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“What we need now is not crippling sanctions; we need paralyzing sanctions that will bring Iran’s economy to the brink of collapse,” Mr. Bennett told Fox News. “We are nowhere near that right now.”

Mr. Obama, who is campaigning for re-election on his kept promises to end the war in Iraq and wind down the war in Afghanistan, emphasized that he would use military force only as a last resort.

“I have sent men and women into harm’s way,” Mr. Obama said. “I have seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who have come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don’t make it home.

“For this reason, as part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I only use force when the time and circumstances demand it,” he added. “And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country. We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically.”

Even as he pushed back against pressure to join Israel in military action, Mr. Obama defended his administration against what he called election-year partisan attacks that he is soft on Israel’s security.

“If, during this political season you hear some question my administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts,” Mr. Obama said. “My administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every year.”

He said the U.S.-Israel relationship “is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics. America’s national security is too important. Israel’s security is too important.”

The president said Iran’s leaders should know that he “would not hesitate to use force” if necessary.

Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs,” Mr. Obama said.

“I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Obama said.

Even as Mr. Obama called for lowering the rhetoric on military action, he seemed to encourage some in the audience by reminding them that Israel has the power to act unilaterally against Iran.

“Make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge, because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat,” Mr. Obama said.

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was pleased that Mr. Obama “laid out a good foundation for progress” in the Middle East.

“I agree with his strong commitment to our alliance with Israel, the right for Israel to defend itself, continuation of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and our shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear capability,” Mr. Corker said.