Live coverage of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, the talks between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli prime minister’s speech to Aipac
10.20am: Tom McCarthy in New York here. Good morning and welcome to our liveblog coverage of today’s delicate diplomatic two-step between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. The two leaders are scheduled to meet at the White House in about a half hour. Then Netanyahu is scheduled to address the Aipac conference at 9pm ET tonight. We’ll be live blogging the developments throughout the day and then bringing you Aipac coverage including the prime minister’s speech. Here’s a quick summary of where things stand:
• This morning’s Obama-Netanyahu meeting will be closely assessed – in retrospect; the meeting itself is behind closed doors – for any signs of new tension between the leaders. In his speech to Aipac yesterday President Obama criticized “loose talk of war” on Iran as actually helping the Islamic Republic by driving up oil prices. That could be taken as a direct criticism of Netanyahu, who has led the rhetorical charge on Iran.
• About that speech. Netanyahu came to Washington this week looking for new, stronger rhetoric from the president about the U.S. willingness to participate in a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program. Such rhetoric was notably absent from Obama’s Aipac speech, although he did reassert the American commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Will Netanyahu leave Washington empty-handed?
• In the not-too-distant background is the presidential race and how an Israeli strike on Iran could change everything. If Netanyahu decides he doesn’t need Obama to hit Iran – or that the threat to Israel is too great to wait – then all bets suddenly are off. What if instead of Mitt Romney the president suddenly faces a reelection fight involving a new war in the Middle East, expensive gas, U.S. casualties and a new economic dive – plus Mitt Romney? Netanyahu knows that Obama knows that Netanyahu knows this.
from Tom McCarthy