WASHINGTON (JTA) – U.S. President Barack Obama would reject any Iran deal that does not increase its breakout time to a nuclear weapon to a year, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden told Israelis.
Biden, addressing the Israeli embassy’s Independence Day festivities, also said the United States will deliver F-35 fighter jets to Israel next year to help maintain its military edge regionally.
Biden said Obama’s minimum requirement for a deal between the major powers and Iran would be to increase Iran’s breakout time from the current two to three months where the United States estimates it currently stands to a year.
“If it doesn’t, no deal,” Biden said. A final deal is due June 30. Biden said it would include verifiable reductions of Iran’s stock of enriched uranium and guarantees that Iran could not manufacture plutonium.
The pledges come as the Obama administration is seeking to improve ties frayed with Israel over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s expressions of opposition to the talks, including his speech to the U.S. Congress last month organized without consulting the White House.
Biden also said there would be a phased reduction of sanctions on Iran, measured against Iranian co-operation with a regimen that would keep it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said he wants immediate sanctions relief.
Biden described the F-35 as “our finest, making Israel the only country in the Middle East to have this fifth-generation aircraft” and said the United States would maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.
“You protect our interests like we protect yours, so let’s get something straight in this moment of some disagreement, occasionally, between our two governments,” Biden said. “No president has ever done more to protect Israel’s security than President Barack Obama.”
Likening Israel and the United States to “family” he said: “Sometimes, we drive each other crazy, but we love each other and we protect each other.”
Israel’s Defense Ministry announced in mid-February that it had signed a deal with the United States to purchase 14 more F-35 planes for the Israel Air Force at $110 million each, bringing the total to 33. Israel in 2010 said it would acquire 19 of the aircraft.