BOCA RATON — The Obama administration is committed to preserving the "unshakeable bond" between the U.S. and Israel and preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, UN Ambassador Susan Rice told a crowd of about 500 at a synagogue west of Boca Raton.
Rice spoke at B'nai Torah Congregation, where candidate Obama four years ago sought to assure Jewish voters of his support for Israel.
Rice was warmly received by most of the crowd. But about two dozen people, some carrying small Israel flags, silently walked out early in her remarks, to protest what they called the president's weak commitment to the Jewish state.
During a question-and-answer session, Rabbi David Steinhardt praised the "extraordinary and even unprecedented level of United States-Israel strategic cooperation, not to mention the administration's efforts on behalf of Israel at the UN."
But, Steinhardt added, "there are still some and sometimes many in the American Jewish community who remain very much at ill ease with the relationship."
Rice responded that "There can be no mistake about (Obama's) personal commitment and the commitment of the United States On security, never has there ever been a stronger security relationship between the United States and Israel."
On Iran's nuclear ambitions, Rice said Obama "has been very clear that he will take no option off the table," but prefers diplomacy.
"The fact is Iran is not about, tomorrow or the next month or six months from now, to have a nuclear weapon. There is still time and space for diplomacy and that is our strong preference," Rice said. "If we can resolve this through diplomacy and pressure, it will be resolved permanently. Any other recourse will be temporary."
She was asked about the possibility of Israel launching a military strike on its own against Iran.
"As far as we understand, Israel has not made any decisions about its next steps and we are in constant communication," Rice said.
"We worry that military action will have the opposite of the intended effect and in fact rally the Iranian people behind what is a weakened regime," Rice said.