WASHINGTON (JTA) — Mitt Romney in the second presidential debate accused President Obama of putting "daylight between us and Israel."
Responding to Obama’s pledge to investigate the circumstances of an attack that killed four U.S. diplomats in Libya last month, Romney assailed Obama’s overall foreign policy record and pivoted to the president’s at-times strained relationship with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"This calls into question the president’s whole policy in the Middle East. Look what’s happening in Syria, in Egypt, now in Libya," Romney said at the Hofstra University debate in Long Island, N.Y., on Tuesday night. "Consider the distance between ourselves and — and Israel, the president said that — that he was going to put daylight between us and Israel."
Obama at a July 2009 meeting with Jewish leaders was asked whether he would preserve the policies of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations of "no daylight" or keeping disputes with Israel private. The president replied that the practice of not making public disputes with Israel did not advance the peace process.
During the debate, Obama did not engage on the Israel question, instead pushing back against Romney’s claims that he was not fully engaged in the wake of the Libya attack.
Other than that segment, much of the debate focused on domestic issues such as education, jobs creation, tax policy and immigration. On energy policy, each leader outlined different paths to energy independence, with Obama focusing on alternatives to fossil fuels and Romney also embracing them but urging greater exploitation of oil, coal and gas.
Asked to distinguish his policies from those of President George W. Bush, Romney said, "We can now, by virtue of new technology, actually get all the energy we need in North America without having to go to the — the Arabs or the Venezuelans or anyone else. That wasn’t true in his time, that’s why my policy starts with a very robust policy to get all that energy in North America — become energy secure."
Obama with the last word in the debate used his final remarks to target Romney’s suggestion at a fundraiser that 47 percent of Americans would never vote for him because they do not pay income taxes and are dependent on government.
"I believe Governor Romney is a good man — loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims, who refuse personal responsibility — think about who he was talking about," Obama said, citing retirees on Social Security, veterans, active-duty soldiers and workers who do not earn enough to have to pay income taxes.
Romney previously has said that he misspoke at the fundraiser.