WASHINGTON – Pointing to his own record of support for Israel in order to
question those of his Republican rival, Obama asserted that cooperation between
Washington and Jerusalem has never been stronger than during his presidency,
speaking at a campaign rally in Florida Tuesday.
He recalled a statement
by Mitt Romney from earlier this year in which the Republican presidential
candidate said of his positions on Israel, “I think by and large you could just
look at the things the president’s done and do the opposite.”
I reminded [Romney] that cooperation with Israel has never been stronger,” Obama
retorted in front of a crowd of supporters.
During the final debate
before the election, Obama said that when it came to the relationship with
Israel and other allies, “Our alliances have never been stronger, in Asia, in
Europe, in Africa, with Israel, where we have unprecedented military and
intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian
Obama is open to having bilateral talks with Iran about its
nuclear program, but the United States has not scheduled any negotiations, White
House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday. “We have been open to
considering negotiations that are bilateral, but we have none scheduled, and we
have no agreements with the Iranians to do that,” Carney told reporters. “There
is nothing scheduled. There is no agreement.”
Citing Obama administration
officials, The New York Times reported on Sunday that the US and Iran had agreed
in principle to oneon- one negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, but both the
White House and Iran have denied the report.
During the final
presidential debate on Monday, Obama said he had long offered Iran the
possibility of bilateral discussions, a point Carney reiterated, saying, “We are
and have been open to pursuing negotiations if and when the Iranians are serious
about having negotiations.”
During the debate, both candidates expressed
their intention never to let Iran acquire nuclear weapons, but voters said Obama did a better job than Romney.
a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday, voters’ opinions of each candidate did
not shift significantly. Some 47 percent of registered voters surveyed in the
online poll judged Obama the victor, while 31 percent believed Romney
During the debate, held in Boca Raton, Florida and devoted to
foreign policy, both candidates said they would stand by Israel should it be
attacked by Iran.
Both candidates said they would stand by Israel if it
was attacked by Iran.
“If Israel is attacked, America will stand with
Israel,” Obama said when asked whether they would treat an attack on Israel as
an attack on the United States, a status extended to several allies – by
moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS.
GOP challenger Mitt Romney echoed Obama,
saying, “If Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not
just culturally, but militarily.”
But both candidates declined to answer
what exactly they would do should they receive a phone call informing them that
Israel was attacking Iran.
“Let’s not go into hypotheticals of that
nature,” Romney responded, adding that the US relationship with Israel was so
close that, “We would not get a call saying our bombers are on the way, or their
fighters are on the way.
“This is the kind of thing that would have been
discussed and thoroughly evaluated, well before.” He said.
Obama, for his
part, did not address the question, relating instead to other aspects of Middle
East policy that Romney had broached as part of his answer.
repeatedly referred to tensions between the US and Israel, saying that the
president’s omission of a visit to Israel during his Middle East tour in the
first year of his term was noticed by Arab states, and that “daylight” between
the two countries that was noticed by Iran.
Obama responded by talking
about the trip he took to Israel as a candidate in 2008, contrasting it with
Romney’s own visit this summer, which included a high-priced
“When I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors.
I didn’t attend fundraisers,” Obama said. “I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust
museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel
will be unbreakable.
“And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot,
which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas,” he said.
said that when it came to the relationship with Israel and other allies, “Our
alliances have never been stronger, in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel,
where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including
dealing with the Iranian threat.”
On Iran, Romney labeled it “the
greatest national security threat” America faces, and repeatedly noted that
Tehran is now “four years closer to a nuclear weapon” than when Obama entered
Obama, in contrast, pointed to terrorist networks as the biggest
threats. But he stressed, “Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.” Though red lines
on Iran have been getting a lot of attention recently, Obama staked out one on
Egypt during the debate. “They have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That
is a red line for us, because not only is Israel’s security at stake, but our
security is at stake if that unravels,” he said.
Iran was the foreign
country mentioned the most during the debate, at 47 times. Israel came in second
at 34, followed closely by China at 32. The Palestinians, in contrast, were
mentioned only once.
Romney made the sole reference when he said, “Are
Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No, they
haven’t had talks in two years.” Neither candidate’s favorable ratings shifted
in the wake of the debate, the last of three televised matchups before the
November 6 election. Likewise, voter assessments of the candidates on a range of
issues from the economy to foreign policy did not change by a statistically
The full impact of the debate on the race won’t show
up in opinion polls for several more days, but it is unlikely that it will give
either candidate a big enough boost to break their statistical tie, Ipsos
pollster Julia Clark said.
“By this point in the election cycle a lot of
people have formed a more complete view of each candidate,” Clark
The accuracy of Reuters/Ipsos online polls are measured using a
credibility interval. The survey of 515 registered voters, conducted on Tuesday
following the debate, has a credibility interval of 4.9 percentage points.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff
contributed to this report.