DEERFIELD BEACH (AP) –– Sen. Joe Biden assured older Jewish voters Tuesday that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will be strong on protecting Israel, which he said is less secure now than when President Bush took office.
Biden, Obama’s vice presidential running mate, laid out his own history on Israeli issues for the audience of several hundred at a Broward County retirement community and emphatically said Obama stands right alongside him on Israel.
Biden said he has fought the sale of sophisticated weapons to Arab nations, has known every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir and has co-sponsored legislation to fight Palestinian terrorism.
“I am chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee,” Biden said. “I give you my word as a Biden –– I would not have given up that job to be Barack Obama’s vice president if I didn’t in my gut and in my heart and in my head know that Barack Obama is exactly where I am on Israel. And he is.”
Biden told the crowd to ignore the “scurrilous” things said about Obama on the Internet, including rumors that the Christian Obama is a Muslim.
“To the extent you trust me and understand where my heart is, I promise you the stuff you're getting on the Internet is simply not true,” he said.
He also said the terrorist threat to Israel has increased, along with the threat from Iran as it tries to develop nuclear weapons.
“By any objective fact, Israel is less secure today in the world than it was eight years ago,” Biden said. “I promise you … we will make it more secure.”
Republican John McCain’s campaign, citing Obama’s past comments about meeting with leaders of nations like Iran, said the Democrat “is not a credible voice when speaking to the long-time relationship between Israel and the United States.”
The trip was Biden’s first to Florida since joining the Democratic presidential ticket.
Biden was introduced by a Holocaust survivor, and later talked about taking his sons to Germany and visiting a former concentration camp. He also said he held hearings on anti-Semitism and stressed that society must remember the Holocaust so that genocide can be stopped wherever it occurs.
“Genocide is genocide is genocide and if we remain silent, it will happen again and again and again,” Biden said to loud applause.
Biden was asked about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the news that her 17-year-old, unmarried daughter is pregnant. He refused to address the issue.
“Children are off limits,” he said. “We’ve all been through things with our children. And it's about common decency. Just treat people with common decency.”
Later, during a town hall meeting in West Palm Beach, Biden said that history will judge Bush harshly not because of his mistakes, but the opportunities he squandered –– particularly after the country was united and the world supportive after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“Imagine had the president said then, ‘We cannot continue to rely upon the nations that fund the very people who attacked us. I am calling on America … to join me in making the initial sacrifices to make us energy independent’” Biden said. “America would have stood up and responded in a way you couldn't imagine.”
Photo: Sen. Joe Biden