In the first day of the conference, two politicians elicited howls of support from over 10,000 AIPAC delegates, after they publicly criticized President Obama's stance on the pre-Six Day War lines.
In a dramatic speech just moments before President Obama took the podium, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer [D] jabbed the President emphasizing "if peace and security are to exist, Israel's borders must be defensible and must reflect reality on the ground." That a fellow Democrat would sting the President seemed to thrill the crowd, which erupted in a howls of agreement which lasted for several minutes. It was the most dramatic moment of the day, which began with hours of exhausting pre-conference security dictated by President Obama's attendance.
AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg's introduction of President Obama was unusual, but carefully scripted to help the President avoid a cold greeting. Mr. Rosenberg gave a traditional introduction, the crowd rose to stand for President Obama, but then Mr. Rosenberg awkwardly added "before the President addresses us, I'd like to add..." He then gave a rather long list of thank-yous ["we thank you Mr. President..."], seemingly to remind the crowd of times when we were happier with him. When Rosenberg finished, the President received a respectful welcoming, which included a milquetoast standing ovation.
President Obama's speech was well crafted and took us through areas of common ground [Iron Dome & Iran]. The two most poignant moments of his speech was when he insisted that Hamas recognize Israel's right to exist before any negotiations and his call for Hamas' release of Gilad Shalit. All of this was, of course, absent from Thursday's "Arab Spring" Speech. One had the distinct impression that the President was trying to clean up the electoral problems created by his picking yet another fight with Netanyahu. To his credit, the President pointedly said that he knew that he "generated some controversy over the past few days." But then he had the chutzpah to quote the offensive lines from his Arab Spring Speech, trying to claim that he was merely misunderstood. That earned him the only audible booing of the speech.
The most intelligent comments of the day came from Majority Whip Eric Cantor [R]. His speech included the following:
"In order for us to win this great struggle, we must have the courage to see the world not as we wish it to be, but as it truly is. It is not morally equivalent when the offenses of terrorists are equated with the defenses of Israel.
The following story illustrates Israel's dilemma.
A Palestinian woman from Gaza arrives at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba for lifesaving skin treatment for burns over half her body. After the conclusion of her extensive treatment, the woman is invited back for follow-up visits to the outpatient clinic. One day she is caught at the border crossing wearing a suicide belt. Her intention? To blow herself up at the same clinic that saved her life.
This is the root of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not about the '67 lines."
With that the crowd again erupted in the longest standing ovation of the day.
"To Mr. Abbas, I say: Stop the incitement in your media and your schools. Stop naming public squares and athletic teams after suicide bombers. And come to the negotiating table when you have prepared your people to forego hatred and renounce terrorism - and Israel will embrace you."
While Minority Whip Hoyer earns the "most dramatic moment of the day" award, Majority Whip Cantor earns the "most intelligent comments of the day" award.