During Israel visit, Biden bites back against Iran, Palestinians

By Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Vice President Joe Biden, on his first trip to Jerusalem since a disastrous visit in 2010, demonstrated real backbone and reaffirmed his longstanding support for Israel in his responses to Iran’s testing of a long-range missile containing an explicit threat to the Jewish State.


Biden was also  on target, during a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not only to condemn the vicious stabbing murder of an American student, but for forcefully denouncing the total lack of any condemnation of the murder by the Palestinian Authority.

Biden more than succeeded in his reported effort to use last week’s visit to Israel to repair any lingering damage resulting from his 2010 trip to Jerusalem during which the Israeli Interior Ministry announced an order to construct a major Israeli settlement in Jerusalem. Netanyahu at the time reprimanded his interior minister for the bad timing of the announcement, which placed Biden, a historic friend of Israel for decades, in the awkward position of having to denounce an Israeli action during an official visit. 

At the time, the Israeli settlement expansion was widely denounced by American media and officials in Washington. Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist, wrote a blistering column stating that Biden should abruptly leave Jerusalem and tell Netanyahu to call him back “when he is serious about peace.” Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also reportedly scolded Netanyahu during a 45-minute phone conversation.

The current visit, by contrast, has been a shining moment both for Biden and for the integrity of the U.S.-Israel relationship. When USA Today and other news sources reported that Iran had test-fired two ballistic missiles — one of them inscribed in Hebrew with the phrase “Israel should be wiped off the Earth” — at targets 870 miles away, Biden lashed out at Tehran in a joint news conference with Netanyahu.


Biden said the U.S. “will act” if Iran breaks the terms of last year’s nuclear deal reached with world powers.

“A nuclear-armed Iran is an absolutely unacceptable threat to Israel, to the region and the United States,” he said. “If in fact they break the deal, we will act.”

Biden’s statement, while most welcome, does not go far enough. The mere firing of a long-range ballistic missile with a Hebrew threat to wipe Israel off the Earth is itself a clear violation of the terms of the deal. It will not do to excuse this odious action as an effort to appease hardliners in the Iranian leadership.

The move comes only days after supposed moderates won seats in the recent Iranian parliamentary elections, which were “rigged” by the extreme factions who control Iran’s theocratic government, especially the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards.

Biden, at the same news conference, roundly criticized Palestinians for their “failure to condemn” stabbing attacks that claimed the life of Taylor Allen Force, an American graduate student at Vanderbilt University,  and wounded several others in Israel on March 8. 

Biden was scheduled to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after his meetings with Netanyahu. Abbas, frequently described as a moderate, has refused to condemn the spate of terrorist knife attacks of recent months, and has gone out of his way to praise the killers as “heroes” and martyrs” of the Palestinians.

The fanatic regime in Tehran and the spineless lack of moral leadership among the Palestinian Authority leaders  can no longer get a free pass for their destabilizing actions. Biden’s forceful “bite back” against Iran and Abbas has set just the right tone for a coordinated response by the United States and its allies.