U.S. President Barack Obama didn't wait for his private meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to clarify his position on Iran's nuclear program. Speaking at the annual conference of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the U.S. leader urged everyone to set the war drums aside.
After reiterating his commitment to Israel's peace and security, the president made it clear that the United States would consider using military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons only after it was convinced that sanctions and other diplomatic tools had been exhausted. He also promised to keep up the pressure on Iran and deepen its isolation.
Obama, who was playing on Netanyahu's home court at the height of an election year, criticized the excessive talk about war with Iran. Hinting at both Israeli government officials and the Republican presidential candidates, who have been vying with each other in calling for war, Obama said this was causing oil prices to rise, which in turn helped finance Iran's nuclear program. The president said that excessive public discussion of the Iranian issue not only undermined the security of both America and the world, but Israel's security too.
The unnecessary statements by Israeli leaders are drawing fire on Israel. The government would be wise to listen attentively to President Obama's advice and adopt the sage counsel of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." The U.S. president carries the biggest stick in the world.
The government would also do well to internalize another important statement by Obama: "As president and commander in chief, I have a deeply-held preference for peace over war."
This worldview is also appropriate when it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians, which has been pushed aside by the Iranian issue. It must be hoped that Obama will utilize his meeting with Netanyahu Monday to underscore the consequences that a collapse of the diplomatic process and a violent conflict in the territories would have for the American and international effort to halt both Iran's nuclear program and its terrorism.
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