The White House made sure today the optics of their outreach to the American Israel Public Affairs policy conference was warmer and more friendly and more pro-Israel than at any time in the past four years. Vice President Joe Biden literally hugged Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on stage before some 13,000 pro-Israel activists. And in his speech, Biden sought to hug the State of Israel, as well.
The President, however, did not speak to the delegates. Nor were new initiatives were proposed to strengthen Israeli security, even as U.S. military funds are likely to be cut for Israel due to the sequester. Biden talked about Iran, but he did not offer new or tougher or more convincing language that the administration is truly committed to using a military option if sanctions don’t work. Instead, everyone who loves Israel knows the President chose Chuck Hagel of all people to be his Secretary of Defense. We are hearing rumors the President wants Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to propose painful, sweeping concessions to the Palestinians when he visits Israel later this month. This is why there is very real concern that the Obama administration is not to be trusted when it comes to its relationship with the Jewish state.
“Vice President Biden sought Monday to play down years of tension between the Obama administration and the Israeli government over how best to pursue peace with the Palestinians, focusing his remarks to a powerful Israel-advocacy group on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” reports the Washington Post. “Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest and traditionally most hawkish of the pro-Israel lobbying organizations, Biden reassured the audience, which included Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, that Obama is ‘not bluffing’ when he threatens military action to keep Iran from achieving nuclear-weapons capability.”
Biden said the “window is closing” for diplomacy to work, but added, “We believe there is still time and space to achieve the outcome.”
“Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said Biden. “Period. End of discussion. Prevent — not contain —prevent….Big nations can’t bluff. And presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff. And President Barack Obama is not bluffing.”
The New York Times reported Biden’s comment that “no president has done as much to physically secure the state of Israel as President Barack Obama.”
The Times noted, however, that “there was some quiet grumbling among participants about the president’s choice of former Senator Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. Mr. Hagel had been fiercely criticized by some Jewish groups for comments he made about the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups. But AIPAC did not take a public position on Mr. Hagel’s candidacy.” The Times also noted that “in his last appearance before the group, soon after he took office in 2009, Mr. Biden warned that ‘you’re not going to like this,’ before declaring that the Obama administration wanted Israel to stop building settlements in the West Bank, as a way to jump-start peace talks with the Palestinians.” This time Biden steered clear of mentioning settlements or pressuring Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders.
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