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Biden reaffirms U.S. support for Israel in speech to Jewish group

By the CNN Wire Staff
Vice President Biden spoke at the Jewish Federations of North America annual gathering in New Orleans, Louisiana on Sunday.
Vice President Biden spoke at the Jewish Federations of North America annual gathering in New Orleans, Louisiana on Sunday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "The ties between our two countries are unbreakable," Biden says
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the group Monday
  • Biden downplays reports of a rift between the two nations

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) -- Vice President Joe Biden forcefully reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel during a speech Sunday before the general assembly of a major Jewish organization, telling the audience that "the ties between our two countries are literally unbreakable."

Biden spoke at the Jewish Federations of North America annual gathering in New Orleans, Louisiana, after meeting for about an hour with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is scheduled to address the group Monday.

Throughout the speech, Biden repeatedly stressed the strong relationship between the United States and Israel saying he feels "absolutely certain that our support for Israel must continue ... forever."

He also downplayed reports of a rift in relations due in part to Israel's announcement in March while Biden was visiting the country that it was building 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as their capital.

"I can tell you -- and I'm sure he (Netanyahu) will tell you as well -- that the disagreements when they existed have only been tactical in nature, they have never been fundamental," Biden said.

"This administration represents an unbroken chain of American leaders who have understood this critical strategic relationship -- one in which we will not yield one single inch," he said, adding that President Barack Obama "feels exactly the same way as I do."

Biden also threw his support behind the resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which stalled in September when Israel failed to renew its freeze on Jewish settlement construction.

"While the United States will continue to do whatever we can to defend Israel's legitimacy, whenever and wherever it is questioned, we all know that the only true way for it to gain the long-term security it seeks and deserves is through genuine, secure peace with its neighbors," he said. "There is no substitute for direct, face-to-face negotiations.

He also cautioned both sides from taking unilateral actions "that will prejudice the outcome of these negotiations."

Biden was apparently referring to comments made Thursday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who said

there are options the Palestinians could pursue if the peace talks don't go forward.

Those would include asking the United States to adopt a framework for peace and present it to both parties or go to the U.N. Security Council or General Assembly. Abbas said the United States has the obligation to help the Palestinians approach the United Nations.

 
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