Although neither the White House nor the State Department released statements or posted greetings on the 67th Independence Day of the nation of Israel last Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden did attend the annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington and delivered remarks. The speech was vintage Joe Biden, beginning with his opening line:
Ron, Mr. Ambassador, my name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel.
He then plunged into a recounting of his own family's blend of Catholicism and Judaism, telling the crowd that "the dream of every Irish-Catholic father is for his daughter to marry a Jewish surgeon."
I was thinking as Ron was saying that he doesn't know what it’s like in Catholic families -- whether we argue as much as allegedly occurs in Jewish families. Well, I settled all that. Two of my three children married Jews. (Laughter.) And you want to see what happens then. (Laughter.)
As a matter of fact, my daughter -- I -- the dream of every Irish-Catholic father is for his daughter to marry a Jewish surgeon. (Laughter.) And she did.
As the vice president turned to the subject at hand, Israel's Independence Day, he immediately landed in gaffe territory, misstating the country's age by a decade:
Look, the fact of the matter is that 77 years [sic] ago, at midnight on May 14, 1948, against all odds, in the wake of searing tragedy, defiant in the face of overwhelming military numbers massed on its borders, the modern State of Israel was born.
Biden then likened the relationship between the United States and Israel to family, alluding to the recent disagreements between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Obama administration:
[W]e’re like family. We have a lot to say to one another. Sometimes we drive each other crazy. But we love each other. And we protect each other.
The vice president spent much of his speech recounting the Obama administration's support of Israel ("No president has ever done more to support Israel’s security than President Barack Obama") and detailing why the current negotiations with Iran and the pending deal over nuclear development is in Israel's and the world's best interests ("[I]f the final deal on the table that doesn’t meet the President’s requirements, we simply will not sign it.")
Biden drew his remarks to a close by retelling the story, which he acknowledged he often repeats, of his meeting with the legendary Israeli prime minister Golda Meir:
I’ll conclude -- and my friends kid me and I imagine Ron may, as well -- telling you the story about my meeting with Golda Meir. The reason I do it had a profound impact on me, one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life. I think I’ve met every major world leader in the last 36 or 37 years in the world, in a literal sense.
But I remember meeting for close to an hour with her. She went through what happened in the Six-Day War, and the price that was paid. And I just had come from Egypt. They let me go to Egypt and go to the Suez Canal. And I was saying to she and Rabin that I thought that they were getting ready to attack again. And everyone including my military and Israeli military thought I was crazy.
I remember driving from Cairo all the way to out to the Suez. And you could see these great plumes of dust and sand. But none it seemed isolated. It turns out it was maneuvers taking place in the desert. And I was really worried. And we went through, and she painted a bleak, bleak picture -- scared the hell out of me, quite frankly, about the odds.