In the final presidential debate Monday in Boca Raton, Florida, US President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney mentioned Israel in almost every answer as they emphasized a desire to protect "our biggest ally in the region," as Obama said.
In response to a question about Iraq, the American president said: “You’ve got to be clear, both to our allies and our enemies, about where you stand and what you mean. You just gave a speech a few weeks ago in which you said we should still have troops in Iraq. That is not a recipe for making sure that we are taking advantage of the opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Middle East. Now, it is absolutely true that we cannot just meet these challenges militarily. And so what I’ve done throughout my presidency and will continue to do is, number one, make sure that these countries are supporting our counterterrorism efforts."
“Number two, make sure that they are standing by our interests in Israel’s security, because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region.”
Asked by CBS “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer if he regrets the U.S. response to uprising against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, Obama responded: “No, I don’t, because I think that America has to stand with democracy.” He added that the new Egyptian authorities “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.”
On the US role in a potential conflict between Israel and Iran, Obama responded: “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. And this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.
“A nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel’s national security. We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.”
Mitt Romney said America has Israel’s back “not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily. That’s number one”.
“Number two, with regards to Iran and the threat of Iran, there’s no question but that a nuclear Iran, a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable to America. It presents a threat not only to our friends but ultimately a threat to us to have Iran have nuclear material, nuclear weapons that could be used against us or used to be threatening to us.”
Both candidates did not say what they would do if Israel conducted a unilateral strike on Iran, and at one point Romney brushed aside a hypothetical question on what he would do if the Israeli Prime Minister called to inform him Israel's planes were en route to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
Romney pressed his campaign's argument that Obama has been "an insufficient friend to Israel," and criticized the president for not visiting the country since he has been in the White House.
Obama for his part criticized Romney for taking fundraisers on a summer trip to Israel and said that on his own trip as a presidential candidate, he visited the southern Israeli city of Sderot, a frequent target of missiles launched from the Gaza Strip by Hamas.
The result, he said, was his administration's funding support for an Israeli missile defense system called Iron Dome.