Obama to address AIPAC annual conference (JERUSALEM POST) By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT 02/22/12)
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WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama will address the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in March, the
White House announced Tuesday.
His appearance before the country’s largest pro-Israel lobby comes
amid growing international tension with Iran and as the major US
political parties gear up for the 2012 presidential race.
Obama will appear at AIPAC on March 4 and then meet with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, himself coming to Washington to address
the conference, the next day at the White House.
Iran is expected to top the agenda for the leaders’ meeting, which is
indicating it is ready to return to the negotiating table after the
international community, led by the US, has imposed increasingly
harsh sanctions on the regime.
A bipartisan group of senators called on Obama Tuesday to continue to
ratchet up sanctions on Iran despite its apparent willingness to
“We would strongly oppose any proposal that caps or limits sanctions
against the Iranian regime in exchange for anything less than full,
verifiable and sustained suspension of all enrichment activities,”
stated a letter written by New York Democrats Chuck Schumer and
Kirsten Gillibrand, Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut,
Republican John McCain of Arizona, and eight other senators.
Alluding to fears the Iranians will buy time by drawing out
negotiations, they added, “The time for confidence-building measures
Both the senators and the White House have attributed the new
willingness to negotiate to the harsh international sanctions that
have harmed Iran’s economy.
At the same time, Iran’s nuclear program hasn’t slowed down, and
Israel has expressed increasing urgency about the need for strong
steps before the window for action closes, raising tensions with the
US over whether Jerusalem intends to launch a military strike.
The letter also put down lines for what type of deal would be
“Given the current Iranian regime’s pattern of deceptive and illicit
conduct, it cannot be permitted to maintain any enrichment or
reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future,”
Other members of Congress, however, are concerned about creating an
environment that would lead to a military conflict, and sent their
own letter to Obama stressing the importance of diplomacy.
“As tension with Iran continues to escalate, we urge your
administration to utilize all available tools of diplomacy to resolve
the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and prevent another costly war
in the Middle East,” said the letter, co-authored by Rep. Keith
Ellison (D-Minnesota) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina).
“While we acknowledge that progress will be difficult, we believe
that robust, sustained diplomacy is the best option to resolve our
serous concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill have criticized the Obama
administration for cutting funds to joint US-Israel missile defense
at a time when Israel is under growing threat from Iran. The new 2013
budget proposal requests $99.8 million in missile defense funding,
down from $106.1m. in 2012.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, however, is pushing back against the
attacks in a letter now circulating in Congress.
In the letter, Panetta pointed to the record $3.1 billion in military
assistance Israel would get in the 2013 budget request under the 10-
year Memorandum of Understanding between the two country. In
addition, he noted, the US expends additional amounts on operating
missile defense capabilities that protect Israel but are not
specified in those sections of the budget.
“Based upon our continued high-level security dialogue with key
Israeli defense and intelligence officials, the president has
requested unprecedented support for Israel,” Panetta wrote. “We
remain fully committed to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military
Edge.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/22/12)
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