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Joe Biden said (source):

The State of Israel was born to be a safe place for the Jewish people of the world. That’s why it was born. I have long said: If Israel didn’t exist, we would have to invent it.

And while it may not feel that way today, Israel must again be a safe place for the Jewish people. And I promise you: We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that it will be.

Seventy-five years ago, just 11 minutes after its founding, President Harry S. Truman and the United States of America became the first nation to recognize Israel. We have stood by your side ever since, and we’re going to stand by your side now.

What did he mean by that?

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    What are you asking here? It seems like you are asking what his thought process behind a statement was which isn't something that we can answer.
    – Joe W
    Feb 28 at 21:53
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    I see you linked to his full speech. What's so unclear from the context there? Btw, he said it multiple times in the past. At other times the context was a bit different FYI. hurriyetdailynews.com/… snopes.com/fact-check/joe-biden-1986-israel Feb 28 at 22:05
  • It's fairly plain English and with a good deal of context around it. What is it you need to be told that about that doesn't involve us reading his mind, rather than taking the words at their face value? Feb 28 at 22:24
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    That's definitely not just plain English - vote to reopen.
    – alamar
    Feb 28 at 22:50
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    @Jack_here That's not true. Questions about Israel or Hamas tend to become close wars due to strong influences from propaganda, but the result of not every close war is that the question stays closed. A person who votes to close or reopen a question can't vote for the same thing again. Feb 29 at 10:16

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Joe Biden said that if Israel didn't exist, we (the US) would have to invent it. That is the direct opposite of what you attributed to Biden in the (original) topic of your question. Thanks for fixing that.

The reason is historical. Without Israel, Jews had no safe space, were persecuted and targeted, routinely expelled from various countries or forcibly relocated (England, France, Spain, Portugal, Russia, USSR), and ended up being almost wiped out in the Holocaust.

Israel exists because Jews as a people feel they need a safe space where they can defend their existence, something they have been lacking for a couple of thousands of years. Biden says that that need didn't disappear even now, and Jews still need that safe space that can defend their existence. More recent examples are the expulsions of Jews from the Arab countries, the expulsions of Jews from the USSR and post-USSR, and the Jewish immigration from the Western world into Israel following the rise of antisemitism there (which coincides with the influx of refugees from the Arab world there in the last 2-3 decades, exacerbated by the recent Palestinian attacks).

The US, as part of the UN, did "invent" it by supporting the partition resolution on which the Israeli declaration of independence is based.

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    The original title was an editing mistake and should be disregarded. I know that Israel once did not exist and was created. Biden said that if it still did not exist by now it would still have to be created today. Why is that? Feb 28 at 22:01
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    For the same reasons? The world is no less antisemitic now than it was 80 years ago. Take the exodus of Jews from the USSR for example - where would they go? Some were able to resettle in the US or Western Europe, but a) that wouldn't happen had their been no Israel to begin with, and b) most ended up in Israel.
    – littleadv
    Feb 28 at 22:03
  • "which coincides with the influx of refugees from the Arab world there in the last 2-3 decades, exacerbated by the recent Palestinian attacks" I really do not get this part. Antisemitism was raised in the western world because "influx of refugees from the Arab world"? And that influx was exacerbated by the recent Palestinian attacks?
    – صالح
    Feb 29 at 16:19
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    @littleadv I don't see what makes former Palestine a better place than anywhere else. Why does Biden think it is one? Mar 1 at 16:10
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    Worth mentioning also that these other locations were also inhabited, and while with the historical land of Israel there's a legitimate claim and the area had continuous Jewish population for thousands of years (yes, Jews actually lived there long before Arabs even existed as a people) - there's no such claim on, say, Uganda.
    – littleadv
    Mar 8 at 6:51
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I think in this specific instance, littleadv's answer is correct. The context strongly suggests that Biden is speaking about the necessity of Israel as a place where Jews can find refuge in a world that has frequently expelled, discriminated, and slaughtered them.

But it's worth noting that Biden is telling the truth that he has said this line many times before. And in earlier instances, his reasoning was a bit more realpolitik. From a 1986 floor speech:

If we look at the Middle East, I think it's about time we stopped those of us who support—as most of us do—Israel in this body, for apologizing for our support for Israel. There's no apology to be made. None. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.

So both are probably true. Like many Americans, Biden supports Israel due to a belief in the need for a Jewish homeland. But as an elder statesman, he's not blind to the strategic need for a strong U.S. ally in the region as well.

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The saying originally comes from a 1986 senate speech:

I think it is about time [...] we stop apologizing for supporting Israel. There is no apology to be made. None! It is the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.

I am with my colleagues who are on the floor of the Foreign Relations Committee, and we worry at length about NATO; and we worry about the eastern flank of NATO, Greece and Turkey, and how important it is. They pale by comparison [...]

They pale by comparison in terms of the benefit that accrues to the United States of America.

In 2013 he said the same thing:

If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one to make sure our interests were preserved

And then again in 2015:

As many of you heard me say before, were there no Israel, America would have to invent one. We’d have to invent one because Ron is right, you protect our interests like we protect yours. (Applause.)

Sound bites aside, afaik, Joe Biden has never explained why this small and relatively unpopular Middle Eastern state is so vital to American interests. Many defense analysts have either doubted the value of, or found the intimate US-Israel relationship to be detrimental to US interests (see 3, 4, 5, 6). Their argument is simple; there are 400 million Arabs, but only 10 million Israelis so being friends with the former is more important than being friends with the latter.

That said, Biden's often repeated necessity of "inventing Israel" definitely suggests that he thinks the country is critical to American interests. Possibly due to influence from the Israel lobby, which has long maintained that "the U.S.-Israel relationship is a mutually beneficial partnership that reinforces America's moral values and strategic interests". Many left-wing sources (perhaps ironically) share AIPAC's view and sees Biden's quote as an admission of Israel being a tool for American imperialism:

Biden's "inventing Israel" from 2023 was a break from the past in that he connected it with Jewish safety rather than "the biggest bang for our buck". It indicates that the speech Biden read wasn't written by him.

Moreover, the US had very little to do with the establishment of Israel. Instead, it was Brittish policies - greatly facilitating Zionist colonization of Palestine - which eventually lead to the establishment of the state. Whether Israel was primarily created to keep Jews safe is also a hotly debated topic.

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This is, without a doubt, an allusion to the famous Voltaire quote

If God did not exist, we would have to invent him.

The idea of the quote is that the human psyche requires the concept of divine to justify essential social, moral, and existential functions for humanity.


I am sure plenty of people want to argue with this concept, but I am quoting it here to refer to it, not to advocate for it. So you can take this answer as being neutral on its truth value. The only thing that I do claim is that the quote, and the concept it expresses, are famous.


Similarly, Biden has said that the State of Israel fulfills a certain necessary purpose (in his view of what is necessary) of being "a safe place for the Jewish people of the world." So (in order to fulfill this purpose) "if Israel didn’t exist, we would have to invent it."

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