BOCA RATON, Fla. (BP) -- Israel was a key focus of the third and final presidential debate Oct. 22 with both candidates expressing solidarity with the United States' main ally in the Middle East particularly as it faces an increasing threat from a nuclear Iran.
Moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News asked if the candidates would be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States, and President Obama and Mitt Romney both said America will stand with Israel.
"Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region," Obama said at the debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., "and if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I've made that clear throughout my presidency."
The president, though, has been criticized in recent months for perhaps weakening America's relationship with Israel, particularly by not meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he traveled to the United States.
"Working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history," Obama said. "In fact, this week we'll be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week."
Romney, in response to the question, said when he is president, "We will stand with Israel, and if Israel is attacked, we have their back -- not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily."
A nuclear-capable Iran, Romney said in reference to Israel's most vehement opponent in the region, "is unacceptable to America."
Obama said his administration has organized "the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy." Iran's currency has dropped 80 percent, their oil production has plunged to the lowest level in 20 years and "their economy is in shambles," Obama said.
"As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon," Obama said, adding that a nuclear Iran is a threat to both America's and Israel's national security.
Romney drew attention to what has been dubbed Obama's "apology tour," a trip he took to several Middle East nations soon after entering office. Romney contended that Obama criticized the United States during those stops, and nations such as Iran noticed.
"I think they looked at that and saw weakness," Romney said. "... And I think that when the president said he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel, they noticed that as well." Read More