Obama and Romney on 60 Minutes
Hot diggity– Israel was a main event in the 60 Minutes interviews with the two major-party candidates for president tonight, offering the high likelihood that Israel will continue to be an issue in the presidential debates, and the real possibility that the special relationship will be politicized. Not a word about Palestinians, of course.
Notice that Obama is somewhat dismissive of Netanyahu, putting him in the category of “noise” he has to tune out when he’s considering what’s good for Americans:
[Steve] Kroft: How much pressure have you been getting from Prime Minister Netanyahu to make up your mind to use military force in Iran?
Obama: Well, look, I have conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu all the time. And 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.
Kroft: You don’t feel any pressure from Prime Minister Netanyahu in the middle of a campaign to try and get you to change your policy and draw a line in the sand? You don’t feel any pressure?
Obama: 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. 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. They’re 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.
And notice that Romney starts talking about Israel when asked a question about reducing anti-American sentiment in the Middle East. He injects Israel into the issue. Wait, is meeting Netanyahu a way to reduce anti-American sentiment? My mother-in-law called me after the show to express anger that Netanyahu had stuck his broad nose into our presidential election.
[Scott] Pelley: How would you ease the anti-American sentiment that we see in the Middle East?
Romney: Communicate to nations like Egypt, and Egypt is– if you will, the major player, 80 million people, the center of the Arab world. Egypt needs to understand what the rules are. That to remain an ally of the United States, to receive foreign aid from the United States, to receive foreign investment from ourselves and from our friends, I believe, around the world, that they must honor their peace agreement with Israel. That they must also show respect and provide civil rights for minorities in their country. And they also have to protect our embassies. I think we also have to communicate that Israel is our ally. Our close ally. 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 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.
Finally, note that Obama suggests that Romney wants “another war” with Iran.
Kroft: Since the Benghazi tragedy, your opponent has attacked you as being weak on national defense and weak on foreign policy. He says you need to be more aggressive in Iran, haven’t done enough to support the revolt in Syria, and that our friends don’t know where we stand, and our enemies think we’re weak.
Obama: Well, let’s see what I’ve done since I came into office. I said I’d end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we’d go after al Qaeda. They’ve been decimated in the Fatah. That we’d go after bin Laden. He’s gone. So I’ve executed on my foreign policy. And it’s one that the American people largely agree with. So if Gov. Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so.