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Obama to speak at AIPAC before Netanyahu meeting

Obama to speak at AIPAC before Netanyahu meeting

President Barack Obama will deliver remarks at the AIPAC conference March 4, one day before he sits down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, a reprise of the difficult meeting they held there last year.

"We are pleased to announce that the president will address this year’s annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., on Sunday March 4. The president welcomes this opportunity to speak to the strengths of the special bonds between Israel and the United States," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday.

He confirmed that Obama and Netanyahu will meet March 5. The order of events will be opposite of last year, when Obama spoke the day after his tense and awkward meeting with Netanyahu in the Oval Office, where Netanyahu appeared to lecture Obama on Israeli security.

Obama will speak to AIPAC Sunday morning, the two leaders will meet Monday, and then Netanyahu will address the conference Monday evening.

Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres will speak at AIPAC, along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former member of Congress Jane Harman, CNN Contributor Paul Begala, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Fox News contributor Liz Cheney, and editor of The Weekly Standard William Kristol.

Carney also commented on the visit of National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to Israel this past weekend, where he met with Netanyahu and a host of other senior Israeli officials, including National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror, who coordinates the Iran portfolio, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, and Military Intelligence head Aviv Kochavi.

Carney didn’t say explicitly that Donilon asked the Israelis to hold off on attacking Iran, but his message was along those lines.

"The president has said — that there is time and space for diplomacy to work, for the effect of sanctions to result in a change in Iranian behavior, an agreement by Iran to live up to its obligations, to engage in negotiations and resolve this matter peacefully," said Carney. "We do not, of course, as we’ve said many times, take any option off the table.  And that was the context of the discussions that Mr. Donilon had with his counterparts in Israel."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has declined to deny the Washinton Post report that he believes Israel is planning to attack Iran in the April-May-June timeframe.

According to readouts of the Donilon meetings in the Israeli press, Netanyahu and other Israeli officials told Donilon they were displeased with the Obama administration’s recent press outreach regarding Iran, especially the Feb. 19 CNN interview given by Joint Chiefs’ Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, during which Dempsey warned that the risk of Iranian retaliation for an Israeli strike on Iran would outweigh the benefits.

"That’s the question with which we all wrestle, and the reason that we think that it’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran. I mean, that’s been our counsel to our allies, the Israelis, well-known, well-documented," Dempsey said. "And we also know — or believe we know — that the Iranian regime has not decided that they will embark on the effort to weaponize their nuclear capability."

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is expected to arrive in Israel Feb. 23 for a range of meetings.