President Obama Says His Bond With Israel is 'Unbreakable'

The candidates on the U.S. relationship with Israel and the threat of a nuclear Iran.
3:00 | 10/23/12

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Transcript for President Obama Says His Bond With Israel is 'Unbreakable'
Red lines Israel and a wrong. Would either review and -- like two minutes and President Obama you have the first go at this one. Would either of you be willing. Two declared -- -- attack on Israel. It's an attack on the United States. Which of course is the same promise that we give -- close allies like Japan. -- -- made such a declaration. Would not that deter. Iran. It says certainly deterred the Soviet union for a long long time when we made that when we made that promise -- now lives stretched. First of all Israel. Is a true friend it is our greatest ally in the region. And if Israel was attacked America will stand with -- -- -- I've made that clear throughout my presidency so your -- as saying they've already Baghdad back -- -- I will stand with Israel if they are attacked and this is the reason why. Working -- -- we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation. Between our two countries in history. In fact this week will be carry -- the largest military exercise with Israel in -- this very week. But. To the issue -- As long as I'm president United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapons. I've made that clear when I came in office we -- organized the strongest. Coalition. And the strongest sanctions against Iran in history and it -- crippling America up. -- currency has dropped 80%. Or production has plunged to lowest level since they were fighting a war with a -- twenty years ago. Their economy is in a shambles. And the reason we did this because a nuclear Iran is a threat to work national security and it's a threat to Israel's national -- But we cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race. In the most volatile region of the world. Iran's a state sponsor terrorists and for them to be able to provide nuclear technology. To non state actors that's unacceptable. And they have said they want to see is were wiped off the map. So the work that we've done with respect to sanctions now. Offers a lot of choice they can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or. They will have to face a united world. And a United States president me who said we're not gonna take any options off the table the disagreement I have with governor Romney is that. During the course this campaign he's often talked as if we should take pretty much for military action. I think that would be a mistake because what -- sent young men and women in the harm's way I always understand that that is a last resort. Not the first -- Tibetans well first of all. I -- -- underscore that the same point the president made which is that it if I'm president had states. When I'm president that states we will stand with Israel. And that if Israel -- attacked we have their back not just diplomatically. At this culturally militarily. -- number one number two with regards to to Iraq and the threat of Iraq. There's no question but that a nuclear Iran and nuclear capable Iran is unacceptable to Americans. It presents a threat -- -- -- friends but ultimately a threat to us to have Iran have nuclear material nuclear weapons to could be used against us -- -- used to be threatening to us. It's also essential trust understand what our mission is in Iraq and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful and diplomatic means. And crippling sanctions or -- -- are called for five years ago when I was in Israel speaking at the personally a conference -- laid out seven steps. Crippling sanctions we're number one. And they do work you're seeing it right now on the economy -- apps to the right thing to do to have crippling sanctions how to put in place earlier but it's good that we happen. Number two something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that -- that ships that carry Iranian oil can't commend our ports I -- the EU would agree with us as well. Natalie ships couldn't I'd say companies that are moving their oil can't people who are trading in -- -- can't I would tighten those sanctions further. Secondly I'd take on diplomatic isolation efforts and make sure that -- did the job is indicted of the genocide convention. His words -- amount to genocide in citation I would indicted for it. I would also make sure that they're diplomats are treated like the -- they are around the world. The same way we treated the apartheid. A diplomats of South Africa. We need to increase pressure time and time again on Iran. Because anything other than a a -- solution to this which says which stops this this nuclear folly of theirs is unacceptable to America. And of course a military action is the last resort. It is something one would only only consider. If all of the other avenues had been that it had been I've tried to their full extent let me ask. -- -- -- -- As you know there are reports that -- wrong in the United States is part of an international group have agreed in principle. To talks about Iran's nuclear program. What is the deal if there are such talks what is the deal that you would accept mr. -- Well first of all those are reports of newspaper. They are not true but our goal is to get -- rob. To recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the UN resolutions that have been in place. Because they have the opportunity to reenter the community of nations. And we would welcome that there're there're people in -- however the same aspirations people all around the world for better life. And we hope that their leadership. Takes the right decision but the deal will accept as they -- nuclear program it's very straightforward. And -- glad the governor Romney agrees with the steps that we're taking. -- -- there have been times government frankly during the course of this campaign work it sounded like. You thought that. You do the same things we did but -- same -- and somehow that that would make a difference and it turns out that. The work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions. Is -- -- its meticulous. We started from the day we got in office and the reason it was so important. And this is a testament to how we've restored American credibility and strength around the world. Is we had to make sure that all the countries participated even countries like Russia and China. Because if it's just us that are imposing sanctions -- sanctions in place for a long time. It's because we got everybody to agree. That Iran is saying so much pressure. And we've got to maintain that pressure there is a deal to be had and that is that they abide by the rules that have already been established. -- convince the international community they are not pursuing a nuclear program there are inspections that are very intrusive. But over time what they can do is -- regain credibility. In the meantime though we're not a lot of the pressure until we have clear evidence that takes place -- one last thing I'm did just just make this point. The clock is -- -- what we're not going to allow Iran to perpetually. Engage in negotiations that lead -- I've been very clear to them. -- because of the intelligence coordination that we do with a range of countries including Israel we have a sense of when they would get break out capacity. Which means that we would not be able to intervene in time to stop their nuclear program. And that caucus ticket or to make sure that. If they do not meet. The demands of the international. Then we are going to take all options necessary to make sure they don't have a nuclear governor. I think -- from the very beginning one of the challenges we've had with Iran is that they have looked at this administration and and felt that the administration was not as strong as it needed to be. I think they saw weakness. Where they had expected to find American strength and I say that because from the very beginning the president -- campaigns some four years ago city meet with all the world's worst actors in this first year. They did sit down with Chavez and Kim Jong ill with -- Castro and with that with president Ahmadinejad. Of Iran. And and I think they looked and thought well that's an unusual. Honor to receive from the president of the United States and then the president began what I'm called an apology tour. I'm going to do various nations in the Middle East and and criticizing America I think -- at that and saw weakness. Then when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran the green revolution. Holding signs saying is America with us the president was silent I think they noticed that as well. And I think that when the president said he was gonna create daylight between ourselves and Israel. That that they notice that as well all of these things suggested I think to the Iranian -- that -- We -- we can keep on pushing along here we can keep talks going on. But we're just gonna keep on spinning centrifuges now -- some 101000 centrifuges spinning uranium. Preparing to bid to create 888 a nuclear threat to the United States into the world. That's unacceptable for us and at its essential for a president to show strength from the very beginning. To make it very clear what is acceptable and not acceptable and an Iranian nuclear program is not acceptable to us they must not developed nuclear capability. And the way to make sure they understand that is by having from the very beginning the tightest sanctions possible they need to be tightened. Our diplomatic isolation needs to be tougher we need to indict -- -- job we need to put the pressure on them as hard as we possibly can because if we do that. We won't have to take the military action. Bob let me just respond. Nothing governor Romney just -- a stroke. Starting where this notion of me apologizing that this has been. Probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign and -- fact checker never reporters looked at -- Governor has said this is not true. And when it comes to tightening sanctions. Look as I said before we put did. The toughest most crippling sanctions ever. And the fact is while we were coordinating an international coalition to make -- sanctions were affected. You were still invested in -- Chinese state oil company that was doing business with Iran -- oil sector. -- let the American people decide judge who is going to be more active and more credible when it comes to. Imposing crippling sanctions. And -- respect to our attitude about the Iran -- revolution I was very clear about. The murderous activities that have taken place and that was contrary that international law and everything that civilized. People stand. And and so the strength -- -- we have shown in Iran is shown by the fact that we've been able to mobilize the world. When -- -- and office the world was divided. Iran was were sort. Iran has at its weakest point. Economically. Strategically. Militarily. -- -- than in many years and we are gonna continue to keep the pressure on. To make sure work that they do not get a nuclear weapon that's in America's national interest and that will be the case so long as I'm president. We're four years closer to a nuclear Iran. -- four years closer to nuclear -- And and -- we should out of -- these four years to the extent they've they've. Continue to be able to spin these centrifuges and get that much closer that's number one number two mister president the reason I call an apology -- Is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt -- Saudi Arabia and and to Turkey and Iraq. And pick and by the way you skipped Israel. Our closest friend in the region but you -- the other nations and by the way they noticed that -- -- district. And then in those nations and an Arabic TV you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President America has not dictated other nations we have freed other nations from dictator. Let me let me respond. You know -- if we're gonna talk about trips that we've taken. What I was a candidate for office. First trip I took was to visit our troops. And what I went to Israel as a candidate. I didn't take donors I didn't attend fundraisers. I want to got -- The holocaust museum there to remind myself. That the nature of evil and why are bond with Israel will be unbreakable. And that I went down to the border towns of stroke. Which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. I saw families there. Show me where missiles would come down near their children's bedrooms and I was reminded of but what that would mean if those were my kids. Which is why as president. -- funded and iron -- program to stop those nests. So that's how I've used my travels. When I traveled to Israel and when I travel of the region. And that the central question at this point is going to be poor is going to be credible. To all parties involved. And they can look at my track record whether it's Iran sanctions whether it's dealing with counterterrorism. Whether it's supporting democracy. Whether it's supporting women's rights whether it's supporting religious minorities and they can say that the president United States and the United States of America. The stood on the right side of history. And and and that kind of credibility. Is precisely why we've been able to show leadership on a wide range of issues facing the world right now what if. What if the prime minister of Israel called on the phone and said. Our bombers are on the way. We're gonna bomb Iran. What are you about it is that let's not -- hypotheticals of that nature -- that our relationship with Israel my relationship with the prime minister of Israel is such that we would. Not get a call saying their bombers are on the way. Or their fighters are on the way this is the kind of thing that that would have been discussed and and thoroughly evaluated. Well before that kind of so last -- they had just I've got to that's that's -- that lets see what but -- and exotica like I'm back let's go back to go back to what the president was speaking about which is what's happening in the world. And and and and that the president's statement that that things are going so well. Look at -- I look at what's happening around the world and I see Iran for years closer to a bomb. I -- the Middle East with a rising tide of violence chaos to -- I see G hottest continuing to spread. Whether their rising or just about the same level hard to argue it precisely measure but this it's clear they're there they're very. Very strong I see Syria with 30000 civilians dead. -- -- still in power I see our trade deficit with China. Larger than its given growing larger every year -- a matter of fact I look around the world and I I don't feel that. That -- seed North Korea are continuing to export their nuclear technology -- said the not gonna follow Nunn Lugar anymore. They're who back away from -- a nuclear proliferation. Treaties that we had with them I look around the world I don't see your influence growing around the world I -- your influence receding. In part because of the failure of the president to do with our economic challenges -- all. In part because of our withdrawal from our commitment -- our military in the way I think it ought to be in part because of the the the turmoil within Israel amid the president received a letter from 38 Democrats senators. Sign that tensions within Israel where real problem they asked him please repair the -- Democrat senators. Please repair the -- genocide in his own party. Governor of the the problem is that on a whole range of issues. Whether it's the Middle East -- Afghanistan. Whether it's -- -- whether it's now. Iran. You've been all over the map I'm -- I'm I'm pleased that you now are endorsing. Our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having. Bilateral discussions -- -- the Iran -- to end their nuclear program but. Just a few years ago you said that's something -- never -- In the same way that you initially opposed a timetable in Afghanistan. -- your fort although it depends. In the same way that you say eight. You would've ended the war in Iraq but recently gave a speech. Saying that we should have 40000 more folks in the the same way that you said that it was mission creep to go after. Gaddafi. When it comes to going after Osama thought you said what a president we're back back call. But when your candidate in 2008 as I want us and I said if I got bin Laden and our sites I would take that shot. Except we should move heaven and earth to get one man. Said we should ask pockets stump for permission. To -- -- -- -- from mission we were not a -- -- it was -- moving heaven and earth to get. -- after -- kill bin Laden I was at ground zero for memorial and talk to a a young woman who was four years old. When. 9/11 happened in the last conversation she -- with her father was kept calling from the Twin Towers. Saying -- I love you and I'll always watching over you. And for the next decade she was haunted by that conversation and she said to me now. By finally getting bin Laden that brought some closure to me and when we do things like that. What what we bring those who apartments to justice. That's sends a message to the world. And it tells -- that. We did not forget her -- right and and I make that point because that's the kind of clarity of leadership and those decisions are not always popular. Those decisions generally generally are not poll tested and even summon -- party including my current vice president. At the same critique as you -- But what the American people understand is is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American people safe and move our interest board. And I make those -- -- right.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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