United States Vice President Joe Biden addressed the closing session of the leading American pro-Israeli lobby on Tuesday and called on Israel to accept a two-state solution and allow Palestinians "freedom of movement" but not before he told the lobby his obligation to Israel began early in his childhood.
After sticking to standard declarations about the "non-negotiable" U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and the allies’ special relationship, Biden reiterated President Barack Obama’s stance on Israel, Iran and the Palestinians to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Biden opened his speech by talking about "the basic responsibility of the United States to be a partner in ensuring that there will always be a place for the Jews to go and that place always must be Israel."
The vice president declared Obama’s support of Israel and the president’s "personal connection to the Zionist idea" before he went on to say that peace could best be achieved by taking a new direction in U.S. foreign policy, which included responsibly pulling out of Iraq and stabilizing Afghanistan.
After speaking about the grave danger of a nuclear armed Iran, Biden stressed Obama’s administration would continue to push for diplomacy based on "mutual respect" but said if diplomacy failed "all options remain on the table."
Biden also called for a two-state solution that would include a Jewish national state side by side with a Palestinian state but said in the meantime Israel’s security was not debatable and that Israel had the right to defend itself and "make its own judgments about what it needs to do to defend itself," a possible reference to the 22-day Gaza assault that left over 1,300 Palestinians dead.
"You’re not going to like my saying this but not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow Palestinians freedom of movement," Biden said. "Israel has to work toward a two-state solution."
The vice president also called on Palestinian armed groups to halt violence and said Arab states should build on their 2002 peace initiative by starting now to make "meaningful gestures" toward ending Israel’s isolation.
AIPAC kicked off it’s annual policy meeting on Sunday and drew almost 7,000 delegates who would end the three-day affair in an epic lobbying session on Tuesday afternoon.
The conference was also addressed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres on Monday. Senator John Kerry addressed the meet directly after Biden.
In his speech to the AIPAC, Netanyahu said he was ready to begin Israeli-Palestinian peace talks immediately but he made no reference to a Palestinian state.
Israel’s new right-leaning government under Netanyahu has so far shied away from publicly supporting Palestinian statehood, an omission that has dismayed U.S., Arab and European officials.
Biden’s speech came ahead of a meeting between Peres and Obama later on Tuesday and less than two weeks before Netanyahu makes an official visit to the White House.
According to session custom the speaker who addresses the closing is viewed as the motivator who sanctions AIPAC’s legislative package and rallies delegates to sell it to congress.