"I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action," Spokesman Ian Kelly said. "But ... Israel is a sovereign country and we're not going to dictate its actions."
Kelly was responding after Biden said in an interview broadcast Sunday on that the United States "cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do."
"Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," Biden said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations.
He added that what's in U.S. interests should be in Israel's interests, and suggested the United States would decide whether Israel's actions hurt U.S. goals.
"Israel has a right to determine what's in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what's in our interests," Biden said.
His remarks were widely read as permission from the U.S. to Israel for a strike on Iran. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman welcomed Biden's comments, calling them "logical." Iranian Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani reportedly said the United States would be held responsible if Israel attacked. He vowed a "decisive and painful" Iranian response, according to Al Jazeera.
President Obama favors diplomatic engagement with Iran, saying negotiations with Iran could be possible. Biden said the United States is ready to talk with Iran.
"If the Iranians respond to the offer of engagement, we will engage."
This new American approach to Iran has made Israel nervous, particularly in light of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks that he wants to wipe Israel off the map.
Israel has indicated it could strike Iran's nuclear facilities if it felt an imminent threat.