Joe Biden and Obama 'humiliated' by Israel? Well, not exactly.
Commentators have called Israel's announcement of new settlement construction in East Jerusalem during Vice President Joe Biden's visit a humiliation. But the Palestinian leadership still appears willing to give talks a chance.
When US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel Sunday for the highest level visit by a US official since President Barack Obama took office, it was all sunshine between him and his host and old friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Biden had arrived with a twofold mission. First was to goose efforts to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which both sides had agreed to tentatively resume the day before.
But he was also there to reassure an Israeli public left skeptical by President Obama's decision to make a major speech in Cairo last year on a Mideast swing that did not include Israel of America's enduring friendship.
Sure, Israel had announced a small settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, something the US had opposed, on the eve of his visit. But Biden didn't appear overly concerned, and the next day he spoke at a press conference that left many Israeli officials euphoric.
Standing next to Prime Minister Netanyahu at a press conference on Tuesday, Vice President Biden assured him of America's amity.
“Bibi, you heard me say before, progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the United States and Israel,” Biden said. “There is no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security. And for that reason, and many others, addressing Iran’s nuclear program has been one of our administration’s priorities.”
But that was practically the moment when the wheels came off the visit.
At about the same time on Tuesday that Biden was speaking, Israel announced it would build 1,600 new homes for ultra-orthodox Jews in East Jerusalem, an area Israel annexed after the 1967 six-day war, and which neither the US nor the rest of the international community has ever recognized as legally Israel's.
The euphoric mood quickly went downhill. Though Israel said the announcement had nothing to do with Biden's trip, many commentators said it would likely be taken that way by an Obama administration pushing for a full settlement freeze as a confidence-building step with Palestinians.
Sharp response across the political spectrum
Time Magazine wrote: "having been publicly humiliated by the Israeli announcement ... Biden made no secret of his pique."