Thursday, March 11, 2010

Biden - Do You Recall Your 1986 Speech?

Today, US Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Israel and he announced in a Tel Aviv University speech that

The U.S.-Israel bond is unbreakable, but the United States will keep both sides accountable for their actions...The bond was "impervious to any shifts in either country and in either country's partisan politics," Biden said to applause... there's no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel's security, none -- no space." Biden was blunt, however, when it came to his anger at being blindsided by the announcement of the housing starts, when he was in the West Bank meeting Palestinian leaders. "That decision undermined the trust required for negotiations," Biden said, and under instructions from President Obama, "I condemned it immediately and unequivocally." He added, to applause: "Sometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth."

That was today. But does Biden recall thye truth of his own words of some years ago?

In November 1986, then Senator Joseph Biden spoke in a Los Angeles synagogue. It was a different time, with different needs, for all involved. His words, however, had quite a different resonance from what we heard today.

Here are some excerpts from his remarks:

...for the over three decades that Israel has been a nation-state in modern history, the relationship between the United States and Israel and Israel among its neighbors has been somewhat like a roller-coaster ride. There have been great euphoric highs...and very abysmal lows, remember what the atmosphere and attitude was, the bilateral relationship between our countries were at the time of the bombing and the shelling of Beirut? Remember how anti-Semitism, that had kept itself in the closet for so long found easy access when we found people talking about, asking us to choose between Reagan or Begin? You'll recall how low things got. It is the nature of the relationship. It has been like a roller-coaster ride...Of course there are racists like Farrakhan who are spreading their venom across America. But, by and large, things have been fairly quiescent in terms of American public opinion of late... fact, Israel cannot afford to make mistakes. There is little or no margin for error on the part of Israel. It's like that old joke that they tell in the Southern part of my state about the chicken and the pig are walking along in the barnyard and the pig says, "Farmer Brown's birthday is today, we gotta do something nice for him." The chicken says "That's a great idea. I know just what we should do. We should give Farmer Brown a ham and egg breakfast this morning." And the pig looks at the chicken and says, "For you that's a contribution. For me it's a total commitment."

...The politics of the Middle East have changed. There's an Islamic fire that's raging in the region, the extent to which we do not know and the impact of which we have no notion....

Another thing has changed. The great men are gone...[and] there's a different breed of women and men in the Senate today, unfortunately. Not bad men and not bad women, but those without an institutional memory. Those that have no notion of what Israel is all about. And consequently, in the Israel in minds of my born-again friends in the United States Senate, particularly on the right, takes a place of biblical proportions, but in a foreign policy sense, diminished consequence.

...there is now, for the first time, evidence of a growing and sophisticated lobby, a lobby that is, in fact, the Arab lobby. A lobby that is well-organized, well-financed and engaged in a very sophisticated public opinion program. Particularly targeted in those areas where there are congressional, particularly Senate supporters, who come from states that have little or no Jewish constituencies...

...We need, as we muddle through this new Middle East policy that seems to be germinating in this administration and in this country, to disabuse ourselves of several myths. The State Department seems to be permeated with several mythical notions that are extremely dangerous to US security and Israeli longevity. You know, Voltaire said, "If we believe in absurdities, we are bound to commit atrocities." One of the things that has permeated American foreign policy for well over a decade is the first myth and that is Saudi Arabia is capable of being and defending US interests in the region. That Saudi Arabia, and how many times did you hear this over the last three years, Saudi Arabia will be the emissary for our interests in the region. How many times did you turn on the television or turn on the radio and hear that a Saudi emissary is in Damascus today to speak about such and such, a Saudi emissary is gone to such and such to speak… When have they ever produced a single thing? Fact of the matter is, it is unreasonable for us to expect the Saudis to do much...The second myth is that the PLO is capable of being dealt with. Ladies and gentlemen, maybe because I'm Irish, I understand the PLO better than most of you do. Because I understand the IRA. The fact of the matter is, the PLO is the product of the leadership of the lowest common denominator. Even if Yassar Arafat wanted peace. Even if he were not a butcher. Even if he were a man who could be dealt with personally. He cannot deliver the PLO. And so it is a mythical notion for us to continue to strive for an avenue of access through Arafat to the PLO...

...Israel, especially if they have a more blunt-spoken leader than Peres, will find themselves in serious trouble in the world court, the world court of public opinion. And you might say, as committed Jews, that it doesn't make any difference. Well, let me tell you something, it makes all the difference in the world. For without the United States, as terrible as it is to say, Israel is in deep, deep, deep trouble. And the only way the United States can continue the kind of support we've been able to give is with the basic backing of the vast majority of the American people. Or at least their acquiescence...

...we have to change the focus of the argument of this country. My father taught his children, as I'm sure you taught yours, about the moral commitment to Israel. As I said at the outset, for millions of Americans for whom the Holocaust is distant history, almost unbelievable, almost something that is beyond comprehension, and as time goes on that memory will be dimmed no matter how hard we try, and we must try to keep it from being dimmed, we have to, in addition to making the moral argument, we have to be prepared to more articulately and forthrightly stand before the American people and explain that Israel is in the naked self-interest of the United States...let me tell you something. We are getting an awfully big bang for the buck, strictly from a security standpoint, in terms of what interests of the United States are protected as a consequence of that little democracy being so strategically placed and so tenacious in its defense as Israel is. And we should make that case without apology to the American people.

And the last point I will raise with you is until we as a government state unequivocally that Israel is the first among equals in the region we will continue to have a problem. For I truly believe, true as I am standing here, that one of the reasons why the Arab world, independently and in concert with one another, continues to try to chip away at this relationship, is that we give them reason – wittingly or unwittingly – to believe that they can be successful. We should simply state, as we do, I might add, in Europe, as we do in other parts of the world, that Israel, Israel, is our friend and if you wish to be our friend, you must be a friend of Israel...We still have people in this country, intelligent people, at universities, in the State Department, in the Defense Department, fundamentally believe we made a bad bargain in 1948. They don't believe it out of anti-Semitic reasons. They sit down with their equations and like many short-sighted women and men and say, "Aha! We chose the 2 and a half million in the little barren country over the 60 million with the oil. Ergo, we made a bad mistake." Ladies and gentlemen, if Israel did not exist, G-d forbid, if it did not exist, or if Israel was located where Spain is located, do any of you believe there would be any peace in the Middle East? Is there any reason to believe there would be tranquility in the region? Why do we allow ourselves as a nation to continue to talk about the single greatest stumbling block to peace in the region as being the Palestinian question? Eliminate that for a moment. Do any of you believe that Iran would not be at war with Iraq? That Egypt would not have serious difficulty with Libya? And Syria with Lebanon? What are we talking about? Why do we continue this? One of the reasons we continue it is the last and final myth. I'm sorry to take so much of your time. The last and final myth is oil.

Oil. Black gold. The thing we need so badly...
Will Vice-President Biden reflect on what Senator Biden once knew and expressed?

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