Here's what Washington is saying about Netanyahu's visit

Senator Ted Cruz jokes at CPAC about Netanyahu
Senator Ted Cruz jokes at CPAC about Netanyahu

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    Senator Ted Cruz jokes at CPAC about Netanyahu

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Senator Ted Cruz jokes at CPAC about Netanyahu 00:13

(CNN)Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates slammed President Barack Obama on Thursday for refusing to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during this visit, and they also used the Conservative Political Action Conference stage to declare their support for Israel.

"We need a leader who understands that when the PM and leader of our longtime ally asks to come to Congress to share his concerns about Iran, we should show him and his country our respect," said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
With less than a week to go, Netanyahu's visit is rapidly rising to the top of the political conversation amid a busy news week, as everyone from the White House down to those Republicans vying to be its next occupant made time to address how closely they stood with Israel.
"There's not a single Democrat here," noted Sen. Ted Cruz to the crowd at the National Harbor, Maryland confab Thursday. "It's almost like CPAC invited Benjamin Netanyahu to speak!" -- a thinly veiled swipe referred to the two dozen or so lawmakers who have said they will not attend the Netanyahu address.
    Former business executive Carly Fiorina made her CPAC pitch personal: "I know Bibi Netanyahu, and as I sat in his office five years ago he spoke then of the dangers posed by Iran. He travels here next week not to offend our President, but to warn the American people that our President's insistence on a deal with Iran at any cost is a danger to the world."
    And Dr. Ben Carson suggested Iran is worse than ISIS.
    "We need to recognize that the Shia in Iran are every bit as dangerous, perhaps more dangerous, we could take our eye off the ball as they develop nuclear weapons. We also need to recognize that we have friends over there, let's not turn our back on Israel, let's listen to Netanyahu and what he has to say."
    Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner -- the man who invited Netanyahu to speak in the first place without notifying the White House -- hit back at White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice, for calling the visit "destructive."
    "I couldn't disagree more," Boehner said. "The American people and both parties in Congress have always stood with Israel and nothing, and no one, should get in the way of that."
    "But what is destructive, in my view is making a bad deal that paves the way for a nuclear Iran," he continued. "That's destructive, and that's why it's so important for the American people to hear what Prime Minister Netanyahu has to say about the grave threats that we're facing."
    The administration continued to defend its position on Thursday and Friday, as State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki insisted the U.S-Israeli relationship "is not a partisan relationship."
    Psaki's boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, will be out of town during the visit. One of the items on his travel agenda is a meeting with Iran's foreign minister on the nuclear issue.
    The White House also announced Thursday that it would be sending National Security Adviser Susan Rice and UN Amb. Samantha Power to represent it at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference next week -- an event Netanyahu will also be addressing.
    White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday, "as previous administration officials have done at previous AIPAC conferences, it's an opportunity to demonstrate once again the commitment of this administration and of this country to close security cooperation with Israel."
    However, he later added: "I also would anticipate that you would hear [Rice and Power] talk at least a little bit about why the administration believes that it serves the national security interests of the United States and of Israel to try to resolve the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program diplomatically."
    Netanyahu, for his part, said at a campaign event Wednesday that the U.S. and fellow western powers have "given up" on keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
    He also refused a request to meet with Senate Democrats in a closed-door session, saying it would "compound the misconception of partisanship."