United States President Joe Biden told Israel’s Channel 12 News he would not hesitate to use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, “if that was the last resort.”
Channel 12 anchor Yonit Levi recorded an interview with the president at the White House, a day before his flight to Israel. The interview was aired in Israel on Wednesday evening.
“The only thing that is worse than the Iran that exists now is Iran with nuclear weapons,” Biden said. In an attempt to explain his administration’s insistence on nuclear talks to revive the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, the president stressed that a return to the deal would “hold them tight.”
“I think it was a gigantic mistake for the last president to get out of the deal. They’re closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before,” he said. For the president, a return to the nuclear deal still “makes sense,” he said, but that “it is up to Iran now” to make a choice.
“We have laid it out on the table. We’ve made a deal; we’ve offered it,” he stated.
In response to widespread Israeli claims that the nuclear deal does not pertain to Iran‘s malign regional activities, Biden said that the U.S. can act against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran and “still have a deal that will contain the nuclear program.”
When asked if he intends to keep the IRGC on the U.S. State Department’s foreign-terrorist list – even at the price of killing the deal – Biden replied “yes.”
Biden said to Israeli media that his commitment to the security of the State of Israel stems from his father’s soft spot for the Jewish community and its history.
He said that going to Israel is “kind of like going home.”
“I know it sounds strange, but it does. I was raised by – what my Jewish friends called – a righteous Christian. … When he came home for dinner, before he would go back and close the business, we would gather and have a close conversation. And he used to talk about how what happened to the Jews in Europe was so terrible, and why didn’t we bomb the railroad tracks, and why didn’t we … to the concentration camps, et cetera,” he said.
“I have had a relationship with the Jewish community in my state that has really been close, from the time that I was 20 years old … and then I have gotten to meet every prime minister since Golda Meir,” Biden said.
The president will fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia on Friday, where he will attend a Gulf Cooperation Council summit with other heads of state, including Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Biden told Channel 12 news that, while he hopes to build closer ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, full normalization will “take a long time.”
“But increasing the relationship in terms of acceptance of each other’s presence, working together on certain things, it all makes sense to me,” he said. “It’s in the overwhelming interest of the United States and the region for Israel to be more integrated in the region and accepted as an equal.”
“The more Israel is integrated into the region as an equal and accepted, the more likely there is going to be a means that they can eventually come to an accommodation with the Palestinians down the road,” the U.S. president said.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Biden said that he believes in ongoing dialogue and “personal diplomacy,” even if a solution seems far off.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.