A political TV advertisement featuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has caused a stir as it is being seen as an endorsement of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
The ad, which is running in the key swing state of Florida, was produced by the independent group Secure America Now and shows Netanyahu expressing his concern about what he and other world leaders suspect is a nuclear program being pursued by Iran.
“The fact is that every day that passes, Iran gets closer and closer to nuclear bombs,” he says in the spot. “The world tells Israel, wait there’s still time. And I say, wait for what? Wait until when?” Netanyahu made the remarks on September 11 in Jerusalem shortly after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would not be “setting deadlines” for Iran, though it would be “watching very carefully about what they do, because it’s always been more about their actions and their words.”
Mark Regev, Netanyahu’s spokesman, said the ad had “not been coordinated with us, we were not consulted and no one asked us for our permission.”
According to CNN, Secure America Now has so far bought $500,000 of television time over two weeks in districts of southern Florida, many of which have very large Jewish populations.
Romney visited Israel in July with his chief political backer, Sheldon Adelson, and was warmly welcomed by Netanyahu, with whom he has been friends since the 1970s when both worked at the Boston Consulting Group. During his visit, Romney said, “I would treat Israel like the friend and ally it is … I cannot imagine going to the United Nations, as Obama did, and criticizing Israel in front of the world. You don’t criticize your allies in public to achieve the applause of your foes. If there were places where we disagree, I would hold these disagreements in private conversations, not in public forums.”
Netanyahu’s relationship with President Obama has been a chilly one since Obama took office. Last year, the French media web site Arret Sur Imageswhile meeting with then French President Nicholas Sarkozy, an open mike picked up Sarkozy telling Obama in reference to Netanyahu, “can’t stand him. He’s a liar.” Obama was heard to say, “You’re tired of him – what about me? I have to deal with him every day.”
Earlier this month, the White House said that President Obama would not meet with Netanyahu during a U.S. visit later this month, as tensions escalated over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. An Israeli official, who declined to be identified, said the White House had refused Netanyahu’s request to meet Obama when the Israeli leader visits the United States to attend the U.N. General Assembly, telling the Israelis, “The president’s schedule will not permit that.”
According to a recent report conducted by the American Jewish Committee, the majority of Jewish voters in Florida will vote for President Obama in the November election. The report, which surveyed 254 eligible Jewish voters, notes that 69 percent of Jews from Florida will support President Obama, while 25 percent are expected to vote for Romney.