Israel Political Brief April 14, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu sends condolences to families of Kansas Jewish center shootings

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Netanyahu sends condolences to families of Kansas Jewish center shootings

Source: Jerusalem Post, 4-14-14Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent his condolences to the families of those killed in Sunday’s shootings at two Jewish centers in Overland Park Kansas….READ MORE

PM Netanyahu Sends Condolences to Families of the Victims of the Massacre in Kansas

Source: PMO, 4-14-14
יום שני י”ד ניסן תשע”ד

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sends his condolences to the families of the victims of yesterday’s massacre in Overland Park, Kansas in the US. “We understand that the murders were — according to indications — were perpetrated out of hatred of Jews .

The State of Israel is at the forefront, along with all civilized peoples which are committed to the struggle against this scourge,” the Prime Minister said.

 

 

 

Israel Brief May 23, 2013: Sheldon Adelson & wife Miriam donate another $40 million to Birthright Israel Foundation

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Adelsons donate another $40 million to Birthright

Source: JTA, 5-23-13

Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, donated another $40 million to the Birthright Israel Foundation….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 8, 2013: US President Barack Obama to US Jews: Peace vital but prospects bleak

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Obama to US Jews: Peace vital but prospects bleak

Source: Jerusalem Post, 3-8-13

US President Barack Obama believes prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace are “bleak,” but he still will urge both sides to avoid unilateral actions that might further damage a process he hopes will be back on track within a year….READ MORE

Jewish Political Brief February 13, 2013: ZOA chief Morton Klein: US Jews shied away from Chuck Hagel controversy

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ZOA chief: US Jews shied away from Hagel row

Source: Jerusalem Post, 2-13-13

Morton Klein tells Post that other Jewish leaders urged him to drop ‘campaign against Hagel’, accuses them of being ‘frightened group of Jews’….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief January 22, 2013: Elections 2013: Memo To The Next Knesset: Get To Know American Jewry

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Memo To The Next Knesset: Get To Know American Jewry

Source: The Jewish Week, 1-22-13

Israeli media coverage of American Jewish life is mostly confined to the ebb and flow of the Israel lobby in Washington…..READ MORE

Israel Political Brief September 14, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Rosh Hoshanah Greeting

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President Obama’s Rosh Hoshanah Greeting

Source: WH, 9-13-12

As we look forward to the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays Sunday night, I want to extend my warmest wishes to all those celebrating the New Year.

This is a joyful time for millions of people around the world. But Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are also opportunities for reflection. They represent a chance to take stock of our lives and look forward to the coming year with clear eyes and renewed purpose.

In that spirit, the Jewish Tradition teaches us that one of the most important duties we have during this period is the act of reconciliation. We’re called to seek each other out and make amends for those moments when we may not have lived up to our values as well as we should.

At a time when our public discourse can too often seem harsh; when society too often focuses on what divides us instead of what unites us; I hope that Americans of all faiths can take this opportunity to reach out to those who are less fortunate; to be tolerant of our neighbors; and to recognize ourselves in one another. And as a nation, let us be mindful of those who are suffering, and renew the unbreakable bond we share with our friends and allies – including the State of Israel.

In that spirit, Michelle and I wish you and your families a sweet year full of health, happiness, and peace. L’Shana Tovah.

Israel Political Brief September 11, 2012: Barack Obama’s Jewish Support Continues to Drop

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Obama’s Jewish Support Continues to Drop

Source: Israel National News, 9-11-12

Obama’s support among Jews continues to drop although most polls show his standing is on the rise among the general population.
Mitt Romney greets the audience at a campaign rally in Jacksonville, Florida

Mitt Romney greets the audience at a campaign rally in Jacksonville, Florida
Reuters

President Barack Obama’s support among Jews continues to drop although most polls show his standing is n the rise among the general population.

A survey by TIPP, which says it was the most accurate presidential pollster in the 2004 and 2008 elections, show that only 59 percent of likely Jewish voters will vote for the president, down from 68 percent in Gallup polls in June and July and far from the 78 percent in the final results in 2008.

The TIPP poll, carried to for The Investors Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor, shows Obama leading Mitt Romney by a 59-35 percent margin among Jews.

Overall, the survey gave Obama a two percent lead, while a CNN survey shows the president ahead of Romney by 6 percentage points. Romney and Obama were running nearly neck-and-neck in previous polls, with leads of 1-2 percent….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 17, 2012: Jonathan Pollard supporters call Sec of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks a ‘slap in the face’

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Pollard supporters call Clinton’s remarks a ‘slap in the face’

Source: JTA, 7-17-12

Supporters of Jonathan Pollard called Hillary Clinton’s remarks rejecting his possible clemency “a resounding slap in the face” to Israel’s leaders and its people….READ MORE

Israel Brief July 17, 2012: Adelsons Infuse Cash Into Birthright Israel Program

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Adelsons Infuse Cash Into Birthright Program

Source: Israel National News, 7-17-12

The Birthright-Taglit program are to receive a much-needed infusion of cash from top philanthropists Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson.
Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson at a Birthright Israel Foundation event

Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson at a Birthright Israel Foundation event
Billie Weiss/Birthright Israel Foundation

The Birthright-Taglit program are to receive a much-needed infusion of cash from top philanthropists Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson.

The Jewish-American couple has donated $13 million to the program’s coffers, it was announced, adding to the $20 million they gave earlier this year….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief July 15, 2012: Text of US Jewish leaders’ letter to PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Levy settlement report

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Text of Jewish leaders’ letter to Netanyahu on Levy settlement report

40 U.S. Jewish leaders sign Israel Policy Forum letter urging prime minister to reject document produced by panel headed by former Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy.

U.S. Jews to Netanyahu: Report urging state to legalize settlements will aid those seeking to delegitimize Israel

July 13, 2012

The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of the State of Israel

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

As strong advocates for Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, we are deeply concerned about the recent findings of the government commission led by Supreme Court Jurist (Ret.) Edmund Levy. We fear that if approved, this report will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.
As you boldly stated in your address to the United States Congress last May, “I recognize that in a genuine peace, we’ll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland.” As you said clearly, doing so is not easy. While the Jewish people indeed share a biblical connection to the lands of Judea and Samaria, you told Congress, “there is another truth: The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they’ll be neither Israel’s subjects nor its citizens. They should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people living in their own state.”
Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings. We recognize and regret that the Palestinian Authority has abdicated leadership by not returning to the negotiating table. Nonetheless, our great fear is that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict, but rather add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. At this moment, it is more critical than ever that Israel strengthen its claim in the international community that it is committed to a two-state vision, which is, in turn, central to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
We are confident that with your deep understanding of the gravity of this situation, and your unprecedented political strength, you will ensure that adoption of this report does not take place.

Sincerely,

Karen R. Adler
Jack C. Bendheim
Michael Berenbaum
Howard M. Bernstein
Charles R. Bronfman
Steven M. Cohen
Rabbi Marion Lev Cohen
Lester Crown
Thomas A. Dine
Rabbi David Ellenson
Edith Everett
Susie Gelman
E. Robert Goodkind
Stanley P. Gold
Rabbi Daniel Gordis
David A. Halperin
Harold R. Handler
Alan S. Jaffe
Peter A. Joseph
Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky
Peter S. Kolevzon
Steven C. Koppel
Burton Lehman
Marvin Lender
Geoffrey H. Lewis
Deborah Lipstadt
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon
Harriet Mouchly-Weiss
Burt Neuborne
Bernard Nussbaum
Richard Pearlstone
Marcia Riklis
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn
David Sable
Rabbi David Saperstein
Jeffrey R. Solomon
Joel D. Tauber
Melvyn I. Weiss
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Michael D. Young
Lawrence Zicklin

Affiliations provided below for identification purposes only

Karen R. Adler (New York, NY) – Chair, Executive Committee of the Jewish Communal Fund

Jack C. Bendheim (New York, NY) – President & Chairman, Phibro Animal Health Corp.; former Chairman, IPF

Michael Berenbaum (Los Angeles, CA) – Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust at the American Jewish University; former Project Director of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC

Howard M. Bernstein (Los Angeles, CA) – Emeritus Member of Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion; Honorary Board Member, Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Charles R. Bronfman (New York, NY; Montreal) – Chairman, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies

Rabbi Marion Lev Cohen (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum; Director of Adult Engagement, Central Synagogue

Steven M. Cohen (New York, NY) – Director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University

Lester Crown (Chicago, IL) – Chairman of Henry Crown & Co.; Crown Family Philanthropies

Thomas A. Dine (Washington, DC) – Former Executive Director of AIPAC

Rabbi David Ellenson (New York, NY) – President, Hebrew Union College –Jewish Institute of Religion

Edith Everett (New York, NY) Co-founder and President, Everett Family Foundation

Susie Gelman (Washington, DC) – Immediate Past President, Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

Stanley P. Gold (Los Angeles, CA) – Chairman Emeritus, Jewish Federation of LA; President and CEO, Shamrock Holdings

E. Robert Goodkind (New York, NY) – Partner, Pryor Cashman LLP; former President, American Jewish Committee (’04-’07)

Rabbi Daniel Gordis (Jerusalem) – Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem

David A. Halperin (New York, NY) – Executive Director, Israel Policy Forum

Harold R. Handler (New York, NY) – Former President, JCC in Manhattan; Former Chairman, Jewish Communal Fund; Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Alan S. Jaffe (New York, NY) – President, Jewish Community Relations Council-NY; former President, UJA-Federation-NY; former Chairman, Proskauer

Peter A. Joseph (New York, NY) – Chairman, Israel Policy Forum

Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky (New York, NY) – Temple Ansche Chesed

Peter S. Kolevzon (New York, NY) – Founding Chair and Past President, JCC in Manhattan

Steven C. Koppel (New York, NY) – Partner, JonesDay; Member, International Board of Governors, The Peres Center for Peace

Burton Lehman (New York, NY) – Former Chair and Member of the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute Religion

Marvin Lender (Connecticut) – Former National Chairman, UJA

Geoffrey H. Lewis (Boston, MA) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Deborah Lipstadt (Atlanta, GA) – Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University

Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon (New York, NY) – Congregation Bnai Jeshurun

Harriet Mouchly-Weiss (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Burt Neuborne (New York, NY) – Professor of Law, NYU

Bernard Nussbaum (New York, NY) – Former White House Counsel (’94); Partner, Wachtell Lipton, Rosen & Katz

Richard Pearlstone (Aspen, CO) – Former Chairman, Jewish Agency

Marcia Riklis (New York, NY) – Board member, Israel Policy Forum; General Campaign Co-Chair, UJA Federation-NY

Rabbi Jennie Rosenn (New York, NY) – Program Director, Jewish Life and Values, Nathan Cummings Foundation

David Sable (New York, NY) – Former Executive Board Member, UJA Federation-NY

Rabbi David Saperstein (Washington, DC) – Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Jeffrey R. Solomon (New York, NY) – President, Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies

Joel D. Tauber (Southfield, MI) – Former Chairman, National UJA; former National Chairman of Tel Aviv University: American Council

Melvyn I. Weiss (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie (New York, NY) – President Emeritus, Union for Reform Judaism

Michael D. Young (New York, NY) – Board Member, Israel Policy Forum

Lawrence Zicklin (New York, NY) – Former President, UJA Federation-NY

Israel Political Brief July 15, 2012: 40 US Jewish Leaders Send Letter to PM Benjamin Netanyahu: Bury Levy Report — Includes Charles Bronfman, Daniel Gordis, Deborah Lipstadt

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40 U.S. Jewish Leaders to Bibi: Bury Levy Report

Source: Israel National News, 7-15-12

Philanthropist Charles Bronfman, Shalem Center head Gordis among signatories who fear report will imperil Israel.
Delegates at AIPAC conference

Delegates at AIPAC conference
Hezki Ezra

More than 40 prominent American Jewish leaders and philanthropists sent a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Sunday in which they implored him not to approve the judicial report that says Jews may settle freely in Judea and Samaria….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief June 11, 2012: When President Obama Awards President Shimon Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom Could be Jonathan Pollard’s Last Chance for Freedom

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Obama’s ‘Freedom’ Award to Peres May be Pollard’s Last Chance

Jonathan Pollard and millions of Jews are hoping Obama will free him from jail when he awards Peres the US Freedom Medallion Wednesday.

Source: Israel National News, 6-11-12

Free Pollard protest

Free Pollard protest
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Jonathan Pollard and millions of Jews are hoping President Barack Obama will free him from jail when he awards visiting President Shimon Peres the U.S Presidential Freedom Medal Wednesday.

In the cold world of politics, the “Jewish vote” may be the only factor that determines the fate of Pollard, who has been languishing in prison for more than 26 years.

With all polls showing that President Obama has 60-64 percent of the Jewish vote, as opposed to 78 percent four years ago, his political calculations of how many votes he can gain for Pollard’s freedom probably will outweigh humanitarian considerations.

However, the act of working on behalf of a foreign country, even if an ally, claws deeply into the skin of American patriotism, and American Jews are far from united on whether the U.S. president should exercise his authority and pardon Pollard, despite his deteriorating health.

Pollard was sentenced to life for a crime that usually carries a punishment of 2-4 years in jail – passing on classified information on behalf of a foreign country.

He was not convicted of spying, but mainstream media continue to call him a “spy for Israel.” The information Pollard handed over while working at the Pentagon is believed to have involved the Iraqi nuclear reactor, which Israel subsequently destroyed in a bombing raid. The information was not damaging to U.S. security, and an increasing number of American officials have said that Pollard did not get a fair trial and was punished unfairly.

The award of the Freedom Medal to President Peres will give him a prime time opportunity to free Pollard. Pres is arriving with a petition from 70,000 Israelis, backed by media support from the entire political spectrum, for freeing Pollard….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief May 31, 2012: US Jewish Leaders Ask President Barack Obama to Let Jonathan Pollard Go Free

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U.S. Jewish Leaders: Obama, Let Pollard Go

Conservative Rabbis stream told Obama Pollard has served an unprecedented period of time in jail.
Free Pollard protest

Free Pollard protest
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Rabbis from the Conservative Jewish stream met with President Barack Obama Wednesday and asked him to set Jonathan Pollard free immediately.

As justification for the request, the rabbis said that the time served by Pollard was unprecedented in view of his offenses, and noted his deteriorating health.

The meeting was originally planned to be held with White House Chief of Staff, Jack Lew. However, Obama popped in for a surprise visit.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will be among the guests at the gala dinner in which President Shimon Peres will receive the Medal of Freedom. Kissinger recently published a letter which includes the statement that “justice will be done by the immediate freeing of Pollard.”

Jewish News Brief May 30, 2012: President Obama, White House ‘regrets’ reference to ‘Polish death camp’

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White House ‘regrets’ reference to ‘Polish death camp’

Source: JTA, 5-30-12

The White House expressed its regrets about President Obama’s use of the term “Polish death camp.”

In a statement Wednesday morning, Tommy Vietor, the spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said the president “misspoke” during his presentation of a posthumous Medal of Freedom a day earlier to Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter who was among the first to report German atrocities in his country.

“He was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland,” Vietor said. “We regret this misstatement, which should not detract from the clear intention to honor Mr. Karski and those brave citizens who stood on the side of human dignity in the face of tyranny.”

During the ceremony, Obama said of Karski, “Fluent in four languages, possessed of a photographic memory, Jan served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II. Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself. Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action.”

Poles insist on the term “Nazi death camps” to describe facilities such as Auschwitz and Sobibor….READ MORE

Jewish News Brief May 30, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Jewish American Heritage Month White House Reception

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IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA HOSTS AMERICAN JEWISH HERITAGE MONTH EVENT AT WHITE HOUSE

Obama hosts Jewish heritage event at White House

Source: JTA, 5-30-12

President Obama celebrated the values of communities petitioning government at a White House reception honoring Jewish American Heritage Month.

“We don’t just celebrate all that American Jews have done for our country; we also look toward the future,” he said. “And as we do, I know that those of you in this room, but folks all across this country will continue to help perfect our union, and for that I am extraordinarily grateful.”

Obama focused a large portion of his remarks on the 150th anniversary of an order that was issued by Gen. Ulysses Grant expelling Jews “as a class” from the military department of Tennessee.

“It was wrong. Even if it was 1862, even if official acts of anti-Semitism were all too common around the world, it was wrong and indicative of an ugly strain of thought,” Obama said.

He went on to note that American Jews protested the order. “What happened next could have only taken place in America,” the president said. “Groups of American Jews protested General Grant’s decision.”

Obama described how a Jewish merchant from Kentucky met with President Abraham Lincoln and, following the meeting, the order was revoked.

“Like so many groups, Jews have had to fight for their piece of the American dream,” Obama said. “But this country holds a special promise: That if we stand up for the traditions we believe in and in the values we share, then our wrongs can be made right, our union can be made more perfect, and our world can be repaired.”

The order by Lincoln to revoke Grant’s order was on display during the reception, as were letters from two Jewish groups asking for the revocation.

Years later as president, Grant said that he recognized his mistake and apologized for the order. Also on display was a receipt for his contribution to the Adas Israel congregation, which still exists, after attending an 1876 service.

Before he delivered his little history lesson, Obama’s staff consulted with Brandeis University’s Jonathan Sarna, who is an expert on American Jewish history…. READ MORE

  • Obama’s elegant post-blunder speech on Jewish heritage: Obama chose to ignore his referring to Nazi concentration camps as ‘Polish death camps’ during the Jewish American heritage reception, instead choosing to focus on a Jewish struggle during the Civil War…. – Haaretz, 5-31-12

Remarks by the President to a Jewish American Heritage Reception

Source: WH, 5-30-12

East Room

5:17 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you!  (Applause.)  Well, welcome to the White House, everybody.  I hope you’re having fun.  Excellent.

I want to recognize Ambassador Michael Oren, and thank him for his work representing our great friend, the state of Israel.  I want to recognize and thank all the members of Congress and the members of my administration who are here today.  I want to thank our musical guests, Rak Shalom.  (Applause.)  I was just meeting with all of them back there — they said they did quite a few numbers.  And they were outstanding, I know.

This year, we celebrate Jewish Heritage Month — Jewish American Heritage Month, and we’re also commemorating an important anniversary.  One hundred-fifty years ago, General Ulysses Grant issued an order –- known as General Orders Number 11 –- that would have expelled Jews, “as a class,” from what was then known as the military department of the Tennessee.  It was wrong.  Even if it was 1862, even if official acts of anti-Semitism were all too common around the world, it was wrong and indicative of an ugly strain of thought.

But what happened next could have only taken place in America. Groups of American Jews protested General Grant’s decision.  A Jewish merchant from Kentucky traveled here, to the White House, and met with President Lincoln in person.  After their meeting, President Lincoln revoked the order — one more reason why we like President Lincoln.  (Laughter and applause.)

And to General Grant’s credit, he recognized that he had made a serious mistake.  So later in his life, he apologized for this order, and as President, he went out of his way to appoint Jews to public office and to condemn the persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe.

Today, we have a few documents on display –- maybe some of you saw them when you walked in.  There are two letters of protest from Jewish organizations to President Lincoln.  There is President Lincoln’s handwritten reply, saying that he had taken action.  And there is a receipt for the donation that President Grant made to the Adas Israel Synagogue here in Washington, when he attended a service there in 1876.

So together, these papers tell a story, a fundamentally American story.  Like so many groups, Jews have had to fight for their piece of the American dream.  But this country holds a special promise:  that if we stand up for the traditions we believe in and in the values we share, then our wrongs can be made right; our union can be made more perfect and our world can be repaired.

Today, it’s our turn, our generation’s turn.  And you guys, your generation’s turn.  You’re younger than us.  (Laughter.)  We got some later generations here in the front.  We’re the ones who have to stand up for our shared values.   Here at home, we have to rebuild an America where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same rules.

Beyond our borders, we have to stand alongside our friends who share our commitment to freedom and democracy and universal rights; and that includes, of course, our unwavering commitment to the State of Israel and its security and the pursuit of a just and lasting peace.  (Applause.)

It’s no secret that we’ve got a lot of work to do.  But as your traditions teach us, while we are not obligated to finish the work, neither are we free to desist from that work.

So today, we don’t just celebrate all that American Jews have done for our country; we also look toward the future.  And as we do, I know that those of you in this room, but folks all across this country will continue to help perfect our union; and for that, I am extraordinarily grateful.

God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
5:21 P.M. EDT

Israel Political Brief May 29, 2012: President Barack Obama Speaks to Conservative Judaism Leaders — Defends his Israel commitments, touts his Jewish ties

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Back to ‘kishkes’: Obama defends his Israel commitments, touts his Jewish ties

Source: JTA, 5-31-12

President Obama, shown speaking at a White House reception honoring Jewish American Heritage Month on May 31, 2012, told Conservative Jewish leaders the previous day that he probably knew more about Judaism than any other president.  (The White House)
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President Obama, shown speaking at a White House reception honoring Jewish American Heritage Month on May 31, 2012, told Conservative Jewish leaders the previous day that he probably knew more about Judaism than any other president. (The White House)

The so-called “kishkes issue” — what does President Obama, deep down, really feel about Israel — is now being addressed at the highest level by Obama himself.

Obama dropped in on a White House meeting Tuesday of lay and rabbinical leaders of the Conservative Judaism and Jack Lew, the president’s chief of staff. During his 20 minutes at the hourlong meeting, Obama emphasized his affection for Judaism and Israel, and like Vice President Joe Biden last week in a similar meeting with organizational leaders, his frustration with perceptions that he is cool toward the Jewish state.

The tone, coupled with blitzes of Jewish communities by Democratic leaders in recent months, reinforces the impression that the party’s leadership is unsettled by Republican inroads into what for decades has been a Democratic base constituency.

The presidential visit was “informal,” although the group of Jewish leaders knew a drop-by was likely. So when Obama walked into the Roosevelt Room, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, was ready with the traditional blessing for heads of state….READ MORE

Obama chats with Conservative leaders

Source: JTA, 5-29-12

A group of leaders from the Conservative movement held an informal meeting Tuesday with President Obama.

Obama dropped by a scheduled meeting with White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew and thanked the 17 rabbis and lay leaders for their work to improve their communities.

The president stated his strong commitment to Israel’s security and discussed his actions to enhance security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, as well as implement biting sanctions against Iran, according to a White House official.

Participants said they asked Obama questions about the social net, health care, the relationship with Israel, the threat from Iran, and Obama’s views on Jusaism and Israel.

The hour-long meeting with Lew in the White House’s Roosevelt Room was arranged by Rabbi Jack Moline, the rabbi of Agudas Achim synagogue in Alexandria, Va. and the director of public policy for the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. Moline has close ties with the Obama administration.

“The meeting spoke to the president and administration’s deep appreciation of the values that motivate Jewish communities around the world,” Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, told JTA. “It was a values-driven conversation and represented the great potential for the Jewish community to make its views heard.”

Israel Political Brief May 1, 2012: Obama’s Jewish Numbers On The Rise

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Obama’s Jewish Numbers On The Rise

Source: The NY Jewish Week, 5-1-12

President Obama at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last month. getty images

President Obama at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last month. getty images

President jumps to 61 percent of vote from 45
in September, but observers cautious on AJC poll results.

Does President Barack Obama have his Jewish mojo back?

Did the rightward tilt of the Republican presidential primaries, where culture war issues surged to the top of the GOP agenda, scare off potential Jewish voters?

Or is Election Day simply too far in the future for a poll in April to carry much significance?

Those are some of the questions to emerge as analysts dissect the data from the latest opinion poll of American Jews by the American Jewish Committee.

The survey of 1,074 people who identify as Jewish, taken between March 14 and March 27, found that in the prior six months, the president — who has spent much of his term trying to beat back criticism from the Jewish right that he is anti-Israel — has seen his appeal to Jews spike to 61 percent, from 45 percent in September.

And if the election were held today, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, would receive just 28 percent of the Jewish vote.

Obama’s share of 61 percent is virtually identical with the 62 percent Jewish approval rating found by the Public Religion Research Institute a month earlier. (Those figures are well below the 78 percent he garnered in the 2008 election, but Jews continue to support Obama more than almost any other group in the country). It sampled 1,004 self-identified Jewish adults between Feb. 23 and March 5….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief April 26, 2012: US President Barack Obama’s Israeli Independence Day — Yom Ha’azmaut Message

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Statement by the President on Israeli Independence Day

Source: WH, 4-26-12

Sixty-four years ago, the United States became the first country in the world to recognize the State of Israel–the realization of a modern day state in the historic homeland of the Jewish People.  Since that momentous day, the special bond of friendship between the United States and Israel has grown stronger.  Ours is a unique relationship founded on an unbreakable commitment to Israel’s security, and anchored by our common interests and deeply held values.  These values continue to enlighten and guide our efforts as we work with Israel, as well as with others in the region, to confront shared challenges and to achieve a just and comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution that will usher in a future of peace, security, and dignity for the people of Israel and its neighbors.

Today, as Israelis celebrate their 64th Independence Day and their remarkable achievements over the past six decades, it gives me great pleasure to extend my best wishes, and the best wishes of the American people, to President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the people of Israel.

Israel Political Brief April 5, 2012: President Barack Obama posts Passover message, to host seder

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Obama posts Passover message, to host seder

Source: JTA, 4-5-12

President Obama will host a seder at the White House on the first night of Passover.

Obama’s seder on Friday night will continue a tradition that started in 2008, when he was a presidential candidate on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania and he joined a small group of staff members at an impromptu seder.

On Thursday, the president issued a video Passover message.

“The story of the Exodus is thousands of years old, but it remains as relevant as ever,” he said. “Throughout our history, there are those who have targeted the Jewish people for harm — a fact we were so painfully reminded of just a few weeks ago in Toulouse.

“Michelle and I are proud to celebrate with friends here at home and around the world, including those in the State of Israel,” Obama said, wishing the Jewish community a “Chag sameach.”

A Passover Message from the Obama Family

Source: WH, 4-5-12

Starting tomorrow night, the Jewish community in the United States, Israel, and throughout the world will come together to celebrate the holiday of Passover.

President and Mrs. Obama will join them, continuing their tradition of hosting a small Seder at the White House. By now, the story of how that tradition began has been told and retold, but in the spirit of Passover, I’ll tell it again: In April of 2008, the President and his staff were on the trail in Pennsylvania in the midst of a long primary campaign. Weary from a long day of work and away from their families, a small group of staffers came together to hold an impromptu Seder. When then-Senator Obama got wind of the Seder, he gathered some other staff and friends and decided to join. At the end of the Seder, the President followed the traditional “Next year in Jerusalem” declaration with a pledge of his own – “Next year in the White House.” Each year since, he has followed through on that promise. This year, he also added a new touch, a video message to Jews everywhere wishing them Chag Sameach as they continue their own traditions or start new ones this Passover.

Israel Political Brief December 16, 2011: President Barack Obama to Reform Jews at Union’s General Assembly: Don’t let anyone challenge my Israel bona fides

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Obama to Reform Jews: Don’t let anyone challenge my Israel bona fides

Source: JTA, 12-16-11

President Obama told a gathering of Reform Jewry not to let anyone challenge his record of support for Israel, which he said was “unprecedented.”

“No U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours — none,” he said in an address Friday afternoon to more than 5,000 people at the biennial conference of the Union for Reform Judaism. “Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. It is a fact.”

The crowd at a hotel in the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington gave him a standing ovation.

 

“Even though it is a few hours early, I’d like to wish all of you Shabbat shalom,” Obama opened. “I want to give a shout-out, NFTY I understand is in the house,” he went on, earning a raucous cheer from the National Federation of Temple Youth.

After a brief d’var Torah — “It never hurts to begin a speech by discussing the Torah portion,” Obama said — the president listed several areas of close cooperation with Israel and the Jewish community, including missile defense and Iran sanctions. Of the sanctions, he said they were the “hardest hitting” ever. He repeated his pledge that he would take “no options” off the table when it comes to forcing Iran to back down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Obama peppered his speech with Jewish references, joking about his daughter Malia’s eagerness to attend bar and bat mitzvahs. His speech was based on the story of Joseph’s declaration “Hineni” — “Here I am” — to his father, Jacob.

To repeated applause, Obama ran through his domestic policy achievements on health care, and women’s and gay rights, among others.

Republicans have scored Obama for his at-times tense relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly over the peace process. Obama said he was still dedicated to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace but did not allude at all to his differences with Israel over settlement building in the West Bank.

The Republican National Committee on Friday published data showing Obama vulnerable to losses among Jewish voters in key states, particularly Florida.

“The truth is, America’s security interests are intertwined with Israel’s, and when President Obama does a disservice to Israel, he does a disservice to our country as well,” RNC chairman Reince Preibus said in an Op-Ed in the conservative Human Events magazine.

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 16, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism — Transcript

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism

Source: WH, 12-16-11
Gaylord Hotel
National Harbor, Maryland

2:37 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Please, please have a seat.  You’re making me blush.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Eric, for that extraordinary introduction and for your many years of leadership in the Reform movement.  And even though it is a few hours early, I’d like to wish all of you Shabbat shalom.  (Applause.)

Now, there are a lot of familiar faces in the house:  David Saperstein.  (Applause.)  Alan Solow, Rick Jacobs.  (Applause.)  Howard Kohr.

I want to welcome Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.  (Applause.)  The cooperation between our militaries has never been stronger, and I want to thank Ehud for his leadership and his lifelong commitment to Israel’s security and the quest for a just and lasting peace.  (Applause.)

I also want to recognize Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who’s with us here today.  (Applause.)

And finally, I want to give a shout-out to NFTY, I understand is in the house.  (Applause.)  Young people are going to lead the way, and they’re leading the way.  (Applause.)  There you go.  I’m fired up just listening to them.  (Laughter and applause.)

I am honored to be here because of the proud history and tradition of the Union for Reform Judaism, representing more than 900 congregations, around 1.5 million American Jews.

I want to congratulate all of you on the golden anniversary of the Religious Action Center.  (Applause.)   As Eric mentioned, When President Kennedy spoke to leaders from the RAC in 1961, I was three months old, so my memory is a bit hazy.  (Laughter.)  But I am very familiar with the work that you’ve done ever since, and so is the rest of America.

And that’s because you helped draft the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.  (Applause.)  You helped to liberate Soviet Jews.  (Applause.)  You have made a difference on so many of the defining issues of the last half-century.  And without these efforts, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today.  So thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  You have brought to life your faith and your values, and the world is a better place for it.

Now, since my daughter Malia has reached the age where it seems like there’s always a Bar or Bat Mitzvah — (laughter) — every weekend, and there is quite a bit of negotiations around the skirts that she wears at these Bat Mitzvahs — (laughter) — do you guys have these conversations as well?  (Laughter.)  All right.  I just wanted to be clear it wasn’t just me.  (Laughter.) What time you get home.

As a consequence, she’s become the family expert on Jewish tradition.  (Laughter.)  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from her, it’s that it never hurts to begin a speech by discussing the Torah portion.  It doesn’t hurt.  (Laughter and applause.)

So this week — (applause) — congregations around the world will retell the story of Joseph.  (Applause.)  As any fan of Broadway musicals will tell you — (laughter) — there is a lot going on in this reading.  (Laughter.)  But many scholars have focused on a single word that Joseph uses when he replies to his father Jacob.

In Hebrew, that word is “hineni.”  It translates — (applause) — it translates to “Here I am.”  Hineni.  It’s the same word Abraham uses to reply to God before the binding of Isaac.  It’s the same word Moses uses when God summons him from the burning bush.  Hineni.  The text is telling us that while Joseph does not know what lies ahead, he is ready to answer the call.

In this case, “hineni” leads Joseph to Egypt.  It sets in motion a story of enslavement and exodus that would come to inspire leaders like Martin Luther King as they sought freedom.  It’s a story of persecution and perseverance that has repeated itself from Inquisition-era Spain to Tsarist Russia to Hitler’s Germany.

And in that often-tragic history, this place, America, stands out.  (Applause.)  Now, we can’t whitewash the past.  Like so many ethnic groups, Jews faced prejudice, and sometimes violence, as they sought their piece of the American Dream.  But here, Jews finally found a place where their faith was protected; where hard work and responsibility paid off; where no matter who you were or where you came from, you could make it if you tried.  Here in America, you really could build a better life for your children.

I know how much that story means to many of you, because I know how much that story means to me.  My father was from Kenya; my mother was from Kansas –- not places with a large Jewish community.  (Laughter.)  But when my Jewish friends tell me about their ancestors, I feel a connection.  I know what it’s like to think, “Only in America is my story even possible.”  (Applause.)

Now — I have to interrupt.  My friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz just got in the house.  (Applause.)  Now, the Jewish community has always understood that the dream we share is about more than just doing well for yourself.  From the moment our country was founded, American Jews have helped make our union more perfect.  Your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents, they remembered what it was like to be a stranger, and as a result treated strangers with compassion.  They pursued tikkun olam, the hard work of repairing the world.  (Applause.)

They fought bigotry because they had experienced bigotry.  They fought for freedom of religion because they understood what it meant to be persecuted for your religious beliefs.  Our country is a better place because they did.  The same values that bring you here today led Justice Brandeis to fight for an America that protects the least of these.  (Applause.)  Those same values led Jewish leaders to found RAC 50 years ago.  (Applause.)  They led Abraham Joshua Heschel to pray with his feet and march with Dr. King.  (Applause.)  And over the last three years, they have brought us together on the most important issues of our time.

When we began this journey, we knew we would have to take on powerful special interests.  We would have to take on a Washington culture where doing what’s politically convenient is often valued above doing what’s right; where the focus is too often on the next election instead of the next generation.  (Applause.)

And so time and time again, we’ve been reminded that change is never easy.  And a number of the rabbis who are here today, when I see them, they’d been saying a prayer.  They noticed my hair is grayer.  (Laughter.)  But we didn’t quit.  You didn’t quit.  And today, we’re beginning to see what change looks like.

And Eric mentioned what change looks like.  Change is the very first bill I signed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which says in this country an equal day’s work gets an equal day’s pay.  That’s change.  (Applause.)

Change is finally doing something about our addiction to oil and raising fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in 30 years.  That’s good for our economy.  It’s good for our national security.  (Applause.)  And it’s good for our environment.

Change is confirming two Supreme Court justices who will defend our rights, including our First Amendment rights surrounding religion — happen to be two women, by the way.  That’s also a good thing.  (Applause.)

Change is repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” so that in the first time in history, you don’t have to hide who you love to serve the country that you love.  That’s change.  (Applause.)

Change is working with the Reform movement, and other faith-based groups, to reform the federal faith-based initiatives, improving the way we partner with organizations that serve people in need.  Change is health care reform that we passed after a century of trying, reform that will finally ensure that in the United States of America, nobody goes bankrupt just because they get sick.  That’s change.  (Applause.)

Change is the 2.5 million young people — maybe some of those NFTY folks who have already — (applause) — who have health insurance on their parents’ plans because of Affordable Care Act.  That’s change.  (Applause.)

It’s making family planning more accessible to millions of Americans.  (Applause.)  It’s insurance companies not being able to charge you more just because you’re a woman, or deny you coverage if you have breast cancer.  (Applause.)

Change is committing to real, persistent education reform, because every child in America deserves access to a good school and to higher education — every child.  (Applause.)

And change is keeping one of the first promises I made in 2008:  After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq is ending this month and our troops are coming home.  (Applause.)

That’s what change is.  And none of this would have happened without you.  That’s the kind of change we’ll keep fighting for in the months and years ahead.

And just last night, you took another step towards the change we need and voted for a set of principles of economic justice in a time of fiscal crisis.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank you for your courage.  That statement could not have come at a more important time.  For as you put it, we’re at a crossroads in American history.  Last Tuesday, I gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, where I described that crossroads.  And I laid out a vision of our country where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.  (Applause.)  And these are not Democratic values or Republican values; they’re not Christian values or Jewish values or Hindu or Muslim values — they’re shared values, and we have to reclaim them.  We have to restore them to a central place in America’s political life.  (Applause.)

I said it last week, I’ll say it again:  This is not just a political debate.  This is a moral debate.  This is an ethical debate.  It’s a values debate.  It’s the defining issue of our time.  It is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.  (Applause.)  And for those of us who remember parents or grandparents or great-grandparents who had to fight to get in the middle class, but they understood that the American Dream was available to them because we were all in it together — that’s what this is about.  (Applause.)  And last night, you reaffirmed the moral dimension of this debate.  (Applause.)

We have to decide who we are as a country.  Is this a place where everyone is left to fend for themselves?  The most powerful can play by their own rules?  Or do we come together to make sure that working people can earn enough to raise a family, send their kids to college, buy their own home, have a secure health care and a secure retirement?  That is the story that almost all of us here share, in one way or another.  This is a room full of folks who come from immigrants, and remember what it was like to scratch and claw and work.  You haven’t forgotten.  You know what it’s like to see those in your own family struggle.

Well, we have to apply those same values to the American family.  We’re not a country that says, you’re on your own.  When we see neighbors who can’t find work or pay for college or get the health care they need, we answer the call — we say, “Here I am.”  And we will do our part.  (Applause.)

That’s what you affirmed last night.  But more importantly, it’s what you affirm every day with your words and your actions.  And I promise you that as you pray with your feet, I will be right there with you every step of the way.  (Applause.)  I’ll be fighting to create jobs, and give small businesses a chance to succeed.  I’ll be fighting to invest in education and technology.  I will fight to strengthen programs like Medicare and Social Security.  (Applause.)  I will fight to put more money in the pockets of working families.  I won’t be afraid to ask the most well-off among us -– Americans like me –- to pay our fair share, to make sure that everybody has got a shot.  I will fight alongside you every inch of the way.  (Applause.)

And as all of you know, standing up for our values at home is only part of our work.  Around the world, we stand up for values that are universal — including the right of all people to live in peace and security and dignity.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve worked on the international stage to promote the rights of women — (applause) — to promote strategies to alleviate poverty — (applause) — to promote the dignity of all people, including gays and lesbians — (applause) — and people with disabilities — (applause) — to promote human rights and democracy.  And that’s why, as President, I have never wavered in pursuit of a just and lasting peace — two states for two peoples; an independent Palestine alongside a secure Jewish State of Israel.  (Applause.)  I have not wavered and will not waver.  That is our shared vision.  (Applause.)

Now, I know that many of you share my frustration sometimes, in terms of the state of the peace process.  There’s so much work to do.  But here’s what I know –- there’s no question about how lasting peace will be achieved.  Peace can’t be imposed from the outside.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them.  (Applause.)

And the fact that peace is hard can’t deter us from trying.  Because now more than ever, it’s clear that a just and lasting peace is in the long-term interests of Israel.  It is in the long-term interests of the Palestinian people.  It is in the interest of the region.  It is the interest of the United States, and it is in the interest of the world.  And I am not going to stop in pursuit of that vision.  It is the right thing to do.  (Applause.)

Now, that vision begins with a strong and secure State of Israel.  (Applause.)  And the special bonds between our nations are ones that all Americans hold dear because they’re bonds forged by common interests and shared values.  They’re bonds that transcend partisan politics — or at least they should.  (Applause.)

We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know that Israel is born of firmly held values that we, as Americans, share:  a culture committed to justice, a land that welcomes the weary, a people devoted to tikkun olam.  (Applause.)

So America’s commitment — America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakeable.  It is unshakeable.  (Applause.)

I said it in September at the United Nations.  I said it when I stood amid the homes in Sderot that had been struck by missiles:  No nation can tolerate terror.  And no nation can accept rockets targeting innocent men, women and children.  No nation can yield to suicide bombers.  (Applause.)

And as Ehud has said, it is hard to remember a time when the United States has given stronger support to Israel on its security.  In fact, I am proud to say that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours.  None.  Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.  It is a fact.  (Applause.)

I’m proud that even in these difficult times we’ve fought for and secured the most funding for Israel in history.  I’m proud that we helped Israel develop a missile defense system that’s already protecting civilians from rocket attacks.  (Applause.)

Another grave concern -– and a threat to the security of Israel, the United States and the world -– is Iran’s nuclear program.  And that’s why our policy has been absolutely clear:  We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  And that’s why we’ve worked painstakingly from the moment I took office with allies and partners, and we have imposed the most comprehensive, the hardest-hitting sanctions that the Iranian regime has ever faced.  We haven’t just talked about it, we have done it.  And we’re going to keep up the pressure.  (Applause.)  And that’s why, rest assured, we will take no options off the table.  We have been clear.

We’re going to keep standing with our Israeli friends and allies, just as we’ve been doing when they’ve needed us most.  In September, when a mob threatened the Israeli embassy in Cairo, we worked to ensure that the men and women working there were able to get out safely.  (Applause.)  Last year, when raging fires threatened Haifa, we dispatched fire-fighting planes to help put out the blaze. (Applause.)

On my watch, the United States of America has led the way, from Durban to the United Nations, against attempts to use international forums to delegitimize Israel.  And we will continue to do so.  (Applause.)  That’s what friends and allies do for each other.  So don’t let anybody else tell a different story.  We have been there, and we will continue to be there.  Those are the facts.  (Applause.)

And when I look back on the last few years, I’m proud of the decisions I’ve made, and I’m proud of what we’ve done together.  But today isn’t about resting on our laurels.  As your tradition teaches, we’re not obligated to finish the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.  (Applause.)

We’ve got to keep going.  So today we look forward to the world not just as it is but as it could be.  And when we do, the truth is clear:  Our union is not yet perfect.  Our world is still in desperate need of repair.  And each of us still hears that call.

And the question is, how we will respond?  In this moment, every American, of every faith, every background has the opportunity to stand up and say:  Here I am.  Hineni.  Here I am.  I am ready to keep alive our country’s promise.  I am ready to speak up for our values at home and abroad.  I am ready to do what needs to be done.  The work may not be finished in a day, in a year, in a term, in a lifetime, but I’m ready to do my part.  (Applause.)

And I believe that with tradition as our guide, we will seize that opportunity.  And in the face of daunting odds, we will make the choices that are hard but are right.  That’s how we’ve overcome tougher times before.  That’s how we will overcome the challenges that we face today.  And together, we will rewrite the next chapter in America’s story and prove that our best days are still to come.

Thank you, God bless you, God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
3:08 P.M. EST

Israel Political Brief December 2, 2011: PM Benjamin Netanyahu pulls ad campaign for Israeli expats that angered US Jews

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Netanyahu pulls ad campaign for Israeli expats that angered U.S. Jews

Source: JTA, 12-2-11

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is canceling an ad campaign aimed at luring Israeli expatriates home that some American Jews have found offensive.

The ads, produced by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, attempt to convey the message that the children and families of Israeli expats will not have Israeli identities if they stay in the Diaspora. This week, the Jewish Federations of North America called the ads “insulting,” and the head of the Anti-Defamation League said they were “demeaning.”

“The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption’s campaign clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities, and we regret any offense it caused,” Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement. “The campaign, which aimed to encourage Israelis living abroad to return home, was a laudable one, and it was not meant to cause insult. The campaign was conducted without the knowledge or approval of the Prime Minister’s Office or of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Prime Minister Netanyahu, once made aware of the campaign, ordered the videos immediately removed from YouTube, and he ordered that the billboards be removed as well. The prime minister deeply values the American Jewish community and is committed to deepening ties between it and the State of Israel.”

Though the ad campaign, consisting of billboards and three videos running on YouTube and on some Israeli sattelite TV channels, is more than two months old, Jewish organizations appear to have been galvanized by a report on The Jewish Channel that was highlighted Wednesday by The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in a blog post titled “Netanyahu Government Suggests Israelis Avoid Marrying American Jews.” Goldberg called the ads a “demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews.”

The Jewish Federations then said it was sending a letter to Netanyahu protesting the 30-second spots and asking that they be pulled.

In one of the ads American Jews complained about, the young daughter of Israeli expats sits with her parents while video chatting with her grandparents in Israel, who have a lighted menorah in the background. When the grandparents ask the girl what holiday it is, she says, “Christmas!” The tagline: “They will always be Israeli. Their kids won’t.”

In another ad, a dozing Israeli expat father is deaf to his son’s calls of “Daddy!” until the kid finally says “Abba!” The tagline: “Before ‘Abba’ turns into ‘Daddy,’ it’s time to come back to Israel.”

“While we recognize the motivations behind the ad campaign, we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel,” Jewish Federations leaders wrote to their board of trustees. “We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, told Haaretz the ads were “heavy-handed, and even demeaning.”

According to the Haaretz report, Israeli’s Foreign Ministry consulted with the Absorption Ministry after receiving several complaints from American Jews and was told that the feedback from Israelis who live in the United States was positive….VIEW ADS

Israel Political Brief October 3, 2011: US House committee chair places hold on Palestinian aid

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House committee chair places hold on Palestinian aid

Source: JTA, 10-3-11

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is holding back nearly $200 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is keeping her House of Representatives committee from considering approval of $192 million in humanitarian program assistance, two Capitol Hill sources said.

The money is separate from assistance to the Palestinian Authority, $200 million of which has already been distributed, and instead is earmarked for nongovernmental groups.

Such holds on NGO money have been held in the past pending oversight to show that the NGOs are not working with terrorist groups. Ros-Lehtinen in recent weeks has expressed concern that a tentative agreement to unite the Palestinian Authority with Hamas is already in effect. Hamas is the U.S.-designated terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

The Americans for Peace Now website is reporting that other House Republicans also are holding the money, and that Republicans in the House and Senate are holding $150 million in security assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Republicans and Democrats have warned that such money may be withheld if the Palestinians do not pull back from their attempt to gain statehood recognition through the United Nations and absent peace talks with Israel.

The Arab League on Sunday called on the Arab states in the region to replace that missing aid with their own donations.

“The Arabs will assist the Palestinian Authority,” Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi said Sunday in Cairo after a meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. “This will be the strongest answer” to the U.S. cuts.

Erekat said that “The Palestinian people refuse to allow economic aid to become an instrument of blackmail regarding its rights to membership of the United Nations.”

The U.N.’s Security Council is now considering the PA’s statehood bid, which the United States has said it will veto.

Israel Political Brief September 22, 2011: Anti-Israel Durban III Conference Opens Major Democracies Boycott — Arab Nations Bash Israel

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Iran, Lebanon others bash Israel at Durban III

Source: JTA, 9-22-11

Representatives of Iran, Cuba and Lebanon blasted Israel at the Durban Review Conference at the United Nations.

While some speakers in the Thursday morning session made reference to what Iran’s representative called “the stonewalling behavior” of a few nations — the more than a dozen countries that are boycotting Durban III out of concern for anti-Israel bias — most speakers used the session as an opportunity to herald the progress of their own countries in combating racism. That included, for example, the representative from Zimbabwe, who called his nation “a tolerant and peace-loving country.”

In his own remarks at the session, Amnesty International’s representative, Jose Luis Diaz, accused many participating countries of being in a “state of denial” about human rights abuses and racism in their countries, saying nations were using the conference to “score political points.”

“We find it striking that while virtually everyone agrees that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance affect all parts of the world, rare are the governments that admit that these phenomena are a real problem in their countries,” he said. “We believe that if there has not been more progress in the struggle against racism, this is in good part due to the tendency of states to play politics with the issue — using it to score points against other states — coupled with the readiness of many governments to bury their heads in the sand about the extent of the problem at home.”

Thursday’s conference was called to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.N. World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The ostensible purpose of that gathering a decade ago was to talk about racism, but it quickly turned into an Israel-bashing extravaganza.

Israel, the United States, Jewish groups and some European countries have denigrated the Durban process since, skipping the 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva as well as this week’s gathering in New York.

As an alternative, Jewish groups organized a counter-conference nearby on Thursday to spotlight the hypocrisy of the Durban process.

Durban III opens amid boycott by major democracies

Controversial UN anti-racism event missing key European nations, US, Australia; Ban Ki-moon condemns use of platform for anti-Semitism

Source: Jerusalem Post, 9-22-11

The absence of the world’s leading democracies at the  UN-sponsored Durban III anti-racism ten-year commemoration event, which opened in New York on Thursday, sparked controversy at the UN General Assembly meeting and served as a setback for the Durban process.

Dubbed Durban after the city in South Africa where the first conference took place in 2001, the anti-racism process has become, according to many of the 14 countries that pulled out of Durban III, a political event to gut the advancement of human rights and foment hatred of the Jewish state.

Anne Bayefsky, a leading human rights scholar, who organized a counter-conference on Thursday to challenge the misguided notion of  the UN event, sees no reason to honor an anti-racism conference that has become infected with racism. Bayefsky cites the example from Durban I where a  sizable number  of conference participants openly championed the Hitler movement’s elimination of European Jewry and advocated a Nazi solution for Israel’s Jews.  Scores of banners in massive street demonstrations in Durban  stated  “Hitler should have finished the job,” and handouts with Hitler’s face read, “What if I had won? The good things: there would be no Israel.”

The world leaders from the 179 countries who participated in Durban III  adopted a political declaration ,which purports to renew “ their commitment for real action to prevent and combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to focus on the concerns of the victims.” According to critics, the Durban political declaration, which was reaffirmed at the commemoration event, singles out and attacks only Israel for criticism and alleged violations of human rights.

Ambassador Isabelle Pico from Monaco, who represented Western Europe’s countries, alluded to the noticeable lack of their member countries at the event. “While a number of countries from our group are not participating and in spite of the fact that some countries do not participate in this process,” Western European countries will continue to promote  equality.

France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Germany skipped the Durban III event because those countries’ foreign ministries viewed the Durban III planning process and Thursday’s commemoration event to be contaminated with anti-Semitism, racism, and hatred of foreigners. The Eastern Europe nations of  Poland ,Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic boycotted the commemoration event for similar reasons. The United States, Israel, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand pulled the plug on their participation in the event as well .

While no country or individual leader was cited during the speeches, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indirectly referenced the second Durban 2009 conference and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tirades against Israel.

Ban Ki-moon said “we should condemn anyone who uses this platform to subvert with inflammatory speech.” He added that “we are aware that the Durban conference caused immense controversy, “ and alluded to the year 2009.

Ban Ki-moon was the only speaker to tell the General Assembly to take a stand against “anti-Semitism” He also called on the member states to fight Islamophobia and persecution against Christians and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.

The other diplomatic speakers were from Sudan, Indonesia, and Jamaica.

Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said “the lead up to this commemoration has been undoubtedly challenging, in no small part because the issues are complex and sensitive. No country can claim to be free of racism but we must be resolute in finding the courage to unite and move ahead together.”

In a New York Daily News opinion piece in August titled  “Meet the UN’s anti-Israel ‘anti-discrimination’ czar, Navi Pillay”, Anne Bayefsky, the expert on the UN, wrote that Pillay has “ been distracted by her anti-Israel and anti-American agenda since taking office in 2008. Pillay is perhaps best known for her unremitting defense of the notorious Goldstone report and for having questioned the legality of the killing of Osama Bin Laden.”

The UN-sponsored Goldstone report accused Israel of war crimes in 2008/2009 during operation cast lead in the Gaza Strip. The report’s main author, lawyer Richard Goldstone, has retracted the finding of war crimes against Israel and shifted the blame to Hamas,  the terror entity that controls Gaza, as the responsible party for transgressions of human rights and international law.

 

Durban III conference opens in New York amid allegations of anti-Israel bias

Counter-convention draws Jewish leaders and prominent supporters of Israel; 13 countries refuse to take part in Durban III

Source: Ha’aertz, 9-22-11

As the Palestinian statehood bid draws increasing support at the United Nations convention in New York, key member states have distanced themselves from a conference marking the ten-year anniversary of the Durban anti-racism conference in South Africa, in which both the United States as well as Israel stepped out due its alleged anti-Israel agenda.

Israel has asked friendly nations to stay away from this year’s event.

The 2001 anti-racism conference was criticized for its harsh language against Zionism’s “racist practices,” calling the Zionist movement one that is “based on racial superiority.” The draft document containing these statements prompted the U.S. and Israel to withdraw their delegations.

In 2009, the “Durban II” conference was held in Geneva, and made headlines after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a speech in which he attacked Israel and denied the Holocaust.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attended the conference Thursday, and urged all countries to “stand firmly” against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and reject discrimination against Christians.

Thus far, 13 countries have announced that they will not attend the conference, dubbed “Durban III.” U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement on Thursday that “the British Government has decided that the U.K. will not attend the UN meeting.”

He added that the 2001 conference,” and the anti-Semitic atmosphere in which it was held, was a particularly unpleasant and divisive chapter in the UN’s history. It is not an event that should be celebrated.”

The countries who pledged not to attend the conference include nine EU countries, as well as Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

Iran’s Ahmedinejad, however, is expected to take part once more.

A counter conference was held at the Millennium Plaza hotel in New York on Thursday to protest the Durban III convention and its allegedly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agenda.

High profile speakers included Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, President of the World Jewish Congress Ron Lauder, Israeli Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, actor Jon Voight, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold, and others.

Wiesel, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, recalled the original Durban conference, saying, “I almost became part of Durban I. Kofi Annan was the Secretary General. He called me and I said, of course.”

However, once Wiesel saw the program, he realized he could not participate. He told the former UN chief, “Durban I is supposed to be conference against anti-Semitism, but it became conference of anti-Semitism. I resigned in protests and told Kofi I am sure it will become an embarrassment to the UN.”

After the conference, Annan sent the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate a message saying “Elie, you were right.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, spoke as well, saying “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is going to speak to the General Assembly today, Abbas speaks tomorrow. This is not an aberration that can be corrected, this is not a minute flaw – this is every day (at the UN).”

Bolton warned that “the pervasiveness of this anti-Israeli feeling, anti-Americanism, is there every day. Don’t be shocked about what’s happening. The Durban III declaration that will be adopted today – it’s part of the initiative that is going on for some time, the central objective of which is delegitmization of the state of Israel.”

Alan Dershowitz addressed the crowd as well, saying “the reason there is still no peace in the Middle East can be summarized in two letters: UN.”

The Harvard professor continued his attack on the UN, saying “rights of women, children, gays, were ignored, because the UN was too busy debating whether Zionism is racism. The UN has encouraged anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry.”

The American Civil Liberties Union slammed the Obama administration for refusing to participate in the Durban III conference, saying in a statement on Thursday that “the absence of the United States in today’s proceedings is disappointing; it contradicts the administration’s stated position to push for positive models to advance human rights, and sends the wrong message to the global community regarding the U.S. commitment to fight racial injustice everywhere.”

The statement called on the United States to “lead by example and translate their stated commitment to end racial discrimination into concrete laws and policies.”

Israel Political Brief September 22, 2011: Reactions — US Jews give Obama mixed reviews for ‘pro-Israel’ UN speech

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U.S. Jews give Obama mixed reviews for ‘pro-Israel’ UN speech

AIPAC lauds U.S. President for seeing Israelis deserve ‘normal relations with their neighbors’; Americans for Peace Now: U.S. position as defender of rights cannot stand as Israeli-Palestinians conflict ‘left to fester’

Source: Ha’aertz, 9-22-11
It was quite clear that U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech, which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he “would sign with both hands,” would draw mixed reactions. Its failure to go into details about the Israeli-Palestinian issue was assumed to be due to a combination of re-election concerns and those of slipping Jewish support.

But the U.S. Jewish organizations provided varying – in some cases even polar – responses to the speech.

Obama at UN - Reuters - September 21, 2011 U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 21, 2011.
Photo by: Reuters

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), which recently launched a new website explaining Obama’s support for Israel, took the speech as an opportunity to claim that all the “political chatter” doubting the president’s support for Israel should be “put to bed once and for all.”

“As he has proven throughout his presidency, President Obama supports Israel and its people instinctively. Israel truly has no better friend in the world today,” NJDC leaders Marc Stanley and David Harris said in a joint statement Wednesday.

“On behalf of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s Board of Directors and leadership, we wish to express our thanks to President Barack Obama for passionately and eloquently standing up for Israel and the Jewish State’s security needs at the United Nations today,” they said.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) welcomed the speech. “AIPAC appreciates the President’s “unshakeable” commitment to Israel’s security and his clear statements outlining the daily dangers and strategic threats facing Israel. President Obama demonstrated his understanding of Israel’s legitimate requirements when he stated that the Jewish people – in their historic homeland – deserve recognition and normal relations with their neighbors,” the Jewish lobby said.

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Executive Director David Harris said “President Obama’s message was crystal clear that the only path to sustainable peace is direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, not what goes on in the corridors of the UN.”

The Conference of Presidents Chairman Richard Stone and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein welcomed Obama’s comments at the opening session of the UN General Assembly in support of direct negotiations, and his rejection of solutions imposed by outside parties, unilateral moves, or one sided declarations at the United Nations.

“The President correctly and clearly identified Israel’s security needs and challenges,” said the Conference of Presidents heads.

“The President said that “the Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland” and that “Israel deserves recognition.” We specially note this formulation not only because it reaffirmed a historic truth but also because many in the hall he was addressing have sought to deny Israel’s ancient and constant connection to the land and others have refuse to recognize it as the Jewish State,” their statement continued.

“We hope that other leaders will listen to President Obama’s words and heed his warnings,” they said, adding, “Most of all, we hope that the automatic majority against Israel at the UN will come to consider the danger to that institution and to the cause of peace that results from a blanket acceptance of anti-Israel measures no matter how unjustified they may be.”

Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow praised Obama for saying the United States is dedicated to achieving peace through bilateral negotiations.

“He (Obama) understands that peace is a cooperative venture. It needs leaders, partners, supporters, witnesses, and principled advocates. No sustainable peace can be achieved alone,” said the Rabbi. “The path to peace is paved with compromise and cooperation, not unilateralism.”

But on the left side of the map, the disappointment was palpable.

Americans for Peace Now President and CEO Debra DeLee said Obama’s speech, while saying the Americans support peace, offered little hope to Israelis and Palestinians.

“Israelis want and deserve peace and security as much as anyone in the region. Palestinians want and deserve freedom and self-determination as much as Egyptians, Tunisians, or Libyans. The United States cannot maintain credibility as the standard-bearer of rights and freedoms while the Israeli-Palestinians conflict is left to fester,” said DeLee.

DeLee called upon the U.S. President to use his time at the United Nations this week as an opportunity to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. “Only this can re-establish and re-assert U.S. credibility and re-inject hope for an end to this conflict,” she said.

The Jewish Voice for Peace issued a statement calling the speech “profoundly disappointing”, claiming that “his desire to get re-elected in 2012 has trumped not only his good sense, but his ability to act on behalf of U.S.– and in the long run– Israel’s best interests.”

The group accused Obama of catering to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demands, seen in his refusal “to even mention the words settlement or occupation”. The statement said Obama is “actively opposing Palestinian moves for statehood that are consistent with stated U.S. policy.”

J Street has rejected the Palestinian UN bid, and its President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement that Obama was right to say there is “no shortcut” to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that Obama must turn this “crisis” into “an opportunity to jumpstart meaningful diplomacy that yields results.”

In a statement, Orthodox Union president Dr. Simcha Katz and director of public policy Nathan Diament congratulated Obama “for his clear statement of opposition to the Palestinians’ effort to unilaterally seek recognition at the United Nations instead of at the negotiating table with Israel. We also commend President Obama’s strong statements of support for Israel and his Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.”

 

 

Full Text September 18, 2011: Speaker of the House John Boehner Addresses The Jewish National Fund’s 2011 National Convention — U.S. must stand by Israel

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Full Text: Congressman Boehner Addresses The Jewish National Fund’s 2011 National Convention

Sep 18, 2011Today, Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) delivered the keynote address at the Jewish National Fund’s 2011 National Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Boehner focused his remarks on America’s longstanding commitment to having a strong U.S.-Israel partnership, saying: “We’re here to see that Israel continues to thrive – and to make clear it is America’s duty to stand by her side.  Not just as a broker or observer – but as a strong partner and reliable ally.” Following are Congressman Boehner’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks to people attending a meeting of the Jewish National Fund’s 2011 national conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday Sept. 18, 2011. | AP Photo

 

Remarks by Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) Jewish National Fund’s 2011 National Conference As Prepared for Delivery September 18, 2011

“Stan, thank you … and thank you all for the warm welcome.   I’m humbled by the opportunity to be here with you this morning.  It’s a privilege to serve as a warm-up act for Larry King.

“Thank you also to Effie Stenzler … and thank you to Ron Lauder and Russell Robinson for your dedication to this truly outstanding organization.

“As I understand it, this is the first time JNF has held its national conference in Cincinnati.  What took you so long?

“Cincinnati has the oldest – and, in my view, most active – Jewish community west of the Alleghenies.  The longest-running Jewish newspaper in the country,

“The American Israelite, is based right here in the Queen City.  We not only have the right place to talk about these issues … we have the right people, too.

“Long before I was Speaker, before I was a Member of the Congress … leaders in this community were kind enough to come and talk to me about these issues.  I’m glad they did.

“I’m happy to see so many young people here.  We are fighting these fights in the hope you won’t have to.   But history and humility tell us you will have to take up this charge.

“Everyone here understands the stakes … each of you has every right to stand up and be proud of what you’re doing.   I salute you, and I thank you.

“This is certainly the right time for us to gather.

“ Like you, I have read suggestions by newspaper columnists and observers that events have overtaken Israel … that Israel is ‘isolating itself’ in the Middle East.

“That view is wrong, and always has been wrong.

“Israel is not isolating itself – Israel is leading in the Middle East.

“Israel does not stand alone – Israel stands above as the one true beacon of freedom and opportunity in the Middle East.

“We’re here to see that Israel continues to thrive – and to make clear it is America’s duty to stand by her side.  Not just as a broker or observer – but as a strong partner and reliable ally.

“That’s why I’m pleased to report that the House has ensured – in this time of fiscal responsibility – that America meets its financial commitments to Israel.

“We will continue to do so.

“I’m also pleased with the work being done by the House Foreign Affairs Committee under the leadership of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

“She led the charge to put the House on record opposing funding for the Palestinian Authority as long as it aligns itself with Hamas.

“As Ileana put it not too long ago, ‘I don’t care if there is one or five or hundreds of members of Hamas involved; no U.S. funds can go to the PA.’

“Couldn’t have said it better myself.

“I’ve been Speaker of the House more than eight months now … we’ve had some significant moments in the chamber.

“For me, one of the most powerful occurred in May when Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress.

“It was my honor to invite him.  It was the least I could do for the leader of one of our closest allies in the world.

“Bibi did not disappoint.  He received nearly 30 standing ovations … bipartisan standing ovations.   All well-deserved.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress because the American people deserved to hear from him – and Washington, quite frankly, needed to hear what he had to say.

“I invite the people in this room – and anyone as concerned as I am about the future of Israel – to speak out.  Washington needs to hear from you, too.

“For this to be a truly transformational time, one thing cannot change … and that is America’s commitment to Israel’s future.

“Something the prime minister said in his speech to Congress has stuck with me.

“He was talking about how the Middle East stands at a crossroads.  And he said: ‘Like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty.’

“It is the path less traveled isn’t it?  We know freedom and democracy don’t come cheap.  They require vigilance – they rely on the tools of persuasion and progress.

“Among those tools are strategic alliances built on trust, not fear or coercion.

“Our democracies are cut from the same cloth.  Our peoples treasure the same values.

“American patriots went to Philadelphia to make a Declaration of Independence.  Benjamin Franklin called the colonies ‘God’s new Israel.’

“Israel’s founders gathered in Tel Aviv to realize Herzl’s dream by issuing a Proclamation of Independence.

“Both sites, by the way, are now called Independence Hall.

“The Israeli proclamation imagined a state based on freedom, justice and peace, one that guarantees freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.

“It spoke of a country that would foster economic development for the benefit of all its inhabitants.

“There are no shortcuts or loopholes – no talk of one election, one time.  It’s about freedom and opportunity for all, and for all time.

“Freedom is a universal right – but we have learned the hard way it is an earned right.

“The United States and Israel remain prime targets of terror.

“The recent anniversary of September 11th was a reminder of our shared pain.

“There is only one place in the world outside the United States that lists the names of all the innocents who died that day.

“It is located on a hilltop at the entrance to Jerusalem.  And it was built by the Jewish National Fund.  Thank you.

“I appreciate the fact that you call it a ‘living’ memorial.

“Those who died left behind a sacred charge: to pledge to each other ‘never again’ and to confront and defeat the terrorist threat.

“Over the last ten years, not only has Israel stood with us, but it has done so from the front lines of the struggle to confront and defeat terror.

“Thinking back to the last time I was in Israel … standing at the northern border with Lebanon…

“From where I stood on that border, it’s about a hundred miles to Jerusalem, about the same distance from here to our state capital of Columbus.

“For Israel, the enemy is close … and committed.

“Why, Israel’s neighbor does not even acknowledge its right to exist.

“Just four months ago, the leader of the Hamas administration in Gaza said, and I quote, ‘The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth.’

“Recently, Hamas leaders blocked Palestinian students from studying in the United States under scholarships they legitimately earned.  Why?  ‘For social and cultural reasons.’

“This week, Israel will face a three-pronged assault when the United Nations General Assembly meets.

“There will be a ‘celebration’ of the Durban Declaration, a document that charges Israel with racism.

“The president of Iran, who has called Israel a cancer to be annihilated, will take the podium.

“And the Palestinian Authority will seek a unilateral recognition of statehood.

“Israel has demonstrated time and again it seeks nothing more than peace … a peace agreed to by the two states and only the two states.

“Like every prime minister before him, Prime Minister Netanyahu knows peace will require compromise – and he accepts that.  He welcomes that.

“Where I’m from … where we’re from … we stand by our friends, especially the ones who have always stood by us.

“Supporting Israel and her people has been the policy of this nation since Harry Truman sat in the Oval Office.

“Our commitment to Israel should be no less strong today.  If anything, it should be stronger than it’s ever been.  And, with your help, it will be.  It must be.

“Not far from here, near where I live in West Chester, is a place called Voice of America Park.

“It was once the site of a relay station for the Voice of America radio station, which was established during World War II.

“The station transmitted ‘truthful news’ about freedom and democracy to oppressed peoples, behind enemy lines.

“Hitler could do nothing to stop it.  VOA got to him.  He was known in his speeches to decry those ‘Cincinnati liars.’

“The lesson here is simple: words matter.  The truth can pierce even the most stubborn defenses.

“It is up to us to tell Israel’s story … to spread Israel’s truth.  The voice of America starts with the people in this room.

“I’m up for it.  And for the sake of our people, Israel’s people, and all freedom-loving peoples – I hope all of us are up for it.

“Let’s look out for one another, and keep at it.  Never quit.  Thank you.”

Political Brief September 14, 2011: Republican Bob Turner wins Weiner’s former Congressional seat over Jewish Democrat David Weprin

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Republican wins Weiner’s former seat

Source: JTA, 9-13-11

In a blow to Democrats, a Republican candidate captured the heavily Jewish New York City congressional district previously represented by Rep. Anthony Weiner.

The Republican candidate, Bob Turner, beat his Democratic opponent, New York State Assemblyman David Weprin, in Tuesday’s special election. The Associated Press called the race for Turner shortly after midnight, with the Republican leading Weprin by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent and more than three-fifths of precincts reporting.

The race was closely watched as a measure of attitudes toward President Obama, with the Jewish vote a particular focus of attention. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, urged voters to support Turner in order to send a message of dissatisfaction to President Obama over his policies toward Israel.

Weprin, an Orthodox Jew, initially led in pre-election polls. But Turner, a retired television executive who was a creator of “The Jerry Springer Show,” pulled ahead during the past month.

Turner’s victory came despite the Democrats’ strong advantage in voter registration in the middle-class Brooklyn and Queens district, which is 57 percent Democratic and only 19 percent Republican. Observers, however, have noted that the district votes more conservative than the registration numbers seem to suggest.

The Republican’s tenure in Congress, however, could be short-lived. New York state is losing two congressional seats due to decennial reapportionment, and many expect that the seat, which has been vacant since Weiner’s scandal-induced resignation, will be eliminated.

New York’s 9th Congressional District has the fourth-largest Jewish population of any congressional district, with some 173,000 Jews, according to a 2009 report from the Mandell L. Berman Institute-North American Jewish Data Bank. Jerry Skurnik, a partner at the political consulting firm Prime New York, told The New York Times that about a third of the district’s active voters are Jewish.

However, the district’s Jewish demographics are somewhat atypical, with sizable concentrations of Orthodox Jews and Russian Jews, who tend to lean more conservative in their voting behavior than Jews in general.

During the race Weprin tried to distance himself from the president, highlighting his criticisms of the president’s policies toward Israel.

According to a September poll from the Siena Research Institute, 54 percent of the district’s likely Jewish voters said they had an unfavorable view of the president, with only 42 percent viewing him favorably — figures that almost exactly matched the views of the district’s likely voters overall.

The Siena poll, conducted Sept. 6-8, showed Weprin trailing Turner by six percentage points but leading among Jews by an equal margin.

While the Israel issue has garnered much of the media attention, in the Siena poll only 16 percent of the district’s Jewish voters said that a candidate’s Israel stance would be the most important factor in determining their vote. That is roughly half the proportion (30 percent) who identified the candidate’s position on the economic recovery as their key issue and slightly fewer than the proportion (20 percent) who chose Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs as the top issue.

Full Text September 14, 2011: Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matt Brooks Statement on Republican Win New York’s 9th Congressional District Special Election

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RJC: Jewish Defections Hurt Obama, Democrats in Queens Race

Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matt Brooks made the following statement on the results of the special election in New York’s 9th congressional district:

“We congratulate Bob Turner on his historic victory.

This Republican win in an overwhelmingly Democrat district is a significant indicator of the problem that President Obama has in the Jewish community. While party leaders scramble to deny and try to stem the erosion of Jewish support for Democrats, the real issue is this President’s policies on Israel, on jobs, and on the economy. Jewish voters are coming to see that Republicans offer real solutions to our economic crisis, are resolute friends of Israel, and represent a way forward to a better future.

Bob Turner’s win tonight has huge implications for 2012 races in states with large Jewish communities, such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

The RJC took a proactive approach in this race, reaching out to Jewish voters in the district, and we will be a leading voice driving the debate in the Jewish community nationally through 2012 as well.”

Poltical Brief September 13, 2011: Upset, Jewish Vote Speaks — Republican Bob Turner Wins New York’s 9th Congressional District Seat in Special Election over Democrat David I. Weprin — Referendum & Rebuke on President Obama & Israel Policies in Democratic District

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Damon Winter/The New York Times

Bob Turner, center, spoke to supporters in Queens on Tuesday.

ELECTIONS: REPUBLICAN WINS NEW YORK’S CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 9 IN SPECIAL ELECTION

G.O.P. Gains House Seat Vacated by Weiner, AP Reports: A little-known Republican businessman from Queens, channeling voter discontent with President Obama into an upset victory, on Tuesday won election to Congress from the heavily Democratic district in New York City last represented by Anthony D. Weiner, according to The Associated Press.
The Republican, Bob Turner, a retired cable television executive, defeated Assemblyman David I. Weprin, the scion of a prominent Democratic family in Queens, in a nationally watched special election.

With 84 percent of the precincts counted early Wednesday, Mr. Turner was leading Mr. Weprin by 54 percent to 46 percent, according to The Associated Press.

Turner recently polled 6 points higher than Democrat opponent David Weprin, who is actually Jewish, and narrowed Weprin’s lead among Jewish voters by 15 points. The Turner campaign sent out 5,000 letters to registered voters in Israel, asking them to register for the ballots and place them in time.

“We congratulate Bob Turner on his historic victory.
This Republican win in an overwhelmingly Democrat district is a significant indicator of the problem that President Obama has in the Jewish community. While party leaders scramble to deny and try to stem the erosion of Jewish support for Democrats, the real issue is this President’s policies on Israel, on jobs, and on the economy. Jewish voters are coming to see that Republicans offer real solutions to our economic crisis, are resolute friends of Israel, and represent a way forward to a better future.
Bob Turner’s win tonight has huge implications for 2012 races in states with large Jewish communities, such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
The RJC took a proactive approach in this race, reaching out to Jewish voters in the district, and we will be a leading voice driving the debate in the Jewish community nationally through 2012 as well.” — Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matt Brooks statement on the results of the special election in New York’s 9th congressional district — RJC: Jewish Defections Hurt Obama, Democrats in Queens Race

“His [President Barack Obama] hostility should concern Jews, Christians, and other supporters of Israel. Many believe the president has conveyed by his actions and demands on that state that he is willing to throw it under the bus and end the special relationship which has existed between the U.S. and Israel beginning with Harry Truman and continuing through the administration of George W. Bush….
While President Obama has made demands upon Israel that affect its security, no comparable demand — indeed, no demands — have been made upon the Palestinian Authority before entering the peace talks….
On the other hand, the election of Bob Turner in a normally safe Democratic district running against President Obama’s position on Israel and against his own party’s positions on the three entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would send a message to his own party leadership, as well as to President Obama.” — Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch

“No matter who wins in the special election in New York’s 9th congressional district on Tuesday. This race highlights the serious problems that President Obama has in the Jewish community because of his policies regarding Israel. Without question, Obama’s policies are causing significant numbers of Jewish voters to re-examine their loyalty to the Democratic Party.” — Matt Brooks RJC executive director

    • G.O.P. Gains House Seat Vacated by Weiner: Bob Turner, a little-known Republican businessman from Queens, beat Assemblyman David I. Weprin in an upset victory seen as a message to Washington…. – NYT, 9-13-11
    • GOP Takes Anthony Weiner’s Seat in Congress: Republican Bob Turner, a retired media executive, bested Democrat Assemblyman David Weprin. With about 70 percent of precincts reporting late Tuesday, Turner had 53 percent of the vote to Weprin’s 47 percent when the Associated Press called the race…. – ABC News, 9-13-11
    • Republican wins Weiner’s former seat: In a blow to Democrats, a Republican candidate captured the heavily Jewish New York City congressional district previously represented by Rep. Anthony Weiner.
      The race was closely watched as a measure of attitudes toward President Obama, with the Jewish vote a particular focus of attention. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, urged voters to support the Republican, Bob Turner, in order to send a message of dissatisfaction to President Obama over his policies toward Israel…. – JTA, 9-13-11
    • Why Obama Is Losing the Jewish Vote He doesn’t have a ‘messaging’ problem. He has a record of bad policies and anti-Israel rhetoric: New York’s special congressional election on Tuesday was the first electoral outcome directly affected by President Obama’s Israel policy. Democrats were forced to expend enormous resources to try to defend this safe Democratic district, covering Queens and Brooklyn, that Anthony Weiner won last year by a comfortable margin.
      A Public Policy Poll taken days before the election found a plurality of voters saying that Israel was “very important” in determining their votes. Among those voters, Republican candidate Robert Turner was winning by a 71-22 margin. Only 22% of Jewish voters approved of President Obama’s handling of Israel. Ed Koch, the Democrat and former New York mayor, endorsed Mr. Turner because he said he wanted to send a message to the president about his anti-Israel policies.
      This is a preview of what President Obama might face in his re-election campaign with a demographic group that voted overwhelmingly for him in 2008. And it could affect the electoral map, given the battleground states—such as Florida and Pennsylvania—with significant Jewish populations. In another ominous barometer for the Obama campaign, its Jewish fund-raising has deeply eroded: One poll by McLaughlin & Associates found that of Jewish donors who donated to Mr. Obama in 2008, only 64% have already donated or plan to donate to his re-election campaign…. – WSJ, 9-13-11
    • Koch Played Key Role in GOP Victory: The Republican victory in New York’s solid blue 9th Congressional District seat in Tuesday’s special election came largely with the help of an influential Democrat: former New York City Mayor Ed Koch.
      Koch was arguably the one single factor in helping the GOP win the battle to succeed disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner in the U.S. House.
      The thrice-elected former mayor, who remains a powerful force in New York and national politics, had backed Obama strongly in the 2008 election.
      A self-describer “liberal with reason,” former Congressman Koch holds a hawkish view on U.S. foreign policy and national security matters.
      In 2004, he cited the war on terror to cross party lines and back George Bush over John Kerry for the presidency. Koch campaigned for Bush’s re-election in Florida and Ohio.
      In the special election, the 86-year-old Koch urged fellow New Yorkers, and disaffected Democrats like himself, to send a message to President Obama that they give him a thumbs down for his domestic and foreign policies.
      Koch, a staunch supporter of Israel, has been dismayed with Obama’s lukewarm support for Israel.
      The former mayor’s message appeared to resonate in the congressional district that straddles the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn and is home to many Jews, including many Orthodox ones. Newsmax, 9-13-11
    • Republican Bob Turner wins special election in New York: Democrats suffered a stunning blow Tuesday as voters in New York’s 9th Congressional District handed the seat to Republican Bob Turner, reversing a nearly 90-year tradition of electing Democrats to represent the district. … – LAT, 9-13-11
    • Republican Bob Turner wins New York special election: Businessman Bob Turner (R) defeated state Assemblyman David Weprin (D) in the special election for the House seat held by former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner (D)…. – WaPo, 9-13-11
    • A referendum on Obama and Israel: Bob Turner vs. David Weprin is really about: In deciding between Republican Bob Turner and Democrat David Weprin, the 9th’s large percentage of Jewish voters may provide an important clue about what a part of President Obama’s base in 2008 will do in next year’s presidential contest…. – New York Daily News, 9-13-11
    • Republican wins Democratic New York House seat: Republican Bob Turner won the race to succeed Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th congressional district. By Paul Kane, With his outcome of his own reelection effort 14 difficult months away, President Obama suffered a sharp rebuke…. – WaPo, 9-13-11
    • GOP Wins in Race to Replace Weiner: AP Democrats suffered a setback Tuesday in a congressional election in New York City, where a district they have held for nearly a century elected a Republican who framed his candidacy as a rebuke to President Barack Obama. … – WSJ, 9-13-11
    • Republican wins in New York Democratic stronghold: Republicans won an upset victory in a Democratic stronghold in New York Tuesday in a special US House of Representatives election for the seat vacated by former Representative Anthony Weiner, who resigned after a Twitter sex scandal…. – Reuters, 9-13-11
    • GOP wins in NY House race, seen as Obama rebuke: Republicans have scored an upset victory in a House race that started as a contest to replace Rep. Anthony Weiner after he resigned in a sexting scandal but became a referendum on President Barack Obama…. – Forbes, 9-13-11

“The idea is telling Obama, we’re not just in your pocket because we’re Democrats and we’re ticking off Democrat all the way down the list. We are holding you responsible for your policies, and we’re telling you we don’t want them…. If Obama looks at his always historically blue district … if he gets this message from this Democrat district, this can affect his policies–again, both on fiscal and Israel — in the next year.” — Ruth Lieberman, a veteran political consultant

  • NY-9 Could Affect White House Israeli Policy: This afternoon, Ruth Lieberman, a veteran political consultant who has been helping Republican Bob Turner in his special election race to win former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s seat in New York, spoke with Townhall about the dynamics between Turner and the Jewish vote in this race and broader implications for 2012. The district shows 1/3 registered Jewish voters, but of last year’s participation in the election, a large percentage were Jewish voters, according to Lieberman.
    The conversation with Lieberman revealed voters in the very blue district seem interested on two issues: jobs and Israel. Turner’s message to constituents has been that if they’re not happy with the Obama economy or with the administration’s stance on Israel, Turner is their man. Turner also picked up major Jewish Democrat endorsements along the way — local Assemblyman Dov Hikind (who has been campaigning with Turner) and former New York Mayor Ed Koch. Lieberman emphasized that these two Democrat politicians are telling voters to cross over and that this isn’t about party, but a referendum on Obama and jobs and Israel…. – Townhall, 9-13-11
  • Is Israel Policy an Election Problem for Obama?: President Barack Obama’s weakened standing with voters has helped put a safe Democratic House seat at risk of tipping to the GOP in a special election Tuesday in New York City…. – WSJ, 9-13-11
  • Shocker: White House Spox Says NY-9 Special Is Not A Referendum On Obama’: It is worth reiterating that PPP found 54% of those polled said they disapproved of Obama’s policy on Israel, but voters were split on whether Israel matters in the NY-9 election…. – New York Daily News, 9-12-11
  • Polling Israel in NY-9: Republican Bob Turner’s unusual lead in last night’s PPP poll among Jewish and pro-Israel voters in Anthony Weiner’s old district has drawn its share of attention, but a reader points out that it may be a bit of a local anomaly. … – Politico, 9-12-11
  • GOP Jewish group yokes NY-9 results to Obama: The Republican Jewish Coalition, which sent mailers to 30,000 Jewish homes in NY-9 in advance of the special congressional election this week, is trying to pre-frame the results as negative for President Obama, regardless of whether Democrat David Weprin wins or loses.
    Weprin is locked in a tight race against neophyte politician and Republican Bob Turner, in a heavily Jewish district where Obama’s approval numbers are now underwater…. – Politico, 9-9-11
  • Gaming the Catholic vote: In a brief interlude into NY-9, which appears poised to go for the Republican Bob Turner tonight and will be sifted-over for national implications, veteran New York strategist Hank Sheinkopf said one takeaway for the Democrats next year is the Catholic vote…. – Politico, 9-13-11
  • Boehner on N.Y. special election: Republicans don’t have ‘any right to think we can win”: But if businessman Bob Turner (R) does prevail at the polls, Boehner said, the message will be a clear one: Voters are unhappy with President Obama’s leadership on the economy…. – WaPo, 9-13-11
  • NY special election a measure of Obama’s strength: Democrat David Weprin faced an unusually tight race against Republican Bob Turner in a special election Tuesday in New York’s heavily Democratic 9th Congressional District, where voters unhappy with President Barack Obama could elect a Republican for the first time.
    The contest to replace disgraced Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner has become too close to call, with public opinion polling showing a slight edge for Turner, a retired media executive with no previous political experience…. – AP, 9-13-11
  • Outside groups spend $1.65 million on House races in Nevada, New York: In Nevada, Kate Marshall (about $748000 reported) has out-raised Republican Mark Amodei (about $659000), while in New York David Weprin (about $684000) has more than doubled the campaign cash of his opponent Bob Turner (about $323000)…. – iWatch News, 9-13-11
  • 6 NY Assembly seats up for grabs in NYC, upstate: The race getting the most attention is the special election in New York City’s 9th Congressional District, where Democrat David Weprin faces Republican Bob Turner in the contest to succeed replace disgraced Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner…. – Houston Chronicle, 9-13-11
  • Former Mayor Ed Koch Supports Bob Turner YouTube, 9-12-11
  • Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D) Endorses Bob Turner (R) for US Congress in NY-9 YouTube, 9-9-11

Josh Haner/The New York Times

Assemblyman David I. Weprin had hoped to keep the Ninth Congressional District seat in Democratic hands, but failed.

Israel Brief: Alan Dershowitz strikes back: ‘J Street has harmed Israel’

ISRAEL BRIEF

“It’s a myth that criticism of Israel is silenced. I have spoken at AIPAC many times, criticizing Israeli policy,” lawyer says in response to Ben-Ami.

Source: Jerusalem Post, 8-6-11
Prominent Israel advocate Prof. Alan Dershowitz hit back at a book by the founder of J Street charging that he and others have silenced criticism of the Jewish state, in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.

Alan Dershowitz speaks to the 'Post.'

Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski

J Street President Jeremy Ben- Ami’s recently released book, A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation, singles out Dershowitz, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and other members of the US Jewish establishment.

“It’s a myth that criticism of Israel is silenced,” Dershowitz said in a phone interview with the Post on Thursday. I have spoken at AIPAC many times and have criticized Israeli policy. AIPAC has never silenced me, because AIPAC knows I’m pro-Israel.”

In the book, Ben-Ami argues that the major Jewish organizations and pro-Israel advocates in America have “created a situation where one can’t question or criticize Israeli policy or actions without being branded an outcast.”

Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, vehemently expressed disagreement with that assertion.

“Ben-Ami was in diapers when I opposed the occupation and was in favor of the two-state solution,” Dershowitz said on Thursday.

“See, I’m [J Street’s] worst nightmare. I oppose the occupation. But I’m really pro-Israel, unlike them.”

Dershowitz also argued that J Street’s actions have had a deleterious effect on the next generation’s ability to effectively advocate for Israel.

“I think J Street has done more damage to Israel than any [other] American organization,” he said.

“It has made a generation of Jews ashamed to be pro-Israel, and has made it politically correct among young people to single out Israel to a double standard and for fault.”…READ MORE

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