Joe Biden had a 20-minute conference call with members of the Jewish media today.
Among other things, when asked about a possible Israeli attack against Iran, he said: “This is not a question for us to tell the Israelis what they can and cannot do. … I have faith in the democracy of Israel.” His overall argument was that on a host of issues – from Israeli-Palestinian talks to Syria to Iran – the Bush administration should have done a better job diplomatically and should have been more respectful of Israel’s autonomy.
But the spiciest moment came when JTA’s Ron Kampeas asked him about the Republican Jewish Coalition’s efforts to highlight times when he broke with AIPAC on specific issues. “AIPAC does not speak for the entire American Jewish community,” Biden said. “There’s other organizations as strong and as consequential.” Biden quickly added that his disagreements with AIPAC are always tactical, never about the big picture. Still, it’s not the boilerplate stuff that you usually get from senators when you ask about the pro-Israel lobby.
Listen to the snippet about AIPAC:[audio:/images/archive/aipacbiden.mp3]
Here’s the full call:
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UPDATE: AIPAC spokesman Josh Block called in this response to our blog post: “Joe Biden is a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship; he has been a staunch supporter of U.S. aid to Israel; he is a leader in the fight against Palestinian terrorism, and is a vocal advocate of the special relationship between the two democracies. We look forward to continuing to work with him in the Senate or in the White House.”
UPDATE II: It’s worth noting that the right-leaning Jewish groups most critical of the Obama campaign are themselves quite willing to break ranks with AIPAC and challenge the notion that it in someway speaks for the Jewish community as a whole (the Zionist Organization of America, for example). And to the hard-working press release writers at the RJC, before you fire one off here … wasn’t it one of your major backers – Sheldon Adelson – who publicly rebuked AIPAC last year for joining Israel in lobbying for U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority?
UPDATE III: And now Obama campaign spokeswoman Wendy Morigi: “Barack Obama and Joe Biden have both enjoyed close and effective cooperation with AIPAC over many years, grounded in their respect for its important mission to support Israel’s security and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. That is a mission they share, and they look forward to continuing to work closely with AIPAC on their common goals.”