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Romney later accused Obama of distancing the United States from Israel.
“I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate,” Romney said in arguing that he would better stand by U.S. allies.
Obama countered that during his presidency military and intelligence cooperation with Israel was “unprecedented.”
Israel returned as a topic in one of the debate’s most heated exchanges, when Romney reminded Obama that he had not visited the country during a 2009 Middle East tour.
“By way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations,” Romney said. “And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel.”
Obama responded by first noting that he had visited Israel and U.S. troops abroad as a candidate – a reference to criticism of Romney for not visiting troops during his campaign travels abroad.
He also attacked Romney for organizing a fund-raiser during his own Israel trip in July.
“And when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fundraisers, I went to Yad Vashem, the – the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the – the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable,” Obama said.
“And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas,” he said. “And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms, and I was reminded of – of what that would mean if those were my kids, which is why, as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.”