(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Biden on Tuesday told a convention of conservative rabbis that “no president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s physical security than Barack Obama.”
The vice president shared some of his private reassurances to the Israeli Defense Minister about taking military action against Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons, predicted the president of Iran would be removed from power by 2014, and asserted that President George W. Bush damaged the ability of the U.S. government to implement a strong set of international sanctions against Iran.
“We were the problem,” the vice president said of reluctance by the international community to support sanctions against Iran during the Bush administration. “We were neither fully respected by our friends nor feared by our opponents,” the vice president said.
Biden said that his late first wife “used to say the greatest gift God gave mankind was the ability to forget. …But when we took office, let me remind you, there was virtually no international pressure on Iran. We were the problem.”
The vice president explained: “We were diplomatically isolated in the world, in the region, in Europe. The international pressure on Iran was stuck in neutral. As a matter of fact, Iran‘s influence in the previous six years was growing in the region. Not diminishing, growing in the region. The relationship with Syria was obvious. The use of a staging point for Hezbollah and Hamas was clear. The rest of the region was basically stiff-arming the US and saying, ‘You need to be engaged more in missile defense. You need to be engaged more in…’ And we were being criticized in European capitals for being unilateral. …And Tehran had allies. They were intimidating their neighbors, and America’s leadership was in doubt. We were neither fully respected by our friends nor feared by our opponents. Today it is starkly, starkly different.”
Vice President Biden talked about a possible Israeli military strike against Iran, to take out any nuclear weapons. “We will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon by whatever means we need, period,” the vice president said, pausing dramatically. “Period,” he repeated.
He recalled a private one-on-one conversation with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, saying, “I made it clear to him, and I want to make it clear to all of you unambiguously. I told him then…’Were I an Israeli, were I a Jew, I would not contract out my security to anybody, even a loyal, loyal, loyal friend like the U.S.’ I made it clear that the President and me — for our administration — that if Israel reached the conclusion based on the facts as they can best determine them that Iran was on the verge of eliminating their ability to respond physically to set that program back two to five years, I understood.”
He continued: “We were not telling him or Israel what they could or could not do, because again, I told him I would not contract out my nation’s security, and clearly, clearly no Jewish state should ever assume that history’s changed so fundamentally that they would do that.”
That said, the U.S. and Israeli government’s share “the same assessment that Iran does not have that capacity, and that it is some distance away, and that we need to be exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program and sharing information…The bottom line is Ehud and I agreed that there remains space for diplomacy,” he said.
The vice president said that internally in Iran, there is great “palpable” dissension between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “They will not both be around two years from now, and my bet is Ahmadinejad is gone,” Biden predicted.
“I’ll forgive you if you think I’m just obviously prejudiced about the guy I work with, “the vice president said, “but you don’t have to take my word for this. Bibi Netanyahu has rightly said that our security cooperation with Israel, as he refers to it, is unprecedented, and as importantly these efforts have not gone unnoticed by our Israeli opponents, which brings me to Iran.”
Describing efforts to push the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the vice president said, “to state the obvious, these actions have not been taken without cost, and quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, what frustrates me is that some who have asserted, particularly some of my friends in the Jewish community, strong supporters of mine, have asserted that we’re not fully committed to the preservation and security of the state of Israel.”
Romney campaign policy director Lanhee Chen “All too often, President Obama and his administration have sought to blame America first, yet Vice President Biden’s reckless statement today blaming America for – of all things – the progress of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, has reached a new low. The problem is not America. It is the ayatollahs who oppress their people, threaten their neighbors, and are pursuing nuclear weapons. President Obama’s naïve approach to Iran has given the regime valuable time to get closer than ever before to a nuclear weapons capability. Vice President Biden’s comments are wrong and completely inappropriate. Mitt Romney will stand up for America and our allies, and he will not apologize for America’s leadership role in the world.”
The vice president began his remarks by asking for a moment of silence “to honor the passing of Benzion Netanyahu, a historian, an activist, a steadfast defender of the state of Israel, and of course the father of Bibi, a friend for mine for the last 40 years.” He recalled the beginning of the Obama-Biden campaign in 2008 when he told voters in South Florida that he would never be No. 2 to a “president that did not share my view on Israel, which begins in your gut, works through your heart, and then gets to your head.”
Biden spoke about how his father was befuddled as to why in World War II the U.S. didn’t bomb the train tracks on the way to concentration camps, he recalled sitting with then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir as she chain-smoked and flip maps while talking about the Six Day War, he talked about how President Obama had fought the “insidious” efforts to question the legitimacy of Israel
Quipped the vice president, “no one’s ever doubted I mean what I say. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN