Republican presidential candidate John McCain, appealing to Jewish voters while rival Barack Obama visits the Middle East, said on Wednesday Israel faced the greatest threat in its history because of Iran.
The Arizona senator has long criticized Obama for saying he would meet with US enemies such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and McCain advisers held a conference call to highlight Obama's past statements on the issue.
At a town hall-style campaign event in the electoral battleground state of Pennsylvania, McCain said the danger of an Iranian nuclear program, the proximity of terrorist groups at its borders and internal political disruption were all threats to the Jewish state.
"My feeling about Israel today is that they are probably in many respects under greater threat ... than they've been since their independence," he said.
"I am concerned about the Iranian nuclear buildup, particularly when you have a president who comes to the United Nations and says that his country is going to 'wipe Israel off the map,'" McCain continued. "They have the means to do it."
Obama has had to frequently restate his support of Israel to assuage concerns by some US Jewish voters about his commitment to Israel. Visiting Israel on Wednesday, the Illinois senator said he was a friend who would not press for peace concessions that would compromise the nation's security.
Meanwhile the McCain campaign pounded the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for his previous comments about talks with Iran.
"Saying that we will go to Iran and that we will do it without any preconditions on a presidential level undercuts everything that has been done to try to limit an Iranian nuclear program," Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, told reporters.
McCain praised Germany, Britain and France for working to impose "meaningful sanctions" on Tehran.
"I believe that we can resolve this by putting sufficient pressures on the Iranians, diplomatically, economically and every other way," he said.
"The United States once said and will say again and again that we will never allow a second Holocaust," he said to applause.
Last month, Obama upset Palestinian leaders when he said that Jerusalem should be Israel's "undivided" capital. Obama later said he used "poor phrasing" when he made the remarks.
McCain said the status of the city should be negotiated between the Palestinians and the Israeli government.
Speaking to reporters later, he said it was hard to say how a McCain administration would differ from an Obama administration on Israel .
"I don't know because I never know exactly what his position is," McCain said, citing Obama's Jerusalem comments. "I know the issues. I've been there time and time again."
McCain has struggled all week to compete with the attention given to his rival's trip abroad. The Arizona senator planned an eye-catching trip to an oil rig on Thursday, which would have coincided with a big speech by Obama in Berlin, but he had to cancel because of bad weather outside of New Orleans.