Unlike Senator Barbara Boxer, who understood that a clear breach has developed between Israel and the United States, Vice President Joe Biden is in denial. As Seth wrote earlier today, Boxer demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu retract his statements about the administration’s refusal to set red lines about Iran’s nuclear program. She asked him to reaffirm his comments from earlier in the year in which he said the two countries stand together. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case, with the Americans still implausibly insisting that failed diplomacy and inadequate sanctions will make the Iranians give up their nuclear ambitions. Boxer seems to think it’s the Israeli duty to subordinate their own ideas of security to those of an administration that has demonstrated no interest in translating their rhetoric into action on Iran. But while Boxer’s statement was as impertinent as it was wrongheaded, Biden’s comments are either obtuse or totally disingenuous.
Biden made the comment at a pre-Rosh Hashanah event at the vice presidential mansion. JTA reports that:
According to tweets posted by Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union, Biden said that “Both our nations are intently focused on the threat of Iran” and “there is no daylight” between the United States and Israel.
Diament also quoted Biden as saying that “We will use all the elements of our national security, including military” to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
The problem with these statements is that they are at variance with the comments made over the weekend by Secretary of State Clinton in which she pointedly refused to set any deadlines for the Iranians. The recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that the Iranians are making good use of the time President Obama has wasted during his four years in office pursuing feckless diplomacy to make substantial progress toward a nuclear weapon. The Israeli government has complained loudly that it is obvious, as the IAEA report made clear, that Tehran is fast approaching the point where it would be too late to use force to forestall Iran’s bomb. The contrast between Israel’s sense of urgency about this existential threat and the laconic manner of the administration could not be starker. If that doesn’t constitute daylight, then the term has no meaning.
The decision of the president to snub Netanyahu later this month when they will both be in New York was more than a symbolic snub. It was also a message that under no circumstances would Obama be pressured into behaving as if this wasn’t just a problem that could be jawboned while being postponed until after the election when, presumably, he will have the freedom to change his mind about his pledges on the issue. That he is arranging to meet with the President of Egypt while avoiding Netanyahu tells us all we need to know about whether he regards the friendship of the Muslim Brotherhood as being more valuable than that of Israel.
The president’s Telemundo interview — which received notice for his bizarre equivocation about Egypt’s status as an ally or an enemy — was also notable for his saying that the “red line” about Iran was merely their acquisition of a nuclear weapon. While that sounds plausible, it is far from satisfactory from Israel’s point of view since the priority is to ensure that they don’t have the materials from which they can quickly assemble a bomb. Waiting until they have one is simply too late to head off the problem or to deny them the leverage such a weapon would afford Tehran and its terrorist auxiliaries.
Netanyahu may have no choice but to accept this lamentable decision, but American Jews do have the ability to exercise their democratic privilege to speak truth to power and to inform the administration of their displeasure. That is why Biden is attempting to pretend that all is well between Israel and the United States, even if doing so this of all weeks strains even his considerable ability to fib with a straight face.
Biden’s statement was probably applauded by Democratic politicians at the event, such as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who has plenty of experience of her own lying about the U.S.-Israel relationship (and who wouldn’t have wanted to be a fly on the wall if she and Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who was also at the event, had a private word together?). But it is to be hoped that others present were not cynical. The leaders of the major American Jewish groups in attendance at the reception are used to such pretenses. The question is whether any of them had the chutzpah to point out just how disingenuous Biden’s comments were.