How Obama might just have helped secure a second term by soothing his critics on Israel

That title may be over-egging the pudding somewhat but, boy, did Barack Obama do a rousing job in front of America’s biggest pro-Israel gathering of the year

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Obama at AIPAC
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The Commentator
On 4 March 2012 18:18

You read it on The Commentator first... kind of. As far as speeches go, Obama's 2012 address here at the pro-Israel AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. on Sunday was not just a master class in well formulated oratory -- he was effortlessly calculated -- but also in partisan posturing.

Obama's repeated insistence that his commitment to Israel was not merely rhetorical came across as truthful and reassuring. His words on Iran and its nuclear programme practically brought the house down. Though he said he would prefer a diplomatic solution he stressed he would “not hesitate“ to use force if that was necessary.

To quote his exact words made directly in the context of his opposition to allowing Tehran to go nuclear: “I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests," he said.

The Guardian and the BBC will be having heart failure.

One of his primary aims in this speech was to counter the Republican narrative that his administration has been weak or pusillanimous toward Israel.

And counter it he did. Line by line he reeled off his policy accomplishments with regard to Israel's security. It was an impressive moment even for hard-core Obama sceptics such as ourselves.

In contrast to last year's speech, almost every line in the President's speech was met by rapturous applause and acclaim.

Why? This year Obama is fighting an election. And as a result his focus was readjusted accordingly. Sounds crass, no?

To be scrupulously fair, it didn’t come across that way. And that was the most remarkable part of it.

Obama made direct mention of the fact that he was indeed countering his detractors' claims. He embraced it and walked away having visibly boosted the audience's spirits and, importantly, their faith in him.

As far as the claim that he might have helped himself win a second term on the back of this speech, you'll have to allow us some poetic licence.

But the reality is that AIPACers and the Jewish community attached to it are among the most vociferous and politically active US citizens, and, more importantly, tens of millions of ordinary Americans have a deep and abiding sense of allegiance to the Jewish state, as well they should.

On the back of this speech, Obama not only recruited some of their votes but also masses of the 13,000 in attendance at the AIPAC conference as ambassadors for his campaign.

One such ambassador was President Shimon Peres, whose bold endorsements of Obama's policies in the region served as a tee up just minutes before the American president took to the stage.

Although we will obviously have to watch what he actually does very closely indeed, for the Republicans to now pick apart Obama on his pro-Israel commitments will be much more problematic.

On that basis, Obama has made a second term in office a more plausible proposition. Whether he deserves one -- especially as far as the issue of Israel is concerned, where he has wavered many times -- is quite another matter. But, boy, was this president on form today.

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