Why Netanyahu’s Visit to Discuss Iran Puts Obama in a Political Minefield

Why Netanyahu’s Visit to Discuss Iran Puts Obama in a Political Minefield

President Barack Obama’s reelection bid could face a stern test when he addresses the annual conference of the America Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday, and then meets with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the following day.

Top of the agenda on both occasions is Iran, which has also been chosen by Republicans as the Number 1 foreign policy issue of the presidential race. And publicly aired differences in the assessment of, and strategies for dealing with, Iran’s nuclear program have become a source of friction between the Administration and the Israelis.

Netanyahu’s leverage in the debate is boosted not only by Israel’s threat to take unilateral military action if it deems Washington’s efforts to restrain Iran insufficient, but also by Obama’s need to remain onside with the flagship Israel lobbying organization – which tends to take its cue from the Israel Prime Minister, who also generated far more bipartisan enthusiasm on Capitol Hill when he spoke there last year than Obama ever has.

While the President maintains the support of a solid majority of Jewish voters despite repeated domestic criticism of his handling of Israel, he may need AIPAC’s seal of approval to maintain the backing of some deep-pocketed donors for whom Israel’s concerns are a top priority.

That, and the relentless charge by Republican presidential hopefuls that Obama is soft on Iran and jeopardizing Israel’s security, has made Israel’s Prime Minister an improbable player in this year’s U.S. presidential election.

But the President can’t focus only on electoral concerns as he urgently seeks to cool the climate of hysteria that could plunge Israel, Iran and possibly the U.S. into a potentially disastrous shooting war.

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By TONY KARON | Time.com

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