At AIPAC, Ahead of Obama Visit to Israel, Administration Underlines Unity

At the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC’s largest in Washington — almost all of the 13,000 supporters of Israel applauded Vice President Joe Biden when he gave a traditional, often personal, pro-Israel speech.  

Everyone was aware, and Biden mentioned, that President Barack Obama will be visiting Israel in just over two weeks. Biden, to the relief of many in the AIPAC crowd, had very little to say about the possibility of any plan to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.

The Vice President, whose last appearance at a large AIPAC policy conference had included remarks “you won’t like” about why Israel must stop building settlements in the West Bank, portrayed Obama Administration policy as identical to Israel’s — notably on how to confront Iran’s nuclear program.

Vice President Biden (r.) at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

As transcribed by the White House:

Big nations can’t bluff.  And Presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff.  And President Barack Obama is not bluffing.  He is not bluffing.  (Applause.)

We are not looking for war.  We are looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully; but all options, including military force, are on the table.  But as I made clear at the Munich Security Conference just last month, our strong preference, the world’s preference, is for a diplomatic solution.  So while that window is closing, we believe there is still time and space to achieve the outcome. 

Most interestingly, for readers of IsraelSpy.com, the loquacious Biden continued:

We are in constant dialogue, sharing information with the Israeli military, the Israeli intelligence service, the Israeli political establishment at every level, and we’re taking all the steps required to get there. 

But I want to make clear to you something.  If, God forbid, the need to act occurs, it is critically important for the whole world to know we did everything in our power, we did everything that reasonably could have been expected to avoid any confrontation.  And that matters.  Because God forbid, if we have to act, it’s important that the rest of the world is with us.  (Applause.)  We have a united international community.  We have a united international community behind these unprecedented sanctions.  

Just after Biden left the stage, Prime Minister Netanyahu — who said he could not attend the convention in Washington because he is so busy trying to form a new government coalition — addressed the crowd by video link from Jerusalem.

Netanyahu returned to saber-rattling against Iran, by declaring that words alone and sanctions alone will not stop Iran’s nuclear program.   “Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat,” he said, “if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”

March 4, 2013

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