Presidential Debate Recap: And The Winner Of The Foreign Policy Debate Is…Israel

At the final debate of the 2012 presidential race, the winner seems to be Israel. As Reuters columnist Anthony DeRosa tweeted mid-debate: 


Israel can rest assured that, despite the outcome of the election, it will have a true friend in the White House for the next four years. The nation was mentioned 31 times by the candidates throughout the 90 minute debate — the continent of Europe was mentioned once. It appeared as though President Obama and Governor Romney were in a constant battle over who could best express their commitment to “our greatest ally in the Middle East.”  

The foreign policy debate took place in swing-state Florida, where there is a sizable Jewish population. New York Times’ columnist Jodi Kantor explained that when the President recounted his time campaigning in Israel, visiting Yad Vashem and “the border town of Sderot”: 


While the President chose this tactic to appeal to Israel supporters, Governor Romney cited his close personal relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which began when both were corporate advisers at Boston Consulting Group.

President Obama and Governor Romney left no room for interpretation; Iran will not be developing a nuclear weapon on their watches. Said the President, “as long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office.” Governor Romney reaffirmed this, saying that “there’s no question but that a nuclear Iran, a nuclear-capable Iran is unacceptable to America.” An Iran with nuclear capabilities is a tremendous security threat to Israel, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the country should be “wiped off” the map. With unequivocal declarations of support from the President of the United States and POTUS-hopeful, officials in Jerusalem should rest easier tonight.

Israel’s security aside, President Obama was able to show off his foreign policy credentials by deferring to his record. He asserts his leadership restored our respectability throughout the world, and reinvigorated alliances after nearly a decade of Bush policies. The President did not shy away from calling Governor Romney a flip-flopper and accused him of “sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies.”

Governor Romney, who has virtually no foreign policy experience, started the debate off slow. He only seemed to sustain momentum when circling the conversation back to the sluggish economy on the home front. While it seems that the Obama camp could chalk this debate up as a win, their victory is still clouded by falling poll numbers in critical swing states. For both campaigns, there is still much work to be done.

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Danielle Schlanger

Graduate student at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

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