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!
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • 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.