So it turns out that Joe Biden did not, in fact, tell unnamed Israeli officials that "It's doubtful if the economic sanctions will be effective, and I am against opening an additional military and diplomatic front."  Israel Army Radio reported this last week, asserting that Biden told the Israelis to grow accustomed to a nuclear Iran, because that's what they were getting.

I know this will come as a surprise to long-time Israeli media watchers, but the Army Radio report was completely unsourced (before there was a blogosphere, there was Israeli journalism), which didn't stop Ha'aretz and The Jerusalem Post, among others, from reporting it as truth from Sinai. My obvious guess is that it was placed by someone on the right who believes that Barack Obama won't do what the Israelis believe they might have to do themselves, namely, bomb Iran.

Pinning this on Joe Biden, however, betrayed a complete lack of sophistication about American politics. Joe Biden is one of those politicians who feels Israel in his guts; he's been a stalwart friend to the country, and its prime ministers, since he came to the Senate. Biden is many things, a big mouth among them -- maybe this is why Jewish voters like him so much, actually -- but he can't be accused of unfriendliness to Israel, and he can't be accused of sanguinity in the face of Iran's threats against Israel.

In any case, when confronted with the Biden camp's flat-out denial, the Israeli papers have decided to, in essence, retract the story. Here's part of a statement from Biden's spokesman, David Wade: "This is a lie peddled by  partisan opponents of Senators Obama and Biden and we will not tolerate anyone questioning Senator Biden's 35-year record of standing up for the security of Israel....  Senator Biden has consistently stated - publicly and privately --  that a nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat to Israel and the United States and that we must prevent a nuclear Iran. As recently as July 2008 in a Foreign Relations hearing, Senator Biden reiterated his long-held view on this subject and stated that: 'Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon would dramatically destabilize an already unstable region and probably fuel a nuclear arms race in the region. It is profoundly in our interest to prevent that from happening.'"

Here's the Jerusalem Post retraction. Whoever's peddling this ought to try for a softer target than Biden the next time.

 


We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.