— Vice President Joe Biden says the United States is not bluffing about its determination to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Biden delivered his remarks to delegates from AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organization in the country.
More than 12,000 pro-Israel activists are in Washington for the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - or AIPAC.
Concern about Iran’s nuclear program is topping the agenda.
Vice President Joe Biden told the group that when it comes to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the U.S. position is clear. “It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period, period, end of discussion, period. Prevent, not contain, prevent," he said.
Israel has threatened military strikes if Iran moves to develop atomic weapons. Tehran maintains its program is for peaceful purposes.
Biden said a military option is on the table if diplomacy doesn't work.
“Big nations can’t bluff and presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff, and President Barack Obama is not bluffing, he is not bluffing," he said.
Western nations are negotiating with Iran, but Israeli leaders warn that Tehran is using the talks to continue building its nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to AIPAC via satellite from Jerusalem.
“Diplomacy has not worked. Iran ignores all these offers, it is running out the clock. It has used negotiations, including the most recent ones, to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program," he said.
AIPAC strongly backs the Israeli government both on Iran and the conflict with the Palestinians.
But some Jewish groups are critical of that support.
An organization called Jewish Voice for Peace unveiled 100 billboard ads in Washington’s subway system, saying AIPAC doesn’t speak for its members.
Alan Elsner is spokesman for J Street, another pro-peace Jewish group.
“For those people who want to support Israel, who love Israel but do not want to support every single policy of the Israeli government, who do not want to support the occupation, who do not want to support the settlements, and so we provide a place for those people to be," he said.
On Tuesday, the final day of the AIPAC conference, thousands of delegates will head to Capitol Hill to lobby members of the U.S. Congress.