During a Monday morning speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Vice President Joe Biden warned that President Barack Obama “is not bluffing” when he threatens to use force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“We have a shared strategic commitment. Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period. Period. End of discussion. Period. To prevent, not contain… prevent,” Biden said to prolonged applause from the crowd of 13,000. “Presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff, and President Barack Obama is not bluffing.”
The vice president’s speech at AIPAC’s annual conference came three weeks before President Obama is scheduled to make his first trip to Israel as commander in chief. While in Jerusalem, Obama will receive Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction for making a “unique contribution to the security of the State of Israel.” Still, many of the president’s political opponents have questioned Obama’s commitment to the Jewish state — a criticism that Biden sought to rebut in his speech.
“Even as circumstances have changed, one thing has not: our deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel. That has not changed,” Biden said. “That will not change as long as I and he are president and vice president of the United States. It’s in our naked self-interest, beyond the moral imperative.”
The AIPAC summit also provided some closure on an American political battle. On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised his American counterpart, Chuck Hagel, saying “As Secretary of Defense he will no doubt serve his country with the same pride and honor with which he served both on the battlefield and in Congress.” Hagel’s nomination was delayed by a Republican filibuster, in large part due to his 2008 reference to AIPAC as a “Jewish lobby” — a remark for which Hagel later apologized.