Citing the Obama administration’s unprecedented military assistance and security cooperation with Israel, Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday promised to continue fighting for Israel’s security.
“I don’t believe there’s been any president who has done more to enhance Israel’s security than President Obama,” Biden said in a video message to participants at an Israel Policy Forum event honoring IPF Chair Emeritus Peter Joseph at The Morgan Library and Museum in Manhattan. “And no matter what policy disagreements we have had – and we’ve had them, – with Israel at any given point, that commitment is immutable. It has never been in question.”
“All of you who know me know, I am never going to stop standing and fighting alongside all of you for Israel’s security,” Biden said.
The vice president has hinted in recent days that he may decide to run for president against President-elect Donald Trump in 2020.
The Israel Policy Forum has made it its mission to get a proposal for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the president’s desk. In May, IPF launched a peace initiative from veterans of the Israeli and American diplomatic establishments — represented by Commanders for Israel’s Security and the Center for a New American Security.
“You know that these two things go together, peace and security,” Biden said. “The continued progress towards a two-state solution is absolutely essential for Israel’s security and its endurance as a Jewish and democratic state in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel is as essential to our security in the region as it is to Israel’s security. You’ve heard me say it many times: if there weren’t an Israel, we would have to invent one.”
The recent election of Donald Trump has left many in the peace camp wondering what the new administration would do to advance peace in the region. Israeli right-wing leaders have already declared the two-state solution dead, while center-left leaders have expressed hope that the next president will follow through on his campaign promise to broker the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.
“In recent weeks, President-elect Trump has said on a few occasions that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement is something he would like to pursue in office,” IPF Chairwoman Susie Gelman said at the start of the event. “If he is serious, he will do more than utter those words. He will begin to take concrete action, working with Israel and the Palestinians to achieve that goal. And if he’s truly serious, if he really does seek to be constructive in pursuing a realistic peace with security, IPF is prepared to serve as a resource offering practical solutions, supported by an unprecedented coalition of Israeli security experts, and harnessing the energy of a majority of Israelis, Palestinians and Americans, who recognize that a two-state solution remains the only solution.”
At the event, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and General John Allen presented their perspectives on the US-Israel relationship and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“At a time of transition, it is a particularly right moment for reflection,” Shapiro told the crowd gathered in a theater-style setting. “We need to think about what works, what does not work, and we need to approach the task with humility. Our diplomacy must adapt to changing circumstances and political realities. And to do so requires political will, but also a willingness to take stop-and-shift approaches when needed. What has not changed over time is America’s bedrock commitment to a two-state solution. At the moment, Secretary [John] Kerry said Sunday, this may continue to be an uphill struggle, but the goal remains a strong, secure, Jewish, democratic Israel at peace with its Palestinian neighbors.”
“For the remaining weeks of President Obama’s administration,” Shapiro promised, “We will continue to work hard to promote Israel’s security, defend its legitimacy, oppose boycotts against Israel, and stronger support steps that will further chances of Arab-Israeli peace.”
Shapiro also expressed the U.S. administration’s disapproval of the Israeli government’s arrangement bill legalizing Jewish settlements. “We are deeply concerned about the advancement of proposed legislation that will allow for the legalization of Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank,” he said. “Each of these trends is harming the prospects of a two-state solution and making a one-state reality, which serves no one’s interests, more likely.”
In an impassioned speech, Gen. Allen told the story how he came to find himself involved in advocating on behalf of Israel’s security and future. “It was an early June morning in 1967, I was 13 and I was dead asleep in my home in Virginia,” he recalled. “As it was my father’s watch, who would always say goodbye in the morning, he gently gripped my shoulder and said, ‘Son, get up. Israel is fighting for its life. The Middle East is aflame.’ It was very early in the morning for television in those days, but the news shows were showing special coverage of what would be one of the greatest military victories in modern history, the 6-day war. My father and I would remain glued to the television. And when we saw those images of Israeli paratroopers worshipping at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, we knew that we were witnessing something extraordinary, and when I looked at my dad I was surprised to see him weeping for joy… The Jewish people were safe and Israel would survive. You know, I would never be the same again… My dad was raised in some tough neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and from his earliest memories, his best house were Jewish kids, tough kids, who treated him like their own families. The Jewish people were precious to him, and he and my mother, of Irish immigrants, raised my sister, my brother and me to hold the same beliefs. He never relented in making sure we all understood that we bore some responsibility for the safety and protection of Israel.”
Allen also expanded on his 2013 security plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, calling it the proper formula for future peace. “At the end of my 45 years of service in the U.S., I have seen what I believe can be a workable security solution to support the forward movement of peace. It will be hard, and it might even take decades to implement all of the pieces, but for the sake of Israel, there is no other viable option… Last year, when I resigned from my position as President Obama’s special envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS, I had a long talk with John Kerry at the State Department. As we shook hands, he said, ‘Should the opportunity ever present itself again to be involved in a Middle East process, would you come back into the government?’ While I hesitated, I told him that until I take my last breath, if there’s a chance for peace in the Middle East, I will give up whatever I am doing and come off the bench to reenter the process. And as I walked out the building, I thought my dad would be happy.”