The Ticket

Obama to address AIPAC before talks with Netanyahu on Iran

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

Barack Obama will address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on March 4, a day before he and visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold talks expected to focus on Iran, the White House announced Tuesday.

With the Middle East peace process stalled, the president and his guest are likely to focus on the best way to confront Iran over its suspect nuclear program, as well as the response to Syria's bloody crackdown on opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The president's speech to the most powerful US pro-Israel lobby group could also have an election-year flavor: Republicans have tried to portray Obama as insufficiently supportive of Israel's security, a charge rejected by several high profile Israeli officials including Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The announcement came after Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, paid a two-day visit to Israel.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Donilon got an earful from Netanyahu, Barak, and other officials about a recent interview in which US Joints Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey warned against an Israeli attack on Iran.

Dempsey told CNN that such a strike would be "destabilizing" and "not prudent" and strongly suggested that Israel saw things differently.

"They consider Iran to be an existential threat in a way that we have not concluded that Iran is an existential threat. So I wouldn't suggest, sitting here today, that we've persuaded them that our view is the correct view and that they are acting in an ill-advised fashion," Dempsey told CNN.

Dempsey comments drew a veiled but unmistakable rebuke from Republican Senator John McCain on Tuesday at a press conference in Israel.

"There should be no daylight between America and Israel in our assessment of the threat," McCain said, according to the Jerusalem Post. "Unfortunately there clearly is some."

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is reportedly due in Israel Thursday for talks with top intelligence and military officials. His press office declined to discuss his schedule.

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