President Obama’s comments today directly contrast with the rhetoric of the Israeli leadership and hawkish members of the “Israel lobby” in the United States such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), not to mention his own political challengers. On the same day that 3 out of 4 of the Republican presidential candidates declared how forceful they would be with Iran as President to AIPAC’s conference attendees, and the day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet again evoked horrifying memories of the Holocaust while claiming that Israel was facing “annihilation” which he was determined to prevent, Obama had this to say (via Talking Points Memo):
Now, what is said on the campaign trail, you know, those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities. They are not commander-in-chief. And when I see the casualness with which some of these folks talk about war, I’m reminded of the costs involved in war. I’m reminded that the decision that I have to make, in terms of sending our young men and women into battle, and the impact that has on their lives, the impact it has on our national security, the impact it has on our economy. This is not a game, and there is nothing casual about it. And, you know, when I see some of these folks who have a lot of bluster and a lot of big talk, but when you actually ask them specifically what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things that we’ve been doing over the last three years. It indicates to me that that is more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem. Now, the one thing that we have not done is we haven’t launched a war. If some of these folks think that it’s time to launch a war they should say so, and they should explain to the american people exactly why they would do that and what the consequences would be.
The President also reminded Americans that “it’s not the folks who are popping off who pay the price it’s the men and women in uniform who pay the price” and that the Iranian issue requires a “careful, thoughtful approach.”
In a likely attempt to pressure the U.S. into incorporating Israel’s red line on Iran (obtaining nuclear capability) into its policy decisions (something which could make war much more imminent), Netanyahu said last night that “We have waited for diplomacy to work, we have waited for sanctions to work. We cannot afford to wait much longer.” But while Obama continues to declare that a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable” he also asserted that the U.S. would not be pressured into making rushed decisions: “This notion that somehow we have a choice to make in the next week or two weeks or month or two months is not borne out by the facts.” The President also emphasized that the world still has a “window of opportunity where this could be resolved diplomatically” and that a “diplomatic” solution is “deeply in everybody’s interest.”