Biden defends Iran deal from Israeli criticism – TheHill
Vice President Biden on Thursday pushed back against critics who believe the U.S. is caving to Iran on a nuclear deal, saying, “they don’t get it.”
In a speech at the 30th anniversary gala for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Biden defended the framework nuclear deal with Iran and sought to ease concerns in Israel and among American Jews that the agreement would allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.
“Those who say the deal paves Iran’s path to the bomb — respectfully — they don’t get it,” Biden said in a veiled swipe at Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “They’re wrong.”
Biden said Israel has a legitimate “reason to be concerned” about the nuclear ambitions of a regime that has pledged to wipe the country off the map. He reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to Israel’s security but said a diplomatic approach is the best way to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.
At the same time, Biden said war with Iran is “a risk we may yet have to take” if it decides to race for a bomb.
“We have Israel’s back,” he said. “If you challenge Israel’s security, you are challenging the United States of America.”
Biden has been a central player in the Obama administration’s efforts to repair its relationship with Israel, which has been deeply strained over the nuclear talks.
The vice president appeared last week at a celebration for Israel’s independence day with Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and a strident critic of the Iran negotiations.
“We’re family,” Biden said Thursday. “I think it was Ambassador Dermer who essentially said the same thing. We drive each other nuts. But we love each other. And most of all we protect each other.”
Netanyahu has been one of Obama’s staunchest critics for trying to broker an agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. He has argued that lifting sanctions on Iran and allowing it to keep its nuclear facilities open, even while operating on a limited basis, will endanger his country.
President Obama and Netanyahu have openly feuded; the Israeli prime minister delivered a stinging rebuke of the Iran deal before Congress without first notifying the White House. And Obama criticized comments Netanyahu made about Palestinian statehood during his reelection campaign.
While Biden recognized Israel’s concerns, he said Obama will not sign a bad deal with Iran. If Iran violates any terms of the emerging agreement, including caps on uranium enrichment and “intrusive” inspections of its nuclear sites, then “there will be no deal.”
“This deal is not about trust,” Biden said. “It’s about verification.”
With a deadline to reach a final agreement approach at the end of June, Biden said the U.S. would hold out for the best terms, including phased relief of sanctions on Iran and the ability to snap them back if Iran violates the agreement.
“Don’t underestimate my friend Barack Obama,” Biden said. “He has a spine of steel.”
Biden also sought to reassure skeptics that lifting international sanctions would allow the balance of power in the Middle East to shift toward Iran.
“The people of the Middle East don’t want to be dominated by anyone — not us, not Iran, not anyone,” he said.