Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd of Israel supporters that terrorism can never be justified
But he chided Israel's government for settlement expansion
Vice President Joe Biden Sunday defended last year’s Iran nuclear deal in a speech to more than 18,000 pro-Israel activists, comments that did not seem to be met with much support from the audience. Many leaders in the American Jewish community had voiced opposition to the agreement reached between the U.S., its allies and Iran to curb Tehran’s nuclear program because they did not trust Iranian leaders, who have vowed to attack Israel.
Speaking to the annual American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention, Biden touted how much of Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium has been shipped out of the country and many of its centrifuges have been removed, saying that nation is much further away from obtaining a nuclear weapon than a year ago.
But he assured the audience, many of whom are skeptical about Iran’s intentions, that the U.S. is not taking Tehran solely at its word that it will continue to comply with the deal.
“We are watching Iran like a hawk,” Biden said. “If Iran violates the deal the U.S. will act. The U.S. will act. Our commitment is unambiguous.”
The Vice President pointed out other sanctions against Iran – for its support of terrorism and its ballistic missile program – are still in place.
Missile tests by Iran earlier this month have created controversy, with Israel calling on actions by the Security Council, while Tehran said the tests were defensive.
Biden recounted his trip to Israel this month where less than a mile away a Palestinian went on a stabbing attack, in which an American tourist was killed and 10 Israelis wounded.
Biden joined calls by Israeli leaders for more forceful condemnations of Palestinians committing a series of such attacks.
“There is no excuse for killing innocents or remaining silent in the face of terrorism,” he told the crowd, which gave him a standing ovation.
On the possibility of whether Israel and the Palestinians might be able to make any progress towards a possible peace agreement, he said he was not optimistic.
“There is no political will among Israelis or Palestinians to move forward with serious negotiations…that is seriously disappointing,” he said.
While he gave forceful words about the will of the U.S. to protect Israel and spoke out against terror, he also said there are “actions to undermine trust” that are derailing efforts toward reaching consensus. Specifically, he pointed to Israel’s “systematic” process of expanding settlements, which he said “is eroding” prospects for peace.
He acknowledged on this topic “that is not a message that is particularly welcome here” adding he knows he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disagree on the settlements issue and their impact on the peace process.