Tim Pawlenty: Republican Hopeful Slams Obama’s Israel Policies

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Source: Virtual  Jerusalem, 6-29-11

There is one slogan that unites the Republican presidential hopefuls: Hit Obama over his policy towards Israel. The Obama administration’s foreign policy, particularly toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has long been a favorite Republican target. Yesterday, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty jumped on the bandwagon.

Pawlenty has been sidelined in the past couple of weeks as tea party favorite Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman stole the media limelight. She knows how to make headlines and raise money, and recent polls put her right behind the leading candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Pawlenty lags behind, but analysts include him in the group of realistic candidates who have a real chance of winning the nomination, in contrast to candidates who are in the race to strike an ideological pose or outtim pawlenty israel policy of egotism. Pawlenty has strong support in the Republican establishment, who look askance at the tea party, and on Wall Street.

In view of the disagreements within the Republican Party over US involvement in Afghanistan and Libya, Pawlenty has taken a strong hawkish stance. He slams the isolationism of the Republican’s extreme right wing and calls on the party to show clarity, determination, and strength toward the world. President Barack Obama’s relations with Israel are a central theme.

A key line in Pawlenty’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York yesterday was, “Today, the president doesn’t really have a policy toward the peace process. He has an attitude. And let’s be frank about what that attitude is: he thinks Israel is the problem. And he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel.”

Pawlenty said, “It breaks my heart that President Obama treats Israel, our great friend, as a problem, rather than as an ally. The president seems to genuinely believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the heart of every problem in the Middle East. He said it Cairo in 2009 and again this year. President Obama could not be more wrong.”

He added that, despite wars and terrorist attacks, Israel offers all its citizens, men and women, Jews, Christians and Muslims, including 1.5 million Arabs, freedom of religion, the right to vote, access to an independent judiciary, and other democratic rights.

Pawlenty added that we must recognize that peace will only come when everyone in the region realizes that the US stands behind Israel with all its might. He said, if elected, his policy toward Israel would be based on four principles: not to undermine Israel in its negotiations or press it to accept borders that could harm its security; not to press Israel to negotiate with Hamas or with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist, rejects terrorism and accepts previous agreements; immediately end aid to the Palestinians if they do not cease their incitement against Israel; and foster moderates in Palestinian society.

Pawlenty said that Obama’s policy toward the Arab world was based on a lack of support for the democracy-seeking demonstrators in Iran and Egypt and for its reflexive response to support unworthy leaders in the face of demands for freedom from their people.

The National Jewish Democratic Council, which supports the Democratic Party, said in response, Pawlenty’s constant misrepresentations of President Barack Obama’s pro-Israel record are profoundly wrong and must stop immediately. By totally ignoring the facts of Obama’s strong support for Israel, Pawlenty sent the wrong message to the world this morning when he accused the President of having an ‘anti-Israel’ attitude and when he wrongfully asserted that Obama views Israel as ‘the problem’ in the Middle East.”

Hamas Rejects German Mediator’s Offer to Free Gilad Shalit

Source: JTA, 6-28-11

Hamas rejected an offer to free captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit made by the German mediator, a deal which the Israeli government had accepted.

Hamas political bureau deputy chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk called the offer “unjust” and said the German mediator “endorsed the unfair and unjust positions of the Zionist government,” in an interview with the Al Hayat newspaper, according to reports.

Hamas will no longer negotiate with the German mediator, he added.

“There is no chance that the German mediator will return, because he is not carrying out his duties and is failing in his mission. We all expected that he would present a fair and not extreme position. But instead of trying to reduce the demands of the Israeli government, he accepted its terms,” Marzouk said.

A German government spokesman confirmed on Monday that Israel had accepted the mediator’s proposal, the Associated Press reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel had accepted a German-mediated deal for the release of Shalit and was awaiting Hamas’ response.

Netanyahu did not specify the terms of the proposal. June 25 marked the fifth anniversary of Shalit’s capture in a cross-border raid near Gaza.

“This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday in a statement released after the weekly Cabinet meeting. “However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between our desire to secure Gilad’s release and to prevent possible harm to the lives and security of the Israeli people. As of now, we have yet to receive Hamas’s official answer to the German mediator’s proposal.

The statement said that “The State of Israel is ready to go far, more than any other country, in order to secure Gilad’s release.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Returns to YouTube to Answer Questions

Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 6-28-11

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asks people around the world – especially Arabs – to send him questions, which he will answer on YouTube.

“I would like to hear what you have to say, and I would like to hear what I have to say n response Talk to you soon.” he stated on his YouTube website.

This is the second time the Prime Minister has used the popular video site for direct dialogue. He said that more than one million viewed the first session. Questions are sent via YouTube, and his office said they can be on any topic, including peace talks, democracy in the Arab world, and even the Gaza flotilla.

“He is particularly interested in broadening the direct dialogue with people from the Arab world and would welcome questions from the countries undergoing what has been termed ‘the Arab Spring,” according to officials.netanyahu answeres questions on youtube

They added, “To date, the Prime Minister’s office has received dozens of questions from Arab web users. Most respondents expressed support for peace with Israel and are interested in understanding its positions regarding ‘the Arab Spring’ and the future of negotiations with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will answer questions from video clips on his YouTube site in the coming weeks. Following is a link to the site, including the Prime Minister’s invitation to send questions, with Arabic subtitles.

 

 

Israel Advocacy Group Forces Delay in Gaza-Bound Flotilla

Source: NYT, 6-28-11

The departure of a pro-Palestinian flotilla of international ships with plans to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza has been delayed, in large part due to the efforts of an Israeli advocacy group, both sides said Tuesday.

Greek authorities have held two of the ships docked here in recent days, including an American vessel, after the Israeli advocacy group, Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, filed a complaint to the Greek coast guard suggesting that seven of the ships might be lacking insurance or improperly registered.

Ten ships are slated to head toward Gaza this week, in a challenge to Israel’s naval embargo of the Palestinian coastal strip governed by Hamas, the militant group that opposes Israel’s right to exist. All the vessels are insured and have been certified as seaworthy, said Adam Shapiro, a coordinator and spokesman for the flotilla….READ MORE

Activists, Israeli Navy prepare for flotilla bound for Gaza

Source: JTA, 6-28-11

Israel’s Navy is preparing to intercept the pro-Palestinian flotilla due to set sail for the Gaza Strip from Mediterranean ports later this week.

Commandos from the Israeli Navy’s elite Shayetet 13 unit have spent weeks preparing to stop the flotilla from reaching Gaza, including practicing new ways to quickly board the ships’ upper decks and how to use water cannons and other non-lethal riot control methods.

The Navy wants to avoid a repeat of  the violence that occurred when Israeli commandos boarded a ship in last year’s flotilla to Gaza. Nine Turkish activists, including a dual Turkish-American citizen, were killed in clashes with the commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

This year’s flotilla activists, whose stated goal is to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Hamas-run coastal strip, have attended workshops on the use of passive resistance tactics. The activists also have been trained to transmit information from the ships until the last minute and keep video chips hidden from boarding Israeli soldiers, according to a blog post by flotilla participant Medea Benjamin.

Unnamed Israeli officials told Israeli media outlets that some flotilla participants hope to kill Israeli soldiers and are planning to bring aboard bags of the chemical sulfur to pour it on soldiers as they attempt to board the ships. Israeli officials have identified at least two participants in the flotilla as having ties to Hamas.

However, a flotilla organizer, Israeli expatriate Dror Feiler, told journalists that flotilla participants have signed a declaration of nonviolence. Feiler said that dangerous chemicals would not be allowed on board flotilla vessels.

“If Israel suspects anyone, it should provide us with information so we can stop him,” he told Israel Army Radio Tuesday morning. “Violent people are not permitted to take part in the flotilla.”

The flotilla is expected to be a smaller version of last year’s, with some 10 ships, including two cargo ships, carrying about 500 activists reportedly set to take part, instead of the at least 15 ships carrying thousands of activists originally planned.

Earlier this month, the Turkish Islamic charity IHH, which helped organize last year’s flotilla with the Free Gaza Movement, withdrew the participation of the Mavi Marmara in this year’s flotilla. The IHH, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the European Union, said the ship did not gain necessary approval from Turkish port authorities for technical reasons.

The flotilla ran into further problems this week.

The departure date of flotilla ships from Greek ports was pushed off from the originally scheduled Tuesday launch due to a nationwide strike. Meanwhile, one ship’s propeller was cut off in what flotilla organizers are calling sabotage….READ MORE

Israel drops threat of ban to journalists covering Gaza flotilla

Source: JTA, 6-27-11

Israel has dropped the threat of a ban against journalists who participate in the Gaza flotilla.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ordered Israeli authorities to formulate a special procedure for journalists who are arrested on board the flotilla, which is trying to evade the country’s maritime blockade of the coastal strip.

The order came a day after the head of Israel’s Government Press Office had threatened to deny entry to the country for 10 years to any journalist who participates in the flotilla.

Netanyahu said in a statement that the policy for journalists covering the flotilla should not be the same as against infiltrators and those who enter Israel illegally.

Members of the Israeli media and international journalists will be embedded in Israeli Navy vessels in contact with the flotilla “in order to create transparency and credible coverage of the events,” said a statement issued Monday from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The Foreign Press Association, which had criticized the threats made to journalists, applauded Israel’s decision.

“We are pleased to see that Israel has recognized the value of allowing reporters to cover an important news event and understands that journalists should be treated differently from political activists,” the association said Monday in a statement. “We urge the government to continue to do its utmost to promote freedom of the press as core values of a democratic society.”…READ MORE

Hamas confirms: We refused Shalit deal

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Hamas confirms: We refused Shalit deal

Hamas’s Abu Marzouk told “Al Hayat” that Hamas rejected the offer by the German mediator.

After repeated denials, Hamas today confirmed that it received an offer via the German mediator in negotiations on deal to bring about the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilat Shalit. Hamas political bureau deputy chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk told Arabic newspaper “Al Hayat”, which is published in London, that it rejected the offer as “unfair”. Abu Marzouk is based in Damascus.

Abu Marzouk said that the mediator had accepted Israel’s position, which he called “extreme and unfair”.

“The extremism of the Netanyahu government is to be expected from an extreme right-wing government, but the fact that the German mediator has adopted this position – that is unacceptable,” Abu Marzouk to “Al Hayat”. “There is no chance that the German mediator will return, because he is not carrying out his duties and is failing in his mission. We all expected that he would present a fair and not extreme position. But instead of trying to reduce the demands of the Israeli government, he accepted its terms.”

“The matter was recently handed over to Egypt to deal with it,” said Abu Marzouk. “Hamas wants the deal to succeed, and obtain the release of Palestinian prisoners, but only in the framework of a national and honorable deal.”

“Al Hayat” quotes a senior Egyptian source, who called on Israel to demonstrate “a positive position on an exchange of prisoners”. The source, who is a party to the negotiations, blamed the Israeli government for the lack of a deal, saying, “If the Israelis really want Shalit to be freed and to receive him as part of an exchange with Hamas, they must cooperate positively and demonstrate sufficient flexibility for talks to be held.”

Commenting on the recent talks by Netanyahu advisor Yitzhak Molcho with Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Director Murad Mawafi, the Egyptian source said, “The talks dealt with a number of issues in Israeli-Egyptian relations. We told him that if Israel really wanted Shalit’s release, it had to offer acceptable positions.”

Abu Marzouk’s remarks to “Al Hayat” highlight the conflicting versions of events issued by Hamas’s leaders in the past few days about the Shalit negotiations. Yesterday, an official statement by Hamas in Gaza said that it had not rejected the offer by the German mediator. Commenting on Netanyahu’s opening remarks at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Hamas said, “Prime Minister Netanyahu is lying”.

Jerusalem says that the internal dispute in Hamas, mainly over the Shalit negotiations, is the main obstacle to striking a deal.

Gilad Shalit’s Imprisonment 5 Years Later

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Five years on, Shalit’s imprisonment an open wound for Israel

Source: JTA, 6-26-11

Noam Shalit, father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, sits beneath a banner depicting his son and Ron Arad, the missing-but-assumed-dead Israeli airman, in a protest tent near the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, June 2, 2011. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Michal Naamani traveled to Jerusalem from her home near Kfar Saba to hand out yellow ribbons to passers-by and bumper stickers to motorists reading “Gilad is alive.”

Naamani, a high school teacher, felt that she wanted to do something to help captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

“I’m a mother. I have a younger brother doing reserve duty,” Naamani told JTA on Friday, the day before the ifth anniversary of Shalit’s capture in a raid on the Gaza-Israel border that left two other soldiers dead. “I’m here because if it was my son, I would want someone to support me as well.”

Shalit’s family members have done practically everything they can think of to keep Gilad in the public eye.

Last year they marked the anniversary of his capture by marching from their home in northern Israel to Jerusalem, with thousands of Israelis joining them for part of the way. This year Gilad’s older brother, Yoel, disrupted Israel’s state ceremony on Israeli Independence Day.

“We say to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, you have no mandate to sentence Gilad to death,” Noam Shalit, Gilad’s father, said during a news conference Sunday morning outside the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem, where the family announced a new campaign to garner more tangible public support for striking a deal to bring home Shalit.

Shalit family members chained themselves together outside the residence in Jerusalem on Saturday night, as hundreds of supporters gathered in support. Others protested outside Netanyahu’s home in Caesarea.

Meanwhile, dozens of Israeli celebrities and politicians marked 24 hours beginning Saturday night at Herzliya Studios, Israel’s largest TV facility, with each spending an hour in “solitary confinement” in solidarity with the captured soldier.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, announced that his government had accepted a German-mediated deal to free Shalit.

“This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday in a statement released after the weekly Cabinet meeting. “However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between our desire to secure Gilad’s release and to prevent possible harm to the lives and security of the Israeli people. As of now, we have yet to receive Hamas’s official answer to the German mediator’s proposal.”

Netanyahu did not specify the terms of the proposal, but said that “The State of Israel is ready to go far, more than any other country, in order to secure Gilad’s release but it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of those who are sitting here, to see to the security and lives of the Israeli people.”

Five years on and without a clear sign that a prisoner-exchange deal with Hamas is in the offing or even that their son is still alive, the Shalits have become a symbol of what Israelis — whose children are subject to mandatory military service — fear most….READ MORE

Gilad Shalit 5 Years Later: Jerusalem, Hundreds arrive at Shalit tent to mark 5 years since kidnapping

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Source: YNet News, 6-25-11

Hundreds arrived at the Shalit family tent in Jerusalem to mark five years since the kidnapping of soldier Gilad Shalit.

Activists blocked the street outside the prime minister’s house while carrying signs saying: “Mr. prime minister, can one return from captivity only in a coffin?” and “Bibi, I’m sorry I’m alive. Gilad Shalit.” (Omri Efraim)

Gilad Shalit 5 Years Later: After five years of Shalit deal impasse, recent diplomatic moves bring new hope

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Source: Haaretz, 6-24-11

Sources involved in the talks say despite extremist positions voiced by both sides, the outlines of the deal have long been known: the release, in two phases, of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

 

The fifth year of Gilad Shalit’s captivity, which ends today, brought no better news than its predecessors. It had the usual mix of lip service and grand protests – yielding nothing except publicity for their creators and unfounded, optimistic reports about supposed progress in the negotiations.

There were a few developments between last June and now, but effectively the negotiations remained where they ran aground in December 2009, with what appears to be a nearly unbridgeable gap between Israel’s maximum offer and Hamas’ minimal demand.

Gilad Shalit Jabalya residents walking yesterday past a mural depicting captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
Photo by: Reuters

Sources involved in the talks say that despite the extremist positions being put forth publicly by both sides, the outlines of the deal have long been known, and that it’s clear to everyone they contain the only possible solution: the release, in two phases, of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.

The sources expressed the hope that no reckless measures will impede the talks. Were they warning against an attempt to abduct another Israeli soldier?

For now, it appears that disagreement over the fate of a few dozen senior prisoners, arch-terrorists, is holding up the deal. Will they all be freed? Will those from the West Bank be exiled to the Gaza Strip or abroad?

Perhaps only a radical combination of external circumstances, such as continued unrest in the Middle East or real movement in the relationship among Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, could bring the negotiations out of their coma.

There were a few localized changes on the negotiations front: Senior Mossad official David Meidan replaced Haggai Hadas as chief negotiator; Egypt returned to the picture in providing assistance to German mediator Gerhard Conrad, giving a big boost to Cairo’s relations with the Hamas leadership in Gaza. But the key is still the parties’ willingness to move forward.

For now, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears unwilling to cross the line he drew a year and a half ago. Hamas, particularly the armed wing of the organization that is holding Shalit, continues to make unreasonable demands….READ MORE

Gilad Shalit 5 Years Later: Global Support for Shalit

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Kidnapped Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit.
Credit: Israeli Foreign Ministry

JEWS around the world are being urged to pause for five minutes of silence this weekend to show their solidarity with Gilad Shalit on the fifth anniversary of his kidnapping by Hamas terrorists.

To mark the occasion, community leaders and politicians around the world have stepped up their calls for the young Israeli soldier to be freed.

The Zionist Council of Victoria and Jewish Community Council of Victoria have issued a joint letter to state members of parliament and parliamentary friends of both Israel and Palestine. Signed by the two organisation’s presidents, the letter calls for recipients to “use this opportune time to demand from Gilad Shalit’s captors his immediate release from captivity”.

Meanwhile, federal Labor Member for Isaacs Mark Dreyfus has once again addressed parliament on Shalit’s plight, drawing attention to the 1826 days the soldier has been held captive.

“Before people call for Israel to sit down and negotiate with Hamas, they should think about the conduct of this organisation, an organisation that took power in an armed coup in Gaza and murdered hundreds of its opponents … and an organisation which to this day illegally holds Gilad Shalit hostage,” he said.

“I call on human rights activists and world leaders to stand up, to speak up and to demand the immediate release of Gilad Shalit.”

On the international stage, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have jointly issued a statement calling for the soldier’s release.

Both leaders have been active on the issue in the past; with Sarkozy conscious of Shalit’s dual Israeli-French nationality and Germany acting as a mediator between Israel and Hamas in previous negotiations concerning Shalit.

The joint statement, issued during a meeting on the Greece debt crisis, came amid reports that the two countries were offering Hamas added incentives – including easing restrictions on Gaza’s border crossings, as well as de facto recognition of the Hamas government in Gaza, which would allow for European investment in the territory – in exchange for Shalit’s release.

Closer to home, the Melbourne Jewish community is staging a rally for Shalit at Caulfield Park Pavilion this Sunday, which will include a musical presentation and five minutes of silence.

An online campaign has also been launched by the Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA) to highlight Shalit’s continuing captivity.

Gilad Shalit 5 Years Later: Shalit activists PM’s remarks ‘too little too late’

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Source: YNet News, 6-23-11

Head of the campaign for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit Shimshon Libman said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments on the Palestinian prisoners are “too little too late.”

“I respect the prime minister for deciding to use the incarceration conditions of Hamas prisoners in order to apply political pressure five years after Gilad Shalit was first captured.”

Gilad Shalit 5 Years Later: Rabbi Steve Gutow: What Has Gilad Shalit Missed and What Have We Experienced?

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In 2006, Facebook had just 10 million users, Justin Bieber was 11, and Gilad Shalit was free.

On June 25, 2006, Hamas terrorists captured Gilad Shalit, an Israeli corporal, in a cross border raid. He has remained captive since.

A lot can happen in five years.

Facebook now has over 500 million users and Bieber Fever is a global pandemic. However, Gilad is still a captive and his whereabouts and health remain unknown. Hamas, against the urging of the U.S. and U.N., has continued to deny the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Gilad. Instead, he has been held hostage, without access to the outside world, as a way to taunt and provoke Israel.

Through four different versions of the iPhone and the introduction, and reintroduction, of the iPad, Hamas has chosen to keep Gilad hidden from the world, isolated from his family and country. This is not how you treat a prisoner, but of course Hamas knows that. That is because after five years, 1,826 sunrises and sunsets, Gilad’s fate is not just that of a captive but rather a human tragedy. He is a victim of Hamas’s cruelty; a terrorist group’s rejection of the basic dignity of humankind. His captivity is a challenge to the commandment in Judaism of Pidyon Shvuyim, the mandate to free prisoners.

What has happened in five years? What has Shalit missed? Since he was first kidnapped, dictators from Musharraf to Mubarak have fallen in the name of liberty. Revolutions have begotten revolutions. The Arab Spring has come but Gilad remains excluded from the world. When an earthquake devastated Haiti and many rallied to her aid, Gilad sat in isolation. A war in Georgia began and ended. Independence was declared in Kosovo and Southern Sudan. Michael Jackson died and President Barack Obama was elected.

Over the past five years, while major events have shaped our world, Gilad has missed much of the years of young adulthood. Just 19 when he was kidnapped, he has been deprived of 260 weekends with his friends and 260 Shabbats with his family. There have been 250,000 weddings in Israel since the start of his captivity — none his and none has he celebrated. Every one of us can recollect how wondrous the early twenties have been in our lives. At their very best Gilad Shalit’s early twenties will not be memories he will cherish.

Gilad’s treatment has been both cowardly and immoral. While depriving him access to groups like the Red Cross, Hamas used him in propaganda videos. The human impact of Gilad’s captivity is difficult to describe and comprehend. The crime of Gilad’s isolation is not that he has never heard of Angry Birds. It is more; it is the idea that destroying a young man’s life is acceptable social policy under the terms of Hamas’ ethical foundation. Who are these people that could do this? From what part of their minds does this failure of basic decency come?

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has started whatgiladmissed.org to help draw attention to just how long Gilad has been kept from the world and his loved ones. Only by recognizing the magnitude of this tragedy can we impel the world to rise up and say more forcefully than it already has: ‘This is not okay. This is not an act that we will sit still and allow to continue.’ I urge you to join the chorus of others on Twitter and Facebook and offer your own descriptions of #WhatGiladMissed.

Gilad has been gone for too long. He has missed out on too much. While Hamas has kept him hidden, we have been introduced to Sarah Palin and said goodbye to Harry Potter. There have been 665 million babies born and even more Lady Gaga costume changes. Life goes on and Gilad Shalit remains a captive. As long as he remains so, we have not done our work. Gilad does not deserve this fate and our task is to do all we can to end his horror.

Rabbi Steve Gutow is the President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. For more information and updates, visit jewishpublicaffairs.org and follow @theJCPA on Twitter.

63% of Israelis back swap deal to free Shalit

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Source: AFP, 6-21-11

Nearly two-thirds of Israelis back a prisoner exchange deal which would see 1,000 Palestinians inmates released in order to free captured soldier Gilad Shalit, a poll showed on Tuesday.

The poll, conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute and published in Haaretz newspaper, asked respondents if they would back such a deal even if it meant the release of 450 prisoners with blood on their hands, with 63 percent in favour and 19 percent against.

Another 18 percent of the 600 respondents had no opinion.

The results showed an increase in support from an earlier survey conducted in February, in which 61 percent backed such a deal, while 25 were opposed, Haaretz said.

The poll was conducted on behalf of the campaign for the release of the captive soldier who has been held by Palestinian militants in Gaza for nearly five years. It did not give a margin of error….READ MORE

President Obama Tells Jewish Donors He Strongly Backs Israel

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Source: AP, 6-20-11

Seeking to reassure Jewish donors amid questions over his support for Israel, President Barack Obama pledged Monday that his administration would “devote all of its creative powers” to trying to bring about Mideast peace.

Obama made the comments at a high-dollar fundraiser at a Washington hotel hosted by Americans in Support of a Strong U.S.-Israel Relationship.

The appearance came a month after he clashed publicly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the road to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. That handed ammunition to Republican presidential hopefuls who accused Obama of insufficient support for Israel.

Obama assured donors that his goals are the same as theirs — a secure Jewish state living in peace with its neighbors — even if there might be “tactical disagreements” along the way.

Even at a time of tumult in the Middle East, Obama said, “one inviolable principle will be that the United States and Israel will always be stalwart allies and friends.” But with the peace process badly stalled and no clear way forward, Obama also said the U.S. and Israel had to look at the situation with “fresh eyes.”

Obama’s comments came at the first of two fundraisers for his Obama Victory Fund Monday night. The sold-out dinner attracted about 80 people paying for tickets between $25,000 and $35,800….READ MORE

Israel, Italy Cement Relationship

Source: JTA, 6-14-11

Relations between Italy and Israel remain strong following a high-level meeting in Rome where Italy strongly condemned any attempt to “delegitimize and boycott” the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed a senior delegation that meet with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other Italian officials on Monday.

The two sides signed eight bilateral agreements on economic, cultural, technological and other cooperation.netanyahu berlusconi italy israel

They also issued a joint statement calling for a negotiated, two-state solution in the Middle East based on direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. The Italian and Israeli governments, it said, shared the conviction that there should be the state of Israel “as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish people, and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people” that would live “side by side in peace, security and reciprocal recognition.”

At a news conference after the meeting, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s opposition to a United Nations recognition of Palestinian statehood, saying it would hamper negotiations.

“First, it would violate the agreements between the Palestinians and Israel but it would also harden the Palestinian position because if the U.N. General Assembly adopts the Palestinian positions in advance of negotiations why should they negotiate?” he said.

Meanwhile, “Unexpected Israel,” a 10-day celebration of Israeli culture, technology and tourism, opened in Milan’s central Duomo Square despite threats of protest from pro-Palestinian activists. Running June 13-23, Unexpected Israel includes an Italo-Israel business forum as well as exhibits, concerts, films and other events.

No Israel Question During GOP Presidential Debate

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Source: JTA, 6-14-11

Israel was absent as a topic during the first Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire.

Hopefuls Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Ron Paul discussed the economy, health care, social issues and other topics during Monday night’s two-hour debate at St. Anselm College, but a question on the candidates’ stance on Israel was conspicuously missing.

The only explicit mention of the Jewish state came in passing, during one of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s answers when he charged President Obama has “turned his back” on America’s allies, including Israel.

31 US Senators Sign Resolution Against Obama’s Call that Israel Return 1967 Borders

Source: JTA, 6-12-11

U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced a resolution calling an Israeli return to 1967 lines “contrary to United States policy and national security.”

The resolution introduced June 9 is co-signed by 29 other senators, including at least two Democrats, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

It declares “that it is the policy of the United States to support and facilitate Israel in maintaining defensible borders and that it is contrary to United States policy and national security to have the borders of Israel return to the armistice lines that existed on June 4, 1967.”

In a major Mideast policy speech  last month, President Obama called for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to be restarted on the basis of 1967 borders with “mutually agreed upon land swaps.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin has rejected these borders as a starting point, calling them “indefensible.” The Palestinians say they will not return to the negotiating table unless the 1967 borders are used as the basis for discussing borders in the negotiations.

Newt Gingrich Says Obama’s Policies ‘Suicidal’ for Israel

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Source: Israel National News, 6-13-11

Newt Gingrich told Republican party Jews Sunday night that if he becomes the next U.S. president, he will cut off funds to the United Nations if it recognizes the Palestinian Authority and will move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

U.S. President Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate in more than two decades who did not promise in his campaign to relocate the embassy. Two weeks ago, he again exercised a presidential waiver, citing ”national security” to exempt him from fulfilling the Congressional law requiring the move.

Gingrich, a former history professor, told the Republican Jewish Coalition in California, “An Israeli peace with Hamas is impossible. Twenty years of hopes for the peace process cannot change this fundamental reality.”

He added that accepting President Obama’s position regarding the Palestinian Authority and Israel would be “suicidal” for Israel….

Although the economy may be the main issue in the 2012 presidential race, Gingrich chose Sunday night to hammer against President Obama’s international views, accusing him of pursuing “dangerous policies of incoherence and confusion.”

Gingrich said, “Both Israel and America are at a dangerous crossroads at which the survival of Israel and the safety of the United States both hang in the balance.”

Obama Bullies Israel; So Much for Promises at AIPAC

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: WaPo, 6-12-11

Since the president’s Arab Spring speech, friends of Israel have been nervous about at least two issues: the promise Israel would not have to sit down with those who seek its destruction and the negotiations based on the “1967 borders with land swaps.” This weekend it became apparent that there is much to worry about and that the Obama administration has been playing a game usually practiced by the Palestinians, namely telling its domestic audience one thing and the negotiating parties something different.

The trouble for the administration began on Friday afternoon when Eli Lake published a story for the Washington Times….READ MORE

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