly what I said to President Abbas when I met him in Ramallah,” he added.

“No matter what legitimate disagreements the Palestinians may have with Israel, there is no legitimate excuse for killing innocents or remaining silent in the face of terrorism.”

Biden used his speech before some 18,000 delegates gathered at Washington’s Verizon Center to reiterate the American commitment to Israel’s security.

“We’re all unyielding, and I mean that literally, in our commitment to the security and survival of Israel,” he told the appreciative crowd.

While vowing to protect Israel’s security, Biden was critical of Israeli and Palestinian leaders for failing to work towards peace.

“In my view, after doing this for 42 years, there is no political will among Israelis or Palestinians to move forward with negotiations,” he lamented, calling that fact “incredibly disappointing.”

“The only way in my view to guarantee Israel’s identity as a democratic and Jewish state” is to have two states for two peoples, he said.

It’s also “the only way to ensure the dignity and self-determination of the Palestinians as well,” he continued, calling for a renewed “will to create a fundamentally different future.

“That means terror attacks must stop, the rhetoric that incites violence against pregnant mothers, babies, grandfathers, must stop. And acts of retribution and revenge must stop.”

But, too, it meant Israel’s settlement building must stop, he said.

“To be frank, the Israeli government’s steady process of expanding settlements and expropriating land is eroding the possibility of a two-state solution. Bibi [Netanyahu] thinks he can accommodate it. I don’t. Because trends on the ground are moving toward a one-state solution, and I feel that’s dangerous.”

Biden offered “heartfelt condolences” to the victims of Saturday’s suicide bombing in Istanbul. “So many of the victims were Israeli citizens,” he noted, “and two were Israeli-Americans.”

The US “stands with our allies” against those “thugs” who seek to wage terror. “Terrorists cannot and will not, I promise you, prevail.”

“The United States will constantly and forever have Israel’s back,” he said.

Biden also insisted that last July’s Iran nuclear deal, an agreement opposed by AIPAC at last year’s policy conference, made the Middle East safer.

“The stakes for the United States and its partners are immense. The stakes for Israel are existential,” he noted, but added, “this year we’re no longer dealing with hypotheticals” when it comes to the results of the deal.

“More then two-thirds of Iranian centrifuges have been removed” since the deal was signed. “Enough enriched uranium for six nuclear bombs has been shipped out of the country. The core of the plutonium reactor has been removed, filled with cement so it can’t be used to make bombs.” There are “unprecedented inspections” underway in the Islamic Republic, he continued.

“Iran is much, much further away from obtaining a nuclear weapon than they were a year ago. Whatever your feelings were about the deal, I hope you’re as happy about this as I am, that they are further from the possibility.

“We’re watching Iran like a hawk. Under this agreement, Iran will never be allowed to pursue nuclear weapons, never, never, never.”

And, he said, the US will not let Iran violate the deal. “Let me assure you that what we said all along still holds. If Iran violates the deal, the United States will act. Our commitment is unambiguous. It will be impossible for the next president not to honor it.”

Sunday night’s plenary marked the start of a three-day gathering that will see four of the five primary candidates deliver speeches, including Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

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