Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Obama, Romney Spar on Israel and Iran in Foreign Policy Debate

October 23, 2012 11:25 am 1 comment

Expressions from the third presidential candidates' debate, focused on Middle East policy.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Governor Mitt Romney sparred on Monday over who was Israel’s strongest defender, but both agreed that a military strike over Iran’s nuclear program must be a “last resort.”

Tehran’s nuclear program, which the West suspects is for developing weapons and that economic sanctions have so far failed to stop, is almost certain to be among the top foreign policy challenges facing the next president.

During the candidates’ third and final debate in Boca Raton, Fla.—which centered on foreign policy—Romney challenged the effectiveness of Obama’s Iran policy, saying his perceived weakness has strengthened the ayatollahs’ resolve. “They have looked at this administration and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be,” he said. “I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength.”

“We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran. We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran,” Romney continued. “And—and we should not have wasted these four years to the extent they’ve—they continue to be able to spin these centrifuges and get that much closer.”

Obama, meanwhile, accused Romney of rushing to conclude that a military strike was necessary. “The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that, during the course of this campaign, he’s often talked as if we should take premature military action,” Obama said. “I think that would be a mistake, because when I send young men and women into harm’s way, I always understand that is the last resort, not the first resort,” he said.

Romney responded that “We need to increase pressure, time and time again, on Iran because anything other than … a solution to this … which stops this, this nuclear folly of theirs, is unacceptable to America.”

“And of course, a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only … consider if all of the other avenues had been … tried to their full extent,” he said.

The candidates did not offer sharply contrasting policies to address the Iranian challenge. They agreed on the need for tough economic pressure—and for safeguarding Israel.

“If Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily,” Romney said.

Obama said, “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked.”

The president later called Israel “a true friend and our greatest ally in the region,” and said Israel and the U.S. maintain “unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat.” Obama went on to say that a nuclear Iran would be a national security threat to the U.S. He stressed he would not let Iran obtain a nuclear bomb so long as he is president and would not let Iran “perpetually engage in negotiations that lead nowhere.”

Obama and Romney did not say what they would do if Israel conducted a unilateral strike on Iran. Pressed by the moderator on how he would react if Israel were to launch a unilateral strike against Iran, Romney said, “Our relationship with Israel, my relationship with the prime minister of Israel [Benjamin Netanyahu] is such that we would not get a call saying our bombers are on the way or their fighters are on the way.” Romney and Netanyahu both worked for a Boston-based consulting firm in the 1970s.

Romney slammed Obama for sidelining the relations with Israel as part of the effort to curry favor with other Middle East players, evident by what the governor called an “apology tour.”

“You went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And by [the] way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations,” Romney said. “And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations and on Arabic TV you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.”

Romney also attacked Obama for not acting to shore-up relations with Israel even after 38 members of Congress had sent him a letter urging him to do so. “They asked him, please repair the tension—Democrat senators—please repair the damage,” Romney said.

Obama said his administration and he personally consider Israel’s security paramount, in part owing to the impression left by his visit there as a candidate in 2008. “I went down to the border town of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms, and I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids, which is why, as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.”

Reacting to the debate, Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matt Brooks said Romney demonstrated “his knowledge of foreign policy issues and his understanding of the nature of our allies and foes on the global stage.” Romney “made it clear that in order for the U.S. to fulfill its role in the world, we must first be strong—economically, militarily, and diplomatically,” according to Brooks.

“[Obama’s] policies over the last four years have weakened us,” Brooks said in a statement. “Romney’s plans to grow the economy and get people back to work will strengthen America at home and in the eyes of the world.”

National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) President David A. Harris said Obama’s “statements of unequivocal support for Israel” during the debate were “just the latest demonstration of this President’s rock-solid commitment to the Jewish state and its security.”

“For pro-Israel voters, only one candidate in this race has a proven record when it comes to standing up for Israel’s security, and those voters were reminded of that tonight,” Harris said in a statement. “President Obama showed—in this exchange, and throughout the evening—why and how he has stewarded the U.S.-Israel relationship and the effort to halt Iran so powerfully and with maturity, seriousness and confidence over the past four years.”

1 Comment

  • As an American citizen I find the language and posture of those who run for office in this country quite troubling as it concerns Israel. It’s one thing to declare your solidarity with a friend but there seems to be a who can bow lower to express the sincerity of their commitment thing going on.

    It’s quite puzzling.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Jewish ‘Scandal’ Star Says He Remains True to Religious Ritual, Despite Scheduling, Dietary Conflicts

    Jewish ‘Scandal’ Star Says He Remains True to Religious Ritual, Despite Scheduling, Dietary Conflicts

    A star of the hit TV show Scandal told the community website Quora.com that, throughout his acting career, he has remained faithful to his Judaism, even when it has caused him to forfeit gigs. Joshua Malina, who plays the character of David Rosen on the ABC political-thriller series, reminisced about his early days in Hollywood, when he had no agent and could only go to open-call auditions. At one of these — a try-out for a commercial — he said he waited on a line that was “maybe a city […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Huffington Post Accused of ‘Jew-Hatred’ After Tweeting ‘Offensive’ Joke About Comedian at Video Music Awards

    Huffington Post Accused of ‘Jew-Hatred’ After Tweeting ‘Offensive’ Joke About Comedian at Video Music Awards

    The Huffington Post is facing backlash after joking about a Jewish comedian’s  appearance at the Video Music Awards (VMAs) on Sunday night. Josh “The Fat Jew” Ostrovsky took part in Nick Jonas’ performance of his song “Bacon,” staged in a New York diner — in a cameo role as a waiter throwing a handful of bacon in the air. Commenting on the show, the Huffington Post tweeted, “not thrilled at the fat jew [he] wasted all that perfectly good bacon!!!!!!” The message angered many Twitter users, who thought the joke […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israeli Fans Mob, Dance With Basketball Player Amar’e Stoudemire at First Jerusalem Team Practice (VIDEO)

    Israeli Fans Mob, Dance With Basketball Player Amar’e Stoudemire at First Jerusalem Team Practice (VIDEO)

    Israeli basketball fans mobbed Hapoel Jerusalem’s newest player, American pro Amar’e Stoudemire, dancing around with him during a practice open to the public. On Friday, the team posted a video on Twitter of the happy romp with fans jumping around Stoudemire, while chanting in Hebrew. Unfamiliar with the lyrics, Stoudemire pumps his fist in the air. The basketball player, who has Jewish roots on his mother’s side, also waved a flag emblazoned with Hapoel Jerusalem’s logo. The former New York Knicks forward retired from the NBA earlier […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Playboy Columnist Calls Israel’s ‘Burning Man’ Festival ‘Ultimate Revenge on Hitler’

    Playboy Columnist Calls Israel’s ‘Burning Man’ Festival ‘Ultimate Revenge on Hitler’

    The Israeli version of the famed American Burning Man music festival is the “ultimate revenge on Hitler,” according to a column in Playboy magazine on Thursday. In his column, Jeff Weiss also took note of the fact that Midburn — a five-day bacchanal in the Negev Desert, self-described as an event celebrating “a communal life style, creativity, art and radical self-expression” — began on June 8, the day of the Sarona Market terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, which left four people dead. Weiss asked rhetorically, “What could needle the mustached […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Author of New Book on Connection Between Jews, Punk Rock Describes Bands Flinging Gefilte Fish, Bagels at Audience (INTERVIEW)

    Author of New Book on Connection Between Jews, Punk Rock Describes Bands Flinging Gefilte Fish, Bagels at Audience (INTERVIEW)

    Some punk rockers integrate their Jewish identity into their music through food, the author of a new book on the topic told The Algemeiner on Wednesday. Michael Croland, author of Oy Oy Oy Gevalt! Jews and Punk, described the way different musicians express this connection. “One band is known for throwing gefilte fish in the mosh pit, and people at its concert slide around on it while dancing,” he recounted. “Another used to drink Manischewitz [sweet kosher] wine out of a shofar [the ram […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Scottish Soccer Club Manager Hails ‘Fantastic’ Jewish-State Visit After Victory Over Israeli Team (VIDEO)

    Scottish Soccer Club Manager Hails ‘Fantastic’ Jewish-State Visit After Victory Over Israeli Team (VIDEO)

    The manager of Scotland’s Celtic soccer club lauded Israel, after his team won a match against the Jewish state’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva on Tuesday night. Brendan Rodgers said at a post-match press conference: On behalf of the players, the people of Celtic and Scotland, Israel’s been fantastic for us. We came out here on Sunday, [and from] the hotel, the staff, we’ve been very, very warmly received. The atmosphere at the game was amazing and, obviously, one team has to lose, but you have a wonderful team here, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Second Jaffa Jazz Festival to Reunite International, Israeli Musicians

    Second Jaffa Jazz Festival to Reunite International, Israeli Musicians

    For the second time, Israel will host the Jaffa Jazz Festival, according to Broadwayworld.com. The festival will unite 43 Israeli musicians and eight international artists for a three-day event. The program will include a special performance by an ensemble of top jazz students studying at Belgium’s Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, the Belgrade Music Academy in Serbia, Israel’s Rimon School of Music and the jazz program of the Israel Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv. There will also be a jazz show for children led by Israeli saxophonist […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Israel’s First NASCAR Driver Revved Up to Win

    Israel’s First NASCAR Driver Revved Up to Win

    JNS.org – As a young boy growing up in Ashdod, Israel, Alon Day got his first go-kart at age 9. By 15, he was racing them. Less than a decade later, Day has become the first Israeli professional race car driver on the NASCAR circuit. He made history by competing in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 13. “Driving a race car is not like any other sport,” Day told JNS.org. “You are actually almost flying […]

    Read more →