Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Biden expresses America's "absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel's security"

(Ynet, Jpostt).US Vice President Joe Biden assured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that Israel enjoyed Washington's unstinting support for its security and repeated US intent to curb Iran's nuclear program.

"There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security," Biden said as the two leaders made statements to the media following talks in Jerusalem.

Biden expressed America's "absolute, total, unvarnished commitment to Israel's security".

As such, Biden said, Washington was "determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and we are working with many countries around the world to convince Iran to meet its international obligations to cease and desist."

The cornerstone of the US-Israel relationship, Biden said, was America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security. "Bibi you heard me say before, progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the US and Israel. There is no space between the US and Israel when it comes to Israel's security."

This was a message Biden had been widely expected to bring in person from President Barack Obama. Israeli political sources have said he is also making clear Washington does not want Israel to risk any military action against Iran while the United States is seeking a wide coalition for sanctions on Tehran.

Biden said he welcomed Netanyahu's move this week to begin US-mediated indirect talks with the Palestinians and said he hoped it would lead to direct negotiations that would produce a historic peace treaty.

Biden, who said that he had "productive" talks with Netanyahu about a wide range of issues, also took pains to praise Netanyahu for steps he has taken to make a more conducive atmosphere for talks with the Palestinians.

"A peace agreement will require both parties to make some historically bold commitments," Biden said. "You have done it before, and I am confident for world peace you will do it again."

Biden, who has known Netanyahu for some 30 years, said he has taken some significant steps, including "the moratorium that has limited new settlement construction activity," and measures that have increased Palestinian movement in the Wet Bank.

Palestinian leaders, he said, are also "beginning to make progress" on efforts to reform their institutions of government and make their security forces more reliable.

"It is easy to point fingers, particularly in this part of world as to what each side has not done, but it is also important to give credit where things have been done, in order to be able to move foreword," Biden said.

Biden said the US "will always stand with those who take risks for peace," and added that Netanyahu was willing to do that, and he hoped and expected that the Palestinians would be prepared to do so as well.

Netanyahu said Israel's security priorities were ensuring Iran did not build nuclear weapons and establishing peace with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors.

"I very much appreciate the efforts of President Obama and the American government to lead the international community to place tough sanctions on Iran," he said.

"The stronger those sanctions are, the more likely it will be that the Iranian regime will have to chose between advancing its nuclear program and advancing the future of its own permanence."

The prime minister noted that he looks forward to working with the US administration and wishes to ensure that the Palestinians recognize Israel's legitimacy in order to guarantee security in the long-run.