Israel must remain a strong ally of the United States, however its decisions “must be made in Jerusalem”, said Delaware Senator and Democratic Party Vice Presidential nominee Joseph Biden during a teleconference held with members of the Jewish press on Wednesday.
Biden also expressed his support of Israel’s right to protect itself, saying, “Israel has the right to defend itself and it doesn’t have to ask, just as any other free and independent country.
The Vice Presidential nominee vowed that the U.S. will “always stand by Israel, without telling Israelis what they can and cannot do.
Biden dismissed the prominent role played by the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, saying the group “doesn’t speak for the entire Jewish community,” and it “doesn’t speak for the state of Israel, no matter what it insists on any occasion.”
The Delaware senator also attacked critics who have questioned his support of Israel saying, “I will take a back seat to no one, and again, no one in AIPAC or any other organization, in terms of questioning my support of the State of Israel.”
The former chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations also criticized presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain’s approach to Israel and the United States’ diplomatic tensions with Iran by portraying the Islamic Republic as being in a fractured and weak state.
“McCain says it’s status quo or war – and there’s nothing in between. We all know Iran is weak and weak economically,” Biden said. “We should stop making Iran into this 12-foot giant. They are not. They are not. The more we do that, the more we undercut our own self-interest.”
Biden also questioned the wisdom of a pre-emptive U.S.-led attack on Iran, at a time when the U.S. is “bogged-down in Iraq,” adding that he has been “stunned by the incompetence” of the Bush administration in its handling of the war in Iraq.
Biden defended his opposition to the Kyl-Lieberman Iran amendment, which calls for labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and passed by a vote of 76 – 22, saying that he didn’t want to help the government find a “pretext for war with Iran,” especially in light of what he described as the Bush administration’s inept handling of the war in Iraq.
Biden accused the Bush administration of neglecting the security of Israel’s northern border after the Second Lebanon War, saying, “Look what we did in regard to Lebanon – we insisted with the French that the Syrians pull out – but we should have been fully engaged training Lebanese to fill in the void in the South so it wouldn’t be filled by Hezbollah – and surprise surprise! – Hezbollah fills up the void! And when Israel pulled out, and we, instead of jumping in as I proposed, to help rebuild down there – now once again we ended with Iranians once again providing the Hezbollah with money to help people to rebuild their houses.”
Meanwhile, Obama campaign spokeswoman Wendy Morigi put out the following statement late Wednesday: “Barack Obama and Joe Biden have both enjoyed close and effective cooperation with AIPAC over many years, grounded in their respect for its important mission to support Israel’s security and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
“That is a mission they share, and they look forward to continuing to work closely with AIPAC on their common goals.”