During last evening’s debate some 33 minutes was devoted to the Middle East and more directly, United States-Israel relations. No other indicator more directly points to the significance placed by both campaigns on the “Jewish vote” in this coming election.
Employing an array of different frameworks, Bob Schieffer of CBS introduced a series of questions that gave both the President and Governor Romney ample opportunity to define their “pro-Israel” credentials and relationships. And indeed, each candidate took the occasion to reassert their respective record in connection with issues that were introduced around Iran, Syria, and the broader tensions within the Middle East to define their special connections to the State of Israel. Providing their personal connections and policy positions, the two Presidential candidates invoked their support for and commitment to the future of the US-Israel relationship.
Of particular importance, it permitted a sitting President and his rival for the Oval Office to expand America’s engagement with Israel and to create an umbrella of security for Israel when Mr. Schieffer asked if as a nation we would be prepared to defend the Jewish state in the event of it being attacked. This moment within the debate ought to be seen as historic in the context of the American-Israel connection. The question and the two responses represent a fundamental transition of United States’ policy, where the leaders of both political parties articulate such a defined commitment.
This segment of the 90 minute debate was designed specifically to play to the Florida Jewish community, a state key to both campaigns. In a state where only a few percentage points separate the two campaigns, the shift of even a few key voting groups can make a significant difference.
This moment on national television confirmed several political realities, namely the importance of Israel as a strategic and valued ally to the United States. By the attention extended to this relationship, it would symbolize and affirm the significant standing within American society provided to Jews by both political camps.