WASHINGTON – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday that the Biden administration will support Israel as it works to counter the threats posed by Iran’s aggressive behavior.
Thomas-Greenfield — the highest-ranking Biden administration official to address the J Street 2021 annual conference — said that the administration shares the common goal with Israel to never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, but intends to achieve this through diplomacy.
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"The U.S position on the JCPOA is clear; we are ready to return to the agreement if Iran returns to full compliance with its nuclear commitments. And as demonstrated by our participation in ongoing talks in Vienna, we are working with international partners to determine whether or not that is possible," she said.
Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, who also serves as chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, echoed the remarks calling an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon "unacceptable," and adding that the best way to achieve this is via diplomacy and that he supports the Biden administration's efforts to secure a compliance-for-compliance return to the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. "Neither we nor Israel can afford to begin a march toward war. That should be the very last possible option."
Meretz lawmaker Yair Golan, a retired major general in the Israeli military, said Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal made Israel and the Middle East less safe. "Diplomacy is the way to mitigate the Iranian threat to the region and to Israel. The JCPOA was not perfect, but there are no perfect agreements. However, it was better than the alternatives that were relevant at the time," Golan said.
Golan called for U.S. re-entry into the JCPOA as a first step in combating Iran's progress to military nuclear capabilities. "To rehabilitate the international coalition and to empower the more moderate leadership in Iran, Israel should help the Biden administration lead these efforts as an ally, not to interfere as we did in 2015," Golan said. "Israel should be a partner to help the P5+1 and the original like minded countries to make the agreement longer and stronger."
Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the most vocal proponents in Congress for re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, said that opponents of the JCPOA were proven wrong, "not just in theory but in practice."
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“The theory of their case was that tough U.S. sanctions, extended for a longer period of time will get the Iranians to come to the table on everything else," Murphy said. "Well, we now have the verdict on that policy, that is exactly what Donald Trump tried for four years.”
Reengaging the Palestinian people
Thomas-Greenfield told the left-wing, pro-Israel group's confab that she will continue to stand by Israel at the UN, "especially when it is unfairly and disproportionally singled out by one sided resolutions and actions. It's not that we aren't willing to discuss issues related to Israel and the Palestinians at the United Nations. Far from it, rather it is that we won't stand for single minded targeting that doesn't get us any closer to peace."
The UN ambassador noted that the administration remains steadfast in its support of a two-state solution despite seeming "quite distant," noting that the Biden administration intends to "restore U.S. leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reengaging in the Palestinian people and stopping the practice of treating Israel as a polittical football for cheap partisan gains."
"The United States is once again engaging with the Palestinains leadership and working through the Quartet alongside our other international partners to encourage constructive steps that improve the situation on the ground," she said, noting recent restored assistance to the Palestinians and to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency.
She also echoed the administration's support for Israel’s recent efforts to build relationships with its neighbors in the Arab and Muslim world during the Trump administration, saying that the administration "will work to expand the circle of peace in the Middle East which is not only good for Israel, but for the whole region."
The United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba, meanwhile, told the conference that his country's normalization pact with Israel created more space for diplomacy. "As we worked on the Abraham Accords and stopped annexation, we've always supported the Palestinian cause and continue to remain committed to the two state solution," Al Otaiba said. "The agreement suspended annexation and created more space for diplomacy. It created a new dynamic in the peace process, and the UAE hopes to see this lead to real progress for the Palestinian people."