Joseph Biden proves a hit as vice-presidential nominee

August 28, 2008

The choice of Senator Joseph BidenĀ as the Democratic vice-presidential candidate has been received favourably by the American Jewish community, although political differences were nonetheless apparent.

While mainstream Jewish and pro-Israeli groups praised Mr Biden as a friend of Israel and the community, Jewish Republicans took issue with his stands on Iran, arguing that he did not support tough measures against the regime in Tehran.

With 36 years in senate, many of them on the Foreign Relations committee, Mr Biden is well known to Jewish activists in Washington.

"He is a friend on all the issues that are of concern to us," said an official with a Jewish organisation who has been in touch with the senator for years.

Jewish Democrats made a special pitch to the Jewish community, praising Senator Biden's strong credentials on Israel and his vast experience on foreign policy.

"On Israel, the Obama-Biden ticket is as good as it gets," said Congressman Adam Schiff, a Jewish lawmaker from California. He added that, in his many years in the Senate, Mr Biden had proved strong support for Israel.

For Israeli policymakers, Joe Biden is a well-known figure. A meeting with him, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is seen as a must for any Israeli policymaker travelling to Washington.

Officials have said that they were impressed with his knowledge of the region and his support for Israel.
During the second intifada, Mr Biden was among the few US officials publicly to support Israel's policy of targeted killings in the West Bank and Gaza. He has also had a perfect record in backing US foreign aid to Israel.

Republican Jewish activists were quick to issue a statement denouncing the choice of Mr Biden. "With the selection of Senator Joe Biden as Senator Obama's vice-president, the Democrats' ticket has now become an even greater gamble for the Jewish community," said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. The group is basing its criticism on Mr Biden's refusal to back a congressional move to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terror group and his vote against a piece of legislation dealing with sanctions on companies dealing with Iran.

Jewish Democrats responded that both pieces of legislation were not significant and were voted against because of their ineffectiveness.

"Joe Biden has been to Israel numerous times and has gotten to know many of Israel's most important leaders," read an Aipac statement.

Last updated: 3:14pm, August 28 2008