Live coverage of Barack Obama’s speech to the the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
11.02am: The Twittersphere is picking up on this line from Peres:
Peres: “today more than ever the world needs America.”
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 4, 2012
10.56am: Peres is winding toward the end of his speech. The change in his tone as he took on Iran, and the crowd’s enthusiastic response to it, signals part of what the delegates here are looking for out of the American president’s speech. Not only what he says – he’s expected to have tough language for Iran, and language of solidarity with Israel. The exact language is important. But the force of feeling perceived to be behind it is just as important. David Frum, for one, hasn’t been feeling this kind of forceful commitment or desire from Obama to confront Iran.
Peres wraps up. The orchestra playing him off sounds like the Oscars.
10.50am: Now Peres turns to Iran. His voice rises, his cadence strengthens. He is now on the attack. The applause swells in response.
Iran is an evil, corrupt regime. An affront to human dignity. The center… of world terror. Iran is a danger to the entire world. … Iran’s ambition is to control the Middle East so it can control a major part of the world economy. It must be stopped, and it will be stopped.
If we are forced to fight, trust me, we shall prevail. President Obama is implementing a complex policy [of sanctions]. … President Obama made it clear that the United States will never permit Iran to become nuclear. … As the president stated, “all options are on the table.”
10.46am: Peres speaks about the history of Israel, of conflict, of justice: “No day of war ever interrupted a day of democracy.” Biggest applause line so far: “To make peace Israel must be strong. Let me assure you: Israel is strong.” He mentions the dictator in Syria “killing his people, killing his children.”
Now Peres presents his version of a two-state solution. “Dear friends, the Palestinians are our neighbors for life. Peace can and must be achieved with them. Peace based on a two-state solution. A Jewish state, Israel, and an Arab state, Palestine.”
10.36am: Israeli President Shimon Peres just stepped to the podium.
He begins: “Thank you President Obama for being such a good friend.”
10.35am: Here’s Chris McGreal with some details from Liz Cheney’s speech:
Ahead of the speeches there has been a foreign policy discussion panel. Among the speakers was Liz Cheney, a former State Department official and daughter of George W. Bush’s vice president. There was widespread applause for her attacks on Barack Obama including when she said the president is more interested in “containing Israel” by discouraging it from attacking Iran than blocking Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb. There was also applause when she said there was no president who had done more to “undermine and delegitimise” Israel. There were loud cheers when she predicted that the next Aipac conference will be held under a new US president.
10.30am: My colleague Chris McGreal is at the conference. Here’s some of what he’s seeing:
Aipac is nothing if not slick. The main conference hall is an upper floor of Washington’s convention centre. The long wall behind the speakers is fitted with vast screens flashing up pictures of Aipac leaders with Congressional leaders and quotes from Israel’s supporters. Periodically that gives way to an American flag overlaid with a Star of David. Downstairs is the “Aipac village”, billed as the “ultimate pro-Israel social network”.
The “largest policy conference in Aipac’s history” – with more than 13,000 delegates – opened with thumping speakers broadcasting Ronald Reagan, Golda Meir, Nathan Sharansky, Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu and Martin Luther King all saying that the US and Israel share a common commitment to democracy.
Then came a statement from one of Aipac’s members that sets the tone of the conference of Israel as besieged by threats and enemies: “Iran is marching towards the bomb, the Palestinians seem more interested in bringing the terrorist group Hamas in to power and the Arab Spring has turned to a cold winter”.
10.28am: It is an understatement to say that the issues the president will address this morning give rise to strong feelings.
Or, awesome! RT @OriNir_APN: The AIPAC crowd’s vociferous support of Liz Cheney’s attack on Obama’s record on Israel is repulsive.Shameful!
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) March 4, 2012
10.15am: Welcome to our live blog coverage of the president’s speech to Aipac. Tom McCarthy here in New York – and here’s a summary of where things stand:
• The big question this morning is, What will President Obama say to address concerns about Iran’s nuclear program – and will his words bring a potential military conflict with Iran closer, or seem to defer it? As my colleague Chris McGreal first reported, Israel wants the president to declare “red lines” beyond which America will take military action to demolish Iran’s nuclear capability. So far the president has not laid out the situation so plainly.
• What has Obama said? In his State of the Union address on Jan. 24, the president spoke of “our iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security” and pointed to “the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history.” In an interview last week with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, the president said “I don’t bluff” and “We’ve got Israel’s back.” Israel is looking for a more explicit statement of military intentions from the president. Now is Obama’s moment to make such a statement – or not.
• What is Aipac? The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a lobbying group working to advance Israel’s interests in Washington. An audience of more than 13,000 is attending its annual conference this weekend and through the beginning of next week. The most powerful political figures from Israel and the United States will address the conference. President Obama is scheduled to speak at 10.50am ET. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to address the body tomorrow evening after a meeting at the White House with the president. The Republican presidential candidates will address the conference via satellite on Tuesday.
• What about the American presidential election? The president’s annual address to Aipac is always an occasion to handicap how the president is doing with Jewish voters. That goes doubly in an election year. The Jewish-American electorate of course is as heterogenous as any voting bloc – there’s no one clear way for the president to speak to these voters on this issue. Inside Israel, a recent poll found that 34 percent oppose a strike on Iran no matter what. Forty-two percent would back a strike only if it had at least the support of the United States. Also of note in this context: President Obama already enjoys stronger support among Jewish voters than among the electorate at large (pace Rick Santorum, who in a December speech to the Jewish Republican Coalition said that “Jews all across this country are now understanding that the values of the Republican Party are in concert with theirs”).
• Big questions, looking for answers. How does the president perceive the threat from Iran’s nuclear program? What is his willingness to act to eliminate that threat? How much does the administration’s vision overlap with the Israeli vision? What about Israel’s security? Hanging in the background are questions like the vulnerability of U.S. targets abroad, the American public’s appetite for another war in the Middle East, nuclear proliferation and the future of the world and, last but not least, gas prices this summer.
from Tom McCarthy