Joe Biden told the Israel lobby group AIPAC this week that it is “dangerous” for Israel to become “another issue that divides Democrats and Republicans.” But he warned that Israeli moves to build more settlements and annex occupied territories were threatening that divide by alienating young Americans.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) March 1, 2020
The former vice president and now Democratic frontrunner made a video statement to AIPAC on March 1 and advocated for the “two-state solution” and against “steps on both sides that take us further from peace.” He condemned Palestinian “incitement” and refusal to “accept, once and for all, the reality and the right of a secure, democratic and Jewish state of Israel in the Middle East” before criticizing Israel:
And Israel I think has to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity, like the recent announcement to build thousands of settlements in E-1. That’s going to choke off any hope for peace. And to be frank, those moves are taking Israel further from its democratic values, undermining support for Israel in the United States, especially among young people of both political parties. That’s dangerous! That’s dangerous! We can’t let that happen! We can’t let Israel become another issue that divides Republicans and Democrats in the major parties. We can’t let anything undermine the partnership that has grown and flourished from the moment of Israel’s founding.
Biden’s comments won approval from Jeremy Ben-Ami of the liberal Zionist organization J Street, which has warned against Israel support becoming a partisan issue. Biden also pleased conservative Israel supporter Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post:
the only candidate still in this thing that would offer a stable and normal relationship with Israel and close allies around the world. Someone should ask Sanders what in that speech he disagrees with or does he just loath AIPAC in principle?
Bernie Sanders said that AIPAC has fostered bigotry against Palestinians and was among several Democratic candidates who said they would not attend AIPAC this year. Though most of them later did address the conference by video. And Elizabeth Warren’s staff reportedly met with an AIPAC delegation after all.
Biden has long bragged that he is a Zionist, and a friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, and that the first country he visited as a Senator was Israel, in 1973. But as vice president he was embarrassed and then critical when Israel announced new settlements just as he was visiting the country.
In his remarks to AIPAC March 1, Biden praised the “Jewish and democratic” state of Israel and said it faces an “existential” threat from rockets fired from Gaza.
You know, a two state solution is the best way to assure a secure and peaceful Israel future, for the Jewish and democratic state of Isrel. That’s the goal we all share. You know, Israelis wake up every morning facing an existential threat from its neighbors. A rain of rockets from Gaza, just like this past week.
He went on to say that American security is threatened by these rockets…
That’s why I’ve always been adamant that Israel must be able to defend itself. It’s not just critical for Israeli security, I believe it’s critical for American security. It’s why I’m so proud of the Obama-Biden administration’s unprecedented support for Israel’s security.
Biden was vague about what “peace” means for Palestinians. The “legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people” include efforts to “expand economic opportunity, pursue justice, and protect their dignity.” He also said, “We all need to work together to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”