Washington, June 18 - Advisors to the Romney and Obama campaigns sparred Wednesday about the American response to the Iranian threat and the U.S.-Israel relationship at a Capitol Hill briefing organized by The Israel Project.
“This administration has gone beyond the call of duty” in strengthening the bilateral relationship, said former Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler, who now heads the non-partisan S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.
Wexler gave several instances he said highlighted the “unprecedented” cooperation between the U.S. and the Israeli government.
Mary Beth Long, a foreign policy adviser to Republican presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, argued that defense department budget cuts could limit America’s ability to pursue its regional interests in the future.
“We need to increase our ability to project credible defensive capabilities into the Middle East,” she said. Long also said the administration was perceived by many of “being more concerned with Israel going to war than Iran than Iran building a nuclear weapon.”
Wexler, in response, said that Obama “will not tolerate a nuclear Iran” but emphasized the need to exhaust all diplomatic and economic methods of persuading Iran to stop nuclear enrichment before considering military action.
Long also said the ongoing violence in Syria that has claimed thousands of civilians’ lives merited a stronger response from the administration. Wexler voiced hesitation about arming the Syrian rebels who are fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
The event on Capitol Hill also featured Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Israel to the United States Barukh Binah, a panel of notable pundits, and longtime Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller.