personal history

When Biden Met Bibi

I like Joe Biden. And I really liked his performance in last night’s debate. But there’s at least one thing he said that can’t possibly be true: “Now, with regard to Bibi, he’s been my friend for 39 years.”

Do the math. Thirty-nine years ago was 1973. Bibi spent part of that year in Israel, where he fought in the Yom Kippur war, and part of it in Boston, where he was enrolled as an undergraduate architecture student at MIT. (I have a good source on that one: My father, who was then—and remains—an architecture professor at MIT, and who met Bibi at the time). But even if Bibi was in the US for part of 1973, it’s hard to imagine he became friendly with Joe Biden. After all, Bibi did not enter government until 1981, when Moshe Arens tapped him to become the political attaché in Israel’s embassy in Washington. Biden might conceivably have met him, or at least heard about him, in the context of his brother Yoni’s legendary death at Entebbe, Uganda. But even that didn’t occur in until 1976.

So what did happen 39 years ago? Joseph Biden entered the Senate. My guess is that’s where he got the number. He’s probably only known Bibi for roughly thirty years. And that, I suspect, has been more than enough.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the following change: Biden has likely known Netnayahu for thirty, not twenty, years, since the latter served as a deputy in Israel's Washington embassy. We placed a request for comment with the Obama campaign and will update when we hear back.