Vice President Joe Biden said the United States and Israel need to “get over” the latest flare-up in tensions after the announcement of new Israeli settlements and insisted that the essential elements of the relationship between the two nations remain the same.
Biden said he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday night and said that that the status quo is “not sustainable for the Palestinians, for the Israelis or, quite frankly, for the United States.”
But the vice president denied a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, a daily Israeli newspaper, that said he told Netanyahu that Israel’s position on settlements puts U.S. troops at risk.
“No, I never said that,” the vice president said in our exclusive interview in Durham, N.C.
“Here's what I said, though: The truth of the matter is that the status quo does impact on our interest not only between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but in the Arab world and beyond.”
Biden said that it is “undeniably in our interest to make sure [Israel] is absolutely secure.”
Biden called the Israeli Interior Ministry’s announcement of new settlements last week “provocative” and said it was “obviously designed by some in Israel to undermine a peace process George Mitchell finally got — our negotiator – finally got back on track.”
“And so the message is: We've got to get over this. Granted, I condemn the announcement made by that planning council,” he said. “The irony is, even that planning council acknowledging not a single new unit can be built at least for a year and maybe never will be built, it was provocative.”
More from our interview with the vice president:
BIDEN: Here's what I said, though. The truth of the matter is that the status quo does impact on our interest with not only between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but in the Arab world and beyond. Because we are a great nation supporting Israel and when we look like we're not trying to do anything to get this, what is — and by the way, everybody knows the contours of what a final peace agreement will be. They essentially know that there's a two-state solution. That the borders are going to be adjusted based on some swaps and so on and so forth. So it makes us — it puts in jeopardy not the lives of Americans, but, OK United States, you say you really care about this, what are you doing. What are you doing? And to that extent it impacts on us.
But it also impacts on us when there is lack of stability in the Middle East. Once the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is settled, a lot of other pieces are going to fall in place. A lot of pieces — Syria, the relationship with Israel and the rest of the world and the ability to establish relations, you know….
…If I had said back in '73 or '78 or '82 that everyone knew what the solution is, two-state solution, I would have been laughed out of the United States Senate or Israel. But think how far this has come. It's like – the metaphor I use — it's like the red zone in football. The last 10 yards are a heck of a lot harder than the first 90 yards, and we're down to 10 yards.
TAPPER: You use the word "condemn" which is a word that carries with it some diplomatic –
BIDEN: That's right.
TAPPER: — significance. Some supporters of Israel say the same week that you were there, on Thursday I believe, a square in the Palestinian territories was named after a woman who led a terrorist against Israeli civilians that killed civilians, children, and one American photojournalist. Where was the condemnation of that?
BIDEN: Well, they did not name square when I was there. So that didn't happen –
TAPPER: They waited until you left.
BIDEN: They waited till I left. But — and one of the things I said while I was there to the Palestinians, Abbas and Fayyed, I would condemn that, they should not do that. Subsequently, since I got home and they did that, not only did we condemn that, we also condemned the violence used by the Palestinians that recently occurred in Jerusalem.
So look, the point I made over there is to the Palestinians and the Israelis. I will, this administration will condemn anything that is designed to reinforce the distrust and prevent the peace process from going forward, no matter who does it, Palestinian or Israel.
For a full read-out of our conversation click HERE.