Did Joe Biden Say What People Think He Said?

By Jeffrey Goldberg

An Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, reported that Vice President Joe Biden, on his exciting visit to Israel, told the country's leaders that their actions were endangering American troops in the Middle East:

People who heard what Biden said were stunned. "This is starting to get dangerous for us," Biden castigated his interlocutors. "What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace."

The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel's actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.

Since I do not have overwhelming faith in the stenographic and interpretive skills of some Israeli reporters, I called the White House to ask if Biden actually said this. It would be quite something, of course, if he did. I spoke with a senior administration official last night who accompanied Biden on his trip to Israel, and he said that Biden did not say tell the Israelis that their actions were endangering American troops. Here is what the official told me:

"The assertion I read in the newspaper suggested that the Vice President said something to the effect that Israeli actions are endangering American soldiers. He never said that, and there's no basis to assert that he did. It's nothing he said and I don't know how it was inferred.

What he did say in a meeting with the prime minister and his senior advisers and his own team was that the U.S. is doing a number of things in our national security interest, and in Israel's national security interest, and they include a strong effort to build a coalition against Iran's nuclear program; deploying 200,000 troops in conflict areas in the region; standing against efforts to delegitimize Israel in various international bodies, sometimes virtually alone; acting decisively against terrorists in very significant ways; and building probably the strongest defense cooperation relationship with Israel that we've seen, including on missile defense. And he said that the extent to which Israel aggressively pursues peace makes these efforts easier."

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/03/did-joe-biden-say-what-people-think-he-said/37534/