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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Biden's Poor Performance in Israel

Vice-President Joseph Biden arrived in Israel on March 8th for talks with Israeli Prime-minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He will be in the region for a total of three days culminating with a visit to Ramallah to meet with  Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

Prior to Biden's arrival, George Mitchell, U.S. Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, announced that Israel and the Palestinian Authority will launch indirect peace talks in a longstanding saga of calls for peace negotiations which usually end in a bridge to nowhere as a result of Palestinian intransigence.

President Obama sent Joe Biden to Israel in an effort to mollify Jewish and Israeli concerns that the Obama Administration has not been supportive of the State of Israel.

However, there was another purpose for Biden's visit. On the agenda of issues that Biden intended to discuss with Netanyahu was of course the conflict with Iran. The U.S. does not want Israel to launch a preemptive strike on Iran and instead is focused on procuring sanctions against the Iranian regime. On the other hand, Israel remains worried and for good reason that the U.S. is not committed to ending the Iranian nuclear threat which threatens both Israel and U.S.'s national security. Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, came to Israel a week earlier than Biden and reportedly delivered the same message to the Israelis that Biden intends to deliver that sanctions are the way to go to stop Iran not a military strike.

However, Iran does not seemed at all deterred by the threat of sanctions if sanctions can be procured at all given Russia and China's opposition. And as Iran predicts that there will be a war in the region this summer, rhetoric without action only brings us closer to a showdown with Iran that could potentially cause a nuclear Holocaust. Unfortunately, the phrase "Never again" which was first coined after six million Jews perished in the Eurpean Holocaust, apparently has lost its significance.

Many, including former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, believe that sanctions will not be effective and only military action will stop the Iranians. Bolton stated in an interview that "Israel has just two choices: a strike aimed at Iran's nuclear facilities, or a nuclear Iran."

Personally, I do not know what the Obama Administration wants Israel to do. Wait indefinitely for sanctions which may never occur and refrain from a military strike while watching helplessly like "good boys" as Iran develops an atomic bomb that could be leveled on the streets of Jerusalem.

Notwithstanding the dissent among policy leaders regarding the plan to respond to the Iranian nuclear threat, Biden's performance in Israel has done nothing to reassure the Israelis or the rest of the world that the U.S. means business vis a vis Iran. Biden asserted while in Israel  without much passion that the U.S. is "determined to prevent a nuclear Iran." We have heard this line of rhetoric before from the Obama Administration and it has had little effect in stopping the Iranians or convincing the Russians or the Chinese to join the international community in procuring sanctions.  The time for rhetoric has long been over.  It is now time for the Obama Administration to  get off the media circuit and get to the drawing boards by articulating specifically what steps Obama intends to take to stop the Iranians rather than glorified speeches that have very little value.

Further, if President Obama expected that Biden would reassure Israel and the Jewish world that the Obama Administration is squarely on their side, he was wrong. Biden, who stated while visiting Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust Memorial) that "Israel is a central bolt in our existence" also took an opportunity to criticize Israel which is almost like a double edged sword negating the original praise.

Biden rather strongly criticized Israel's building policies in East Jerusalem stating "I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem.The substance and timing of Israel’s announcement is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”

Here, Biden believes that Israel is a "central bolt in our existence." Yet, he and the Obama Administration do not believe that Israel has a right, like communities in the U.S., to build apartment complexes in neighborhoods within its capital city.

And now, Biden travels to Ramallah where just a few days earlier the Palestinian Authority named a Square after a  Palestinian  terrorist who killed dozens of Israelis according to the Palestinian Media Watch which was published on's website.  It will be interesting to see whether Biden, who criticized Israel for building flats that will house innocent civilians, will criticize the PA for naming a square after an avowed terrorist or will Biden lavish praises on the Palestinians for nonexistent strides that they have taken to pursue peace.

As long as the U.S. Government sends a message that it will look the other way when the Palestinians promote a culture of violence and that it will carelessly allow the Iranians to continue their nuclear program without immediate consequences, terrorism will continue to exist in the world particularly in the Middle East.

No talks or sanctions will exterminate terrorism  unless the international community starts to recognize once and for all that the terrorists thrive on pacifism, hesitance, and other kinds of passive responses.

Maybe the world already knows this and that's why they are acting to defeat terrorism with kid gloves because in reality they do not want to defeat terrorism the way it  needs to be defeated. Food for thought.