Profile in Courage: Joe Biden in Israel

It’s never good politics in America to criticize Israel. It’s especially not good politics to criticize Israeli plans for East Jerusalem, which lies at the epicenter of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute.

Doubtlessly the Israeli government was counting on this when they announced a plan to build 16oo new homes in East Jerusalem. Biden’s trip was supposed to demonstrate American support; indeed Biden’s planeside remarks pledged a total U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and declaring that the bonds between the United States and Israel were “unbreakable.”

The Israeli Interior Ministry picked today to announce their expansion plans, in full defiance of the Obama administration’s plea to suspend building to give peace talks a chance. They must have figured that Biden would be too polite a guest and too much in awe of America’s pro-Israel sentiments to complain.

Not our Joe! Here’s how the leading Israeli daily, Haaretz, described Biden’s reaction:

“I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem,” Biden said.

The American vice president added that the “substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now and runs counter to the constructive discussions that I’ve had here in Israel.”

“We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them,” Biden said adding that the “announcement underscores the need to get negotiations under way that can resolve all the outstanding issues of the conflict,” Biden said.

“The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians and for Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

Biden’s ethics—setting principle above friendship—trumped politics. He gets an ‘A’ for ethics as well as an ‘A’ for courage.


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8 Responses to “Profile in Courage: Joe Biden in Israel”

  1. Judith Ellis Says:

    Bravo, Mr. Vice-President. Thanks also to you, Bob, for this brave post.

  2. Ethics Bob Says:

    I shouldn’t have described Haaretz as Israel’s leading daily. It’s the oldest, and, some think, the most influential, but it’s a very distant third in circulation.

  3. boydriley Says:

    Where’s Biden’s bravery when Hammas rockets an Israeli town?

    • Ethics Bob Says:

      Biden has spoken out against terror and murder for a long time. His bravery now consists of criticizing Israel–which he has just said is unbreakably tied to the U.S.–when Israel is taking another action that diminishes chances for Israel and her neighbors to make peace.

  4. boydriley Says:

    As a soldier of 22 years, I can tell you that bravery NEVER consists solely of criticism. What else has he done? I’ll answer for you – nothing.

  5. Ginns64 Says:

    I must take issue with you on the 1600 settlements. I argue this, not as an Israelophile–as a matter of fact, the concept of s Jewish nation state has never appealed to me. In fact I deplore it, as did cousin Asher, plus Justices Frankfurter and Brandeis.

    I feel that the announcement of the expansion was certainly ill-timed, and it was probably issued by some lower tiered diplomat from the far right.

    However, any arguments for expansion follow simple reasoning (to me), as follows:
    1. Israel won the Six Day “defensive” war, which enabled them to own and occupy the whole city of Jerusalem.
    2. Israel entered peace talks under U.S. pressure 6 or 7 times.
    3. Palestinians rejected each offer culminating in the big refusal in Maryland during Clinton’s term. 4.The final settlement for Jerusalem is yet to come because of Palestinian intransigence (I say Palestinian because Israel now OWNS the disputed “DEED” to the city.
    5. Historical precedence: After WW11 the Japanese and Germans “accepted” our peace offer willy nilly . Just because time has elapsed since the Israel wars doesn’t change the dynamics. As a matter of fact , Israel has been much softer in its offers.
    6. Israel is a sovereign nation, and like the proverbial waiters in the Catskills: they take orders from no one. For the record, neither do we.

  6. Ethics Bob Says:

    I don’t agree with your historical comparison. Within about three years after WW II, Germany–at least West Germany–was self-governing and in possession of all its territory (except for Alsace-Lorraine, which has shifted back and forth between Germany and France. Japan lost no territory to the Allies, except that the USSR seized a small part of northern Japan (as they seized part of eastern Germany.

    The overwhelming difference between the end of WW II and the end of the Six Day war is that the defeated nations of WW II were restored to sovereignty and dignity–conditions that have been denied to the Palestinians, granted that much, arguably most, of the blame is theirs.

  7. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Unless you’re Israel—then you can fool me over and over « Ethics Bob Says:

    […] Israel picked that occasion to announce a plan to build 16oo new homes in East Jerusalem. Biden denounced the Israeli plan, but to no […]

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