Reflecting on his recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Vice President Joe Biden told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) 2016 policy conference on Sunday that there is currently “no political will, among Israelis or Palestinians” to move forward with serious peace negotiations.
“After extensive meetings with leaders on all sides, including the different [political] parties in Israel, I must tell you I didn’t walk away encouraged,” Biden said.
Biden condemned what he called actions on both sides that undermine trust between the Israelis and Palestinians, including Palestinian efforts to marginalize Israel at the United Nations and Israeli settlement activities. Biden drew some boos from the AIPAC crowd when he said that settlements are “eroding prospects” for a two-state solution—a solution that the vice president asserted is the only way for Israel to maintain its identity as a Jewish and democratic state.
While he said he knows that Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is “talking about it (a two-state solution), and I hear it being talked about on the Palestinian side,” Biden argued that such talk is not being backed up by actions.
“I know we have to work on renewing that will for peace…The terrorist attacks must stop, the rhetoric that incites violence against innocents…it must stop. The acts of retribution and revenge must stop,” Biden said.
“Trends on the ground…are moving in the opposite direction, towards a one-state reality, which is a reality that is dangerous,” he said.
Biden—who on his latest visit to Israel found himself about a mile away from a Palestinian stabbing rampage in Jaffa that injured 11 Israelis and killed visiting American graduate student Taylor Force—condemned “the failure to condemn” terrorism and said that is “exactly what I said to [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas when I met with him in Ramallah.”
“There is no excuse for killing innocents or remaining silent in the face of terror,” said Biden.
The vice president also addressed the topic that dominated last year’s AIPAC conference—the Iran nuclear deal, which at the time had not yet been reached. Predictions about the prospects for reaching a deal or not, Biden recalled, “were rampant.”
This year, with the nuclear deal now in place, Biden said, “To put it simply, Iran is much much further away from obtaining a nuclear weapon than they were a year ago.”
“The incentives are aligned for Iran to hold its part of the deal…we’re watching Iran like a hawk….If Iran violates the deal, the United States will act,” he said.
“We’re working with a community of regional partners to check Iran’s influence. Not just Israel,” Biden added, citing meetings with countries like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates on his recent Mideast trip, in which the U.S. spoke with those nations about “the need for us to unite to make sure Iran’s [threatening] activities are thwarted.”