Vice President Joe Biden said Monday night that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was leading the country “in the wrong direction” hours after a bus bombing in Jerusalem wounded at least 21 people.
In a speech to the Israel advocacy group J Street, Biden did single out Palestinian leaders, including Mahmoud Abbas, for declining to condemn specific acts of terrorism carried out against Israelis. The vice president said he didn’t know whether Monday’s explosion was a terrorist attack, but added that the U.S. condemns “misguided cowards” who resort to violence.
However, the bulk of the Biden’s criticism was reserved for Netanyahu, reflecting diminishing patience within the White House as President Barack Obama’s term nears an end, compounded by deep disagreements over Iran and a strained relationship between the two leaders.
Biden suggested that Netanyahu’s approach raised “profound questions” about how Israel could remain both Jewish and democratic.
“I firmly believe that the actions that Israel’s government has taken over the past several years — the steady and systematic expansion of settlements, the legalization of outposts, land seizures — they’re moving us and more importantly they’re moving Israel in the wrong direction,” Biden said.
He said those policies were moving Israel toward a “one-state reality” — meaning a single state for Palestinians and Israelis in which, eventually, Israeli Jews will no longer be the majority.
“That reality is dangerous,” Biden added.
Biden, who met in March with both Netanyahu and Abbas, said he came away from that trip discouraged about prospects for peace anytime soon. Still, he said the U.S. is obliged to guarantee Israel’s security and to “push them as hard as we can” toward a two-state solution despite “our sometimes overwhelming frustration with the Israeli government.”
“There is at the moment no political will that I observed from either Israelis or Palestinians to go forward with serious negotiations,” Biden said.
The vice president’s remarks to J Street, a dovish group that frequently criticizes Netanyahu, came at the height of a campaign season in which candidates have been scrutinized over their adherence to traditionally stalwart U.S. support for Israel.
Ahead of Tuesday’s primary in New York, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has sparked controversy by saying the U.S. should be even-handed and mustn’t always say that Netanyahu is right.
In another dig at Netanyahu and his Likud party, Biden singled out for praise Stav Shaffir, a young member of Israel’s parliament and a Netanyahu critic from the left wing of Israeli politics.
“May your views begin to once again become the majority opinion in the Knesset,” Biden said.(Fox News)
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