OXON HILL, Md. (JTA) – With the Nov. 24 deadline for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program looming, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden vowed the United States “will not sign a bad deal.”
“Let me say to you clearly in Bidenesque way: We will not let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon – period,” he said in an address Monday to the annual conference of the Jewish Federations of North America. “I would not put my 42-year reputation on the line were I not certain when I say we mean it.”
The only sort of deal the United States would accept is one that puts “significant and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear program,” Biden said at the General Assembly (G.A.), which this year is being held near Washington.
The vice-president also called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “really great friend.” Finding Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in the audience of some 2,500 in the conference ballroom, Biden said, “Ron, you’d better damn well report to Bibi that we’re still buddies. You got it, right?”
Biden’s appearance at the G.A. comes two weeks after an anonymous Obama administration official was quoted by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic magazine characterizing Netanyahu as “a chickenshit.”
Biden said he and Netanyahu have been friends for more than 30 years.
“We really are good friends,” he said. “I once signed a photo to Bibi: ‘I don’t agree with a damn thing you say, but I love you.’ “
Like close friends, Biden said Israel and the United States sometimes disagree with each other.
“We love one another and we drive one another crazy – I’m serious. That’s what friends do. We are straight with one another,” he said.
Biden also used his G.A. speech to tout the Obama administration’s record on aid to Israel, including $1 billion in funding for the Iron Dome anti-missile system and $17 billion in foreign military financing for Israeli security over the six years of Obama’s presidency.
“There has never been a doubt in our minds of our obligation to match the steel spine of the Israeli people with an ironclad commitment of our administration to Israel’s security,” he said.
Biden expressed concern over the current outbreak of violence in and around Jerusalem, saying both Palestinians and Israelis need to try to calm the situation.
“All sides need to avoid incitement and demonstrate restraint,” Biden said. “There is a better path, and we’re not going to stop working until both sides are able to find that path.”