Biden defends Obama's record on Israel, downplays growing rift

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Vice President Joe Biden downplayed the rift between the U.S. and Israel Thursday and defended President Obama’s record of supporting the Jewish state amid concerns from American Jews who have decried the framework nuclear deal with Iran.

Biden, during a speech marking Israel’s independence day, reaffirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, drawing an implicit distinction from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose comments disavowing Palestinian statehood ahead of Israel's recent elections have fueled the deterioration of U.S.-Israeli ties.

Biden noted that it was no secret that the Obama administration has had its differences with Netanyahu’s government.

"It's only natural for two democracies like ours," Biden said. "We're like family. We have a lot to say to one another. Sometimes we drive each other crazy, but we love each other — and we protect each other."

The Obama administration has been working to repair a relationship with Israel and its supporters that has deteriorated in recent years over U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Netanyahu is firmly against the potential deal because of concerns that it offers broad concessions to Iran that would leave Israel’s security in jeopardy. Long-suspected tensions between Obama and Netanyahu came out into the open earlier this year when Netanyahu, in a visit arranged without the president's knowledge, came to Washington to lobby U.S. lawmakers and Jewish leaders against the deal.

Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to Washington and one of Netanyahu's top advisers, acknowledged that the U.S. and Israel have sometimes had deep disagreements on critical matters. Yet he said the region's immense security challenges would inevitable pull the two democracies together.

"We have weathered all those disagreements to grow closer and closer, decade after decade," Dermer said.

While the White House is evaluating how to rebuild its relationship with Netanyahu, Obama and Biden have met with prominent Jewish leaders and organizations to reassure them they deal will not put Israel at risk.

This isn't a grand bargain between the United States and Iran," Biden said, noting that other world powers are also parties to the deal. "It's based on hard-hitting, hard-headed compromises and assessments."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.