Biden meets with Netanyahu, condemns Palestinian reaction to violence

By Ed Adamczyk and Shawn Price  |  Updated March 9, 2016 at 10:14 PM
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JERUSALEM, March 9 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called violent attacks like the one that killed an American tourist "intolerable" and condemned Palestinians' praise for the attacker as a "martyr" ahead of a Wednesday meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Biden is on a trip to the Middle East, where he met earlier Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Let me say in no uncertain terms: the United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn. This cannot be viewed by civilized leaders as an appropriate way in which to behave... It's just not tolerable in the 21st century," Biden said at a joint press conference Wednesday with Netanyahu.

Taylor Allen Force, 28, a veteran and graduate student at Vanderbilt University, was visiting Jaffa when he was killed Tuesday. Investigators said the attacker, identified as Palestinian, randomly stabbed victims in varying assaults that occurred in different locations.

Fatah, the political party of Abbas, posted an online statement praising the attacker as a "martyr" and hero.

Biden said, There can be no justification for this hateful violence and the United States stands firmly behind Israel's right to defend itself."

Added Netanyahu, "This is wrong and this failure to condemn terrorism should be condemned itself by everybody in the international community."

Biden said he did not arrive in Israel with a new peace proposal; his visit comes as Netanyahu abruptly canceled a planned visit to Washington next week, and a meeting with President Barack Obama.

"I didn't come with a plan. I just came to speak with a friend," Biden said.

Biden was last in Israel in 2014, before the Iran nuclear deal tested relations between the United States and Israel. But Biden sought to reassure Netanyahu and the Israeli public.

"A nuclear-armed Iran is an absolutely unacceptable threat to Israel, to the region and the United States," Biden said. "If in fact they break the deal, we will act."

The visit coincided with an upswing in violence, which appears to be uncoordinated and motivated by frustration over the now dormant peace process between Israel and Palestine. Shortly before the meeting, two Palestinians were fatally shot by Jerusalem police after they opened fire, injuring one person, near a public bus.

The victim, a Palestinian civilian shot in the head, is in serious condition at an Israeli hospital. Police are investigating whether the man was shot by the gunmen or police. The two Palestinian shooters were about 20-years old, police said.

Biden will meet with Abbas later Wednesday.

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