President Barack Obama on Friday donned a yarmulke (kippah) and pitched his nuclear deal with Iran and the case for a Palestinian state directly to American Jews, reports AFP.
Visiting Washington's Adas Israel synagogue, Obama embarked on a Hebrew-sprinkled charm offensive which stressed that American-Israeli relations encompass more than just official links with the Likud government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Telling the 1,000-plus congregation he was delighted to be "an honorary member of the tribe," Obama said that "my commitment to Israel's security is and always will be unshakeable."
"The people of Israel must always know America has its back, and America will always have its back," he stressed.
Addressing the impending nuclear deal with Iran, against which Netanyahu has publicly warned, Obama said, "There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired."
The president added that he had no interest in reaching a bad deal.
"I'm interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran's pathways to a nuclear weapon — every single path," he declared.
"In other words, a deal that makes the world and the region — including Israel — more secure. That's how I define a good deal."
Obama also tacitly addressed his split with Netanyahu over the need for a two-state solution to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli stalemate.
"I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland," he said to rapturous applause.
"And I believe that's two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well."
The comments come amid continuing tensions between Jerusalem and Washington, which came to light again on Thursday, in an interview Obama gave to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.
In that interview, Obama responded to Netanyahu’s pre-election comments on a Palestinian state and Arab-Israelis, and warned that these comments have “consequences”.
In a polling-day bid to energize right-wing voters, Netanyahu had warned that Arab Israelis were going to the polls "in droves" – a comment for which he later apologized.
Obama also pointed to a Netanyahu statement ruling out the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state if reelected, though he has since sought to backtrack, prompting confusion as to his precise stance which has drawn criticism from both the left and right.
Responding to Obama’s renewed criticism of Netanyahu on Friday, MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Likud) said that the president’s remarks had been "inappropriate".
"I think his approach has no justification and no small measure of hypocrisy," Hanegbi told Kol Yisrael radio.
"We don't hear a word of criticism about our neighbors, for example the world record-holder in executions, Iran, with whom he is actually making supreme attempts at reconciliation," he fired, referring to efforts to strike a nuclear deal.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)