Administration sources said Biden's message was meant to stress the
determination of the Obama administration to establish a Palestinian state
by 2012. They said Biden's message would be amplified during Obama's meeting
with Netanyahu as part of an effort to release a U.S. plan by July 2009. The
new Obama strategy would be endorsed by the so-called Quartet, comprised of
the European Union, Russia, United Nations and the United States.
"The plan is being devised by the Obama administration with input from
others," former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, head of the Quartet, said
after Biden's speech. "We're about to get a new framework."
The United States has identified nearly 100 Jewish communities in the
West Bank, some of them nearly 20 years old, as illegal and suitable for
destruction. The Obama administration has also sought to block construction
in other Jewish communities in the West Bank.
"Delaying the pursuit of these goals is not an option," Biden said.
"It's easier, but it is not an option. And the longer we wait, the harder
it will be."
Netanyahu was expected to oppose U.S. demands to destroy Jewish
communities and impose a freeze on construction in the West Bank. After a
30-minute meeting with Obama, President Shimon Peres said Jewish residents
have a right to remain in their communities.
"Israel cannot instruct settlers in existing settlements not to have
children or get married," Peres said.
In his address, the vice president said Washington would continue its
reconciliation effort with Iran. Biden said the U.S. policy would focus on
preventing Teheran from developing nuclear weapons.
"We will pursue direct, principled diplomacy with Iran with the
overriding goal of preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons," Biden
said. "The United States will approach Iran initially in the spirit of
mutual respect. We want Iran to take its rightful place in the community of
nations politically and economically."