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Back from Israel, Fiorina praises efforts to achieve peace in Middle East

September 9, 2010 |  5:41 pm

Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s recent trip to Israel was a brief four days, but it wasn’t short on face time with top Israeli leaders.

During an appearance in La Jolla on Thursday, Fiorina said she met with President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, as well as military and intelligence leaders during the trip, which was organized and paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

“Everyone talked to me about their concern about Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon and their hope that the United States was taking that seriously,” Fiorina said, speaking briefly to reporters about her trip after an economic round-table with restaurant owners at an oceanfront steakhouse.

“It is why I find [Democratic Sen.] Barbara Boxer’s silence on that issue so concerning. And everyone as well spoke about their concern that the United States was perceived as weaker in the world today than we once were and the need for America to step up and play a unique role in the world.” Fiorina did not specify which leaders expressed concerns about perceptions of the U.S.

With voters focused on high unemployment and the shaky economy, Fiorina and Boxer have spent little time talking about foreign policy. But in a speech on the night she won the primary, Fiorina charged that Boxer “has stood silently by as Israel is condemned and threatened and Iran moves toward nuclear weapons.” 

Boxer’s campaign manager said Thursday that Fiorina has “her facts wrong,” and the senator’s aides pointed to a series of recent statements by Boxer on Iran’s “dangerous uranium enrichment program” that she has said “poses a grave threat to the security of the Middle East, the U.S. and the entire world.” They also noted that Boxer co-sponsored legislation expanding President Obama’s authority to penalize foreign firms that export gasoline and refined petroleum products to Iran, which was folded into a broader bill that became law this year.

“Barbara Boxer has been an outspoken advocate for tougher sanctions on Iran, while under Fiorina's leadership, HP used a shell company to circumvent the embargo on trade to Iran,” Boxer’s campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, said in a statement.

Kapolczynski was referring to Hewlett-Packard’s ties to Iran while Fiorina served as chief executive of that company between 1999 and 2005. During that time, a Dubai-based subsidiary of HP sold printers to Iran, which is subject to a trade embargo. The company was not charged with wrongdoing and ultimately prohibited its distributors from selling products to Iran. Fiorina has said HP “complied with every export law.”

A week after Israeli and Palestinian leaders resumed direct talks in Washington, Fiorina also praised the “concerted effort to achieve peace in the Middle East.”

“Time will tell if that effort is going to be successful, but I think it is certainly worth the effort,” she said Thursday.

-- Maeve Reston in La Jolla