The Common Good

President Obama's AIPAC Speech and Reaction

In a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, President Obama urged Israeli leaders to refrain from "loose talk of war" related to escalating tensions with Iran. Quoting his predecessor President Theodore Roosevelt, Obama said when it comes to the Iran situation, both the United States and Israel would do well to, "Speak softly... and carry a big stick."

Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today at the White House.  Netanyahu, who is scheduled to speak to the AIPAC conference this evening, issued a short statement repsonding to Obama's speech Sunday, saying in part, "I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."

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course, there are those who question not my security and diplomatic commitments, but rather my administration’s ongoing pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. So let me say this: I make no apologies for pursuing peace. Israel’s own leaders understand the necessity of peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres - each of them have called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state. I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel’s security interest. ...

Let’s begin with a basic truth that you all understand: No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction. And so I understand the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and all of Israel’s leaders.

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States.

Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the nonproliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia....

The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program. Now, the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists. Sanctions are continuing to increase, and this July - thanks to our diplomatic coordination - a European ban on Iranian oil imports will take hold. Faced with these increasingly dire consequences, Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. They can choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end.

And given their history, there are, of course, no guarantees that the Iranian regime will make the right choice. But both Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this challenge resolved diplomatically. After all, the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons. That’s what history tells us.

Moreover, as president and commander in chief, I have a deeply held preference for peace over war. I have sent men and women into harm’s way. I’ve seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who’ve come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don’t make it home. Long after I leave this office, I will remember those moments as the most searing of my presidency. And for this reason, as part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I will only use force when the time and circumstances demand it. And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country.

We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically. Having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States - just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.

Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues, the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly; carry a big stick. And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve and that our coordination with Israel will continue.

Read the entire transcript of Obama's 2012 AIPAC speech HERE.

 

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Israeli Leaders Praise Obama's AIPAC Speech

Israeli officials on Monday welcomed President Barack Obama's declaration that he stands by the Jewish state against a nuclear Iran — but as a result, Israel may have an ever tougher time launching a strike on Iran in defiance of U.S. requests to hold off.

Learn more HERE

TIME: Obama Courts AIPAC Before Netanyahu Meeting

What a difference a year makes. Last year when President Barack Obama stood before the crowd at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington, he was on his heels, reeling from a week of miscommunications with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Middle East peace process.

Learn more HERE

THE NEW YORK TIMES: ‘Loose Talk of War’ Only Helps Iran, President Says

As Republicans on the campaign trail ramped up their support for Israel in a possible military strike on Iran, President Obama used a speech before a pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday to warn against the “loose talk of war” that could serve to speed Iran toward a nuclear weapon.

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THE ATLANTIC: Hawk-In-Chief: Obama Courts Israel Supports By Getting Tough On Iran

In a rousing election-year speech to the powerful Jewish lobby in Washington, President Obama on Sunday sought to eliminate any remaining daylight between the United States and Israel, especially on the threat from Iran. In so doing he may have succeeded both at firing up Jewish voter support--and at bringing America closer to another war.

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THE GUARDIAN (UK): Binyamin Netanyahu's Mixed Feelings On Obama's AIPAC Speech

When Binyamin Netanyahu enters the White House Monday for his ninth meeting with President Barack Obama, he may well feel a mixture of infuriation and satisfaction.

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POLITICO: At AIPAC, President Obama Pushes Israel Record And Warns On Iran

President Barack Obama aggressively defended against partisan attacks on his record of support for Israel Sunday, while also seeking to calm fears among some in the Jewish community that his administration is unwilling to use military might to confront Iran over its nuclear program.

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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Obama's Hawkish Iran Turn

As White House U-turns go, President Obama's hawkish rhetorical shift on Iran in the last week has been remarkable. The question now is whether Israel, and especially Iran, will believe that he means it after three years of trying to woo the mullahs to the bargaining table with diplomacy.

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HAARETZ: After AIPAC Speech, Obama's Meeting With Netanyahu Is Almost Superfluous

Obama sent a complex, multifaceted message. He is a loyal friend of Israel, as evidenced by both the record of his actions over the last three years and the testimony of an eminent witness, President Shimon Peres. He is absolutely and unequivocally opposed to Iran having nuclear weapons. But he is first and foremost the U.S. president, whose commitment to do everything possible to thwart Iran's nuclear program has properly been given to the citizens of his own country - the ones who will pay the price of any war with their lives and their wallets - rather than to the impudent leader of a foreign country.

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MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Obama Says Military Force Is Option To Keep Iran From Getting Nuclear Weapons

President Barack Obama insisted Sunday he'd call for military action to prevent Iran from securing a nuclear weapon, even as he urged Israel and its supporters to refrain from "loose talk of war" and allow diplomacy and "crippling sanctions" to work.

Learn more HERE

THE HUFFINGTON POST: AIPAC 2012: Obama Defends Policies Toward Israel, Fends Off Partisan Critiques

President Barack Obama addressed the largest pro-Israel policy conference Sunday morning in a speech that offered tough words for Iran but an even stronger defense of his administration's own policies toward Israel.

Learn more HERE

Jack Palmer is a communications assistant at Sojourners. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackPalmer88.

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