Views on Israel of Joe Biden
(1942 - )
Foreign Policy Advisers
The United States-Israel Relationship
Peace with the Palestinians
Hamas and the Situation in Gaza
Syria and Lebanon
Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.* was born November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the first of four siblings. In 1953, the Biden family moved from Pennsylvania to Claymont, Delaware. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 and Syracuse Law School in 1968.
Biden became an attorney in 1969 and set up his own law firm in the Wilmington area where he practiced until 1972. In 1970, Biden ran for New Castle County Council and won in a Republican district.
At age 29, he launched an improbable bid to unseat two-term Republican U.S. Sen. J. Caleb Boggs. With very little help from the state establishment, and with his sister as his campaign manager, Biden defeated Boggs by 3,162 votes to become the sixth-youngest senator in American history.
Just weeks after the election, tragedy struck the Biden family when Biden’s wife, Neilia and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi, were killed and their two young sons critically injured in an auto accident. Biden was sworn into the U.S. Senate at his sons’ hospital bedside and began commuting to Washington every day by train, a practice he maintained throughout his career in the Senate.
One of his first overseas visits as a senator was to Israel, on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur War during which he met Golda Meir. “She read letters and told me how this young man or woman had died and this is their family. This went on for I don’t know how long, and I guess she could tell I was visibly moved by this, and I was getting depressed about it.” The Prime Minister said, “Senator, don’t look so sad….we have a secret weapon in our confrontation in this part of the world. And I thought she was about to lean over and tell me about a new system or something….she said, our secret weapon, Senator, is we have no place else to go. We have no place else to go.”
In 1977, Biden married Jill Jacobs. A Ph.D. in Education, Jill has been an educator for more than two decades in Delaware’s schools and was a professor at Delaware Technical Community College.
In 1982, Prime Minister Menachem Begin met with senators at the U.S. Capitol. Biden told him the expansion of West Bank settlements would endanger support for foreign aid to Israel. Begin reportedly said, “Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the U.S. lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats.”
In 1988, Biden suffered a cranial aneurysm and nearly died. He recovered by early 1989 after two surgeries and has enjoyed good health since then.
Biden was reelected to the upper house of Congress six times and was the fourth most senior senator before resigning to assume the vice presidency in 2009.
During his 36 years in the Senate, Biden was a leader on some of our nation’s most important domestic and international challenges. As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, Biden was widely recognized for his work on criminal justice issues including the landmark 1994 Crime Bill and the Violence Against Women Act. He was also in charge during the contentious U.S. Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.
As Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years, Biden played a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. He was at the forefront of issues and legislation related to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, post-Cold War Europe, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. Biden opposed the Gulf War in 1991, but advocated U.S. and NATO intervention in the Bosnian War in 1994 and 1995. He voted in favor of the resolution authorizing the Iraq War in 2002 but opposed the surge of U.S. troops in 2007.
Biden unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and in 2008, both times dropping out after lackluster showings.
In 2008, Biden was chosen as the running mate of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. After being selected as the 47th Vice President of the United States, Biden oversaw infrastructure spending aimed at counteracting the Great Recession and helped formulate U.S. policy toward Iraq up until the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. His ability to negotiate with congressional Republicans helped the Obama administration pass legislation such as the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, which resolved a taxation deadlock; the Budget Control Act of 2011, which resolved that year’s debt ceiling crisis; and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which addressed the impending fiscal cliff.
In foreign affairs, Vice President Biden helped the Senate approve the new START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, and significant new funding to maintain U.S. nuclear laboratories. He represented the United States in every region of the world, advancing U.S. support for Israel’s security, securing approval in Europe for the administration’s approach to missile defense, working with Latin American leaders to combat drug trafficking and international crime, and building relations with key leaders in Africa.
Obama and Biden were reelected in 2012.
Affection For Israel
At the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference, Biden explained how he aquired his affection for Israel. “We gathered at my dinner table to have conversation,” he said. “It was at that table I first heard the phrase that is overused sometimes today, but in a sense not used meaningfully enough — first I heard the phrase, ‘Never again.’” He said he also “learned that the only way to ensure that it could never happen again was the establishment and the existence of a secure, Jewish state of Israel.”
Biden recalled his Christian father being baffled by the debate following World War II over whether or not to establish the State of Israel. “My father would say, were he a Jew, he would never, never entrust the security of his people to any individual nation, no matter how good and how noble it was, like the United States.”
A second tragedy struck the family when Biden’s son, Beau died of cancer in 2015. Beau had served as Delaware’s Attorney General and was a Captain in the National Guard where he served in Iraq. His death was one reason, Biden announced he would not seek the presidency in the 2016 elections.
After completing his second term as vice president, Biden joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was named the Benjamin Franklin Professor of Presidential Practice.
The Bidens also continued their efforts to expand opportunity for every American with the creation of the Biden Foundation, the Biden Cancer Initiative, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, and the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware.
In January 2017, President Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom with distinction.
Biden considered running for president in 2020, but was concerned about the effect the campaign would have on his family and reputation, his ability to raise the necessary funds, his moderate views at a time the party appeared to be moving to the left and the fact that he was 76 years old. Feeling a sense of duty and dismay over the policies and behavior of President Trump and concern that other Democratic hopefuls could not defeat him, Biden decided to enter the race on April 25, 2019.
Unlike his rivals, Biden had a decades-long record of support for Israel from his career as a senator and vice president. Biden will benefit from his role in the Obama administration with voters who supported the Iran nuclear deal and his other Middle East policies while many of those same policies will alienate voters who opposed them.
A former U.S. official told Al-Monitor, “Biden was a leading voice to argue that we still need to solidify the relationship to include providing additional security assistance to Israel,” the former official said, “to make sure that the Israelis understood whatever our disagreements were on the Iran deal, that we continue to support their security.”
Biden had known Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for years and had a warmer relationship with him than Obama. One cause of tension was Netanyahu’s decision to address a joint session of Congress to oppose the Iran nuclear deal. Like many Democrats, Biden did not attend the speech. The Netanyahu government also embarrassed Biden by announcing 1,600 new homes for Jews in East Jerusalem in the middle of the then-vice president’s 2010 trip to Israel, which Biden condemned as “precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now.”
Nevetheless, Uzi Arad, one of Netanyahu’s advisors, said that when the prime minister came to meet with the president in 2010, Biden threw his arm around Arad and said with a smile, “Just remember that I am your best fucking friend here.”
In 2012, Biden said Netanyahu has been his friend for more than 30 years. “Bibi, I don’t agree with a damn thing you say, but I love you,” Biden said at the time.
Running For President
Biden was the clear front-runner in polls given his name recognition, long political career and association with the still popular Barack Obama. He faltered early, however, in debates and lost the first three primaries and Bernie Sanders was increasingly talked about as the person to beat. Biden had pinned his hopes, however, on the fourth primary, in South Carolina, where African Americans would likely determine the winner. Popular with that constituency, a win there was considered necessary for him to stay in the race. He won the primary decisively and gained new momentum. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who both fared poorly in that primary, withdrew from the race and threw their support to Biden, as did Beto O’Rourke who had withdrawn earlier.
Biden then shocked many pundits by winning nine of the 14 state primaries with two undecided and regaining his front-runner status. Michael Bloomberg, who had staked his campaign on winning some of these primaries, won only the caucus in American Samoa and decided to drop out the next day and endorse Biden. Cory Booker also later endorsed Biden.
In November 2020, Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election with a 306 to 232 electoral vote margin and a 51.3%-47% advantage in the popular vote. He received a record of nearly 81 million votes and won by more than 6 million votes. President Trump contested the election and has claimed it was stolen from him. Some of his supporters in Congress tried to overturn the results, but Biden was certified as president on January 6, 2021.
Biden has familial connections to the Jewish people. All three of Biden’s children — Beau and Hunter, his sons with his first wife, Neilia Biden, and Ashley, his daughter with current wife Jill Jacobs Biden — married Jews.
Foreign Policy Advisers
Tony Blinken is a former Deputy Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Advisor. He is a Managing Director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
Nicholas Burns is a former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and currently the Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Carlyn Reichel is a former speechwriter for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama’s National Security Council. She also wrote speeches for Biden while he was Vice President and now is the communications director at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy & Global Engagement.
Colin Kahl is expected to have responsibility for Iran policy. He served as Deputy Assistant to President Obama and National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden. He is co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation, the inaugural Steven C. Házy Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford.
Jake Sulliban was Vice President Biden’s national security adviser.
Aaron Keyak worked on the staff of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler and as interim director of the National Jewish Democratic Council before co-founding a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.
Daniel Shapiro was the U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration and is currently a visiting distinguished fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies.
Burns and Blinken are members of the National Security Action’s advisory board, which is lobbying to end support for Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in Yemen and opposes President Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.
“Biden will work with Congress to pass two critical pieces of legislation, both cosponsored by Senator Harris: the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, which would improve national hate crime reporting and data collection, as well as victim assistance and support; and the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act, which according to the Human Rights Campaign “would prohibit federal, state, and local law enforcement from targeting a person based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
“Joe Biden will protect the constitutional right of our citizens to free speech. He also does not support efforts by any democracy to criminalize free speech and expression, which is why he spoke out against Israel’s decision to deny entry to American lawmakers because they favor boycotting Israel. However, Biden has been unequivocal in condemning calls in the United States to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel.” (Biden Harris)
“A Biden Administration’s relationships with Middle Eastern states led by authoritarian leaders will take into greater consideration human rights and democratic principles. It undermines our moral standing globally, and endangers dissidents, when President Trump excuses Saudi abuses, panders to authoritarian leaders, or calls Egypt’s president “my favorite dictator.”
“Joe has made it clear he will not tie security assistance to any political decisions that Israel makes and I couldn’t agree more. The Biden Harris administration will sustain our unbreakable commitment to Israel’s security, including the unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation pioneered during the Obama-Biden administration and the guarantee that Israel will always maintain its qualitative military edge.” (Biden Harris)
“Joe Biden believes in the worth and value of every Palestinian and every Israeli. He will work to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, prosperity, and democracy. His policies will be grounded in a commitment to a two-state solution, where Israel and the future viable state of Palestine will live together in peace, security, and mutual recognition. Biden opposes any unilateral steps by either side that undermine a two-state solution. He opposes annexation and settlement expansion and will continue to oppose both as President. As President, Biden will take immediate steps to restore economic and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, consistent with U.S. law, including assistance to refugees, work to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem, and work to reopen the PLO mission in Washington.”
“Joe Biden will direct his administration to work with civil society and the citizens of Lebanon to assist them as they develop and implement an economic and political future for their country, free of corruption, and inclusive of all stakeholders. The U.S. will continue to support the Lebanese Armed Forces as an essential pillar of stability for the entire country, while also providing support and solutions for recovery from the explosion at the Beirut port this summer and for the extraordinarily large number of refugees and their host communities in Lebanon. A Biden administration will continue to support Lebanese civil society to help strengthen the country.”
“Donald Trump has given the government of Saudia Arabia a blank check to pursue a disastrous set of policies, including the ongoing war in Yemen, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and the crackdown on dissent at home, including the targeting of female activists. Biden will review the U.S. relationship with the government of Saudi Arabia and end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.”
“The Trump administration has repeatedly fallen short on U.S. policy in Syria. Biden would recommit to standing with civil society and pro-democracy partners on the ground. He will ensure the U.S. is leading the global coalition to defeat ISIS and use what leverage we have in the region to help shape a political settlement to give more Syrians a voice. Biden would press all actors to pursue political solutions, protect vulnerable Syrians, facilitate the work of non-governmental organizations, and help mobilize other countries to support Syria’s reconstruction. He would recommit the United States to lead on humanitarian issues.” (Biden Harris)
- “Our administration will hold Iran’s government accountable and rejoin a diplomatic agreement if Iran comes back into compliance and we will work with our allies, of course, to strengthen and extend the Iran deal and push back against Iran’s other destabilizing actions.” (JTA, August 26, 2020)
On the issue of anti-Semitism in the United States, Biden said that “I will speak out about it regularly as president,” adding that “it begins with the Jews but it never ends with the Jews.” (Haaretz, May 20, 2020)
Biden plan for combating anti-Semitism:
Lead a comprehensive approach to battling anti-Semitism that takes seriously both the violence that accompanies it and the hateful and dangerous lies that underlie it. Joe Biden will call hate by its proper name, whatever its source, and condemn it — every time.
Restore funding for a critical effort to address domestic extremism, which the Trump administration has cut.
Work for a domestic terrorism law that respects free speech and civil liberties, while making the same commitment to root out domestic terrorism as we have to stopping international terrorism. Biden will appoint leadership at the Department of Justice who will prioritize the prosecution of hate crimes.
Break the nexus between extremism and gun violence by enacting sensible gun control laws, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines to get these weapons of war off our streets. (Biden President)
A Biden administration would “Firmly reject the BDS movement, which singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — and too often veers into anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.” (Biden President)
Do you support the B.D.S. movement? If not, should the president and/or Congress act to hinder it? “No. The B.D.S. movement singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — in a way that is inconsistent with the treatment of other nations and too often veers into anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize Israel. That’s wrong, and as president, I would oppose B.D.S. efforts in Congress. We should be mindful, however, that steps to sanction supporters of B.D.S. may be inconsistent with First Amendment protections of free speech, as several federal courts have concluded.” (New York Times, December 2019)
President’s talking about how he’s worried about anti-Semitism. This recent rule about universities. This is the same guy who watched anti-Semites, their veins bulging, coming out of fields, literally carrying torches. It was almost like a movie. Preaching anti-Semitic bile. The same exact thing that was preached and hollered in the streets of Nuremberg in the ‘30s and throughout Germany, carrying swastikas.(New York Times, December 16, 2019)
“We need a comprehensive approach to battling anti-Semitism that takes seriously both the violence that accompanies it and the hateful and dangerous lies that undergird it. Sadly, anti-Semitism takes many different forms and cuts across ideology, political party, group and nation. So we must remain vigilant and speak out every time we see the persistent evil of anti-Semitism rear its ugly head. It’s incumbent on all of us to stand against those who traffic in pernicious stereotypes, or who seek to scare and divide us for political gain. Silence is complicity, so we must speak out — every time. We must call hate by its proper name, and condemn it….
The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push-and-pull between the American ideal that we are all created equal — and the harsh reality that racism and anti-Semitism have long torn us apart. So we must renew our commitment to our highest ideals and do what this president cannot — stand together against hate; stand up for what, at our best, this nation believes….
I’ve been clear: the calls here in the United States to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel are wrong. Period. The BDS movement singles out Israel — home to millions of Jews — in a way that is inconsistent with the treatment of other nations, and it too often veers into anti-Semitism, while letting Palestinians off the hook for their choices.” (JTA, January 2, 2020)
When Trump called American Jews who vote for Democrats “disloyal,” Biden tweeted, “Mr. President, these comments are insulting and inexcusable—just like your previous dual loyalty insinuations. Stop dividing Americans and disparaging your fellow citizens. It may not be beneath you, but it is beneath the office you hold.” (@JoeBiden, August 20, 2019)
“Jill and I are devastated to hear about today’s shooting at the Chabad Poway synagogue. No one should have to worship in fear.
As a country, we must speak out against bigotry and gun violence. We’re in the battle for the soul of this nation—and it’s on all of us to act.” (@JoeBiden, April 27, 2019)
Biden described the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville in 2017 as “baring the fangs of racism, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the 1930s.” (JTA December 12, 2019)
“Look folks, after all the time I’ve been doing this, we still have yet to defeat, and the reason why we need Israel so badly, the pernicious and persistent evil of anti-Semitism. It continues to rear its ugly head. It’s on the rise in too many parts of the world, particularly in Europe.
When swastikas are painted on synagogues, when Jewish people are targeted in terrorist attacks, when thousands of European Jews immigrate to Israel out of fear when a seemingly organized effort to discredit, delegitimize and isolate Israel persists on the international stage, it’s dangerous, it’s wrong and every time we encounter it, we have an obligation to speak out against it.
Howard and someone will remember back in the ‘90s when I was ranking member and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I insisted on holding hearings on anti-Semitism in Europe and Russia. You may have recalled in the popular press I was criticized for doing it. People questioned if it was necessary or if we were going to legislate European values. I made no apologies and I make none now. It was absolutely necessary then and it’s absolutely necessary now, because quite frankly, silence too quickly becomes complicity. We must speak out where we find it.
So I’m going to continue to speak out here today and for the rest of my life. We have to stand up against the attempts to delegitimize Israel in the world. So no nation, including Israel is immune to legitimate criticism, but it should not be unfairly singled out. So we’ll continue to stand against the biased resolutions and attempts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations.
We’ll continue to ensure that Israel is represented on critical committees just like other nations and we will continue to push back against the cause here in the United States for people to boycott, disinvest or sanction Israel.
It’s wrong. It’s wrong. I know it’s not popular to say, but it’s wrong, because as the Jewish people know better than any other people, any action that marginalize one ethnic and religious group imperils us all. It’s incumbent upon us. All of us that stand up against those who traffic in pernicious stereotypes, who seek to scare and divide us for political gain, because the future belongs to the bridge builders, not the wall builders.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 20, 2016)
“There is no threat that worries me more than the rising tide of anti-Semitism. There can be no tolerance for anti-Semitism.” (@VP44, December 6, 2014)
The United States-Israel Relationship
“I am a Zionist. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.” (Shalom TV, undated)
“I do compliment the president on the [UAE peace] deal with Israel recently.” (ABC Townhall, October 15, 2020)
Regarding peace with the Gulf states: “I think Trump is going to accidentally do something positive here, in terms of this issue of… other Arab states.” (Times of Israel, September 11, 2020)
“Israel should stop expanding West Bank settlements, stop talk of annexation,” Biden said. “Annexation is off the table now, which is a good thing.”
Netanyahu has been “yielding to the far-right of his party to maintain support.” (Haaretz, September 11, 2020)
Speaking following the announcement of the UAE and Israel formalizing relations: “Today, Israel and the United Arab Emirates have taken a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East. The UAE’s offer to publicly recognize the State of Israel is a welcome, brave, and badly-needed act of statesmanship. And it is a critical recognition that Israel is a vibrant, integral part of the Middle East that is here to stay. Israel can and will be a valued strategic and economic partner to all who welcome it … a Biden-Harris Administration will seek to build on this progress, and will challenge all the nations of the region to keep pace.” (The Hill, August 13, 2020)
During a conversation with Jewish donors, Biden said Washington “cannot fully safeguard Israelis without peace.”
“I do not support annexation,” he said. “Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation and stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace.”
Biden said annexation would not get a “green light” or recognition from his administration.
“The Palestinians need to end incitement in the West Bank and rocket attacks in Gaza,” Biden said. “What they are teaching in their schools is still in the schoolbooks. No matter what legitimate disagreement they may have with Israel, it’s never a justification for terrorism, and no leader should fail to condemn as terrorists those who commit these brutalities.”
“The Palestinians needs to accept once and for all reality and Israel’s right to have a secure democratic Jewish state in the Middle East. And Israel needs to stop the threats of annexation, stop settlement activity because it will choke off any hope of peace.”
Biden said the Palestinian Authority should “acknowledge, flat-out, Israel’s right to exist — period – as an independent Jewish state and guarantee the borders.”
“I’m going to fully support the Taylor Force Act, which holds aid to the PA based on payments they make to terrorists in Israeli jails.” Biden also said he would restore funding to the Palestinian Authority for security cooperation with Israel.
“I’m going to reverse Trump’s administration steps [that] I think significantly undercut the prospects of peace and restore diplomatic relationships with the Palestinian Authority and assistance to support the Israeli Palestinian security cooperation and economic, humanitarian aid for Palestinian people.”
He said Israel should stop settlement activity, but “we also shouldn’t let the Palestinians off the hook” for issues like incitement and support for terrorism.
Biden assigned blame for the stalled peace process to Palestinian and Israeli leadership which are unwilling to take political risks through direct talks.
“I know Bibi well, for over 40 years,” Biden stated. “This moves [him] so far to the right.” Biden clarified, however, that it “does not justify cutting military assistance to the state of Israel.”
“My commitment to Israel is completely unshakable,” Biden said. “As president, I’m going to continue our security assistance under the historic memorandum of understanding that we signed together in 2016 and maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. I’m not going to place conditions for the security assistance given the serious threats that Israel is facing, and this would be, I think, irresponsible.” (JewishInsider; Haaretz; Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2020)
A Biden administration would:
“Sustain our unbreakable commitment to Israel’s security – including the unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation pioneered during the Obama-Biden administration, and the guarantee that Israel will always maintain its qualitative military edge.”
“Ensure that support for the U.S.-Israel alliance remains bipartisan, reversing Trump’s exploitation of U.S. support for Israel as a political football, which harms both countries’ interests.”
“Support the critical economic and technological partnership between the United States and Israel, and further expand scientific collaborations and increase commercial opportunities.” (Biden President)
Responding to question about the U.S. Embassy: “The move shouldn’t have happened in the context as it did, it should happen in the context of a larger deal to help us achieve important concessions for peace in the process. But now that is done, I would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv.” (Bloomberg, April 29, 2020)
“We need to sustain our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.” (Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020)
The New York Times asked each candidate a series of questions related to Israel. Biden said the United States maintain its current level of military aid to Israel, should not move the U.S. embassy from Jerusalem. (New York Times, December 2019)
Responding to the Trump administration’s announcement that it does not consider settlements illegal, Biden’s campaign said, “This decision harms the cause of diplomacy, takes us further away from the hope of a two-state solution, and will only further inflame tensions in the region. It’s not about peace or security. It is not about being pro-Israel. It is about undercutting Israel’s future in service of Trump’s personal politics.” (Times of Israel, November 19, 2019)
“Israel has a right to defend itself against terrorist threats. It is intolerable that Israeli civilians live their lives under the constant fear of rocket attacks. That's why our administration was such a strong supporter of Israel's life-saving Iron Dome.” (@JoeBiden, November 12, 2019)
Judy Woodruff: There’s news this week, to the extent that some of the Democrats are saying that, if — because of Israel’s settlements policy, that they would look at cutting off military aid to Israel as a result of that.
Joseph Biden: That would be a tragic mistake.
I strongly oppose Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank. I have made that clear to Bibi when we were — when I was vice president. I have made it crystal clear to the Israelis. But the idea that we would cut off military aid to an ally, our only true, true ally in the entire region, is absolutely preposterous. It’s just beyond my comprehension anyone would do that.
Judy Woodruff: This is an administration that, as you know, advocated moving the capital of Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. If you are elected president, would you reverse that?
Joseph Biden: Not now. I wouldn’t reverse it. I wouldn’t have done it in the first place. (PBS NewsHour, November 1, 2019)
When asked about comments by other candidates suggesting withholding aid from Israel: “Not me. Look, I have been on record from very early on opposed to the settlements, and I think it’s a mistake. And President Netanyahu knows my position. But the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find to be absolutely outrageous…. Anyway, no I would not condition it, and I think it’s a gigantic mistake. And I hope some of my candidates who are running with me for the nomination – I hope they misspoke, or they were taken out of context.” (Sabrina Siddiqui, @SabrinaSiddiqui, October 31, 2019)
“Israelis wake up every morning facing an existential threat. That’s why we always have to be adamant that Israel must be able to defend itself.”
Israel should stop “settlement activity which takes us further from peace” and Biden warned about support for the Jewish state becoming “a political football.” (J Street Conference, October 28, 2019)
Responding to President Trump’s remark that Jews voting for Democrats “shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” (JTA, August 20, 2019), Biden tweeted: “these comments are insulting and inexcusable — just like your previous dual loyalty insinuations. Stop dividing Americans and disparaging your fellow citizens.” (@JoeBiden, August 20, 2019)
Axios asked candidates if they would move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. “Vice President Biden would not move the American embassy back to Tel Aviv," a campaign spokesman told Axios. "But he would re-open our consulate in East Jerusalem to engage the Palestinians. He would also return the United States to the effort of encouraging a two-state solution — the only way to truly guarantee Israel’s long-term security as a Jewish and democratic state and meet the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians for a state of their own." (Axios, July 14, 2019)
Biden called for “sustaining our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security regardless of how much you may disagree with this present leader. It is essential.” (CSPAN, July 11, 2019)
“The relationship has never been about individual leaders it’s been about the kinship, the values,” Biden said. “We also have to tell each other the truth and that includes offering criticism on polices that are counterproductive to peace.” (Comments to American Jewish Committee, June 2, 2019)
“Israel will always exist strong and capable as the ultimate guarantor of security for Jewish people around the world. That is the abiding moral obligation we have. Never, never, never again and without Israel, there is no guarantee… the pernicious and persistent evil of anti-Semitism. It continues to rear its ugly head. It’s on the rise in too many parts of the world, particularly in Europe.” (JTA December 12, 2019)
Regarding a terrorist bombing in Istanbul the previous day, “The United States of America stands with our allies, Israel and Turkey, in that fight against terrorism, against the thugs and the cowards who murder innocents and seek to impose their will through fear and intimidation.”
“Folks, the conditions under which Israeli people live, the sense of vulnerability, the constant fear of attack is real. It is not imagined, it’s real and the people of Israel have lived under siege since the beginning.
They built a nation in defiance of relentless threats from their neighbors. They sustained that nation in the face of rocket attacks, terrorist tunnels and now this unconscionable spat of stabbings.
And if you didn’t know me, you might think I’m making it up, but Israel is a nation of uncommon courage, but it shouldn’t have to be this way. We cannot become inure to such violence. That’s why the ambassador will tell you, while I was there, I condemned the attacks [a Palestinian stabbed a dozen people and killed an American], not just the ones that happened while I was there, all of them. And I condemned the failure to condemn those atrocious acts of violence. No leader has a right to tolerate terrorism.
And as Ron Dermer knows, that’s exactly what I said to President Abbas when I met him in Ramallah. No matter what legitimate disagreements the Palestinian people may have with Israel, there is no excuse for killing innocents or remaining silent in the face of terrorism.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 20, 2016)
“We are Israel’s maybe not-only friend,” Biden said, “but only absolutely certain friend.” (J Street Gala, April 18, 2016)
“America’s support for Israel’s security is unshakable.
“There is no contradiction between being progressive and being a supporter of Israel.” (J Street Gala, September 28, 2013)
“Let me end where I began, by reaffirming our commitment to the State of Israel. It’s not only a longstanding, moral commitment, it’s a strategic commitment. An independent Israel, secure in its own borders, recognized by the world is in the practical, strategic interests of the United States of America.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 4, 2013)
“I’ve spent 35 years of my career dealing with issues relating to Israel. My support for Israel begins in my stomach, goes to my heart and ends up in my head….I guarantee you, I would not have joined Barack Obama as his vice president if I had any doubt, even the slightest doubt, that he shares the same commitment to Israel I share.” (JTA, September 23, 2008)
- “In my 34-year career, I have never wavered from the notion that the only time progress has ever been made in the Middle East is when the Arab nations have known that there is no daylight between us and Israel. So the idea of being an ‘honest broker’ is not, as some of my Democratic colleagues call for, the answer. It is being the smart broker, it is being the smart partner.” (Forward, March 20, 2007)
- “The Democrats' support for Israel “comes from our gut, moves through our heart, and ends up in our head. It's almost genetic.” (October 5, 2006)
- “There has never been progress in the Middle East without the United States acting as a catalyst. The fact of the matter is that our good offices are important. The fact as the matter is that I would not do anything that I did not coordinate with the Israeli government. I would not pretend to be anything other than we are. Arabs know where we are and all they want to know is that we are going to, in fact, be blanced and fair about it. I think we can still establish that...My point is that we should have some very important person on the ground there, ready to explore all the initiatives, any serious person in the government thinks it might be worth considering. We should be a catalyst here.” (October 5, 2006)
- “The single most important thing we could do for Israel right now is to get a political settlement in Iraq. That changes the dynamic, frees up resources for us, frees up our capability and changes the whole game, but we don't seem to have anyone in this administration that can connect the dots.” (October 5, 2006)
- “Because of our lack of a prevention strategy, we're left with no option here (in the Israel-Lebanon War), in my view, but to support Israel in what is a totally legitimate self-defense effort.” (Washington, July 16, 2006)
In 1986, Biden said, “It’s about time we stop apologizing for our support for Israel, there’s no apology to be made. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.” (CSPAN, March 3, 2019)
Regarding a proposal to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem: “Mister secretary [Lawrence Eagleburger], some of us might argue that U.S. interest in bringing about a final peace might very well be enhanced by making it clear to the parties in the region exactly where we stood on issues like this….I happen to support this move, although I would acknowledge with you that, from my perspective, as a supporter of Israel, I think it is the wrong fight to make it this time. I don’t see that it is that big a deal. I think there are other things much more important in the relationship that have to be cured before that. But, the fact is it has been engaged. It seems to me that the wisest policy the administration could adopt would be to just go ahead and do it….
I see this as a no-win situation from this point on. The longer this issue is debated, the longer we go on with this issue, the more exacerbated the problem will be for whatever the losing position is. If it is moved to Jerusalem, then we will have made a big deal out of something that need not be made is bigger deal out of. …I don’t know why we just don’t simply move it to the western sector of Jerusalem and be done with it. Just do it and make no big deal.
If the Arabs can sustain and understand and swallow our policy in Lebanon, they can take about anything….
If I had been asked, I may have suggested whether or not this is the issue we should be debating now. I may very well have said no, there are other things I would rather put on the front burner, such as trying to convince you all to pass my amendment to see to it that Israel does not have to pay back more than it is receiving in economic aid – things like that….
It seems to me that we have stated that we really do not want a divided Jerusalem again….I would think if we did away with the fiction of saying that consistent with the statement that the President made that, first, we do not see it divided and, second that it’s status is negotiable, we can also say our movement of the Embassy to West Jerusalem, where the Israelis have been for a long time, is not a recognition of anything other than the reality of where the Israeli government is now. And, if and when it is negotiated that it is not there, then we would move….
I really believe that you fail to understand the depth of the feeling of insecurity that the Israelis have about their future and their relationship, even with this government, has the consequence of moving Israeli governments, whether they be Labor or Likud, in directions that are independent of, and sometimes it could be argued at odds with, U.S. policy. I think the most important thing that could be done to pursue the peace process is for us to be unequivocal and clear that we want to be friends with everybody in the region pure, but it should be perfectly clear that there are no equal relationships. Israel is the first among friends. It is clear it is a fact of life. We want you all to be friends with us, too, but understand where we stand. And here we stand – period.
Once that occurs, including the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem, I think you will find that people who believe that they can continue to drive wedges between the United States and Israel for their own benefit would diminish in number. I honestly believe that would speed up the peace process and not slow it up.
Last, you made a point about the need for direct involvement of the United States in the process. I could not agree with you more. I would argue that not only have we been successful in the past on occasion, we have only been successful when we have been very specific. …
I would argue that the more the United States is directly involved, and makes clear what the realities of life are there, instead of continuing to play with the fiction that somehow Jerusalem, as long as Israel exists, is not going to be under the practical control of the Israelis. We should not keep alive notions that they’re not come to fruition.” (“American Embassy in Israel,” February 23, 1984)
Peace with the Palestinians
“Even our brethren in the Arab world… have come to realize that it is in their interest that there be a two-state solution [and] that Israel is able to live in peace and be recognized.”
“[Netanyahu] has undermined the stability of self-determination for the Palestinians, undercutting hope for a viable two-state solution any chance that he gets.”
“Not only do I think Netanyahu’s position is wrong, and that he’s yielding to the far-right of his party to maintain support, but the Palestinian leadership has not stepped up when given real opportunity.”
“[The Palestinians] have to be prepared to stop what’s going on in terms of their education system, railing against Israel in their schools. They’ve got to stop inciting violence and supporting it when it happens.” (Times of Israel, September 11, 2020)
Regarding annexation: “I don’t know how much is off the table in terms of Netanyahu’s notions....Netanyahu knows and the Israelis know my position. I’ve made clear that I’m going to oppose annexation as president...A two-state solution is the only way to ensure Israel’s long-term security while sustaining its Jewish and democratic identity. I don’t know how they do it without a two-state solution. And it’s also the only way to ensure Palestinian rights to a state of their own.” (JewishInsider, September 10, 2020)
“The only way to ensure Israel’s long-term security while sustaining its Jewish and democratic identity. It’s also the only way to ensure Palestinians have a state of their own.”
“I will reengage the Palestinians.” (Haaretz, September 11, 2020)
“I’ll continue to champion the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to have a state of their own — as I have for decades — each of them a state of their own.” (JewishInsider, July 21, 2020)
“A priority now for the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace should be resuming our dialogue with the Palestinians and pressing Israel not to take actions that make a two-state solution impossible,” Biden said. “I will reopen the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem, find a way to re-open the PLO’s diplomatic mission in Washington, and resume the decades-long economic and security assistance efforts to the Palestinians that the Trump Administration stopped.” (JTA, May 6, 2020)
A Biden administration would:
“Work with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, and support peacebuilding efforts in the region. Biden will urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take steps to keep the prospect of a negotiated two-state outcome alive and take no actions to undercut future direct negotiations between the parties.
Reverse the Trump Administration’s destructive cutoff of diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority and cancelation of assistance programs that support Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, economic development, and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza.
Urge Arab states to move beyond quiet talks and take bolder steps toward normalization with Israel.” (Biden President)
“We all need to work together to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, because it is a crisis.”
“And we’re not going to achieve that future if we don’t condemn steps on both sides that take us further from peace.”
“A two-state solution is the best way to ensure a secure and peaceful Israeli future for the Jewish and democratic state of Israel. That’s the goal we all share.”
“Palestinians need to eradicate incitement on the West Bank. Eradicate it. They need to end the rocket attacks from Gaza. Stop it.”
“And Israel, I think, has to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity, like the recent announcement to build thousands of settlements in E1. That’s going to choke off any hope for peace. And to be frank, those moves are taking Israel further from its democratic values, undermining support for Israel in the United States especially among young people in both political parties.”
“That’s dangerous,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. We can’t let Israel become another issue that divides Republicans and Democrats. We can’t let anything undermine the partnership.”
“Palestinians need to eradicate incitement on the West Bank,” he said. “They need to end the rocket attacks from Gaza. They need to accept once and for all the reality and the right of a secure democratic and Jewish State of Israel in the Middle East.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 1, 2020)
Following the release of the Trump administration’s peace plan, Biden tweeted: “A peace plan requires two sides to come together. This is a political stunt that could spark unilateral moves to annex territory and set back peace even more. I’ve spent a lifetime working to advance the security & survival of a Jewish and democratic Israel. This is not the way.” (@JoeBiden, January 28, 2020)
“No nation, including Israel, is immune from legitimate criticism. For example, I have for decades opposed the expansion of settlement activity as counterproductive to peace and damaging to U.S. support for Israel, and I have shared those criticisms directly with Israeli leadership, from Menachem Begin to Bibi Netanyahu. But Israel should never be unfairly singled out or targeted. It’s dangerous. And any action designed to marginalize one ethnic or religious group imperils us all — that’s something the Jewish people know all too well.
That’s why it’s critical to stand against biased resolutions and attempts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations, and why it’s important to ensure Israel, like other nations, is represented on important committees there.
I believe a two-state solution is the only path to long-term security for Israel, while sustaining its identity as a Jewish and democratic state. It is also the only way to ensure Palestinian dignity and their legitimate interest in national self-determination. And it is a necessary condition to take full advantage of the opening that exists for greater cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.” (JTA, January 2, 2020)
Trump is “no longer being an honest broker in Israel,” Biden said in the December Democratic debate. “There’s no solution for Israel other than a two-state solution. It does not exist. It’s not possible to have a Jewish state in the Middle East without having a two-state solution.” Biden further stressed that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu know each other well and is aware that Netanyahu’s conduct on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is “outrageous.” Biden added that the U.S has to “put pressure constantly” on the Israelis to “move to a two-state solution.” But he cautioned that the way to do that should not be by leveraging U.S. military aid. (JewishInsider, December 20, 2019)
Biden said the fate of Palestinian refugees and their descendants “must be agreed by both parties.” He also said he supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that includes West Bank land as demarcated by pre-1967 borders, “Yes, except for longtime Israeli settlements or other land swaps and arrangements negotiated by the parties.” He added:
“I believe a two-state solution remains the only way to ensure Israel’s long-term security while sustaining its Jewish and democratic identity. It is also the only way to ensure Palestinian dignity and their legitimate interest in national self-determination. And it is a necessary condition to take full advantage of the opening that exists for greater cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors. For all these reasons, encouraging a two-state solution remains in the critical interest of the United States.”
“At the moment, neither the Israeli nor Palestinian leadership seems willing to take the political risks necessary to make progress through direct negotiations. This inherent challenge has been made even more difficult by President Trump’s unilateralism, his move to cut off assistance to the Palestinians, and his equivocation on the importance of a two-state solution. My administration will restore credible engagement with both sides to the conflict. America must sustain its ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. It is also essential to resume assistance to the Palestinian Authority that supports Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, people-to-people programs, economic development, and humanitarian aid and health care for the Palestinian people.”
“My administration will urge both sides to take steps to keep the prospect of a two-state outcome alive. Palestinian leaders should stop any incitement and glorification of violence, and they must begin to level with their people about the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as a Jewish state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Israeli leaders should stop the expansion of West Bank settlements and talk of annexation that would make two states impossible to achieve. They must recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations for statehood. Both sides should work to provide more relief to the people of Gaza while working to weaken, and ultimately replace, Hamas. And Arab states should take more steps toward normalization with Israel and increase their financial and diplomatic support for building Palestinian institutions.” (New York Times, December 2019)
“At present, neither the Israeli nor Palestinian leadership seems willing to take the political risks necessary to make progress through direct negotiations. This challenge has been made even more difficult by President Trump’s unilateralism, his moves to cut off assistance to the Palestinians, and his equivocation on the importance of a two-state solution.
I will restore credible engagement with both sides to the conflict. America must sustain its ironclad commitment to Israel’s security – including the unprecedented support provided by the Obama-Biden administration. It is also essential to resume assistance to the Palestinian Authority that supports Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, people-to-people programs, economic development, and humanitarian aid and health care for the Palestinian people.
My administration will urge both sides to take steps to keep the prospect of a two-state outcome alive. Palestinian leaders should end the incitement and glorification of violence, and they must begin to level with their people about the legitimacy and permanence of Israel as a Jewish state in the historic homeland of the Jewish people. Israeli leaders should stop the expansion of West Bank settlements and talk of annexation that would make two states impossible to achieve. They must recognize the legitimacy of Palestinians' aspirations for statehood. Both sides should work to provide more relief to the people of Gaza while working to weaken, and ultimately replace, Hamas. And Arab states should take more steps toward normalization with Israel and increase their financial and diplomatic support for building Palestinian institutions.” (Council on Foreign Relations, July 30, 2019)
Asked by an IfNotNow activist about the “occupation,” Biden said. “I think occupation is a real problem, a significant problem. I think the settlements are unnecessary. The only answer is a two-state solution, number one. Number two: the Palestinians have to step up to stop the hate. So, it’s a two-way street.” (The Intercept, July 13 2019)
“I’ll be honest with you, after extensive meetings with leaders on all sides, including the different parties within Israel, I must tell you straight up, I didn’t walk away encouraged. The current prospects for peace are not heartening. In my view, after doing this for over 42 years, there is no political will among Israelis or Palestinians to move forward at this moment with serious negotiations and that’s incredibly disappointing, because the only way, in my view, to guarantee Israelis’ future and security, its identity as a Jewish and Democratic state is with a two-state solution.
That remains my view. It’s the only way as well to insure the dignity and self-determination that the Palestinian people deserve as well. That’s not me tilting at ideological windmills. I think it’s a clear-eyed political and demographic reality. I know, not as well as the Israelis know, it’s hard to take a risk for peace and because I’m Irish, I understand old hatreds die slowly, I mean this sincerely….I know we have to work on renewing that will for peace. We must remind and mend the constituencies among both the Israelis and Palestinians for creating a fundamentally different future – a future where the grievances of the past are not visited upon future generations. Now, that means that terrorist attacks must stop, the rhetoric that incites violence against innocence, against mothers, babies, pregnant women, grandfathers. It must stop.”
“To be frank, Israel’s government’s steady and systematic process of expanding settlements, legalizing outposts and seizing land is eroding, in my view, the prospect of a two-state solution. Bibi doesn’t think so. Bibi thinks it can be accommodated and I believe he believes it. I don’t, because trends in the ground, at least for the time being, are moving in the opposite direction toward a one-state reality, which is a reality that is dangerous. And folks, that’s in direct conflict with the goal we all share of assuring Israel’s future as a secure Jewish and democratic state at peace with its neighbors….We’ve stressed to both parties the need to take meaningful steps to demonstrate their commitment to a two-state solution that extends beyond mere words and things must begin to happen now to build confidence. I know Bibi’s talking about it and I hear it being talked about on the Palestinian side, but there’s got to be a little show-me. This cannot continue to erode.”(AIPAC Policy Conference, March 20, 2016)
“The present course Israel’s on is not one that’s likely to secure its existence as a Jewish, democratic state— and we have to make sure that happens.”
“There is, at the moment, no political will among Israelis and Palestinians to move forward with serious negotiations,”
“No matter what legitimate disagreements the Palestinian people have with Israel, there is never justification for terrorism,” Biden said. “No leader should fail to condemn as terrorists those who commit such brutalities.”
“I firmly believe that the actions that Israel’s government has taken over the past several years — the steady and systematic expansion of settlements, the legalization of outposts, land seizures — they’re moving us and more importantly they’re moving Israel in the wrong direction.” (J Street Gala, April 18, 2016)
The Palestinian-Israeli issue involves the least ideological and least sectarian Arabs in the Middle East.” (J Street Gala, September 28, 2013)
“Israel’s own leaders currently understand the imperative of peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres — they’ve all called for a two-state solution and an absolute secure, democratic and Jewish State of Israel; to live side by side with an independent Palestinian state. But it takes two to tango, and the rest of the Arab world has to get in the game. We are under no illusions about how difficult it will be to achieve. Even some of you in the audience said, why do we even talk about it anymore? Well, it’s going to require hard steps on both sides. But it’s in all of our interests — Israel’s interest, the United States’ interest, the interest of the Palestinian people. We all have a profound interest in peace.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 4, 2013)
- “I would do what I called on the Bush Administration to do two years ago - and that it failed to do: urgently support Abbas and Salam Fayad to shore up their position in West Bank and help them deliver real benefits to their constituents. But I would tie our assistance to genuine transparency and accountability.
- At the same time, I would work to isolate Hamas. We should not talk to Hamas unless and until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and accept past agreements. These are the demands not just of the United States, but of the so-called Quartet: Russia, US, the European Union, and UN.
- Hamas has to decide between bullets and ballots - either it lays down its arms and acts democratically, or it continues as a terrorist organization and is treated as such. It cannot have it both ways.
- I would seriously talk to our European allies, Israel, Egypt, and Abbas about the possibility of an international force deployed along the Egypt-Gaza border to prevent smuggling of arms into Gaza. I know that Israel is interested in such a force.
- I would also support alternatives to Hamas. I would urge Palestinian leaders to reform Fatah, to combat corruption and build efficiency. I would use a $20 million fund that I created last year to promote democratic alternatives at the grass roots in the Palestinian areas - a fund the Administration has never used. And I would press the oil-rich Arab states to do the same.” (Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2007)
- “The outcome [of the Palestinian elections] reflects Palestinian anger and frustration at the Palestinian Authority and Fatah for their corruption, mismanagement, and failure to provide law and order.” (January 2006)
“Look, there’s a lot of talk about precision missiles and all range of other things that are destabilizing the region,” Biden said. But the fact is, “the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region” is to deal “with the nuclear program.”
“...in consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.” (New York Times, December 2, 2020)
“I have no illusions about the challenges the regime in Iran poses to America’s security interests, to our friends and partners and to its own people. But there is a smart way to be tough on Iran.”
“Five years ago, American-led diplomacy produced a deal that ensured it would take Iran at least a year to produce enough fissile material for one bomb. Now – because Trump let Iran off the hook from its obligations under the nuclear deal – Tehran’s ‘breakout time’ is down to just a few months.”
“Here’s what I would do as President.
First, I will make an unshakable commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Second, I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern….
I will also take steps to make sure U.S. sanctions do not hinder Iran’s fight against Covid-19. And on day one, I will repeal Trump’s disgraceful travel ban targeting a number of Muslim-majority countries, among others.
Third, we will continue to push back against Iran’s destabilizing activities, which threaten our friends and partners in the region….America will also work closely with Israel to ensure it can defend itself against Iran and its proxies. We will continue to use targeted sanctions against Iran’s human rights abuses, its support for terrorism and ballistic missile program.
If Iran chooses confrontation, I am prepared to defend our vital interests and our troops. But, I am ready to walk the path of diplomacy if Iran takes steps to show it is ready too.” (CNN, September 13, 2020)
“Like everything else he’s inherited in life, Trump squandered what we left him. So we have to pick up the pieces, and it’s going to be hard. I’ve said that if Iran returns to compliance I will reenter the deal with Iran, and I will move to do that. I’ll work with our allies to make it longer and stronger.” (JewishInsider, September 10, 2020)
“Trump has put Israel in danger by tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, and replaced it with nothing....Iran is closer to a [nuclear] weapon than when we left office in 2017....And instead of Iran being isolated, we are the ones being isolated....When we withdrew from the agreement, President Trump promised a better deal -- which has never materialized.” (Haaretz, September 11, 2020)
“The historic Iran nuclear deal that the Obama-Biden administration negotiated blocked Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Yet Trump rashly cast the deal aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program and become more provocative, raising the risk of another disastrous war in the region. I’m under no illusions about the Iranian regime, which has engaged in destabilizing behavior across the Middle East, brutally cracked down on protesters at home, and unjustly detained Americans. But there is a smart way to counter the threat that Iran poses to our interests and a self-defeating way—and Trump has chosen the latter. The recent killing of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, removed a dangerous actor but also raised the prospect of an ever-escalating cycle of violence in the region, and it has prompted Tehran to jettison the nuclear limits established under the nuclear deal. Tehran must return to strict compliance with the deal. If it does so, I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.” (Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020)
A Biden administration would “Hold Iran accountable and rejoin a diplomatic agreement to prevent a nuclear armed Iran, if Iran returns to compliance with the JCPOA, using renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend the Iran deal, and push back against Iran’s other destabilizing actions.” (Biden President)
“In the midst of this deadly pandemic that respects no borders, the United States should take steps to offer what relief we can to those nations hardest hit by this virus — including Iran — even as we prioritize the health of the American people.
Iran is struggling to contain one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. While the Iranian government has failed to respond effectively to this crisis, including lying and concealing the truth from its own people, and it continues to act provocatively in the region, the Iranian people are hurting desperately. It is bad enough that the Trump administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a ‘maximum pressure’ strategy that has badly backfired, encouraging Iran to become even more aggressive and restart its nuclear program. It makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance. Whatever our profound differences with the Iranian government, we should support the Iranian people.
There are already humanitarian exceptions in place for sanctions, but in practice, most governments and organizations are too concerned about running afoul of U.S. sanctions to offer assistance. As a result, our sanctions are limiting Iran’s access to medical supplies and needed equipment. The Trump Administration should take immediate steps to address this problem and streamline channels for banking and public health assistance from other countries in response to the health emergency in Iran…
The administration’s offer of aid to Iran is insufficient if not backed by concrete steps to ensure the United States is not exacerbating this growing humanitarian crisis. Whatever our many, many disagreements with the Iranian government, it’s the right and the humane thing to do. And Iran also should make a humanitarian gesture and allow detained American citizens to return home.” (Medium, April 2, 2020)
The New York Times asked each candidate a series of questions related to U.S. policy toward Iran and the nuclear deal. Biden said:
“Iran is a destabilizing actor in the Middle East which must never be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. However, Trump abandoned the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (J.C.P.O.A.) — a deal that blocked Iran’s paths to nuclear weapons, as repeatedly verified by international inspectors — with no viable plan to produce a better one. Trump’s reckless actions have produced a deep crisis in trans-Atlantic relations and pushed China and Russia closer to Iran. As a result, the United States, rather than Iran, has been isolated. Predictably, Iran has restarted its nuclear program and become more aggressive, moving the region closer to another disastrous war.”
He added, “What Iran is doing is dangerous, but still reversible. If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, a Biden administration would re-enter the J.C.P.O.A. as a starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints….My administration would also leverage renewed international consensus around America’s Iran policy — and a redoubled commitment to diplomacy — to more effectively push back against Tehran’s other malign behavior in the region. This would include: targeted sanctions against Iranian support for terrorism and Iran’s ballistic missile program; ironclad support for Israel; robust intelligence and security cooperation with regional partners; support for strengthening the capacity of countries like Iraq to resist Iranian influence; and a renewed commitment to diplomacy aimed at ending wars in Yemen and Syria that provide Iran with opportunities to expand.”
Regarding the order to kill Qassim Suleimani, Biden said, “The haphazard decision-making process that led up to [killing Suleimani], the failure to consult our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow was dangerously incompetent.”
“I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. It continues to detain American citizens. They’ve ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions.
But there is a smart way to counter them, and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.
The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that’s not about one-off decisions or one-upsmanship….No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there by accident.” (New York Times, February 2020)
“It was working. It was being held tightly,” Biden said about the nuclear agreement. “There was no movement on the part of the Iranian government to get closer to a nuclear weapon.” (JTA, January 17, 2020)
Biden warned that the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement changed America’s global standing: “We're now isolated. We're in a situation where our allies in Europe are making a comparison between the United States and Iran, saying both ought to stand down, making a moral equivalence.” (Jewish Insider, January 15, 2020).
Biden said the strike that killed Iranian General Soleimani “takes us a heck of a lot closer to war. We’re putting 18,000 more troops in the region. Do we have — have they planned ahead of time to make sure they secure all the bases we have and all the areas that Americans are in fact more vulnerable because of proxies of Iraq — of Iran?” When asked if he gave Trump the benefit of the doubt when he said there was intelligence of an imminent attack, Biden replied, It “could be true, but I don’t give him the benefit of the doubt because he’s lied so much about virtually everything.”(NBC, January 7, 2020)
“Iran is a destabilizing actor in the Middle East; it must never be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. President Trump abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—a deal that blocked Iran’s paths to nuclear weapons, as repeatedly verified by international inspectors—with no viable plan to produce a better one. His reckless actions have produced a deep crisis in transatlantic relations and pushed China and Russia closer to Iran. As a result, the United States, rather than Iran, has been isolated. Predictably, Iran has restarted its nuclear program and become more aggressive, moving the region closer to another disastrous war. In short, Trump’s decisions have left us much worse off.
What Iran is doing is dangerous, but still reversible. If Iran moves back into compliance with its nuclear obligations, I would re-enter the JCPOA as a starting point to work alongside our allies in Europe and other world powers to extend the deal’s nuclear constraints. Doing so would provide a critical down payment to re-establish U.S. credibility, signaling to the world that America’s word and international commitments once again mean something. I would also leverage renewed international consensus around America’s Iran policy—and a redoubled commitment to diplomacy—to more effectively push back against Tehran’s other malign behavior in the region.”
“The historic Iran nuclear deal the Obama-Biden administration negotiated blocked Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and it provides a blueprint for an effective negotiation.” (Council on Foreign Relations, August 1, 2019)
“The historic Iran nuclear deal we negotiated blocked Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, with inspectors on the ground — international inspectors confirming that the agreement was being kept. Yet Trump cast it aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program, become more provocative, and raising the risk of another disastrous war in the region. If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, I would rejoin the agreement and work with our allies to strengthen and extend it while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s destabilizing activities....” (CSPAN, July 11, 2019)
“Now we’re going to decide we’re going to threaten a war with Iran. I mean, the man has no foreign policy…. What has he [Trump] done to slow up Iran at all? The way to keep Iran from being a nuclear power is to stay in the agreement. That’s what was negotiated.” (Fox News, May 15, 2019)
“Talk of a ‘better deal’ is an illusion,” Biden said in a statement when Trump pulled out in May. “It took years of sanctions pressure, painstaking diplomacy, and the full support of the international community to achieve that goal. We have none of that in place today.” (Al-Monitor, March 19, 2019)
“As of today, more than two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges have been removed, more than 98 percent of the stockpile of enriched uranium, enough for six nuclear bombs, has been shipped out of the country and the core of a plutonium Arak has been removed filled with cement so it can no longer be used to produce plutonium bombs and unprecedented inspections are happening at all of Iran’s nuclear facilities providing more visibility into Iran’s program than ever.
To put it simply, Iran is much, much further away from obtaining another nuclear weapon than they were a year ago. And whatever your feelings were about the deal, I hope you’re happy about this as I am that they are further and further removed from the possibility.
Removing the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran peacefully through diplomacy is critical progress in the region otherwise facing too much instability and too little opportunity. The chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force recently acknowledged that the nuclear agreement reduces immediate Iranian threat to Israel, because, and I quote, ‘It rolls back Iran’s nuclear capability and deepens the monitoring capabilities.’ It was his assessment, not ours, the IDF’s assessment.
He also said that he believes, ‘Iran will make a great effort to fulfill their side of the bargain.’ I agree for a simple reason, the incentives are aligned for Iran to uphold its part of the deal and we’re going to make sure they do. We’re watching Tehran like a hawk. Under this agreement, Iran will never be allowed to preserve nuclear weapons, never, never, never.
Well, let me assure you, that what we said all along still holds, if Iran violates the deal, the United States will act. The United States will act. Our commitment is unambiguous.
It’ll be impossible for the next president not to honor it. Neither are we giving Iran any slack in the non-nuclear threats they continue to stir up. Their support for terrorism and violent proxies, their violation of human rights, their ballistic missile activities, those sanctions remain in place and we’re enforcing them vigorously.
In fact, the day the nuclear deal came into effect in January, we imposed 11 new sanctions and 11 individual amenities involved in the Iranian ballistic missile program. We have serious sanctions against Hezbollah targeting more than 100 individual amenities that fund Hezbollah’s terrorists and military capabilities, including money launderers and financiers. And we need the Senate to finally confirm Adam Szubin as our new undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. So, he’s the best we’ve ever had, so that we can benefit from his experience in overseeing our rigorous sanction enforcement in holding Iran accountable.”
“I hate to say this, because it dates me, but I’ve worked with eight presidents. As we Catholics say, bless me, Father. I don’t know, eight presidents. I can’t be that old. But I mean this sincerely, no administration has done more to advance the security of Israel than we have. Our unprecedented security cooperation makes me incredibly proud.
And our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge is unquestionable, will not change and we will make sure that Israel has the best equipment available. When we deliver F-35 jets later this year, Israel will be the only nation in the Middle East with fifth-generation aircraft. And we will continue to make sure Israel has the capacity to defend itself, by itself, for itself in an incredibly dangerous neighborhood….Israel is stronger and more secure today because of the Obama/Biden Administration, period. Period.”
“America’s commitment to Israel’s security is about more than weapon systems and foreign military financing, it’s about making sure, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that Israel will always exist strong and capable as the ultimate guarantor of security for Jewish people around the world. That is the abiding moral obligation we have.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 20, 2016)
“A nuclear armed Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel, an unacceptable danger to world peace and security, including the likelihood of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, making everyone less secure.” (J Street Gala, September 28, 2013)
Iraq’s [sic] acquisition of a nuclear weapon not only would present an existential threat to Israel, it would present a threat to our allies and our partners — and to the United States. And it would trigger an arms race — a nuclear arms race in the region, and make the world a whole lot less stable. So we have a shared strategic commitment. Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period….If, God forbid, the need to act occurs, it is critically important for the whole world to know we did everything in our power, we did everything that reasonably could have been expected to avoid any confrontation….We are sharpening a choice that the Iranian leadership has to make. They can meet their obligations and give the international community ironclad confidence in the peaceful nature of their program, or they can continue down the path they’re on to further isolate and mounting pressure of the world.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 4, 2013)
“We know what Israel knows: Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Period. And we — and me — we are urging every nation in the world that we deal with — and we deal with them all — to start treating Hezbollah as such, and naming them as a terrorist organization.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 4, 2013)
- “If he takes the country to war in [Iran] without a vote of Congress, which will not exist, then he should be impeached.” (November, 15 2007)
- “I stand with the many citizens- from the U.S. and around the world- who are concerned at the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Nuclear proliferation is a grave concern to international stability, and in the hands of the sponsors of terorism is entirely unacceptable.” (Statement to the Israel Project, July 19, 2007)
- “Iran with the bomb could spark an arms race in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria joining in. Given the fault lines - between Sunni and Shia, Israelis and Palestinians, Persians and Arabs, Turks and Kurds, fundamentalists and moderates - that's the last thing we need. And it's the last thing Israel needs.
No President should take any option off the table, including force. But we have time: Iran is years away from having a bomb and a missile to deliver it. We need to use the time wisely.
We have to keep our eyes on the prize: preventing Iran from getting the bomb. This administration spent five years obsessed with the idea of getting rid of the Iranian regime.
None of us like the regime, but think about the logic: We want you to renounce the bomb - and by the way, when you do we're still going to try to take you down. The result: Iran accelerated its efforts to get the bomb and it is much closer now than it was when President Bush took office.
We need a policy that isolates Iran, not America and tips the balance in Iran against pursuing nuclear weapons. That means keeping our allies, Russia and China on the same page as we ratchet up economic and diplomatic pressure on the government to stop pursuing nuclear weapons. At the same time, there are growing fissures within the ruling elite - we need to exploit them.
Above all, we have to recognize that our biggest allies in this effort are the Iranian people. They're open to America. They don't like a regime that denies them basic political and social rights and that can't deal with corruption, unemployment and inflation. The Iranian people need to know it is their government, not the US that is choosing confrontation over cooperation. So we should tone down the rhetoric and talk. It's amazing how little faith this administration has in America's ideas and ideals.
Force must be the last option because it's a bad option. First, with our forces bogged down in Iraq, our threat to use force doesn't look very credible. Second, we can set back Iran's program but not stop it. Using force would lead to retaliation by Iran, including against our troops in Iraq. It would cause the Iranian people to rally behind Ahmadinejad and the extremists. Third, even a 'limited' strike would be perceived as something much bigger by the Iranians and could spark a real war. The only thing worse than a poorly planned intentional war is an unplanned unintentional war.” (Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2007)
- “The bottom line here is, if regime change is the operative element of this administration's policy [in Iran], you are never going to get to the point where you end up with a diplomatic solution. There may be no diplomatic solution, in the end. That's possible. We may have crossed the line, or they may have crossed the line...while we fool around with this, you're going to see Japan go nuclear, and you're going to see China react to Japan going nuclear, and you're going to see a chain of events set in motion that are going to be significantly damaging to the next generation of Americans. And so, it seems to me we should get off this wicket of suggesting that we won't talk. I mean, what are we afraid of in talking?” (FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace, October 22, 2006)
- “It seems to me what we have to do is continue to push to see if we can hold this coalition together to increase gradual sanctions [on Iran]. Without that, we don't have a whole lot of options here...This is a test for the diplomacy. This is a test for the United Nations. If it fails, then what we're going to have to do is begin to come up with a serious containment policy, here.” (August 27, 2006)
Hamas and the Situation in Gaza
- “We contract our foreign policy, and that is a dangerous situation. Do you think there’s any reasonable prospect that the Saudis are going to push Hamas to recognize Israel?” (Forward, March 20, 2007)
- “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a party that calls for its destruction, engages in terrorism and maintains an armed militia. Hamas must choose: bullets or ballots.” (January 2006)
Syria and Lebanon
“I will work in close cooperation with our partners to meet the moral demands of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Yemen and Gaza.” (JewishInsider, July 21, 2020)
COOPER: Vice President Biden, we know you would not have withdrawn troops from northern Syria in this way, but that is already in process. So would you send American troops back into northern Syria to prevent an ISIS resurgence and protect our Kurdish allies?
BIDEN: I would not have withdrawn the troops and I would not have withdrawn the additional thousand troops who are in Iraq, which are in retreat now, being fired on by Assad's people. And the president of the United States saying, if those ISIS folks escape from the prisons they're in, they'll only go to Europe and won't affect us.
It has been the most shameful thing that any president has done in modern history -- excuse me, in terms of foreign policy. And the fact of the matter is, I've never seen a time -- and I've spent thousands of hours in the Situation Room, I've spent many hours on the ground in those very places, in Syria and in Iraq, and guess what? Our commanders across the board, former and present, are ashamed of what's happening here.
What I would do is I would be making it real clear to Assad that, in fact, where he's going to have a problem -- because Turkey is the real problem here. And I would be having a real lockdown conversation with Erdogan and letting him know that he's going to pay a heavy price for what he has done now. Pay that price.
COOPER: Just to clarify, Mr. Vice President, would you want American troops back in northern Syria?
BIDEN: I would want those thousand troops to be protected by air cover, those thousand troops that are being -- having to withdraw under fire, make it clear that they're not going anywhere, and have them protected, and work my way back toward what, in fact, needs to be done, protecting those Kurds. They lost their lives. This is shameful, shameful what this man has done.
And with regard to regime change in Syria, that has not been the policy we change the regime. It has been to make sure that the regime did not wipe out hundreds of thousands of innocent people between there and the Iraqi border. (Washington Post, October 16, 2019)
“The United States and Israel have a shared interest in Syria as well. Assad has shown his father’s disregard for human life and dignity, engaging in brutal murder of his own citizens. Our position on that tragedy could not be clearer: Assad must go. But we are not signing up for one murderous gang replacing another in Damascus….And because we recognize the great danger Assad’s chemical and biological arsenals pose to Israel and the United States, to the whole world, we’ve set a clear red line against the use of the transfer of those weapons. And we will work together to prevent this conflict and these horrific weapons from threatening Israel’s security.” (AIPAC Policy Conference, March 4, 2013)
- “There are plenty of reasons to mistrust Assad, but there could be real benefits to hard-headed diplomacy. Syria is the common denominator of many problems - in Lebanon , the Palestinian territories, and to a lesser extent Iraq. They are Iran 's closest ally. But it is also a fundamentally weak and isolated regime. We should work to break up its marriage of convenience with Iran. If Syria could be encouraged to act less irresponsibly it could have a real impact in the region.” (August 8, 2007)
- “It is a mistake not to let Israel, if it wishes to, if it sees an opportunity to go out and explore possibilities with the Syrians. If I’m in Damascus, what’s in my best interest? My best interest is to be free of Iran’s yoke, on the good side of the equation with the oil-producing Sunni states, and able to deliver for my people what appears to be a victory by having a settlement on the Golan. Now, whether that can be accomplished remains to be seen, but it should be explored.” (Forward, March 20, 2007)
*AICE does not rate or endorse any candidate for political office.
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