Biden Speaks To Powerful Pro-Israel Group

(AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
Vice President Biden today delivered the closing speech at the 2009 AIPAC Policy Conference. AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group whose Monday night dinner was attended by more than half of the members of Congress.

In his address, the vice president called for Israel, now led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to commit to a two-state solution in order to broker peace with the Palestinians.

"You're not going to like my saying this," Biden said, "but [it's important to] not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow Palestinians freedom of movement."

Later today, President Obama is scheduled to hold a closed meeting with Israel's 85-year-old president, Shimon Peres. Peres, like President Obama, supports the two-state solution, but Netanyahu, who comes to Washington later this month, has signaled he will not actively pursue it.

Netanyahu has instead called for a "triple track" solution involving the resumption of negotiations for peace, strengthening the Palestinian "security apparatus" and removing obstacles to Palestinian economic success, according to the Associated Press.

In an interview with National Public Radio today, Peres had this to say: "We promised not to put in new settlements, and we shall respect it. We don't have to be urged to make peace, we want it. We gave all the land, all the water, all the oil back to Egypt. We gave all the land, all the water back to Jordan."

"The difference under the previous government between the Palestinian and Israel was the percent of land," he added. "Believe me, it's bridgeable."

In his AIPAC address, Biden said the U.S. would continue to help Israel maintain its national security and said that the Palestinians must do their part to achieve peace, as the AP notes. He also sought to calm fears that diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran will not compromise Israeli security.

Iran "plays a dangerous role in the region, supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, and undermining many of our friends," Biden said. "Indeed, these proxies are the tools Iran uses to exploit conflicts, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to its advantage."

AIPAC has used the meeting to "reassert [its] clout," according to the New York Times, after two former AIPAC analysts were charged with espionage for disseminating national security information. (The Obama administration is now seeking to have the charges dropped.) California Rep. Jane Harman, a Democrat, was heard in a wiretapped conversation with an AIPAC supporter offering to intervene on behalf of the analysts in exchange for help in securing the top spot on the House Intelligence Committee. She denied intervening and was never given the position.

Harman "was greeted with sustained applause" at the conference, according to the Times. Other guests, in addition to Biden and the members of Congress, included Newt Gingrich, Rahm Emanuel, and Peres. Netanyahu addressed the conference by satellite.