The race to prove who's more pro-Israel received a steroid injection this week with President Obama's speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Sunday and today's visit to the White House by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama may have spent the majority of his speech insisting the Jewish state has no greater friend than his administration, but that's precisely where he's being hit the hardest one day after his speech. Today, GOP leaders, White House surrogates, and the press are battling it out over which party is the most unflinching ally of Israel.
In the Republican universe, the weapon of choice for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is vague imagery and the pun. In a statement, he chastised Obama's leadership saying we need a president with a "finger pointing in the right direction rather than a finger pointing in the wind." Emphasizing the need to quash Iran's nuclear program he added "Neither Israel nor America can afford to be nuclear re-actors." Meanwhile, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn't waste time to make a sweeping prediction of how he'd oversee international affairs if elected. "If Barack Obama is reelected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon and the world will change," Romney told supporters in Georgia, the Los Angeles Times reports. "I will have those military options. I will take those crippling sanctions and put them into place."
Meanwhile, White House surrogates championed the president's more hawkish promises to use military force if Iran refuses to curb its nuclear program. "As President Obama has said, our policy with regard to a nuclear Iran is not containment but prevention," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer in statement. "Iran's leaders are feeling the pressure. We must continue applying that pressure—and increasing it—while refusing to take any option off the table to prevent a nuclear Iran." Trumpetting Obama's support of Israel at the U.N., U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said "In word and deed, President Obama has insisted that the United States be clear and consistent: the treatment Israel receives across the UN system is unacceptable." In the statement, prepared for delivery later today, she added that Israel is "glad we've got their back. And they know how much we do to help, in forum after forum, in fight after fight."
Meanwhile, in the left/right media sphere, the perception of President Obama's speech is being interpreted in starkly different terms. A Fox News headline reads “Obama to AIPAC: Too much talk of war with Iran.” It notes that “with Israel warning of a preemptive strike, the two allies are seemingly at odds.” On the other hand, The Huffington Post splashes "Obama defends policies toward Israel, fends off partisan critiques.” On the right-leaning Wall Street Journal opinion page, Dan Senor dismissed Obama's pledge to defend Israel as election year rhetoric. "If Mr. Obama wants a pat on the back, he should make it clear that he will do everything in his power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability, and that he will stand by Israel if it must act." At the same time, Democrat Paul Begala writes in The Daily Beast that any partisan divide on Israel is a fiction. "Support for Israel is one of the last issues on which most Democrats and most Republicans agree."