Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday vigorously defended the Obama administration's record on Israel, crediting President Obama for strengthening America's position in the region and for imposing "the most damaging sanctions in this century" to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"We were the problem," Biden said of the global view of the United States before the president took office. "We were diplomatically isolated in the world, in the region, in Europe. The international pressure on Iran was stuck in neutral."
"We were neither fully respected by our friends nor feared by our opponents," he told guests at an annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly. "Today it is starkly, starkly different."
The vice president argued that Obama "deserves the credit" for coordinating harsh sanctions against Iran that he says are bringing that nation's negotiators back to the table, although he warned that the time for diplomacy may be waning.
"The window has not closed in terms of the ability of the Israelis if they choose on their own to act militarily," he added, noting that he understood Israel's desire not to "contract out" its security to allies like the United States.
Biden won sustained applause from the crowd by repeating that America does not have "a policy of containment" towards Iran. "We will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon by whatever means needed, period. Period," he said.
Citing dissension between Iran's own leaders, the vice president also predicted that stridently anti-Israel Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmedinijad will be forced from power within two years.
He did not mention GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney by name, although the former Massachusetts governor's campaign later ripped his remarks about America's past isolation in the region as "wrong and completely inappropriate."
"All too often, President Obama and his administration have sought to blame America first, yet Vice President Biden’s reckless statement today blaming America for – of all things – the progress of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, has reached a new low," said Romney policy director Lanhee Chen in a statement. "The problem is not America."
Biden, who was elected to the Senate at age 30 and served at the helm of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, noted that his youth made him unique among his peers and offered him the opportunity to cultivate many mentors in the upper chamber. "I was the young kid. I was like the only woman or the only African-American," he said.
The vice president, who has been in the spotlight for his comments Sunday in support of same sex marriage, did not mention the controversy on Tuesday, although he alluded to his famous penchant for candor that occasionally his political allies.
"No one's ever doubted I mean what I say," he said. "The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean."