Biden, Netanyahu condemn Abbas for silence over terror attacks

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016. (Hillel Maeir/TPS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a much-anticipated press conference with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday afternoon, March 9, in which the two criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his failure to denounce the wave of terror.

Following Netanyahu’s statement, Biden stated his disapproval of Abbas’ failure to speak out against the attacks  “Let me say in no uncertain terms: The United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts. This cannot become an accepted modus operandi,” he said.

Biden went further, drawing attention to the attackers’ deliberate targeting of civilians: “They’re targeting innocent civilians, mothers, pregnant women, teenagers, grandfathers, American citizens. There can be no justification for this hateful violence, and the United States stands firmly behind Israel when it defends itself as we are defending ourselves at this moment as well.”

Biden also said that the attack in Jaffa on Tuesday, March 8, during which Biden and his family were only minutes away, highlighted the fact that “it can happen anywhere, at any time.”

Netanyahu began his statement by welcoming Vice President Biden and his family to Israel and expressing his gratitude for their personal friendship during which, Netanyahu said, they had overcome many difficulties together.

Turning to the wave of terror, Netanyahu stressed the severity of the events that had occurred over the previous 24 hours in which one American soldier was killed.

“As you are aware, the past 24 hours, including this morning, were extremely hard for Israel. Twelve people were wounded in five terror attacks including one American, Taylor Force, a graduate of West Point and a soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.  “I wish to send my deepest condolences to his family and wish a speedy recovery.”

After thanking Biden for his unequivocal stance against the terror attacks, Netanyahu criticized President Mahmoud Abbas for Abbas’ failure to condemn the violent wave of terror over the last six months.

“Nothing can justify these attacks. Regrettably, President Abbas not only refuses to condemn these terror attacks, but the Fatah movement he leads praised the murder of the American citizen by calling his murderer a martyr and a Palestinian hero,” he said.

Netanyahu also said that he believed it was the responsibility of all civilized nations and the international community to stand together against terror and to condemn Abbas’ silence, adding that “Palestinian society is not calling for a Palestinian state to live in peace with Israel, but, rather, for it to replace Israel.”

Despite noting Palestinian incitement and the ongoing wars around the region, Netanyahu also said that the current climate offers opportunities for peace in the future. “The first opportunity is to deepen the ties between Israel and moderate Arab countries. This will help us lay the foundations for peace and stability.”

The prime minister ended his speech by praising the unique U.S.-Israel friendship as one anchored in shared values and one in which both countries strive to achieve a secure and peaceful future.

“Israel has many partners in this determined struggle. However, we don’t have a closer partner than the United States of America…The U.S. and Israel are strong when they work together, and so I expect to continue working with you and with President Obama to strengthen the wonderful and unbreakable alliance between our countries,” Netanyahu concluded.

Michael Bachner contributed to this report.