President Barack Obama, who on Thursday officially accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for presidency, pledged in his speech to the Democratic convention to maintain his support for Israel and to counter Iran’s nuclear ambition.
In a brief reference to Middle East issues in a speech which was otherwise focused on domestic affairs, Obama said that, “our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace.” Regarding the nuclear threat from Iran, the President said: “The Iranian government must face a world that stays united against its nuclear ambitions.”
The president did not offer further details on what would be needed in order to stop Iran. He also refrained from elaborating on U.S. relations with Israel, an issue that took center stage during the Democratic convention due to the flap over the initial omission of Jerusalem from the party’s platform. Obama’s brief remark on Israel did, however, receive warm applause from the crowd at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.
Diving in deeper to Obama’s relations with Israel was Sen. John Kerry who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Kerry poked fun at Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s foreign policy credentials and criticized his “neo-con advisers.” On Israel, Kerry said, “the other side has lied” about Obama’s policy and quoted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praising Obama as proof that Romney’s attacks on this issue are baseless. “When it comes to Israel, I’ll take the word of Israel’s prime minister over Romney’s any day,” he said.
President Obama’s acceptance speech aimed to draw a clear distinction between the Democratic and the Republican ideology as the nation heads into the final stretch of the election cycle. He described his policy and that of his party as attentive to the needs of the middle class while saying Romney and the Republicans cater primarily to the rich.
Obama acknowledged in his speech that the economy has yet to fully recover, but asked voters for four more years to continue fixing it. “The truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades,” Obama said.
In a barely veiled jab at Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, the president urged supporters to rise up against those who seek to “buy the election” with “$10 million checks.” Adelson, who was a prominent figure at the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa, has given eight-figure gifts to super-PAC’s supporting the GOP effort to unseat Obama.
The emotional moment of Thursday night’s events at the Democratic convention was reserved to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who, accompanied by her close friend and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, led the audience in the pledge of allegiance. It was a rare public appearance for Giffords, the Jewish Arizona representative who is still recovering from severe brain injury she suffered after an attempted assassination last year.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.