AIPAC Unleashes Partisan Schism On Iran

Could Differences Between Netanyahu and Obama Shape Vote?

Split in November? Will the differences between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama over Iran play an outsized role in the November election? The partisan sparring at the AIPAC conference leads one to think so.
getty images
Split in November? Will the differences between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama over Iran play an outsized role in the November election? The partisan sparring at the AIPAC conference leads one to think so.

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 08, 2012, issue of March 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

As delegates headed home from the annual conference of Washington’s major pro-Israel lobby, a perceived gap between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama on how to handle Iran looked set to become a partisan chasm between Republicans and Democrats.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s gathering, which took place in early March, featured Republican presidential candidates avidly attacking Obama for being out of sync with the Israeli leader. The candidates used the opportunity to distinguish their foreign policy approach from the president’s, but also as a bid for support from the powerful pro-Israel community. And this promised to make Netanyahu, for all his protestations, a central player in this year’s presidential election.

Aides to the Israeli prime minister told the Forward that Netanyahu himself had no intention of turning Iran into an internal political issue in the United States. They pointed to his repeated praise of Obama’s commitment to preventing Iran from becoming nuclear. Netanyahu also made sure not to meet with Republican presidential candidates while in Washington.

Nevertheless, the question of whether diplomacy is still possible to confront Iran’s drive to develop its nuclear program divides Obama and Netanyahu. And Republicans see a potential wedge issue in the Israeli prime minister’s lack of response to the president’s insistence on more time.

The Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, demanded a “no gap” policy between Israel and the United States in their approach toward Iran, which Western countries charge is seeking to use its program to obtain nuclear weapons. (Iran denies the charge.) Democrats rejected the notion that anything divides the two leaders. “I don’t see any gap,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said. “The president and the prime minister are closer on Iran than they’ve ever been.”

Any attempt to exclude Iran from election-year politicking at the AIPAC conference was doomed to fail, as tough rhetoric and threats of military action won applause from many in the 13,000-delegate crowd. Meanwhile, calls for restraint met a polite response at best.

“We do a disservice to the security of our nation and Israel if we succumb to those who would use Israel to divide us for partisan gain,” said Democrat Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Armed Services committee, in his March 6 address to the conference. But the audience had only a few minutes to dwell on Levin’s warning before presidential candidate Rick Santorum took to the stage with a scathing attack on Obama’s policy toward Israel and Iran. “Listening to the prime minister’s speech last night and then listening to the president’s, there is a clear and unfortunate tragic disconnect between how the leaders of the country of Israel and the country of the United States view the exigency of this situation,” Santorum said. Fellow candidates Romney and Newt Gingrich followed a similar line of attack.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.