At his annual address to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC Sunday morning, President Barack Obama sought to reaffirm his commitment to Israel's security while warning against too much loose talk of war.
I have sent men and women into harm's way. I have seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who have come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don't make it home. ... I only use force when the time and circumstances demand it, Obama said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committe conference in Washington, D.C.
Obama added that talk of war has only benefited the Iranian government by driving up the price of oil, which ends up funding the nuclear program.
His policy argument came with the repetitive reassurance that the United States had Israel's best interests in mind, an obvious shout-out to Jewish and other American voters who will be hitting the polls in the presidential election this November.
At every crucial juncture, at every fork in the road, we have been there for Israel every single time, he said.
The speech comes a day before the president's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where the possibility of nuclear weapons in Iran's hands will undoubtedly be on top of the list.
Iran has insisted that it's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but international investigations have found cause for worry. Obama said that both he and Netanyahu do not believe that Iran has developed a nuclear weapon yet, but agree that it would be catastrophic if it did.
WhileObama said he would prefer diplomacy to military force, he said no options were off the table.
And as I've made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests, Obama said.
Republicans continue to criticize Obama's leadership on the issue of Iran as tensions between the two countries escalate. GOP presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney all accuse Obama of not being stern enough with the Iranian leadership and too soft about using military action to attack Iran's nuclear sites. Ron Paul, however, sharply dissents from this line.
Obama's policy arguments before AIPAC were couched in pro-Israel rhetoric that sought to counter criticism that he isn't completely behind Israel and its security during this election year. He listed a number of examples when the United States ran to Israel's defense, including the Gaza flotilla incident in 2010 and challenging the Goldstone report on the Gaza war in 2009. He also said that U.S. aid towards Israel increases every year.
So if during this political season you hear some question my Administration's support for Israel, remember that it's not backed up by the facts, he said. And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics.
At one point, he flat out said, So there should not be any doubt of it by now: when the chips are down, I have Israel's back.
Obama also announced that he would award Israeli President Shimon Peres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom this spring.