Obama defends, Romney attacks on US-Israel ties

In '60 Minutes' interviews, US president says he speaks to PM "all the time," Romney attacks Obama for not to meeting Netanyahu.

September 24, 2012 03:23
2 minute read.
Obama, Romney in Israel

Obama, Romney in Israel 370. (photo credit: Reuters)


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US President Barack Obama touted his "close" relationship with Israel, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney attacked his decision not to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in separate interviews with CBS's 60 Minutes released Sunday.

"I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time," said Obama. "I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu's insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race."

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Asked by Obama's interviewer Steve Kroft if he feels any pressure by Netanyahu to "draw a line in the sand" on the Iranian nuclear issue, the US president responded: "When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there."

He added: "Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we're in close consultation with the Israelis on these issues because it affects them deeply."

Netanyahu has repeatedly called for the US to set "red lines" on Tehran, giving voice to growing frustration with US President Barack Obama and the international community’s failure to stop Iran’s nuclear march.

Meanwhile, Romney took the opportunity to attack the president's foreign policy vis-à-vis Israel. "The president's decision not to meet with Bibi Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, when the prime minister is here for the United Nations session, I think, is a mistake," he said, "and it sends a message throughout the Middle East that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends and I think the exact opposite approach is what's necessary."

Romney has repeatedly accused Obama of "throwing Israel under the bus," which has raised ire among Democrats for what they consider to be an unfair characterization of the president's record.

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Both Obama and Romney used the majority of their interviews to discuss domestic issues, from the unemployment rate and the size of government to same-sex marriage and the Guantanamo Bay.

Obama also defended his record on the so-called "Arab Spring" uprisings which took place throughout the Middle East and North Africa. "I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance," he said. He admitted that "there are going to be bumps in the road," but expressed hope that in the long run the region will be aided by the recent occurrences.

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