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(Updates with Obama remarks, adds background starting in third paragraph.)
Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said the U.S. hasn’t ruled out any options that may be needed to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“We’re going to keep up the pressure, and that’s why, rest assured, we will take no options off the table,” Obama said at a convention of the Union for Reform Judaism in Washington’s Maryland suburbs. “We’re going to keep standing with our Israeli friends and allies.”
The U.S., United Nations and European Union have imposed sanctions on Iran, saying the Persian Gulf country’s nuclear program is a cover for developing atomic weapons that could threaten Israel and other Middle East nations. Iran says the program is purely civilian.
Obama’s first presidential address to the Reform Judaism meeting follows efforts by Republican challengers to win over Jewish voters by portraying Obama as falling short in his support for Israel and his actions to thwart to Iran’s nuclear program.
“No U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours,” Obama said. “Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.”
Earlier today, a Republican National Committee release said Obama “has failed to live up to” the promise of an “unwavering friendship with Israel.” Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has said Obama has made a “timid and weak” response to Iran’s nuclear threat and “immeasurably set back” chances for Middle East peace.
“I don’t think those arguments take very deep root in our community,” said Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington. “On the other hand, it’s always dangerous to let those kinds of criticisms go unanswered.”
Obama said he shares values with the Reform Jewish movement on civil rights and economic fairness. “You have brought to life your faith and your values and the world’s a better place for it,” he said.
Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said after the president’s remarks that on fundamental issues “there’s a great deal of sympathy for the president’s positions and the president’s values.”
“This notion that somehow there’s this hostility and antagonism between the president and the Jewish community is simply not true,” Yoffie said.
Obama won the support of 78 percent of Jewish voters in the 2008 election, according to national exit polls. Republicans are trying to win over independent or wavering Democratic Jewish voters in swing states. Florida is the biggest swing state with a large proportion of Jewish residents -- estimated at 613,000, according to the 2010 North American Jewish Data Bank.
--With assistance from Kate Andersen Brower in Washington. Editors: Bob Drummond, Jodi Schneider
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