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Biden's mailed fist in a velvet glove

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Biden's mailed fist in a velvet glove

Vice President Joe Biden's speech to AIPAC, the main Israeli lobby in Washington, on 5th May is worth reading all the way through.

He's absolute in his support for Israel's future as a Jewish state and his rejection of Hamas as terrorists. But he's equally clear that the US is taking a totally new approach to Middle East peace.

Not in the shape of the deal: it's the same two-state solution, Israel and Palestine side by side. But in planning how to get there, Biden's speech shows the US is going to junk the main features of past peacemaking. Beneath the warm words and jokesy anecdotes about his affection for Israel is toughness and urgency.

* The US will take charge of the negotiations. No more hoping Israelis and Arabs will reach a deal on their own.

* The US will go for the widest possible deal - peace between Israel and all 22 Arab states, maybe Israel and all 57 Muslim states. No more trying for progress on one track at a time.

* The US will press for a fast deal. No more long-drawn out, gradual negotiations which are supposed to give time for confidence building but actually just allow endless delay.

* The US will build as much international support as possible for the deal. No more going it alone as the lone superpower.

"The President decided that we must be engaged; we must take risk on behalf of peace for Israel."

"Israel has to work towards a two-state solution.  You're not going to like my saying this, but not build more settlements, dismantle existing outposts, and allow the Palestinians freedom of movement based on their first actions, its access to economic opportunity and increased security responsibility.  This is a "show me" deal -- not based on faith -- show me."

"The Arab states should act now, not later, to build upon the Arab Peace Initiative -- a constructive combination that contains the promise of a cooperative and comprehensive peace, but now is the time.  Now is the time for Arab states to make meaningful gestures to show the Israeli leadership and the people that the promise of ending Israel's isolation in the region is real and genuine. They must take action now -- show me."

"Delaying the pursuit of these goals is not an option.  It's easier, but it is not an option.  And the longer we wait, the harder it will be."

"When America has confidence -- the confidence of our allies and our friends, and the broad support we need in the world -- not only is America stronger but Israel will be stronger."