Joe Biden pledged to respect Israelâ€™s autonomy, but defended his willingness to oppose some AIPAC-backed measures.
In a 20-minute conference call Wednesday with members of the Jewish media, Biden said it was up to the Israelis to make decisions about war and peace, including the question of whether to launch a strike aimed at disrupting Iranâ€™s nuclear program.
â€œThis is not a question for us to tell the Israelis what they can and cannot do,â€ said the Democratic vice presidential candidate said. â€I have faith in the democracy of Israel. They will arrive at the right decision that they view as being in their own interests.â€
That said, Biden added, the Bush administration could have done much more on the diplomatic front to help avert the potential need for military action. He also accused the White House of not doing enough to promote Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and faulted it for reportedly ordering Jerusalem not to engage in talks with Syria.
Even as he pledged to respect Israelâ€™s decisions on peace and security, Biden vigorously defended his record of occasionally breaking ranks with the pro-Israel lobby.
â€œAIPAC does not speak for the entire American Jewish community,â€ Biden said. â€œThereâ€™s other organizations as strong and as consequential.â€
Despite any occasional claims to the contrary, AIPAC does not speak for Israel, the longtime Delaware senator added.
Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made a point of stressing that he and the organization agreed on the fundamentals.
â€œIâ€™ve never disagreed with AIPAC on the objective,â€ Biden said. â€œWhenever Iâ€™ve had disagreement with AIPAC it has always been a tactical disagreement, not a substantive disagreement.â€
Biden then addressed his opposition last year to an amendment sponsored by U.S. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Kyl (R-Ariz.), and heavily backed by AIPAC, that called on the Bush administration to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist group.
During the conference call, Biden stressed that he shared the view that the Iranian group is a terrorist organization and said the Bush administration already had the power to designate it as such. His fear was that the White House would misuse the measure to justify a military attack against Iran.
In response to the call, AIPAC spokesman Josh Block praised Biden’s leadership efforts on several fronts.
“We look forward to continuing to work with him in the Senate or in the White House,” Block said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.