President Barack Obama’s dwindling allies within the pro-Israel movement struggled to put on a brave face after a sorely disappointing address this morning to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Instead of signaling to Iran that he would be willing to take military action to prevent the Tehran regime from becoming a nuclear power–or support Israeli action to do the same–Obama emphasized diplomacy, which has largely failed thus far.
Anti-Israel activists, such as Media Matters’ M.J. Rosenberg, were delighted by the speech and described it as a slap in the face to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who will also visit AIPAC and meet with Obama this week.
Obama announced that he would award the Presidential Medal of Freedom–America’s highest civilian honor–to Israeli President Shimon Peres, a peace advocate and longtime political rival of Netanyahu.
Last year, President Obama likewise attempted to preempt Netanyahu by announcing that a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be based on the 1967 lines–prompting a public rebuke from Netanyahu.
In this year’s address to AIPAC, Obama sounded a political warning to his critics, insisting that criticism of his criticism of Israel was “not backed up by the facts,” and that “I make no apologies for pursuing peace.”
Obama cited faulty demographic projections to explain why he had prodded Israel towards compromise and provided a partial account of his administration’s poor record on Israel–leaving out confrontations over Jerusalem, for example, that roiled AIPAC’s 2010 conference.
In 2008 while campaigning for the presidency for the first time, Obama had proclaimed: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.” He walked back that commitment the next day and broke it soon after taking office.
Netanyahu will address AIPAC and meet with President Obama on Monday.