The US presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney found its way to Tel Aviv this week, in a debate organized by The Jerusalem Post, along with IVoteIsrael and the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.

Moderated by Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde, Monday night’s debate at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv highlighted some of the main concerns for the room full of American Israelis.



On the Left side of the discussion table, Hillel Schenker, representing Democrats Abroad Israel, praised Obama’s dedication to Israel’s security and wellbeing, as well as his revival of US standing in the international arena.

To the Right, Marc Zell, representing Republicans Abroad Israel, was arguing that US international standing has never been so low.

“Maybe the world didn’t like George Bush, but they respected him,” he said. Zell said that if Romney will run the business of America then “the economy has a fighting chance of getting back on its feet and America’s standing in the eyes of the world will be able to lead around the world and particularly in our region.”

Regarding Iran, Schenker said that “Bush’s great achievement was to eliminate the Iraqi counterpoint to Iran, which strengthened Iran’s situation tremendously in the region and in the world,” creating the current crisis we have with Iran. Obama has set red lines, he said, working towards preventing a nuclear Iran.

Zell, however, countered that all Obama has done is try to talk to the ayatollahs, who in turn told him “to take a walk. The person who has been working to prevent the nuclearization of Iran,” he said, “is the prime minister of this tiny country [Israel].”

Zell said that Obama was avoiding the subject of Iran until it became an issue in connection with his reelection.

Zell also gave away that in his upcoming visit to Israel during his campaign, Romney would talk about certain issues of interest including US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Schenker was a little less promising, yet more diplomatic.

“Every presidential candidate can say whatever he wants as a candidate about Jerusalem, but the fact is that when you are sitting in the White House, you cannot declare that Jerusalem is the official capital until a comprehensive peace agreement is achieved between Israel and its neighbors. This is the reality,” Schenker said. “You have to work with both the Israelis and the Arabs.”

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The series of political debates aims to encourage inform Americans living in Israel to register to vote, and to better inform them about their voting decisions for the upcoming US presidential elections on November 6.

Another debate will be held Thursday, July 26, in Beit Shemesh at Netach Menashe Beit Knesset at 8 p.m., moderated by Post political correspondent Gil Hoffman. The debate will feature Zell and the counsel and past chairman of Democrats Abroad Israel, Sheldon Schorer.

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