Biden thanks J Street for Iran deal campaign
Vice President Joe Biden thanked J Street for its lobbying and successful campaign in support of the Iran nuclear deal last summer as he addressed the annual J Street gala in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
“You deserve great credit for the [Iran deal],” Biden said. “Your organization played a critical role in mustering the support at home to get that deal through the United States Congress. You all stood up and your voices were heard throughout the community and beyond. you made sure that the voices of those who supported Israel and supported the deal were heard. Jewish Americans across this country as well as many Israel security experts, including former top military intelligence officials in Israel, they all agreed with you.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for your effort. You have made the world a little bit safer,” the vice president said to loud applause. “And it payed off. The deal is working exactly as it should. Iran is keeping up their end of the bargain as it relates to the nuclear deal… Iran is further away from a nuclear weapon today than it was a year ago, and that’s a huge, huge step towards our security and the security of the entire region.”
According to Biden, Iran’s recent ballistic missiles activities have damaged Iran’s reputation in the world that has resulted in making the sanctions relief on trade and financial deals more complicated.
Biden also criticized Israel’s current settlement policy as he urged the Israelis and Palestinians to take “meaningful steps to reduce tension” in the Middle East region.
“I am going to say things that are very blunt,” Biden started off by saying. “No one has ever doubted I mean what I say. The problem is sometimes I say all that I mean, and I may tonight.”
“I have opposed settlements for more than three decades because I believe it is counterproductive for Israel’s security.” Biden told the pro-peace crowd. “The actions that Israel’s government has taken over the past several years – the steady and systematic expansion of settlements, the legalization of outposts, land seizures – they are moving us, and more importantly, they are moving Israel in the wrong direction. They are moving us toward a one-state reality, and that reality is dangerous.”
The vice president recalled getting into a shouting match with former Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1982 over the issue of settlements. He said the NY Times called the exchange during a closed session with 75 senators “the bitterest exchange of a highly-emotional confrontation.”
“The only way to guarantee Israel future security and its continued identity as a Jewish and democratic state; It’s the only way to ensure the dignity of the Palestinian people and provide for self determination they deserve – a two-state solution,” he said. “There is no other alternative.” Biden said that after long meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership during his recent visit to Israel and Ramallah, he went away feeling discouraged about the prospects of peace in the immediate future. “There is, at the moment, no political will that I observed among Israelis and Palestinians to move forward with serious negotiations. Both sides have to take responsibility for counterproductive steps that undermine confidence in the negotiations.”
Biden also called on the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn terror attacks when it occurs, to stop the incitement, and refrain from taking unilateral steps at international bodies.
Secretary of State John Kerry also address the gala. “We can’t just keep condemning the other side and not try to change lives and change the capacity to try and change choices,” Kerry said. “I can tell you that for these next nine months, we will not stop working to find a way to advance a two-state solution. We will continue to try to advance a two-state solution, the only solution because anything else will not be Jewish, and it will not be democratic.”