Joe Biden delivered his much-anticipated (and we are told, tweaked) speech in Israel today. It was the usual mix of what we have come to expect from the Obami — broad declarations of support for Israel mixed with an obsessive desire to move forward on the “peace process” and a fixation on building activity. On Iran, Biden pronounced, “The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period.” But how, and what options remain? He didn’t say. As for East Jerusalem, the vice president harped on what he deemed the “hardest truth.” That is parlance for the Obami’s insistence that it is building in Israel’s capital, not the persistence of terrorism or the refusal to recognize the Jewish state, that serves to “undermine trust.” As skewed and as unwelcome as much of that public message was to many onlookers here and in Israel, what went on in private was jaw-dropping. We are told:
While standing in front of the cameras, the U.S. vice president made an effort to smile at Binyamin Netanyahu even after having learned on Tuesday that the Interior Ministry had approved plans to build 1,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. But in closed conversations, Joe Biden took an entirely different tone.
People who heard what Biden said were stunned. “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden castigated his interlocutors. “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”
The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.
It’s hard to fathom that the vice president would make such a claim. Aside from its nonsensical quality (Does the Taliban attack the U.S. because of apartment building in East Jerusalem?), it is precisely the sort of ill-conceived, bullying message that certainly must convince the Israelis not to place their trust in the American negotiators. On a happier note, Biden left Israel today.