Romney, surrogates accuse Obama of slighting Israel, mimimizing Libya deathsby George Bennett | September 24th, 2012
Mitt Romney and Republicans today accused President Obama of downgrading the U.S. relationship with Israel and minimizing the killing of the U.S. ambassador and three others in Libya during a 60 Minutes interview that aired Sunday night.
White House spokesman Jay Carney restated the administration’s support for Israel during a briefing today and accused Obama’s critics of a “desperate attempt to grasp at words and phrases here to find political advantage.”
The sharp exchange has particular significance in South Florida, where Republicans have tried to cut into traditionally strong Jewish support for Democrats by characterizing Obama as a weak ally of Israel.
Adam Hasner, a congressional candidate and former state House majority leader from Boca Raton who is a key emissary for Romney to Jewish voters, ripped Obama for not meeting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this week.
And Hasner blasted Obama for calling Israel “one of our closest allies in the region” and using the word “noise” when answering a question about whether the U.S. felt pressured by Netanyahu to specificy conditions for military action against Iran.
“Now we know why President Obama decided not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York next week: because the President has decided to ‘block out any noise that’s out there’ about the threat a nuclear Iran would pose to Israel. This is an absolute insult, but it’s not surprising coming from a president who has downgraded Israel’s status to ‘one of our closest allies.’ This is no way to treat our friends around the world, and it’s absolutely unacceptable coming from our nation’s commander in chief,” Hasner said.
Less than two weeks after U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed in Libya and Islamists led anti-U.S. protests in Cairo and other capitals, CBS’s Steve Kroft asked Obama whether “the recent events in the Middle East (have) given you any pause about your support for the governments that have come to power following the Arab Spring.”
Obama replied that he had warned since the beginning of the Arab Spring that “this is going to be a rocky path…..I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road.”
Romney fired back in an interview with ABC News.
“I can’t imagine saying something like the assassination of ambassadors is a bump in the road, when you look at the entire context, the assassination, the Muslim brotherhood president being elected in Egypt, 20,000 people killed in Syria, Iran close to becoming a nuclear nation. These are far from being bumps in the road,” Romney said.
Carney said Obama’s “bumps in the road” remark was not referring to the deaths in Libya.
“That assertion is both desperate and offensive. The president was referring to the transformations in the region to this process that only began less than two years ago as we saw in Tunisia and continues to this day with remarkable transformations occurring in countries around the region,” Carney said.
Also in the 60 Minutes interview, Kroft asked if Obama felt pressured by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lay out conditions for military action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“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,” Obama said.
The president then referred to Israel as “one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.”
Carney downplayed the significance of the “noise” comment and specifically stated in today’s briefing that “Israel is our closest ally in the region. We have an unshakeable bond with Israel.”