Phyllis Bernstein is an Ameinu board member who lives in Westfield, NJ, where she has long been active in Jewish affairs. She shares her observations at the recent annual conference of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) in Washington, DC. This first part is on Vice President Biden’s appearance, beginning with her overall reflection quoted in the New Jersey Jewish News:
For Phyllis Bernstein of Westfield, the highlight of the conference came an evening earlier when Vice President Joe Biden addressed the crowd.
“To be frank, the Israeli government’s steady process of expanding settlements and expropriating land is eroding the possibility of a two-state solution,” said Biden. “[Prime Minister] Bibi Netanyahu thinks he can accommodate it. I don’t, because trends on the ground are moving toward a one-state solution, and I feel that’s dangerous.”
Biden “spoke about the settlements, and it was impressive,” Bernstein told NJJN. “He told it like it is. He believes like I do that expansion of the settlements is a problem.”
Biden Hits Homerun
Sadly this might be his last time addressing such a large gathering of 18,000 people. He spoke directly to the 4,000 students telling his story. He was critical of Israeli and Palestinian leaders for failing to work towards peace. The settlements are impeding peace. After 42 years, he sees there is no political will among Israelis or Palestinians to move forward with negotiations.
He maintained that the only way to guarantee Israel’s identity as a democratic and Jewish state is to have two states for two peoples. It’s also the only way to ensure the dignity and self-determination of the Palestinians, and called for a renewed will to create a fundamentally different future. That means terror attacks must stop, the rhetoric that incites violence against pregnant mothers, babies, grandfathers, must stop. And acts of retribution and revenge must stop.
But, it also means Israel’s settlement building must stop. His forthright remarks on settlement expansion earned Biden some boos from the crowd.
He took a jab at Presidential candidate Donald Trump: “The future belongs to bridge builders and not wall builders . . . As the Jewish people know better than any other people, any action that marginalizes one religious or ethnic group imperils us all.” Biden then said, “It’s incumbent upon us, all of us, to 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 this statement resulted in loud applause. “That’s why we’re here. That’s why AIPAC exists, it exists to build bridges.”
Biden defended last year’s nuclear accord with Iran, which was opposed by AIPAC and the Netanyahu government. “I hope you are as happy as I am that they [Iran] are further and further away from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” and said, “we are watching Iran like a hawk, if If Iran violates the deal the U.S. will act. The U.S. will act. Our commitment is unambiguous.”
The Vice President pointed out that other sanctions against Iran — for its support of terrorism and its ballistic missile program — are still in place. Missile tests by Iran earlier this month have created controversy, with Israel calling on actions by the Security Council, while Tehran said the tests were defensive.
He strongly defended President Barack Obama’s Israel record. “Israel is stronger and more secure today because of the Obama and Biden administration, period. Not despite it, but because of it.” This is alluding to the tensions that have beset the relationship between the president, the lobby and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Of the current round of talks between Israel and the United States over expanding defense assistance for Israel, he said: “Israel may not get everything it asks for, but it will get everything it needs.”
After hearing the speeches of all the Presidential candidates, I wished he was running.
For Phyllis Bernstein’s analysis of the candidates’ speeches, click here.