By Jeremy Herb and Amie Parnes - 02/21/12 06:34 PM EST
President Obama will speak at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference next month, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.
Obama will meet the following day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also giving a speech at the policy conference.
Now attention is focused on Iran and whether the Israelis will launch an attack — with or without U.S. assistance — to stop the country’s nuclear program.
An Israeli strike on Iran could also throw foreign policy back into the foreground in the presidential election, which has been dominated by domestic issues and the economy so far. Republicans have sought to chip away Jewish voters from Obama over Israel, and the Iranian nuclear issue could provide more ammunition.
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon returned from Israel on Monday, where he met with Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials.
Carney said Tuesday that Donilon stressed during his visit that the United States and Israel “share the same objective,” which is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The United States, Israel and their allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, while Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
“Now we feel ... that there is a time and space for diplomacy to work,” Carney said. “We do not, of course, take any action off the table.”
Senior U.S. officials have said they do not think Israel has decided yet to strike Iran, although Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was cited in a report as believing there was a strong possibility of an Israeli attack in the spring.
The New York Times reported Sunday that an Israeli attack on Iran faces numerous hurdles, as it would require at least 100 planes to travel more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly skies, and they would have to hit several targets in fortified locations.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on CNN Sunday that an Israeli attack would have a “destabilizing” effect on the region.