Biden to Netanyahu: Obama Stands Behind Kerry's Peace Efforts

Message follows criticism by Israel's defense minister that Kerry is 'obsessive and messianic.'

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden passed a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday from President Barack Obama, saying the latter fully supports Secretary of State John Kerry's diplomatic initiative to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

A senior U.S. official told Haaretz that Biden communicated Obama's position and “made it clear that the United States places extremely high value on reaching an agreement that produces two states living side by side in peace and security, but also just underscoring how important Israel’s security requirements are for us.”

In recent days, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon has criticized the U.S. secretary of state both on and off the record.

Ya'alon said Kerry is "obsessive and messianic" according to a report on Tuesday in the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth. Ya'alon reportedly said he hopes "Kerry gets a Nobel Prize and leaves us alone."

Last week, identical statements were published in the main story of another daily, Israel Hayom. Ya'alon's aides had denied he made those remarks but the new report indicates those are indeed his views.

Biden arrived in Israel on Monday to act as the United States' official representative at the funeral of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. On Tuesday evening, he dined with Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem.

They met for four hours, privately at first, but in the second half of the meeting both sides brought in their aides. A senior U.S. official said the two main topics of conversation were the peace process and Iran's nuclear program.

The official emphasized that Biden “was not there to negotiate. He said that Secretary Kerry is at a critical juncture in these negotiations and there are important, specific issues being worked out between the parties." Biden did not want to “get into the nitty-gritty” and kept the conversation on a more strategic level. They talked about how Netanyahu views a possible future - both the long-term future involving a two-state solution and the more immediate future of how to advance toward a deal.

The official said the meeting with Netanyahu was not an attempt to pressure the prime minister, but only meant to clarify shared goals, and to discuss ways of closing the gaps in the peace process “without in any way stepping into the middle of a negotiation that Secretary Kerry is ably carrying out.”

The official added that Biden updated Netanyahu on the impending implementation of the joint action plan between the six world powers and Iran over the latter's nuclear program, and discussed "our ongoing efforts to ensure that the sanctions architecture remains intact."

Biden and Netanyahu also talked about what a comprehensive solution would look like, eliciting the prime minister’s views on a comprehensive solution. They also talked about Iran’s “destabilizing activities and support for terror."

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden shakes hand with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the state memorial service for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.Credit: AFP

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