President Barack Obama continued to lobby for Jewish support as the November 2012 elections loom near, saying he has been a strong advocate for Israel.
Obama cited his administration’s advocacy on behalf of Israel at the United Nations, during the flotilla incident, against BDS and during the Arab Spring.
But Obama also warned against “loose talk of war” with Iran and urged continuing diplomacy to get Iran to end its nuclear program.
“Now is not the time for bluster,” Obama said, a day before his next meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
Obama did not rule out any options for future actions against Iran’s nuclear program, as he said:
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.
Obama spoke days before Super Tuesday, when three of the four presidential candidates for the Republican nomination will address AIPAC in hopes of capitalizing on many conference attendees’ distaste for Obama’s policy on Israel.
But Obama had fighting words of his own, continuing to defend his Israel record, as he did at the Union of Reform Biennial back in December.
“If during this political season you hear some questions regarding my administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts,” Obama said.
Obama also praised student activists at AIPAC, saying:
I’m especially impressed to see so many young people here. You don’t yet get the front seats – I understand. You have to earn that. But students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging deeply in our democratic debate. You carry with you an extraordinary legacy of more than six decades of friendship between the United States and Israel. And you have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to make your own mark on the world.
Immediately before Obama’s speech, Israel President Shimon Peres praised Obama for “being such a good friend” to Israel.
Obama will give Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, Obama told attendees.
Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu will address AIPAC at Monday night’s Gala Dinner. You can watch it here.
Correction: A previous version of this article said Obama said “I’ve got Israel’s back.” He actually said “I have Israel’s back.”