Will the Obama administration pressure Israel? No. Yesterday Joe Biden gave a figleaf to Netanyahu and only referred to settlements in a positive light.
The headlines on Biden’s speech to AIPAC yesterday emphasize his statement that Obama is not bluffing about his willingness to go to war against Iran to stop it from becoming a nuclear power. But I found the speech shocking for its Jewish politics: the vice president refused to criticize Israel in the slightest and stated repeatedly that Jews can only be safe in the United States if there is a Jewish state.
Here’s his only reference to settlements:
[T]he only country on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to vote against the establishment of a fact-finding mission on settlements was the United States of America.
As for the peace process, expect nothing from the Obama visit. The two-state solution is over and done with. Here is Biden’s lip service to that process; not a bit of pressure on Israel– but a figleaf for Netanyahu, who doesn’t speak of two states anymore:
Ladies and gentlemen, Israel’s own leaders currently understand the imperative of peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres — they’ve all called for a two-state solution and an absolute secure, democratic and Jewish State of Israel; to live side by side with an independent Palestinian state. But it takes two to tango, and the rest of the Arab world has to get in the game.
And of course not a word about the experience of Palestinians under occupation.
Biden repeatedly praised “Ehud”– Ehud Barak, the former Israeli P.M. in the audience who launched the assault on Gaza in ’08-’09, with whom Chuck Hagel also met yesterday, one of his first assignments as Defense Secretary, to kiss the ring. And Biden twice mentioned Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic chair who led the standing ovations for Netanyahu in Congress two years ago that so humiliated Obama.
Here are Biden’s references to the need for a Jewish state to make Jews in the U.S. secure. First at the start:
It was at that [family] table that I learned that the only way to ensure that it could never happen again was the establishment and the existence of a secure, Jewish state of Israel. (Applause.) I remember my father, a Christian, being baffled at the debate taking place at the end of World War II talking about it. I don’t remember it at that time, but about how there could be a debate about whether or not — within the community, of whether or not to establish the State of Israel.
My father would say, were he a Jew, he would never, never entrust the security of his people to any individual nation, no matter how good and how noble it was, like the United States. (Applause.) Everybody knows it’s real.
And the speech closed with the same idea:
[Golda Meir said to me,] our secret weapon, Senator, is we have no place else to go. We have no place else to go. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen, our job is to make sure there’s always a place to go, that there’s always an Israel, that there’s always a secure Israel and there’s an Israel that can care for itself. (Applause.) My father was right. You are right. It’s the ultimate guarantor of never again.
The speech was red meat for the lobby: no pressure at all on Israel. And Biden said that criticism of Israel — efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state — worry him more than anything else, including Iran.
Let me tell you what worries me the most today — what worries me more than at any time in the 40 years I’ve been engaged, and it is different than any time in my career. And that is the wholesale, seemingly coordinated effort to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state. That is the single most dangerous, pernicious change that has taken place, in my humble opinion, since I’ve been engaged.
I guess the lobby has been in Biden’s life for a long time. He says he’s been going to AIPAC forever. The late Tom Lantos, Holocaust survivor and congressman, was his foreign-policy adviser for years, and many of those in the hall have “been my teachers, my mentors and my educators.”
I see Peter Beinart is on this too, accurately describing this travesty as a reflection of Jewish political power:
I get the yearning to use American Jewish power to safeguard Jewish lives. I get and admire it. What’s awful is the refusal to acknowledge that Jewish power can be abused. And central to that refusal is the language AIPAC and its allies have created to talk about Palestinians, millions of whom live largely at the mercy of Jewish power, as noncitizens in a Jewish state. It’s a dishonest and dehumanizing language, and, unfortunately, Biden speaks it extremely well too.