The presidential debates have ended and now the campaigns are in the homestretch. The third and final debate, held in Boca Raton, Fla., focused mostly on foreign policy issues, especially in the Middle East, and demonstrated better than any campaign advertisement could that there is essentially no difference between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney on virtually every issue raised.
And that should give everyone pause, no matter for whom you plan to vote. If you are looking for a change in policy in the next administration toward Israel or Iran, neither candidate will deliver it.
Israel was mentioned 34 times in the non-debate (17 times by the president; 14 by Mr. Romney; three by moderator Bob Schieffer). No other country in the region save one came close, not even those in which U.S. troops are fighting a war (Afghanistan was heard a mere 21 times on Monday evening; Iraq garnered only 22 mentions). Syria, where so many thousands have been killed in a brutal civil conflict, also fell short, with 28 mentions. Only Iran beat out Israel, with 47 mentions, and most of those were as much about Israel as they were about Iran.
Yet it amounted to nothing much at all. We would have liked to have heard President Obama explain the near debacle at the Democratic convention over the exclusion of Jerusalem in the platform, which he personally stepped in to reverse, and why he believes some Democrats booed when Israel was mentioned. We would have liked to have heard Mr. Romney explain his own party’s downgraded position on Jerusalem in its platform and a clarification of remarks he made some months ago in which he denigrated a two-state solution, something he insists he does support. We would have liked to have heard both candidates discuss how, whether, and when they will implement a congressionally mandated move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
We heard nothing of any of this. What we did hear from each candidate sounded very much like it could have been said by the other candidate – on Israel, Iran, and a host of other issues.
In Israel, news reports crowed about Israel’s central role in the debate. Some even expressed surprise at the president’s strong support for the Jewish state. In a play on words, one radio talk show host declared, “ha-barak chozer l’Obama,” which translates as “the sparkle returns to Obama.” Army radio gave Mr. Obama a 2-1 win.
Big deal. On the important questions, either they were not asked, or neither side offered anything different from the other.
It only proves what we have said before: Israel does not belong in this election.
On Nov. 6, we should be voting for the candidate who best represents the issues Jews hold most dear, from social concerns to economic ones. Israel’s safety and security will be safe regardless of who wins.