The White House

Office of the Vice President

Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden at a Bilateral Meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres

President’s Residence
Jerusalem

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  As I was telling the Prime Minister and the Speaker today, I consider you among one of the fewer than a handful of men in the world who possess not just great experience but genuine wisdom.  And you know and I say to your friends in the press here that I’ve always sought it.  I’ve sought it over the past 40 years, and I mean that sincerely.

Mr. Sullivan and I, my national security adviser, on the way back from the Sharon ranch, were talking about -- he raised the point that you may be the most eloquent and articulate man he’s ever heard.  And I’ve pointed out that not only are you eloquent and articulate but you possess great wisdom.

President Obama wanted me to be here today not merely -- primarily to pay our respects to a great war hero, but a man whose life seemed to, from my perspective at least, mirror the changes that occurred in Israel since its inception as a nation.  At the very outset, the overwhelming necessity was literally to keep from being pushed into the sea by hostile neighbors that were more powerful and had larger armies and more weapons.  And he led the fight and changed the circumstance where Israel is no longer in physical jeopardy as a consequence of being overwhelmed; Israel is a significant power in its own right. 

But as that changed, it seemed to me as though former Prime Minister Sharon not changed but changed his focus.  And I said today that one of the last utterances he made, major statements, was he wanted to work on peace.  God only knows what would have happened if the last eight years had been one where he was still in that vineyard working for peace.  I think it reflects a change in the region, the need to -- the understanding that Israel’s ultimate security rests in a genuine accommodation with the Palestinians that it is born out of secure borders that are peaceful. 

And I was saying earlier, Mr. President, that the Arab Spring is an incredibly historical phenomenon, but I think our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to look back on it and say, why did they think they could manage it?  It has a life of its own, and we can only hope to be wise enough to help steer it in the right direction.

But the one place where there’s a possibility for an island of stability, quite frankly, is what you said, and that is between the Palestinian people and the Israeli people in two secure states respecting one another’s sovereignty and security.  And the President believes and I believe that this is one of those opportunities, one of those moments in history where it has to be seized.   

As you know, my friend -- and he is my close, close friend for a long time -- John Kerry, is passionate about creating and trying to help accommodate that outcome.  And there are difficult decisions.  There are going to be very difficult decisions.  And I, like you, believe that the Prime Minister is up to it.  It’s not easy.  None of this is easy. 

And let me say one last thing, Mr. President.  I said to you privately, as we were waiting for the actual burial, that it is truly remarkable that, from my perspective, God blessed this great country at its inception with such a group of exceptional men and women, exceptional leaders.  It seems as though if you look at your generation of leaders from Ben Gurion to many who I’ve gotten to know, I knew, from Golda Meir to Rabin to all of the men and women who were -- as they say, to steal a phrase from a book written in the United States -- “present at the creation” -- 

PRESIDENT PERES:  -- by Dean Acheson.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Yes, exactly right.  And it was -- and so part of it was to -- even though all of you had different political points of view, you are all absolutely convicted about the necessity for there to be a nation state of Israel as the ultimate security for Jews around the world.  And I still believe that to be the case.

And I think, and I’m convinced that all your life’s work has been leading to this moment.  And God willing, it will be able to be seized.  God willing, Abu Mazen will be up to the task because he’s got to make some difficult decisions.

So I’m looking forward to having a chance when we sit alone to plumb your -- the depths of your knowledge about how you see things actually unfolding in a detailed basis.  But let me conclude by saying -- and I’ve said this many, many times -- that it’s an honor to be with you.  And you’re one of those men who every time I meet with I learn something.  And I appreciate that.  And so I’m anxious for us to be able to now have -–

Thank you.

END

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