About this candidate: Campaign biography-
BORN: November 20, 1942
CURRENT HOME: Wilmington, Delaware
BIRTHPLACE: Scranton, Pennsylvania
EDUCATION: B.A. from University of Delaware (1965), J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law (1968)
CURRENT JOB: Senior US Senator from Delaware
RESUME HIGHLIGHTS: Currently the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee; spent 16 years as the Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee; authored the Biden Crime Law, signed by President Clinton in 1994, which provided federal resources for crime prevention, enforcement, and corrections; wrote the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which is the first federal law to address gender-based crimes; authored a 1996 law establishing a national FBI database to track the whereabouts and movements of convicted sex offenders and requiring sexually violent predators and repeat offenders to register for life as sex offenders in their states of residence; wrote the laws that created the nation's "Drug Czar."
ELECTIVE OFFICES: New Castle County Council in 1970, US Senate in 1972
FAMILY: Wife Jill Tracy Biden, three children, Beau, Hunter, and Ashley, and five grandchildren
CAMPAIGN E-MAIL: info@UniteOurStates.com
CAMPAIGN PHONE: 202-224-0139
CAMPAIGN FAX: 202-224-5652
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware emerged as the running mate after a long day of political suspense. (associated press/file 2007).
"Biden is Obama's VP choice: Foreign policy credentials boost ticket"
By Liz Sidoti and Nedra Pickler, Associated Press, August 23, 2008
WASHINGTON - Barack Obama has selected Senator Joe Biden of Delaware to be his vice presidential running mate, a Democratic official said early today, balancing the party's ticket with an older congressional veteran well-versed in foreign and defense issues.
Biden, who has twice sought the White House, is a Catholic with blue-collar roots, a generally liberal voting record, and a reputation as a long-winded orator.
Across more than 30 years in the Senate, he has served at various times not only as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, but also as head of the Judiciary Committee, with its jurisdiction over anticrime legislation and constitutional issues.
The official who spoke did so on condition of anonymity, preferring not to preempt a text-message announcement the Obama campaign promised for this morning.
CNN and the Washington Post also reported early today that Obama had picked Biden.
Obama's campaign arranged a debut for the newly minted ticket today outside the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill.
The Democratic National Convention meets next week in Denver to hand Obama his long-sought presidential nomination, and then confirm Biden.
Republican nominee John McCain's campaign early today derided the pairing of Obama and Biden. "There has been no harsher critic of Barack Obama's lack of experience than Joe Biden. Biden has denounced Barack Obama's poor foreign policy judgment and has strongly argued in his own words what Americans are quickly realizing - that Barack Obama is not ready to be president," said McCain spokesman Ben Porritt.
Biden slowly emerged as Obama's choice across a long day and night of political suspense as other contenders gradually fell away.
First Virginia Governor Tim Kaine let it be known that he had been ruled out. Then came word that Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana had also been passed over.
Several aides to Senator Hillary Clinton - who was Obama's closest rival for the presidential nomination - said they believed she also was out of contention. They added that the Obama campaign had never requested financial or other records from her.
Other finalists in the veep sweepstakes were Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Texas Representative Chet Edwards.
Among those on the short list, Biden brought the most experience in defense or foreign policy - areas in which Obama is rated relatively poorly in the polls compared with Republican Senator John McCain.
Biden voted in 2002 to authorize the Iraq invasion, which Obama opposed from the start. Since then, he's become a firm critic of the conflict and pushed through a resolution declaring that President Bush's troop increase - now considered a military success - was "not in the national interest."
A native of Scranton, Pa., Biden also has working-class roots that could benefit Obama, who lost the blue-collar vote to Clinton during their competition for the presidential nomination.
Biden, 65, was elected to the Senate at the age of 29 in 1973. He entered the 1988 Democratic presidential primary promising to "rekindle the fire of idealism in our society," but he quit the race three months later after he was caught lifting lines from a speech by a British Labor Party leader.
As a two-time presidential candidate, Biden has been well-vetted. "To the best of my knowledge, anything that is embarrassing about my past is pretty well public record," he said in a Los Angeles Times profile last year.
He lives modestly and is among the least affluent members of Congress. For his entire career in Washington, Biden has made a daily 80-minute commute on Amtrak from Delaware, and is, by all accounts devoted to his family, which includes three surviving children and five grandchildren.
"Very few people deserve to be called an exemplar of anything, but he deserves to be called an exemplar regarding his relationship with his family," said John Marttila, a Boston-based consultant who has worked on Biden campaigns dating back to his first run for Senate in 1972. "It's the center of his life."
Six weeks after his upset victory in '72, Biden suffered a devastating loss when a car carrying his wife and three children was struck by a tractor-trailer truck as they drove to shop for a Christmas tree. His wife, Neilia, and their 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed, and their toddler sons, Joseph R. "Beau" Biden 3d and Robert H. "Hunter" Biden, were critically injured but fully recovered.
Beau Biden, elected attorney general of Delaware in 2006, is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard. His unit is scheduled to be deployed in Iraq this fall. Hunter Biden practices law in Washington, D.C.
In 1977, Biden married the former Jill Jacobs, who teaches English at Delaware Technical and Community College. They have a daughter, Ashley, who is a social worker.
Brian C. Mooney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
"Biden's Scranton childhood left lasting impression"
By MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press Writer, August 27, 2008
Joe Biden left blue-collar, bare-knuckles Scranton for the greener pastures of Delaware when he was only 10 years old. But Scranton, it turns out, left an indelible impression on him.
Barack Obama's running mate has returned again and again to the city of his youth, where he attended grammar school at St. Paul's, learned politics at his Irish-Catholic grandfather's knee, and made friendships that have lasted 60 years. He's such a familiar presence here and in the Philadelphia media market — which includes Delaware, his political base for more than 35 years — that he's known as Pennsylvania's third senator.
That may be one reason Biden's on the Democratic ticket. In choosing a lunch-bucket Democrat, Obama hopes to capitalize on Biden's appeal to the socially conservative, working-class voters who populate Scranton and many other regions of Pennsylvania. Named for the late governor from Scranton, so-called "Casey Democrats" are a critical voting bloc — and they largely spurned Obama in the primary, handing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton a 10-point victory.
Like Biden, Clinton emphasized her ties to Scranton, where her grandfather worked in a lace mill and her father was born and buried. In an ad, she told of spending summers at a rustic cottage on nearby Lake Winola.
Biden's Scranton roots run deeper, and Obama hopes that enough voters in battleground Pennsylvania see themselves in the silver-haired senator to make the difference in the race against Republican John McCain.
Many of Biden's closest Scranton pals, basking in the reflected glory of their famous friend's vice presidential nod, plan to gather Wednesday night to watch Biden address the Democratic National Convention.
"Barack Obama's going to be well-served," said Tom Bell, 65, an insurance agent and lifelong Biden friend from Scranton who is hosting the party. "Quite frankly, I wish it were the other way around."
Until 1952, Biden lived with his parents and grandparents in a two-story Colonial on a tree-lined street in Green Ridge, an Irish-Catholic enclave and one of Scranton's nicest neighborhoods. Biden slept in an attic bedroom with sloped ceilings and a view of West Mountain, scrawling "Joe Biden was here" and "Kilroy was here" on the walls.
Last year, the Delaware senator took his 91-year-old mother to see the home on North Washington Avenue. The unannounced visit startled Anne Kearns, 73, who bought the house 46 years ago and raised her own family there.
"This neighborhood went for Hillary" in the primary, said Kearns, who keeps a framed photo of the encounter in her parlor. "Now that Hillary is not there, I hope the whole city gets behind Obama and Biden. I think they will."
Republicans will do their best to see that doesn't happen.
Seizing on comments Obama made at an April fundraiser in San Francisco, Pennsylvania GOP chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr. said he wondered if Biden agreed with Obama that small-town Pennsylvanians are bitter and "cling to guns or religion."
"An Obama-Biden ticket will not cure what ails them in Pennsylvania," Gleason said in a statement.
In many ways, Biden's childhood in Green Ridge was almost a reverse image of Obama's unconventional upbringing in Hawaii and Indonesia.
Friends recall an adventurous, charismatic boy who loved pickup baseball and football and never turned down a dare. Biden once climbed to the summit of a smoldering, unstable mountain of coal refuse; another time, he ran underneath a moving piece of heavy machinery — emerging, unscathed, on the other side.
"You couldn't dare him to do anything, because the problem was he'd do it," said close friend Jim Kennedy, 68, who lived along an alley behind the Biden house. "His DNA is still up in that alley, because I never saw anybody bleed as much as him."
Larry Orr, 65, a retired electrician and another longtime Biden friend, remembers the Green Ridge of Biden's youth as an archetypical middle American neighborhood, "an innocent time, a very innocent time."
But 1950s Scranton also suffered from a harsher reality. Coal mines and textile mills were shutting down, forcing families to pack up and leave. The city was at the beginning of a long, painful economic decline, and Biden's father could not find enough work.
His family joined the exodus, moving to Claymont, Del., where Joe Biden Sr. prospered as a car salesman. They returned to Scranton frequently, though, spending weekends, holidays and summers at the home owned by his maternal grandparents.
In his 2007 memoir, "Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics," Biden said he learned politics at his grandfather's kitchen table, where the Finnegan clan — Irish, Catholic and staunchly Democratic — would "argue local politics, state politics, world events, Truman against MacArthur."
Though popular with his peers, the now-famously loquacious politician struggled with a humiliating stutter. His teacher at St. Paul's gave him a cruel moniker — "Bi Bi Blackbird" — because Biden tripped over his own name. The stutter followed him to Delaware, where high school classmates called him Dash, because he sounded like he was talking in Morse code.
Years later, when Biden sat on Kennedy's front stoop in Scranton and told him that he was running for Senate, Kennedy was skeptical.
"I know about Delaware, that it's solid Republican (at the time). I looked at him," Kennedy said. "He looked at me and said, 'I can talk now.'
And he didn't stop.
Associated Press Writer Kimberly Hefling in Denver contributed to this report.
Barack Obama embraced running mate Joseph Biden Jr. at the end of last night's convention session. Jill Biden is at right. (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)
"Biden comes out punching: Obama's No. 2 ties McCain to Bush policies, faults judgment"
By Scott Helman, (Boston) Globe Staff, August 28, 2008
DENVER - Senator Joseph Biden Jr. accepted the Democratic vice presidential nomination last night and immediately attacked GOP candidate John McCain, slamming him for what he called failures of judgment and questioning whether his military experience qualified him to lead the country. Biden repeatedly linked McCain to what he called the "catastrophic" policies of President Bush.
It was red-meat stuff for the 4,233 Democratic delegates packed into the Pepsi Center for the party's national convention, many of whom were looking to Biden to fill a role they say presidential nominee Barack Obama badly needs - that of an aggressive and experienced attacker.
"The choice in this election is clear," Biden said. "These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader."
He added later, "Again and again, on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong and Barack Obama had been proven right."
Biden's speech last night capped the third day of the Democrats' highly choreographed convention, which concludes tonight with a speech by Obama in front of an expected crowd of more than 70,000 at the outdoor Invesco Field. Yesterday's proceedings began with the formal nomination of Obama and Biden as the presidential and vice presidential nominees; Obama made a surprise appearance on stage with Biden at the end of the night, and was greeted by a thunderous cheer.
Hillary Clinton, whom Obama narrowly beat for the nomination, brought the crowd to a roar by personally halting the roll call and calling on the convention "in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory" to nominate Obama en masse. It did, and the Pepsi Center erupted into chants of "Yes we can!"
"It is with great pride that I announce that Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee for the president of the United States," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Convention.
The other highlight was former president Bill Clinton, who implored his wife's millions of supporters to follow his lead and get behind Obama, the man he said just months ago was too green for the Oval Office.
"Last night, Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama. That makes two of us," Clinton said, and the crowd roared. "Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States."
Biden, 65, one of the senior Democratic statesmen, brings much to the party's ticket that Obama lacks, notably a deep foreign affairs resume and a familiarity with white, working-class Rust Belt communities such as Scranton, Pa., where Biden was born. But the selection of Biden, of Delaware, also gives Obama an outspoken teammate who, his acceptance speech showed, will not pull his punches.
The attack-dog role, often filled by the vice presidential nominee, could prove especially significant for the Democratic ticket this cycle. Many Democrats including those close to Senator John F. Kerry in 2004 were disappointed four years ago that Kerry's running mate, former North Carolina senator John Edwards, was not tougher on President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
At the same time, Obama routinely decries what he calls the "divisive politics that is all about tearing people down instead of lifting this country up." That means that the Illinois senator, more than past Democratic presidential nominees, cannot afford to come across to voters as overly negative, or he risks undermining the premise of his campaign.
"Senator Obama tries to elevate the dialogue in this country," said David W. Tandy, a lawyer and delegate from Louisville, Ky. "By no means will Joe Biden take it in the gutter, but what he will do is point out the clear distinctions between the parties."
Still, Biden has a delicate task ahead of him as he figures out how to trim McCain's sails without stepping over the line into personal attacks and nasty campaigning. Ruth Ann Palumbo, a state legislator and delegate from Lexington, Ky., said he is the man for the job.
"The American people want negative sometimes. They want contrasts," Palumbo said. "Biden will point out the contrasts."
The McCain campaign immediately struck back at Biden last night, saying, "Joe Biden is right. We need more than a good soldier, we need a leader with the experience and judgment to serve as commander in chief from day one. That leader is John McCain."
Biden last night emphasized his humble beginnings, drawing a connection with middle-class families suffering economically.
"Millions of Americans have been knocked down, and this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up together," he said. "These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election. The American people are ready, and Barack Obama is ready."
Biden's verbosity is legendary in Washington, where he has served in the Senate since he was 30 years old. He is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a past chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He has earned a reputation for quotable lines. Before dropping out of the Democratic presidential primary race earlier this year, Biden memorably attacked Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate, by saying: "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11."
Appearing with Obama as his running mate for the first time Saturday in Springfield, Ill., Biden took a shot at McCain's recent comment that he could not remember exactly how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.
At the same time, Biden's unpredictability as speaker and as a politician has gotten him into trouble. As a presidential contender in 1988, he was forced to drop out of the race after charges of plagiarism and embellishing his academic record.
Last year, Biden spent his first official day as a presidential candidate explaining his comment that Obama was the "first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean." Biden said he regretted his words, and Obama later said he took no offense.
After the convention, Obama and Biden will campaign together through key states that could determine who wins the White House in November. Obama, Biden, and their wives are scheduled to leave tomorrow for Pennsylvania. They are also slated to make stops in Ohio and Michigan, according to the Obama campaign.
The new Democratic ticket will look to steal some media attention from McCain and the Republicans, who gather Monday in St. Paul for their convention. McCain may also unveil his running mate as soon as tomorrow.
After Biden finished his speech last night, Obama walked out and joined him and his wife, Jill, in a hug. "That was wonderful," Obama could be seen saying to Biden. Then Obama took the microphone.
"I want everybody to now understand why I am so proud to have Joe Biden and Jill Biden and [son] Beau Biden and Mama Biden and the whole Biden family with me on this journey to take America back," Obama said, before offering a brief preview of tonight's closing night at Invesco Field. "I look forward to seeing you there."
Scott Helman can be reached at email@example.com
"That double standard"
By Anthony Pierce Jr., Friday, April 3, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Letters to the Editor
If this story had been about Sarah Palin’s daughter, every far left newspaper would have had bold headlines on their front pages (“Video said to show Biden daughter using cocaine,” March 30).
But wait! This is our Democratic vice president who we supported! Never mind, this isn’t news!
Anthony Pierce Jr.
"Biden says Cheney 'dead wrong' on security policy"
AP via news.yahoo.com - 4/7/2009
WASHINGTON – Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday his predecessor, Dick Cheney, is "dead wrong" when he says President Barack Obama's national security policies are making the United States less safe. Biden said the exact opposite is true and added that President George W. Bush's vice president was part of a dysfunctional decision-making system.
"I don't think he is out of line, but he is dead wrong. ... The last administration left us in a weaker posture than we've been any time since World War II: less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world," Biden said. "And so we've been about the business of repairing and strengthening those. I guarantee you we are safer today, our interests are more secure today than they were any time during the eight years" of the Bush administration.
Since becoming president, Obama has ordered the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and banned certain interrogation methods for suspected terrorists.
Cheney last month said the Bush administration programs involving suspected terrorists were critically important and overturning them had made the country less safe.
"I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11," Cheney said.
"I think that's a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles," he said. "President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack," Cheney said.
Biden said he and Obama are working to repair the United States' reputation, which was damaged abroad by the unpopular 2003 invasion of Iraq. He also said Obama's team is working together, unlike Bush's.
"Look, everybody talks about how powerful Cheney was," Biden said. "His power weakened America, in my view. Here's what I mean by that. What I mean by that was, there was a divided government."
He said Cheney had his own sort of national security council and there was the actual National Security Council.
"There was (Secretary of State Colin) Powell, who didn't agree with Cheney," Biden said, "and Cheney off with (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld."
Biden promoted Obama's administration as more conducive to better decision making.
"The strength of this administration is that the president and I work in concert. I am very straightforward in my views. I am as strong — I hold them as strongly as I ever have."
But he said those decisions are made with one National Security Council, "a united national security team."
Biden was interviewed on CNN's "The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer."
"Biden, Kerry offer support, tough love for Israel"
By Farah Stockman, Boston Globe Staff, Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, May 5, 2009
WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden today said a viable Palestinian state, existing peacefully with Israel, "must be achieved" -- sending a strong signal that the Obama administration will push Israel's new right-wing government to move towards peace with Palestinians.
In a speech before 5,000 delegates to the annual conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of Washington's most powerful lobbying groups, Biden said: "Israel has to work toward a two state solution and -- you are not going to like my saying this -- but [do] not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts, and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement . . . This is a show-me deal. Not based on faith. Show me."
Biden's tough love on Israel took up one line in a speech that was otherwise devoted to reiterating Obama's commitment to Israel's security, and Biden's own decades-long personal connection to Israel, starting from the day he met the chain-smoking Golda Meir, Israel's fourth prime minister, when he was a young senator.
But Biden's words could signal rough times ahead for Israel's new right-wing prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who has backed away from endorsing the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu is slated to meet Obama at the White House for the first time on May 18. Today, Obama met with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
At AIPAC, Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, also called on Israel to stop building settlements on Palestinian territory occupied after the 1967 war.
"Nothing will do more to show Israel's commitment to making peace than freezing new settlements activity," the Massachusetts Democrat told the audience, to slight applause. "Settlements make it more difficult for Israel to protect its own citizens. New settlements...don't just fragment a future Palestinian state. They also fragment what the Israeli defense forces must defend, they undercut [moderate Palestinian president Mahmoud] Abbas, and strengthen Hamas by convincing the Palestinians that there is no reward for moderation."
Kerry warned that the " window of opportunity for a two-state solution is fast closing."
Both Kerry and Biden sweetened their message with pledges of unflinching support for Israel's security.
Kerry received his most sustained applause when he suggested that Israel should not be expected to pull out of the West Bank any time soon.
"Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, only to face Hezbollah; Israel withdrew from Gaza, only to face Hamas rockets. Israel is not about to let the same thing happen in the West Bank, nor should they," Kerry said.
Kerry, who recently traveled to Gaza and Syria, also said he pressed during his trip for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and a halt to rocket fire on Israel.
In his speech, Biden also warned that if diplomacy fails to curb the "grave danger of a nuclear-armed Iran," then the United States will have greater international support to "consider other options."
Biden also urged Israel's Arab neighbors to show they are serious about an Arab proposal to normalize relations with the Jewish state if Israel gives up occupied land.
"Now is the time for Arab states to make meaningful gestures to show the Israeli leadership and the people to show that the promise...is real and genuine," Biden said.
Their full remarks are below:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Please. (Applause.) Larry, thank you for that introduction.
Ladies and gentlemen, there's an old -- there's an old Saxon expression. And what it says is -- (applause) -- there's an old expression. This is the man who introduced me to AIPAC. And there's an old expression that says an institution is little more than the lengthened shadow of a man. This is the man right here. This is the man. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I was backstage and the stage director, a lovely young woman, was telling me that she was the stage director, and I told her how well I take orders. (Laughter.) And Larry was speaking, and I said, you see that man? I said, he's been my friend for 38 years. And she looked at me like, that's not possible -- (laughter) -- not that I don't look that old, but that she wasn't born, I don’t think -- when she said it. (Laughter.)
But the truth is Larry, and his magnificent wife, have been just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful supporters of Israel and AIPAC. And he really did, along with one of my closest friends, period, not just in politics, Michael Adler -- Michael Adler's dad in Miami and Larry Weinberg on the West Coast are the two people who gave me my formal education. And I thank them both. Thank you both. (Applause.)
I say to the board and all of you that are here, I'm delighted by your warm welcome. And it's very good to be among friends. I'd like to begin by congratulating your president, David Victor, for -- and the incoming president, Lee Rosenberg. Rosy, we're all pulling for your dad, Big Rosy, and we know how proud he must be right now as you're about to take on your new responsibilities. (Applause.)
I'd like to also congratulate AIPAC's Executive Director, Howard Kohr, and the rest of the staff for another successful conference. (Applause.)
And I want to congratulate an old friend, who I think is probably the most articulate and eloquent speechmaker in the world, Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel -- (applause) -- on the 61st anniversary of Israel’s independence, which we're going to celebrate -- which we celebrated last week. And the President -- President Obama and I look forward to visiting later today with the President. I'm anxious to see him in the White House. (Applause.)
A little over a hundred days ago, our country started on a new path. The citizens of this country made a very fundamental decision. And it began with the historic inauguration of the 44th President, Barack Obama, but it grew -- it grew out of the determination of millions of Americans who desperately wanted to change not only the direction of our country, but quite frankly, the trajectory that the world was on. That’s what the Obama-Biden administration has set out to do, a lofty goal but an absolutely minimum required task -- to change the direction of this country and all the trajectory of the world. We not only want to do it here at home; we believe our fate is inextricably tied to the direction the world is moving in.
But in the midst of change, with all the change you will hear about, there is one enduring, essential principle that will not change; and that is our commitment to the peace and security of the state of Israel. (Applause.) That is not negotiable. That is not a matter of change. That is something to be reinforced and made clear. (Applause.) It seems almost unnecessary to state it, but I want the word to go forth in here that no one should mistake it.
That commitment began when the United States of America emerged from World War II as the preeminent economic, political, and military power in the world, and one of our great Presidents, Harry Truman, reached out to a tiny, struggling state, emerging from the ashes of the Holocaust, and recognized the state of Israel. It’s a commitment that spans generations, and administrations of both political parties. And our job -- obviously you know it's yours -- just so you know, we know it's our job to ensure that that endures.
The bond between Israel and the United States was forged by a shared interest in peace and security; by shared values and to respect all faiths and for all faiths and for all people; by deep ties evidenced here today among our citizens, both Christian and Jew; and a common, unyielding commitment to democracy.
Indeed, we've both experienced recent elections and the peaceful transition of power. I want to congratulate my friend, Prime Minister Netanyahu -- and as they say in the Senate, he is my friend -- for his victory. Bibi and I have been friends for a long, long time -- too long to mention. And you know the old cliché -- imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, I looked at Likud’s website, campaign website -- and on behalf of the Obama-Biden administration, I must say I am flattered. (Laughter.) Take a look at the website. It looked like we were running co-joint campaigns here. (Laughter.) And we didn’t charge Bibi a thing for it. (Laughter.) All kidding aside, a lot of you in the audience, and a lot of board members here, have been my friends for a long, long time
My commitment, though, to Israel did not begin with the friendships that I share on this stage. As the friends on this stage know, and some of you have heard me say, my commitment began at my father’s dinner table. My father was what you'd refer to as a righteous Christian. My father -- we had dinner at my father and mother's home as an occasion to sit down and have conversation and, incidentally, eat, rather than eat and, incidentally, have conversation. And over the years, my commitment was nurtured by many of the people in this room, starting with Larry and many others that are here.
In 1973, as a 29-year-old or just 30 -- just turned 30 years old, elected United States senator from the state of Delaware -- I made my first overseas trip to Israel. It was on the eve at the time unknown of the Yom Kippur War. I had just come from Cairo, and visited the Suez Canal. And I then went to visit the Prime Minister, Golda Meir, which was one of the great honors. I was asked not long ago, what are the two most meaningful meetings I ever had as a senator. And they were with the freed later president of South Africa, and Golda Meir. (Applause.) They both embodied everything I had been taught -- different races, different religions, different regions -- the same tenacity and the same open heart.
I sat across the desk from the Prime Minister. And she, as many of you know, is a chain smoker. She continually smoked. And she had a set of maps behind her, the old maps that were on rollers. There was a whole big slew of them, like eight maps in one set. And she was describing to me the Six-Day War and reading letters from the front, from young Israelis, most of whom had died defending their country. It was very moving. She kept flipping the maps up and down and pointing to different battles. I'm sure many of you had the experience. I'm sure you had the experience, Larry.
And there was a young man sitting next to me who didn't say a lot. His name was Rabin. And we had a conversation that lasted -- I won't put a time on it, but I'm quite confident it was over an hour. It was a long time. It was a great moment for a young man like me. It was meaningful. I learned a lot. But it also gave me a sense of the degree of -- how do I say it -- the pain, the history, the hope, the pragmatism, the grit of an entire nation. And almost it seemed in mid-sentence, she looked at me -- and my good friend, Michael Adler, heard me say this before, it was -- kind of startled me -- she said, Senator, would you like a photo? It was, like, by the way, do you want to go to the ball game?
And I said, well, of course, Madam Prime Minister. And the office in those days that she had, there were double doors that opened up onto a hallway. And we walked out, and there were photographers arrayed. And we stood next to one another, looking straight at the camera, at the photographers and the cameras. But she was talking to me without looking at me. She said the following. She said, Senator -- looking straight ahead, but talking -- she said, Senator, you seem worried. You look like you're worried. And I turned to her, and I said, well, Madam Prime Minister, I am. The picture you just painted -- in those days 60 million Arabs, 2 million Jews, et cetera.
And she put her hand out -- still looking at the camera -- on my arm. She said, Senator, don't worry. We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle here. We have no place else to go. (Applause.)
And, for me, I thought at the time -- some of you know, she was so engaging -- I thought at the time, I'm probably the only person in the world she ever said that to. (Laughter.) And it was for me, at that moment, her comments crystallized for me everything I'd learned at my father's table, and everything about the basic responsibility of the United States to be a partner in ensuring that there will always, always be a place for Jews of the world to go -- (applause) -- and that place always must be Israel. (Applause.) It's real. It's serious. It's compelling. It's the only certainty, the only certainty. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here today to tell you something you already know, and I assure you this -- President Barack Obama shares that same commitment. (Applause.) His support is rooted in his personal connection to the Zionist idea to which he spoke about last year at this conference. He said last year that when he was a child, and I quote, "I was drawn to the belief that you could sustain a spiritual, emotional and cultural identity, and I deeply understood the Zionist idea that there is always a homeland at the center of our story."
Ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama's commitment was reinforced -- not that it need to have been -- by his two relatively recent trips to Israel, when he met with Israeli leaders from across the spectrum -- and you all know it's a very wide spectrum in Israel; by the powerful, searing experience that he had visiting maybe in a sense the holiest of all places, commemorating the Holocaust; by seeing, first-hand, Israel's unique security dilemmas from a helicopter with top generals -- the sort of experience I had in '73 when I stood on the Golan Heights and realized if you had a really good arm you could literally throw a grenade down in the territory that could do damage to Israelis.
He also had it reinforced by traveling to the northern border, and met with families whose homes had been destroyed by rockets fired by Hezbollah and Hamas into their villages. But the President and I both know that ultimately we'll be judged not by our commitment and our verbal assurances to you or to anyone else or to the state of Israel, but by the results of the commitment we have made. (Applause.)
We believe that the results we seek, including a secure Israel at peace, can be best achieved by taking a new direction in our foreign policy; by, first and foremost, reestablish America's preeminent leadership in the world. (Applause.) The nation who asserts it leads, but has no one following, is not leading. We must reassert the confidence that we once had, and the confidence the world once had in us to lead the world.
When America has confidence -- the confidence of our allies and our friends, and the broad support we need in the world -- not only is America stronger but Israel will be stronger, because America is able to be a more efficient partner and effective partner, and our adversaries and Israel's adversaries know that as well.
In the Middle East, we stand for the premise that the status quo of the last decade has not served the interests of the United States or Israel very well. It has not enhanced the peace and security of the region, no matter how good the intention. I went to a Catholic grade school. When you got in trouble, the nuns would make you -- I'd say, but, sister -- and they'd make you write on the board a hundred times after school: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. All the good intentions of the last decade have not resulted in a more secure, more stable Middle East; a more secure, more stable Israel; a more secure, more stable United States.
So we are working to change that by responsibly ending the war in Iraq, by refocusing our efforts on Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda, by engaging all countries in the region, including those with whom we have overwhelming disagreements, in order to advance our national security interests.
We are intensely focused on avoiding the grave danger, as Larry spoke about and others have, as well, including my good friend, John, of a nuclear armed Iran. (Applause.) A nuclear-armed Iran risks an arms race in the region that would make every country less secure; presents an existential threat. What we have tried with Iran in recent years has obviously not worked. What will work remains to be seen.
Since 2000, Iran has installed thousands of centrifuges and produced over a thousand kilograms of low-enriched uranium; not capable of use in a nuclear weapon -- low-enriched -- but nonetheless, they have produced that. Instead of arresting the danger; in the last six years, the danger has grown. It has not been arrested. We're determined to change that. That's why we will pursue direct, principled diplomacy with Iran with the overriding goal of preventing them from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The United States will approach Iran initially in the spirit of mutual respect. We want Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations, politically and economically. That's a path that the Islamic Republic can take if it so chooses. Or that government can choose a different future: one of international pressure, isolation; and one which nothing is taken off the table.
If our efforts to address this problem through engagement are not successful, we have greater international support to consider other options. And ladies and gentlemen, don't kid yourselves -- international support matters, as we've learned over the last eight years. (Applause.) We must sometimes act alone, but it's always stronger when we act in unison.
Given the situation we inherited, we know we don't have unlimited time to make this assessment. Iran also has played a dangerous role in the region supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and undermining many of our friends and those who claim to be our friends. Indeed, these proxies are the tools in my view, our view, that Iran uses to exploit conflicts like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- use it to their advantage.
In this way the continuation of Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab -- Arab-Israeli conflicts, strengthen Iran's strategic position. They give Iran a playing field upon which to extend its influence, sponsor extremist elements, inflame public opinion -- all which are counterintuitive. It's counterintuitive if you think about it, that Iran's Shia influence in a Sunni Arab world would be able to be extended.
There are many reasons to pursue an end to these conflicts. It gives Israelis peace and security they deserve; to help the Palestinians fulfill their aspirations of an independent and better life; to ease tension in the regions -- in this region.
Today, one of the most pressing reasons may be to deprive Iran of the ability to extend its destabilizing influence. Again, it's counterintuitive if you think about its ability to extend its influence in the region.
That's why from day one of this administration we began to make a strong, sustained effort on behalf of peace. The President decided that we must be engaged; we must take risk on behalf of peace for Israel. The President appointed one of our most tenacious diplomats to lead that effort, George Mitchell, and the President is strongly and personally committed to achieving what all have basically said is needed -- a two-state solution, with a secure Jewish state of Israel living side by side in peace and security with a viable and independent Palestinian state. (Applause.)
He and I both believe that it's absolutely necessary to ensure Israel's survival as a Jewish democratic state that this occur. (Applause.) That is also the solution that Israel and the Palestinians committed to in the road map and reaffirmed in Annapolis. It can be achieved. It must be achieved.
There's an old expression, which Larry will get a kick out of, and it relates to Christianity. G.K. Chesterton once said, "It's not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it's been found difficult and left untried." Well, the truth of the matter is, the fact that peace has not occurred does not mean peace cannot occur.
Same time, we'll pursue a secure and lasting and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. The Israelis and its Arab neighbors have sufficient common interest to bring this goal within reach. Progress towards peace has only been possible when people -- when people were willing to think differently; to take risks; to make a principled compromise. That's why we have to pursue every opportunity for progress while standing up for one core principle: First, Israel's security is non-negotiable. (Applause.) Period. Period. Our commitment is unshakeable. We will continue to provide Israel with the assistance that it needs. We will continue to defend Israel's right to defend itself and make its own judgments about what it needs to do to defend itself. (Applause.)
Secondly, all of us have obligations to meet, including commitments Israel and the Palestinians made in the road map. The Palestinian Authority must combat terror and incitement against Israel. The United States and its partners have provided funding and training for a reformed Palestinian security force, which has impressed everyone, including the Israeli security officers with its recent demonstrations of professionalism and effectiveness. We are right now seeking funds from Congress to expand this program. But Israel has to work towards a two-state solution. You're not going to like my saying this, but not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts, and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement based on their first actions -- (applause) -- its access to economic opportunity and increased security responsibility. This is a "show me" deal -- not based on faith -- show me. Prime Minister Netanyahu has important ideas about how to achieve some of these objectives and we look forward to working with him to help develop them when he comes to visit.
The Quartet and the Arab states also have clear responsibilities. One of the most important is to support the Palestinian Authority with the tools and funds it needs to govern on the West Bank, develop and reform its institutions, help the people of Gaza work toward returning to Gaza. We are doing our part with major assistance packages currently before the Congress. We expect others to do theirs.
The Arab states should act now, not later, to build upon -- (applause) -- to build upon the Arab Peace Initiative -- a constructive combination that contains the promise of a cooperative and comprehensive peace, but now is the time. Now is the time for Arab states to make meaningful gestures to show the Israeli leadership and the people that the promise of ending Israel's isolation in the region is real and genuine. They must take action now -- show me. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, finally, the world must continue to make clear to Hamas that the legitimacy it seeks will only come when it renounces violence, recognizes Israel, and abides by past agreements -- period. (Applause.) These are not -- some say, when I repeat that and the President says it, that these are unreasonable. These are not unreasonable demands -- they're basic standards of international conduct.
We're working hard to provide assistance to Palestinians in Gaza that does not benefit Hamas, and to coordinate with our allies to end the smuggling of weapons in the Gaza, which continue. And we demand -- we demand the immediate and unconditional release -- unconditional release of Gilad Shalit -- (applause) -- after nearly three years -- three years of captivity. It is not acceptable. (Applause.) And we remain committed -- we remain committed to seeing him returned safely to his family.
We will also explore opportunities, as the Israelis are, for progress between Israel and Syria. Peace between Israel and Syria could reshape the region. We will ensure that it does not come if it comes at the expense of Israel's security or Lebanon's sovereignty and independence.
The search for a secure and just and lasting peace in the Middle East has frustrated many and all who have come before us. We understand the immensity of the challenge. We recognize the hard choices that must be made. But we also know this: The path we have been on in recent yeas will not result in security and prosperity for Israel or the Palestinians, nor will it produce the stability and progress that's needed in the region to ultimately guarantee Israel's security.
Look, we know there are different views in this room. We know there are different views in this town about how to move forward. Nowhere are these issues debated more openly and vividly than in the streets of Israel and in the Knesset, which is an overwhelming tribute to its democracy. But I believe the critical question is not where we stand today, but how we see tomorrow, and what we're prepared to do to get there. This administration sees and seeks a future of lasting peace and security in which Israeli children can leave behind the tyranny of rockets and terror; when Israeli mothers, as they send their children off to school, do not have to worry about whether or not they will come home; or Palestinian children have full opportunities to live out their dreams, and the entire Middle East does not have to live under the dread of a nuclear cloud.
Delaying the pursuit of these goals is not an option. It's easier, but it is not an option. And the longer we wait, the harder it will be. Now is the time to work together for the promise of a better day, and for the success and strength and security of our most-treasured ally, Israel.
Thank you very much. God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. (Applause.)
KERRY'S PREPARED REMARKS
When this Conference met a year ago, we were in the heat of a Presidential primary, and the Dow was hovering around 13,000. So it’s an understatement to say, things change—and this year’s AIPAC conference arrives at a moment of enormous change. Israel has just sworn in a new Prime Minister and America has a President barely past his first hundred days. So leaders may change. Times may change. But one thing we know: America’s support for Israel’s dream and Israel’s security—that will never change!
This is the promise made by every President from Harry Truman to Barack Obama: America and Israel are now—and always will be—partners in a special relationship. Israel is more than just an ally and a fellow democracy. We share the bonds of faith, freedom, and friendship. We share an interest in a stable, secure, and peaceful Middle East. And we share in the belief that we are strongest when we stand behind our common values—and when we stand together.
Just like America, Israel has been a place of refuge for the tired and the poor. Huddled masses of Holocaust survivors traveling by moonlight in makeshift boats, victims of Soviet oppression yearning to breathe free, the dramatic airlifts of Ethiopia’s Beta Israel, and even a few Jews from Boston, Massachusetts—all have come to Israel’s shores, and all have learned for themselves what the writer Amos Oz meant when he called Israel "a dream come true."
It has been my privilege these last twenty-five years to visit Israel more times than I can count. I have walked through the quiet neighborhoods and sacred spaces of Jerusalem and the high-tech bustle of downtown Tel Aviv. So I can tell you: from the history buried in every hill of the Galilee to brand new solar panels popping up across the Negev, Israel is a place that never fails to amaze.
We admire Israel for a democracy as spirited as anywhere in the world. We admire Israel for the heroism of giants like Yitzhak Rabin who as a young man risked his life in war, then as an older man, gave his life for peace. And we admire Israel for the closeness of a community where one family’s anguish over a single kidnapped soldier is shared by an entire nation. I met with Gilad Shalit’s father Noam last week. As a parent I share his anguish, but I am confident that the day will come when Gilad is returned to his family and to the land he loves.
Of course, Israel needs more than our admiration and sympathy—Israel needs our support. And I will do everything I can as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure that the $30 billion in security assistance that Congress pledged to Israel is delivered in full: America will continue our military aid, and Israel will keep its military strength.
But as we all know, AIPAC’s concerns don’t end with aid to Israel. The Jewish people gave us the phrase, tikkun olam— to heal the world. And today I want to thank AIPAC for your help in achieving an American foreign aid budget that allows us to tackle big challenges such as global hunger, global climate change, and global disease. As you may know, some in Congress recently tried to cut $4 billion from the foreign aid budget. And given the tough economic environment, we were facing a hard fight to get those funds restored. Hours before the vote, AIPAC weighed in and started working the phones. At the same time, the rock star Bono was making the rounds. Ladies and gentlemen, with a one-two punch like that on our side, our opponents didn’t stand a chance! Today, hungry people will eat and sick people will get life-saving medicines in part because AIPAC knew its mission couldn’t end with Israel—so, thank you, AIPAC.
Because tikkun olam is an American value, too, we have responsibilities of our own. We need to reach out to the world and stand strong against the cruel sting of bigotry, anywhere and everywhere it rears its ugly head. Jewish history is full of painful reminders that words of hatred, left unchallenged, often become acts of hatred. Recently, a conference against racism became a stage for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to slander the world’s only Jewish state—and the President was right to boycott the Durbin II racism conference in Geneva. I’ll tell you: while listening to people burst into applause was a vivid reminder that our fight is far from over, I was encouraged to see dozens of delegates vote with their feet and storm out in protest.
Too many outside this room don’t realize the reality of violent anti-Semitism even in a place like Venezuela, where a synagogue was attacked at gunpoint and defaced with anti-Semitic slurs. In an interconnected world, anti-Semitism that goes unanswered anywhere is a threat to all of us.
I have felt this sense of vulnerability in Israel, too. I recently took a short helicopter ride with Tzipi Livni from Jerusalem to the southern Israeli town of Sderot. Looking down on the farms and forests, it struck me that David Ben-Gurion’s dream of making the desert bloom has come true. But from the air it’s also unmistakable how small Israel is, and how close its people live to their adversaries.
You see it too in the rocket casings in Sderot, left by the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza these last eight years. When the sirens of Sderot start to sound, people have just fifteen seconds to find safety. I heard of children in the second grade who had spent literally every day of their lives never more than fifteen seconds from danger. Fifteen seconds, ladies and gentlemen. No child should live that way.
That same day I visited a town just across the border in Gaza, and I delivered the same message as in Sderot: if terrorists in Quincy, Massachusetts, were launching rockets into Boston aimed at innocent civilians, we’d have to put a stop to it, just as the Israelis were forced to respond. I said in Gaza, point blank: the rockets have got to stop! Not in a month, not in a year, but right now!
And as we know too well, the support for these militants comes from a number of places, but especially from Iran, the source of so many of the dangers Israel faces today.
Most troubling of all is the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Every Israeli leader has made it clear me that they view a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat. And when a government pursuing nuclear capability asks its people to imagine a world without Israel, we must take that threat seriously. A nuclear-armed Iran would embolden Hamas and unleash Hezbollah. A nuclear-armed Iran could spark a nuclear arms race in the world’s most dangerous neighborhood. When we say that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, we mean it.
President Obama has said he wants his Administration to begin direct talks with Iran, and we need to give this strategy a chance. The reality is, the old Iran policy simply didn’t work. Red line after red line was crossed, until Iran manufactured enough low-enriched uranium to eventually develop a nuclear weapon if it chooses. And Iran learned there was no significant price to be paid for crossing those lines.
When we have engaged effectively with hostile nations in the past, we did so fortified by moral authority, committed allies, and the strongest military in the world. That’s exactly how we should engage Iran today—not to accept the unacceptable, but to make sure Iran never gets a nuclear bomb.
We all know—the President knows, the Vice President knows, and I know—that outreach alone is not a strategy: if diplomacy is to work, it must be backed by the prospect of tough, escalating, multilateral sanctions strong enough to actually change behavior. Greater Russian and Chinese cooperation must be a top priority, and demonstrating that we’ve made a legitimate attempt at across-the-board diplomacy is the best way to enlist them for tougher action down the road. And the bottom line is, the world needs to agree on an enforceable red line, then we need to enforce it.
One place to start turning up the pressure on Iran is in Syria. When the war broke out in Gaza, the Syrians were talking indirectly to Israel, and doing so over the objections of Iran. For all our justifiable grievances, it benefits America, it benefits Syria, and it benefits Israel if President Assad improves Syria’s behavior and looks west for new relationships.
Frankly, the rising threat of Iran has also presented unexpected new opportunities for peace. Arab leaders in Cairo, Amman and Riyadh are actually more worried about Iran today than they are about Israel. Whereas once the Arab world voted unanimously for the “three no’s” – no dialogue with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no peace with Israel – there are now three very different no’s which dominate many discussions in the region—and they are no’s that AIPAC can get behind: no Iranian meddling, no Iranian dominance, and above all, no Iranian nukes!
This is a fundamental shift, and our challenge is to translate the new dynamics into tangible progress that makes Israel stronger in the region, and moves us closer to peace.
One of the reasons peace talks at Camp David failed in 2000 was a lack of support from Arab states. Now, for the first time, through the Arab Peace Initiative, every Arab country has agreed to the basic formulation of land for peace, recognition of the state of Israel, and normalization of relations. Of course, Arabs cannot wait for Israel to make all the sacrifices before they begin actually improving relations—they should start doing so right now.
That’s why we need to expand this Initiative into a Regional Road Map that fleshes out the promise of peace between Israel and the entire Arab world. Israelis and Palestinians have the Quartet’s Roadmap; a Regional Roadmap would sign all of the key players onto a series of specific steps and commitments toward normalizing relations– and it would give Israel something it needs from its neighbors: real accountability.
The first step for Arab leaders is to tell Hamas the same thing I said in Gaza: The rockets must stop. Going forward, Arab leaders need to take reciprocal steps to demonstrate that they are sincere in their wish for peace and begin to legitimize Israel in the eyes of their people by treating Israel like a normal country – ending the boycott, letting El Al fly over their countries, and meeting Israeli leaders. And most of all, the poisonous rhetoric emanating from too many Arab TV stations and too many preachers’ pulpits has got to stop. Books in the hands of schoolchildren must tell history as it happened, and show maps with countries as they really exist! You cannot make peace out of one side of your mouth and preach hate out of the other.
Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves who must reach an agreement that they can live with. Here’s what I know: the people of Israel want peace, they deserve peace, and America is committed to help them achieve peace.
Nothing will do more to silence the skeptics and win over the silent majorities of peace-loving people everywhere; nothing will do more to ensure Israel’s long-term security – that Israel’s children have a thriving country ten, twenty, and fifty years from now– than two states, one Israeli, one Palestinian, living side by side in peace and security.
The big question is: how do we get there? I understand why Israelis and those who care about Israel have doubts about the peace process: We have seen too much process, and too little peace. Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon, only to face Hezbollah missiles. Israel withdrew from Gaza, only to face Hamas rockets. The Israelis are not about to let the same thing happen in the West Bank – and nor should they. And now they look across at a divided Palestinian society and ask “who am I supposed to make peace with?”
The truth is, for years, we have all talked about the lack of a Palestinian partner for peace – one that can deliver for its people, win a battle for hearts and minds with the extremists, and take real steps to ensure Israel’s security. But none of us have done nearly enough to make this a reality. With Palestinian elections on the horizon, we must act now to strengthen those Palestinians willing to make tough sacrifices for peace. Hamas has already won one election—we cannot allow them to win another. That’s one reason why I believe that improving the daily life and freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank will also help protect Israel.
We also need to find creative ways to deliver humanitarian aid and reconstruction assistance to the people of Gaza without empowering Hamas in the process. We can’t make the mistake in Gaza in 2009 we made in letting Hezbollah and Iran rebuild southern Lebanon in 2006. Half of Gaza is under eighteen years old, and if there is no light at the end of the tunnel for these children and few prospects for a normal life, then they will remain susceptible to Hamas’ ideology of hate.
Obviously, the Palestinians themselves must do enormous work to uphold their end of the bargain. Even as we work with the international community to provide more support, we need to ask more in return. It’s no secret that Fatah lost the 2006 election to Hamas in part because of a widely held perception that they were corrupt and inefficient. Much progress has been made since then, but Fatah still needs to earn back the respect of its own people—and they need to demonstrate that they are willing to crack down on terror in the West Bank.
Israel, too, must take hard steps forward on the path to peace. And nothing will do more to show Israel’s commitment to making peace than freezing new settlement activity. We will defend Israel’s security unflinchingly— we always have, and we always will. But the fact is, settlements make it more difficult for Israel to protect its citizens. New settlements, especially in sensitive areas like E-1, don’t just fragment a future Palestinian state – they also fragment what the Israeli Defense Forces must defend. They undercut President Abbas and strengthen Hamas by convincing everyday Palestinians that there is no reward for moderation. And they empower the enemies of peace throughout the region.
I know that lasting peace with the Palestinians will not come easily. But I also know that if we want the security for Israel that only peace can bring, then we must try now—because the window of opportunity for a two state solution is fast closing. And if the children I saw in Sderot, and those I saw in Gaza, can hope for themselves, if they can persevere for a better future, then we must all help them get there.
That is an obligation I felt long before I first went to Israel. Since then, I have stood on top of the Golan Heights, walked the border with Lebanon, and sat in a shelter in Kiryat Shemona where children had to hide from Katyusha rockets. I have passed by an Israeli street corner within hours of a lethal attack there, and visited the remains of a nightclub in Tel Aviv where people were enjoying their youth one minute and had it snatched away the next. And I have flown an Israeli jet in Israeli airspace and narrowly avoided a border-crossing into Egypt because the airspace was so narrow. All of these experiences have created an indelible impression of Israel’s journey and of the daily struggle of everyday Israelis to live safe and normal lives.
As I prepared to come here today, I found myself thinking about my first trip to Israel, twenty five years ago. I’d only been in the Senate for a few months when a small group of Jewish friends from Massachusetts convinced me to visit Israel. They were led by my friend Lenny Zakim, whose commitment to fighting discrimination lives on through the Leonard Zakim Bridge in Boston. Lenny wanted me to get the facts, he wanted me to understand Israel’s passion, and he wanted me to see and hear its remarkable story up close.
Lenny was doing the same kind of advocacy that so many of you will do later today—talking to Congressmen, exercising your rights and responsibilities as citizens, and making your voices heard.
I have so many memories of that first trip, but the strongest of all is standing on the mountaintop at Masada—in the very place where, thousands of years ago, the people of Israel gave their lives for the dream of a Jewish homeland.
We looked out, our small group, at that vast desert plain where young Israeli soldiers swear a new oath against the test of history, to defend Israel against new threats, new weapons, and new challenges.
We stood at the end of the cliff and altogether we shouted across the chasm - across the desert – “Am Yisrael Chai, Israel lives!” And across the silence we listened as voices came back - faintly we heard the echo of the souls of those who had perished – “Am Yisrael Chai!” “The State of Israel lives. The people of Israel live! Israel lives!”
The faces have changed, the era has changed, but the message today is the same: “Am Yisrael Chai!” “Israel lives!” Thank you.
"Messing with Joe Biden"
The North Adams (Massachusetts) Transcript Online, Letters, July 15, 2009
To the Editor:
As the economy continues to drift, and while there appears to be signs -- some in the housing market, some in the credit market -- that it might be improving, I’ve been waiting for the stimulus to kick in and supply the needed push and JOBS that it was meant to create.
President Obama said in his glowing speech upon signing the $787 billion stimulus that Joe Biden would be overseeing the bill’s implementation and that "nobody messes with Joe."
I have come to the conclusion that the reason the stimulus is not effective is that Joe Biden is responsible for its implementation -- and he has failed in all aspects.
Where is Joe Biden? It reminds us of the game we played as youngsters: hide and seek. But no one is seeking! No words from Joe of confidence or upbeat forecasts or pleas for patience. Just silence. This coming from Biden is certainly different but does not settle one’s concerns.
Have you checked out the administration’s stimulus Web page lately? Now we see that "Joe" is going to be overseeing our efforts in Iraq. The administration’s point man. Remember Biden’s theory on Iraq from the campaign? He wanted to split the country into three ethnic sections. Let’s hope Obama sends him over there with a healthy supply of duct tape.
Apparently President Obama feels that Biden has done so well on the stimulus that he can handle another project. And "nobody messes with Joe."
God help us all!
July 13, 2009
"Biden to reassure allies in Ukraine, Georgia"
By Ross Colvin, July 17, 2009
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden travels to Georgia and Ukraine next week to reassure the two U.S. allies that the Obama administration has not abandoned them in its efforts to "reset" ties with Russia.
Biden's trip comes just two weeks after Obama visited Moscow for talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin aimed at improving ties that hit a post-Cold War low under former President George W. Bush.
"Our efforts to reset relations with Russia will not come at the expense of any other countries," Biden's national security adviser, Tony Blinken, said on Friday.
Russia regards the former Soviet states as part of its sphere of influence, a view Obama has strongly rejected. Moscow has also fiercely resisted proposals -- led by the Bush administration - to bring the countries into NATO.
Blinken stressed that the message of continued U.S. support to Ukraine and Georgia was not a blank check and Biden would press them to carry out economic and democratic reforms.
In Kiev, Biden's first stop, he will deliver a major speech and urge Ukraine's squabbling leaders to make "hard choices" on energy sector reforms seen as vital for the country's recovery from a severe economic contraction.
The International Monetary Fund last month called on Ukraine's leaders to agree on restructuring the country's ailing state energy firm, Naftogaz.
A European Union official said in Brussels on Friday that Ukraine had promised to raise household gas prices and enforce payment of bills to strengthen Naftogaz's finances.
The IMF and other international institutions are discussing financing for Ukraine to pay for Russian gas. In January a dispute over payments led Moscow to turn off supplies to Ukraine of Russian gas destined for Europe for two weeks.
"Our hope is these leaders will live up to the promise of the revolution and make the hard choices to work together," Blinken said, referring to the mass "Orange Revolution" rallies that swept President Viktor Yushchenko to power.
He said the Obama administration was concerned about the "political paralysis" in Kiev that has seen constant bickering between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Biden's trip to Georgia comes nearly a year since his last visit, during Russia's invasion to thwart an assault by Tbilisi to try to reestablish control over its breakaway region of South Ossetia.
In Tblisi, Biden will push for constitutional and electoral reforms, saying that, as in the case of Ukraine, its revolution "remains a work in progress." Georgia's opposition has accused President Mikheil Saakashvili of monopolizing power since the 2003 "Rose Revolution."
On the politically thorny issue of NATO membership, Blinken said it was up to Ukraine and Georgia to decide whether they wanted to join the alliance.
Obama has been less aggressive than Bush in pushing for the two countries to sign up to NATO, which has said they will join eventually but has declined to put them on an immediate path to membership.
"US Vice President Biden hits nerve in Russia"
By Lynn Berry, Associated Press Writer, July 27, 2009
MOSCOW – An interview U.S. Vice President Joe Biden gave to an American newspaper was front-page news Monday in Moscow, where his characterization of Russia as a weakened nation hit a raw nerve.
Biden said Russia's economic difficulties are likely to make the Kremlin more willing to cooperate with the United States on a range of national security issues.
"I think we vastly underestimate the hand that we hold," he said in an interview to The Wall Street Journal published Saturday.
Biden's comments appeared to catch the Kremlin by surprise, coming less than three weeks after President Barack Obama said on a visit to Moscow that the U.S. wants to see a "strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia."
"It raises the question: Who is shaping U.S. foreign policy? The president or members of his team, even the most respected ones?" said Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Monday downplayed suggestions that Biden was setting a different U.S. policy from that laid out by the president.
When asked whether Obama thought Biden had gone too far in his remarks, Gibbs said the president stated his views on Russia during his recent visit and the vice president agrees with those views.
Gibbs said both leaders believe Russia will do its part to improve relations with the U.S.
Most Russian newspapers put Biden's interview on their front pages Monday, with headlines casting doubt on Washington's commitment to forge a more constructive relationship with Moscow.
"Joe Biden unexpectedly returned to the rhetoric of the previous Bush administration," the newspaper Kommersant wrote.
Moskovsky Komsomolets said Biden, with his "boorish openness," showed what the Obama administration really thinks about Russia. "We should respond to the Yankees in the same way," the newspaper wrote. "Any other language, unfortunately or fortunately, they do not understand."
The papers jumped on Biden's comments about Russia's demographic and economic problems.
"They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable," Biden said in the interview.
Some newspapers and commentators noted that Russians say the same things about themselves. The question, they said, was why Biden made the comments so quickly after this month's summit by Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev, and after Biden's own trip last week to Ukraine and Georgia, former Soviet republics whose growing ties to the West are deeply resented in Moscow.
Sergei Rogov, director of the government-funded USA and Canada Institute, was quoted in Kommersant as saying the interview was aimed in part at addressing criticism in the U.S. that the Obama administration was too soft on Russia.
Some commentators said it was wrong to see Biden as diverging from the policy set by Obama, as suggested by Prikhodko.
Biden was most likely expressing Washington's "Plan B," said Vladimir Milov, a former deputy energy minister who now heads his own think tank. If the Kremlin proves unwilling to compromise, the United States was likely to reduce relations to a minimum and push Moscow to the periphery of world politics, Milov wrote in the online Gazeta.ru.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an apparent effort Sunday to reassure Moscow, saying on NBC "Meet the Press" that the administration considers Russia to be a "great power."
"Every country faces challenges," she said. "We have our challenges, Russia has their challenges. There are certain issues that Russia has to deal with on its own."
Associated Press writer Julie Pace in Washington contributed to this report.
"Tracking stimulus cash"
Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor, boston.com - September 28, 2009
The office in charge of overseeing the $787 billion economic stimulus package opened its new and improved website for business today.
The portal ( www.recovery.gov/Pages/home.aspx ) features several different ways to track how the money is being spent, including by state (Massachusetts has received nearly $5.6 billion so far) and by agency.
“Today’s launch of the latest version of Recovery.gov marks a significant step forward in our efforts to provide unprecedented transparency and accountability of Recovery Act dollars at work," Vice President Joe Biden, put in charge by the president, said in a statement.
"Visitors to the site now have at their fingertips agency-level information about every area of Recovery Act spending through new interactive maps, graphs and other user-friendly features – and this is just the beginning. Starting next month, this pioneering project will go even farther with the posting of data directly from recipients showing how they have put Recovery dollars to work on projects nationwide. I applaud the work of Earl Devaney and his team at the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board leveraging the latest technology to provide the public with more information about their taxpayer dollars at work than with any previous program in the history of our government. And I look forward to watching Recovery.gov continue to grow along with the Recovery Act.”
"Biden and Cheney spar over antiterrorism policies"
By Steven R. Hurst, Associated Press Writer, February 14, 2010
WASHINGTON – Pingponging across the airwaves, Vice President Joe Biden and predecessor Dick Cheney bickered Sunday over terror trials and interrogations, credit for success in Iraq and the long-running effort to contain Iran's nuclear program.
Biden called Cheney "misinformed or he is misinforming" on current national security strategies. Cheney said President Barack Obama wasn't taking the al-Qaida threat seriously. But, in a marked change of tone, the former vice president acknowledged that the Bush White House struggled with how to bring suspected terrorists to justice.
Highly partisan public skirmishes between the Obama White House and Cheney — the result of the former vice president's unusual public criticism on a successor administration — have become standard fare. And the back-and-forth that was set up in Sunday's sequential appearances of television talk shows did not disappoint.
Biden struck first, declaring that Cheney's attacks on Obama's commitment to fighting terrorism ignored the facts.
"We've eliminated 12 of their top 20 people. We have taken out 100 of their associates," said Biden. "They are in fact not able to do anything remotely like they were in the past. They are on the run. I don't know where Dick Cheney has been. Look, it's one thing, again, to criticize. It's another thing to sort of rewrite history. What is he talking about?"
Cheney did not answer directly, instead insisting that Biden was "dead wrong" to assert that a fresh Sept. 11-style strike was unlikely, calling a nuclear or biological attack by al-Qaida "the biggest strategic threat the United States faces today."
Even so, Cheney appeared to dial back the rhetoric, acknowledging that the Bush administration too was divided on whether terror suspects should be charged and tried in federal civilian courts or taken before military tribunals.
"I can remember," Cheney said, "a meeting in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing of the White House where we had a major shootout" — one that he said he lost — about civilian versus military trials for terrorist captives.
"We never clearly or totally resolved those issues. These are tough questions, no doubt about it," he said on ABC's "This Week."
Biden got in the first licks on NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview taped late Saturday in Canada, where he was attending the Vancouver Olympic Games. On Cheney's assault on the Obama administration, Biden said "his assertions are not accurate."
Cheney demurred on that allegation, choosing instead to take on again Obama's decision to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In doing so, he admitted for a second time that he had been at odds with the majority of Bush administration officials on the decision to release prisoners from the military lockup to their home country when cases against them were determined to be legally untenable.
"I didn't think that releasing anybody was the right thing to do, unless you had evidence that, you know, there was a mistake of some kind," Cheney said.
On Afghanistan and Obama's decision to increase U.S. forces in the 8-year-old war, Cheney gave Obama high marks. But he derided Biden for giving the Obama administration credit for winding down the war in Iraq without acknowledging the work of President George W. Bush. However, Biden had said: "We built on the positive things that the Bush administration had initiated. And we have jettisoned those things that were negative."
"For them to try to take credit for what happened in Iraq is a little strange. It ought to go with a healthy dose of 'thank you, George Bush,'" Cheney said.
On other disputed topics:
_Biden acknowledged that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the professed Sept. 11 attack planner, still might face trial in a military tribunal, despite the administration's earlier decision to take him before a civilian federal court in New York. That now seems unlikely given hot opposition from city authorities and members of Congress. Cheney said he believed Mohammed should and eventually would be tried by the military at a military facility.
_Cheney advised the Obama administration against ruling out a military attack on Iran even as it works for a new set of United Nations sanctions. "I don't think you want to eliminate the military — the possibility of military action. I think that's essential to give any kind of meaning at all to negotiations over sanctions," he said.
The back and forth began with Biden on NBC, moved to ABC's "This Week" with Cheney and ended with Biden appearing live on CBS's "Face the Nation.
There Biden got in the last word over Cheney: "Thank God the last administration didn't listen to him in the end" on how to handle terrorism suspects. Declaring that Obama was acting on the precedents set in the Bush White House, Biden said of Cheney, "His fight seems to be with the last administration."
"Quote of the day"
Vice President Joe Biden to President Obama, shortly before the president signed the health-care bill into law:
"This is a big f**kin' deal."
Date: March 23, 2010
"Biden Says Democrats Will Bounce Back"
WMUR.com - May 25, 2011
NASHUA, N.H. -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in New Hampshire on Wednesday night, and he said he believes things are looking up for Democrats.
After the drubbing Democrats took in 2010, it didn't look like they would be coming off the ropes anytime soon; but Biden said at the annual McIntyre-Shaheen 100 Club dinner that their chance to bounce back could be right around the corner.
"The reports of the demise of the Democratic Party are premature," Biden said.
The vice president said a number of special election victories by Democrats around the country -- including New Hampshire -- is reason for optimism.
"Across America, people in those states are getting a real dose of the unvarnished agenda of the new Republican Party: the Republican Party circa 2010. And they don't seem to like it one bit," Biden said.
While flogging the Grand Old Party for its attacks on unions and proposed overhaul of Medicare, Biden said that America is seeing President Barrack Obama in a new light following the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.
"(Bin Laden's death) is the boldest decision and the boldest undertaking that any president has undertaken on a single event in modern history," Biden said.
Earlier in the day, Biden stopped by the Chrysler plant in Manchester to highlight the corporation's recent repayment of $10 billion in government loans and the national resurgence of the automotive industry.
"They're (automotive companies) on track to sell more automobiles this year than any time since 2006," Biden said.
State Democrats said they feel like they're poised for a similar comeback.
"Well not just Democrats (are poised to make a comeback), but independents and moderate Republicans who are just so upset about what Bill O'Brien and his Republicans are trying to do to our state of New Hampshire," former state Democratic Party Chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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