Israel Political Brief December 18, 2011: 550 Palestinians released in second stage of Gilad Shalit prisoner swap

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Palestinians released in second stage of Shalit swap

Source: JTA, 12-18-11

Some 550 Palestinians were released from Israeli jails in the second stage of the prisoner swap for captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

 

The prisoners, including six women, were handed over by Israel on Sunday night. They left from the Ayalon Prison near Tel Aviv and were bused to four separate crossings in order to be released to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, eastern Jerusalem and Jordan.

Family members of the prisoners reportedly clashed with Israeli soldiers at the Beitunia crossing near Ramallah in the West Bank. As they waited for their relatives to go free, the family members threw rocks and firebombs at Israeli security services.

The list of prisoners to be released was posted four days ago on the Israel Prison Service’s website. None of the prisoners reportedly belongs to Hamas or Islamic Jihad, or was convicted of crimes involving the murder of Israelis, according to reports. Most are members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party.

An appeal to delay the swap, filed by Israelis who had been victims of Palestinian attacks, was rejected Friday by Israel’s Supreme Court.

Some 477 Palestinian prisoners were released in mid-October in exchange for Shalit, who had spent more than five years held in Gaza by Hamas.

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 Brief December 10, 2011: Gilad Shalit Releases Video Message to Volunteers: You played a crucial part in my release

ISRAEL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Gilad Shalit to volunteers: You played a crucial part in my release

Source: YNet News, 12-10-11

Former Hamas-held soldier Gilad Shalit thanked the volunteers who fought to release him from Hamas’ captivity, as seen in a new video clip on Saturday.

“I know, without a doubt, that your adamant and ongoing battle for my freedom… played a crucial part in the decision to bring my back home. I am grateful to you all, and to each and everyone of separately, and will continue to be grateful to you for the rest of my life,” Shalit said.

Some 300 activists gathered in Kibbutz Shefayim Saturday evening to listen to the message from Shalit, who was released in October in the framework of a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.

גלעד שליט לפעילים: אודה לכם כל ימי חיי

בסרטון שהוקלט לקראת פגישת מחזור של המטה לשחרור שליט, דיבר החייל החטוף לפעילים לראשונה מאז שובו. “כשהייתי בשבי שמעתי רבות על התגייסותכם למעני”, סיפר, “אני אסיר תודה לכולכם ולכל אחד לחוד”. צפו בשליט ובשידור החי מכנס הפעילים

הפעילים שעבדו במשך 1,941 ימים למען שחרורו פוגשים את גלעד שליט – על המסך. הפעילים הגיעו הערב (שבת) ל”פגישת המחזור” בחדר האוכל של קיבוץ שפיים, וברכה מגלעד שהוקלטה מראש הוקרנה בפניהם על המסך במקום. ynet העביר בשידור חי את כינוס הפעילים, ומפרסם את ברכתו של גלעד.

צילום: טל גורן ותמר פרוס

צפו בגלעד מודה לפעילים
“ערב טוב לכולם”, פנה גלעד שליט לפעילים בסרטון. “אני שמח שבאתם לכאן הערב ושיש לי הזדמנות לדבר אליכם ולהודות לכם על מה שעשיתם למעני בכל שנות השבי שלי. בזמן שהייתי בשבי שמעתי רבות על ההתגייסות שלכם למען שחרורי מהשבי, וכמובן גם לאחר חזרתי הביתה”.

גלעד הוסיף: “אני בטוח שעוד אשמע רבות על המסע הארוך והמתיש הזה שהתחלתם בקיץ 2006 והמשכתם מבלי להתייאש, מבלי לסגת, על אף הקשיים, העליות והירידות, התקוות והאכזבות, עד לסופו המיוחל ב-18 לאוקטובר. אני יודע ללא ספק שהמאבק הנחוש והמתמשך שלכם לשחרורי, כל אחד כפי יכולתו, ההתמדה והתמיכה במשפחתי לאורך הדרך הארוכה, היוו את אחד הגורמים המכריעים שתרמו להחלטה להחזיר אותי הביתה”.

אביבה שליט רוקדת עם הפעילים (צילום: אבי זולי   )
אביבה שליט רוקדת עם הפעילים (צילום: אבי זולי )

שליט חתם את דבריו באמירה: “אני רוצה להודות לכם הערב על כל אלה מעומק ליבי ולומר לכם שאני אסיר תודה לכולכם ולכל אחד בנפרד, ואמשיך להיות אסיר תודה לכם בכל ימי חיי. תודה גדולה לכולכם וערב טוב”.

300 מהפעילים למען שחרור שליט התכנסו בשפיים, והאב נועם שליט הגיע לברכם ונאם באירוע. “אין לכם מושג כמה אני נרגש לעמוד פה בנסיבות האלה, באירוע הזה”, אמר בהתרגשות על הבמה. “אין לכם מושג איזה פער קיים בין הנסיבות שבהן הכרנו ובהן נפגשנו בעבר לבין הנסיבות שאנו נפגשים בהן היום, וזה אומר את הכל”.

ליבמן: אני כותב ספר על המאבק

“הגענו הערב לנקודת הסיום של המסע הארוך הזה, נקודה שבה אפשר לברך על המוגמר”, הוסיף שליט האב. “אמנם לגלעד יש עדיין דרך ארוכה ללכת, אבל אתם – הפעילות והפעילים היקרים והמסורים – יכולים לומר היום ‘תם ונשלם'”.

גלעד שליט ליד ביתו אחרי שובו (צילום: AFP)

גלעד שליט ליד ביתו אחרי שובו (צילום: AFP)

לאחר שפירט את השתלשלות המאבק, הוסיף נועם שליט: “גלעד עדיין לא יודע על כל הפעילות הענפה והאינטנסיבית שנעשתה למענו, על הרבה אנשים טובים שפעלו ללא לאות במשך הרבה שנים. מן הסתם קשה לו להכיל כזאת כמות גדולה של אינפורמציה, אבל אני מניח שעם הזמן הוא ייחשף לכל הדברים שנעשו ולכל האנשים והגופים שפעלו וליוו אותנו בנאמנות ובעקשנות עד תום המאבק”.

שמשון ליבמן, ראש מטה המאבק לשחרור גלעד, בירך את הנוכחים. הוא הודה לפעילים על כך שפעלו למען החזרתו ותרמו להחזרת הערכים לתוך השיח הישראלי. “אתם הגיבורים של 2011”, אמר ליבמן, “מהדהדים דבריו של יצחק שדה, שאמר כי ‘גבורה אינה רק האומץ בקרב, אלא היא היפוכה של האנוכיות'”. ליבמן הודה גם לראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו, “על החלטתו האמיצה”. ל-ynet אמר כי החל

בכתיבת ספר על המאבק לשחרור שליט.

שי גרוס, אחד הפעילים המרכזיים לשחרור שליט ומי שבעצמו היה חטוף באנטבה, אמר בשיחה עם ynet כי זהו רגע של הקלה גדולה וסגירת מעגל גם עבורו. “ראיתי את גלעד לפני כשבועיים, הוא העלה במשקל ומצבו היה טוב בהרבה משציפיתי. ברור שייקח לו זמן, ובטח ובטח שקשה לו להיות במקום כמו זה עם הרבה אנשים. גם לי היה קשה בהתחלה, אבל אין לי ספק שהוא יהיה בסדר”.

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 10, 2011: Iowa GOP Debate Transcript — Republican Presidential Candidates Rebuke Newt Gingrich on the Palestinians as an “invented people” Comment & Israel Position

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ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Eric Thayer for The New York Times

Newt, Palestinians and the GOP debate: Transcript & commentary

Source: JTA, 12-10-11

Newt Gingrich’s description of the Palestinians as an “invented people” grabbed some attention at Saturday night’s GOP debate. While most of the GOP field is usually eager to side with Israel, on this point Gingrich got some pushback — from Ron Paul (no surprise), but also from Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:02:29:00 I wanna change subjects now because– (APPLAUSE) foreign policy was– Speaker Gingrich caused something of a stir overnight in the Middle East with comments he made in interview with the Jewish channel in which he called the Palestinians an invented people. And– I just wondered– G– Congressman Paul, if I can start with you: Do you agree with that characterization, that the Palestinians are an invented people?

CONGRESSMAN RON PAUL:
22:02:52:00 N– no, I don’t agree with that. And that’s just stirrin’ up trouble. And I– I believe in a non-interventionist foreign policy. I don’t think we should get in the middle of these squabbles. But to go out of our way and say that so-and-so is not a real people? Technically and historically, yes– you know, under the Ottoman Empire, the Palestinians didn’t have a state, but neither did Israel have a state then too.

22:03:13:00 But this is how we get involved in so many messes. And I think it just fails on the side of– practicing a little bit of diplomacy, getting ourselves (LAUGH) into trouble mentioning things that are unnecessary. The people in those regions should be dealing with these problems; we shouldn’t be dealing with these things.

22:03:30:00 But– historically, it– it– you know, under the Ottoman Empire, that i– that is– technically– correct. But to make these decisions in deciding what the settlement’s going to be should be the people that are involved. This idea that we can be the policemen of the world and settle all these disputes, I mean, soon we’ll have to quit because we’re flat out broke. But we– we cannot continue to get into these issues like this and– and– and– and getting ourselves into more trouble.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:04:00:00 Speaker Gingrich, as I’ve said, this has caused quite a reaction in– in the Middle East. The chief Palestinian negotiator, Sa– Saeb Erekat, said, “Mark my words: These statements of Gingrich will be the ammunition and weapons of the bin Ladens and the extremists for a long, long time.”

SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH:
22:04:13:00 How would he know the difference? Look from historic, George, simply. Is– is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes. Are we in a situation where every day, rockets are fired into Israel while the United States, the current administration, tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process?

22:04:33:00 Hamas does not admit the– the right of Israel to exist, and says publicly, “Not a single Jew will remain.” The Palestinian Authority ambassador to India said last month, “There is no difference between Fatah and Hamas. We both agree Israel has no right to exist.”

22:04:50:00 Somebody oughta have the courage to tell the truth: These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, “If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?” We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s fundamentally– time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, “Enough lying about the Middle East.”

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:05:09:00 Governor Romney, (APPLAUSE) you just heard the Speaker say he was just telling the truth. Do you take any issue with that characterization of the Palestinians as an invented people?

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY:
22:05:22:00 I– I happen to agree with– with most of what the speaker said, except by going down and saying the Palestinians are an invented people. That I think was a mistake on the speaker’s part. I– I think– you– you– I think the speaker would probably suggest that as well. I– I don’t think we want to–

22:05:35:00 (SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH: UNINTEL)

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY:
22:05:37:00 Maybe not. I– (LAUGHTER) I think we’re very wise to stand with our friends, Israel, and not get out ahead of them. This president decided he was gonna try and negotiate for Israel by sayin’, “Let’s go back to the ’67 borders.” That’s not what Israel wanted to h– hear.

22:05:51:00 They– Israel does not want us to make it more difficult for them to sit down with the Palestinians. Ultimately, the Palestinians and the Israelis are gonna have to agree on how they’re gonna settle the– the differences between them. And the United States–

22:06:02:00 (OVERTALK)

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY:
22:06:03:00 –and the– and the United States of America should not jump ahead of Bibi Netanyahu and say something that makes it more difficult for him to– to do his job. My view is this: We stand with the Israeli people. We link arms with them. If we disagree with them, like this president has time and time again, we don’t do it in public like he’s done it, we do it in private.

22:06:21:00 And we let the Israeli leadership describe what they believe the right course is going forward. We don’t negotiate for the Israeli people. We stand with the Israeli people, stand with our friends, and make it very clear: We are gonna t– we’re gonna tell the truth, but we’re not gonna throw incendiary words into a– a place which is– a boiling pot when our friends the Israelis would probably say, “What in the world are you doin’?”

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:06:43:00 So there you have it, Mr. Speaker. He says this is gonna make life more difficult for the Israelis.

SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH:
22:06:47:00 The Israelis are getting rocketed every day. The– we’re not making life more difficult. The Obama administration’s making life more difficult. The fact is, the Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story. Somebody oughta have the courage to go all the way back to the 1921 League of Nations mandate for a Jewish homeland, point out the context in which Israel came into existence, and “Palestinian” did not become a common term until after 1977. This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage. And we refuse to tell the truth when the other side lies. And you’re not gonna win the long run if you’re afraid to stand firm and stand for the truth.

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY:
22:07:25:00 Of course you s– of course you stand firm, and stand for the truth. But you don’t speak for Israel.

SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH:
22:07:30:00 I didn’t.

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY:
22:07:30:00 If– if– if– if Bibi Netanyahu wants to say what you said, let him say it. But our ally, b– the– the people of Israel, should be able to take their own positions and not have us negotiate for them.

DIANE SAWYER:
22:07:41:00 I want to turn, if I can, to–

SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH:
22:07:42:00 But can– can I just say one last thing? Because I didn’t speak for the people of Israel. I spoke as a historian who’s looked at the world stage for a very long time. I’ve known Bibi since 1984. I feel quite confident an amazing number of Israelis found it nice to have an American tell the truth about the war they are in the middle of and the casualties they’re taking and the people who surround them who say, “You do not have the right to exist, and we want to destroy you.”

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY:
22:08:04:00 I– I’ve known– I’ve– (APPLAUSE) I’ve also known Bibi Netanyahu for a long time. We worked together at– at Boston Consulting Group. And the last thing Bibi Netanyahu needs to have is not just a person who’s an historian, but somebody who is also running for president of the United States, stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in– in his neighborhood.

DIANE SAWYER:
22:08:29:00 Congresswoman–

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY:
22:08:29:00 And I’m president of the United States, I will exercise sobriety, care, stability. And make sure that in a setting like this, anything I say that can affect a place with– with rockets going in, with people dying, I don’t do anything that would harm that– that process.

22:08:47:00 And therefore, before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, “Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do? Let’s work together, because we’re partners.” I’m not a bomb thrower, rhetorically or literally.

DIANE SAWYER:
22:09:00:00 Under the rules, we need– your response. (APPLAUSE)

SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH:
22:09:05:00 I think sometimes it is helpful to have a president of the United States with the courage to tell the truth, just as was Ronald Reagan who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the Soviet Union an evil empire and who overruled his entire State Department in order to say, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Reagan believed the power of truth restated the world and reframed the world. I am a Reaganite, I’m proud to be a Reaganite. I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion sometimes with the timid.

GOVERNOR MITT ROMNEY:
22:09:32:00 I think it’s important (APPLAUSE)–

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:09:37:00 Who’s got the better of this argument, Congresswoman Bachmann? Who’s got the better of this argument?

CONGRESSWOMAN MICHELE BACHMANN:
22:09:41:00 Who has the better of this argument?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:09:42:00 Yeah. (LAUGHTER)

CONGRESSWOMAN MICHELE BACHMANN:
22:09:46:00 In 1974, I went to Israel for the first time and I worked on a kibbutz for the summer. And I saw a brand new nation that had begun in 1948 and was making its way into the modernization that we know today. They’re a first world nation. I was able to return as a member of Congress multiple times, and I also met with Fayad in Ramallah in the very room that Arafat used as his conference room. When I was in there, I– I had asked Fayad about the issue that we were very concerned about, and that’s how the Palestinians teach their children to hate the Jews and call them pigs and swine and descendants from Hades.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:10:24:00 Okay, but do you think–

CONGRESSWOMAN MICHELE BACHMANN:
22:10:24:00 And I– and let me finish–

22:10:25:00 (OVERTALK)

CONGRESSWOMAN MICHELE BACHMANN:
22:10:26:00 And I have asked him about this very important issues, because how do you find peace when you continue to teach your children hatred? And asked Fayad about this issue, and he said, “Oh, tha– we don’t do that anymore. Our textbooks aren’t filled with that.”

22:10:38:00 And I said, “Oh really?” I pulled out a manila envelope that I’d brought with me, and I pulled out the pages that I’d photocopied out of current books that were being used that clearly showed that. And he said, “Oh, but these are old textbooks.” And he said– I said, “Really? Well, then why don’t you send me the new textbooks that no longer say that and compare them with the old?” And I checked my mailbox today; he still hasn’t me those textbooks. That’s what needs to change.

DIANE SAWYER:
22:11:06:00 Senator Santorum, let me put to you George’s question. Who’s got the better of the argument?

SENATOR RICK SANTORUM:
22:11:11:00 Well, I– I think you have to speak the truth– but you have to do so with prudence. I mean, it’s– it’s a combination. Th– and, you know, I– I– I sat there and I listened to both of ’em; I thought they both had– made excellent points.

22:11:23:00 But we’re in a real-life situation. This isn’t an academic exercise. We’ve got– we have a– we have an ally, and the policy of this country should be to stand shoulder to shoulder with our ally. And– we– we didn’t have an ally in the Soviet Union. The only allies we had were sitting in gulags, and they desperately needed to hear the truth. And Ronald Reagan provided that truth.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:11:44:00 So– so do we–

SENATOR RICK SANTORUM:
22:11:44:00 Here, we have–

22:11:45:00 (OVERTALK)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
22:11:45:00 –with prudence, would that be saying (NOISE) Palestinians are invented or not?

SENATOR RICK SANTORUM:
22:11:50:00 If I can finish my s– comment, I’ll get to that, George. (LAUGHTER) That– that we– we have an ally here that we have to work closely with. And I think Mitt’s point was– was the correct one. We need to be working with the Israelis to find out, you know what? Is this a wise thing for us to do, to step forward and to engage this issue? Maybe it is.

22:12:10:00 My guess is, at this point in time, it’s not. Not that we shouldn’t tell the truth, but we should be talking to our allies. It’s their fight. We are to be their ally, we’re to be– supporting them. And I’m– I– I’ve been out here very publicly– that the Israelis have the right to determine what happens in their land. And all of Israel, including the quote– you know, West Bank, is Israeli land. And we need to work with them as to the solution that works best for our ally.

DIANE SAWYER:
22:12:36:00 Governor Perry, close this–

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY:
22:12:37:00 Let me–

DIANE SAWYER:
22:12:37:00 –please.

GOVERNOR RICK PERRY:
22:12:38:00 –just say that I think this is a minor issue– that the media is blowing– way out of proportion. We have a president of the United States who has put the most muddled foreign policy in place that is causing the problems in the Middle East. Whether it goes back to two thousand and– and– nine when we had an opportunity to impact Iran, whether it has been the way that– he stood back in Egypt and did not try to negotiate people who would come in that w– could work with us, and now we have radical Islamists as the head of Egypt, whether it was leading from the rear, if you will, in — in Libya.

22:13:18:00 The idea that this president now, with Iran getting one of our predator drones in their possession, and he had two opportunities– well, he didn’t have two opportunities, he had two choices– actually, he had three. And he chose the worst.

22:13:33:00 And those two opportunities he had was to either retrieve that drone, or to destroy it, and he did the worst of the three and he did absolutely nothing. And the Russians and the Chinese will have our highly technical equipment now. This president is the problem, not something that Newt Gingrich said. (APPLAUSE)

Israel Political Brief December 9, 2011: US GOP Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich says Palestinians are an ‘invented’ people in Jewish Channel Interview

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Gingrich says Palestinians are an ‘invented’ people

The Jewish Channel Exclusive Interview With Newt Gingrich Excerpt: “Invented Palestinian People” — YouTube

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich said in a cable television interview that Palestininans are an “invented” people with no apparent right to their own state, a rejection of a decade of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy calling for an independent Palestinian state.


House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum December 7, 2011 at Ronald Reagan Building and International Center in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong – GETTY IMAGES)

The interview, which was taped in Washington Wednesday and will be broadcast on The Jewish Channel Monday, was first reported by Politico.

In the interview, Gingrich was asked if he is a Zionist, and he responded:

“Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. We have invented the Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and are historically part of the Arab people, and they had the chance to go many places.”

“For a variety of political reasons,” Gingrich continued, “we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and I think it’s tragic.”

Gingrich’s comments are sure to inflame Arabs but may also have repercussions among Jews who support the policy, begun by former president George W. Bush and continued by President Obama, of calling for a separate Palestinian state.

“It was definitely a surprise,” said Steven I. Weiss, who conducted the interview with Gingrich for The Jewish Channel. “It’s a comment I’ve heard before because I’ve covered the far right in the Jewish community and the pro-Israel community. But I was surprised to hear a mainstream Republican figure say it, and I’ve tried to research to find other mainstream Republican figures who said it. I’ve yet to find that.”

Gingrich’s remarks may also feed into a longstanding narrative about him that includes the idea that he says provocative things that excite some of his supporters but leave others worried that he is too volatile to muster the rhetorical discipline to survive the rigors of a presidential campaign.

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Remarks at White House Hanukkah Reception — Transcript

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

חיוכים ובדיחות בבית הלבן (צילום: AFP)

Laughs and jokes at the White House (Photo: AFP)

A White House Hanukkah Celebration

Source: WH, 12-9-11
20111209 Hanukkah at the WH

President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, delivers remarks at a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 8, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Officially, Hanukkah doesn’t begin for another 11 days — but last night, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama decided to kick things off a little early with a celebration of the holiday at the White House.

They were joined by Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in attendance, along with U.S. Ambassardor to Israel Michael Oren, the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir, and a large group of faith and community leaders.

Hanukkah, the President said, is “an opportunity to recognize the miracles in our own lives:”

Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.

Watch.

Download Video: mp4 (41MB) | mp3 (4MB)

Remarks by the President at Hanukkah Reception

Grand Foyer

6:10 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, good evening, everybody.  Welcome to the White House.  Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate Hanukkah — even if we’re doing it a little bit early.  (Laughter.)

I want to start by recognizing a few folks who are here.   The ambassador to the United States from Israel, Michael Oren, is in the house.  (Applause.)
We are honored to be joined by one of the justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is here.  (Applause.)  We are thrilled to see her.  She’s one of my favorites, I got to — (laughter.)  I’ve got a soft spot for Justice Ginsburg.

And we’ve got more than a few members of Congress here and members of my administration in the house, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein is here.  Where’s Jarrod?  (Applause.)  Hey, Jarrod.

I also want to thank the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir –- (applause) — the Voice of Tradition -– for their wonderful performance, but more importantly, for their extraordinary service to our country.

And I want to thank all the rabbis and lay leaders who have come far and wide to be here with us today.

Now, as I said, we’re jumping the gun just a little bit.  The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit.  We’re stretching it out.  (Laughter.)  But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.  (Laughter.)  That will cause some problems.

This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart — even us Gentiles.  It’s a story of right over might, of faith over doubt.  Of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people and discovered that the oil left in their desecrated temple –- which should have lasted only one night –- ended up lasting eight.

It’s a timeless story.  And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling.  And today, it reminds us that miracles come in all shapes and sizes.  Because to most people, the miracle of Hanukkah would have looked like nothing more than a simple flame, but the believers in the temple knew it was something else.  They knew it was something special.

This year, we have to recognize the miracles in our own lives.  Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today.  Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home -– including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world.  Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations.  And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.  (Applause.)

So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season.  And we never need an excuse for a good party.  (Laughter.)  So we are going to see all of you in a second downstairs —

MRS. OBAMA:  Aren’t we in the Blue Room?

THE PRESIDENT:  Or wherever we are.  (Laughter.)  I think we’re downstairs.  We are downstairs in the Map Room.  So as I look around, I see a whole bunch of good friends.  We can’t wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday.  The guys with whiskers, I won’t give you a kiss.  (Laughter.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END 6:14 P.M. EST

“God bless you and God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America.”

Israel Political Brief December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama Hosts White House Hanukkah Reception

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

חיוכים ובדיחות בבית הלבן (צילום: AFP)

Laughs and jokes at the White House (Photo: AFP)

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA HOLDS HANUKKAH RECEPTION AT THE WHITE HOUSE

Full Text December 8, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech / Remarks at White House Hanukkah Reception — Transcript — WH, 12-8-11

Obama celebrates Hanukkah at White House: President Barack Obama is marking Hanukkah as a story of “faith over doubt.”
Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden convened a Hanukkah celebration at the White House Thursday in an early celebration of the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Obama said the Hanukkah story was about “right over might, faith over doubt.” In the Hanukkah story, a small band of Jews rededicating a Jerusalem temple found that a one-day supply of oil kindled a flame instead for eight.
The president noted “our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”
Hanukkah begins at sunset on Dec. 20. Obama joked that everyone needs to be “careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.” — AP, 12-8-11

  • Obama lights White House menorah at reception: President Obama hosted 550 people at the White House Chanukah reception.
    The annual event, held Thursday in Washington, was attended by the president and vice-president and their wives and attracted a mix of Jewish dignitaries from the political, community and cultural worlds. The president reiterated his “unshakable support” for Israel and noted that the festivities were being celebrated a week before the holiday begins.
    “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” said Obama. “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Chanukah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems.”
    The West Point Jewish Chapel Choir performed at the event, while the menorah used was made in a displaced persons camp after World War II and donated by the Jewish Museum in New York.
    “Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season,” Obama said. “This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”… – JTA, 12-9-11
  • Obama celebrates Hanukkah in White House: President appears particularly jovial as he marks Jewish holiday earlier than usual. ‘The Hanukkah story is one of right over might, of faith over doubt,’ he saysUS President Barack Obama held a festive Hanukkah reception at the White House on Thursday and appeared to be in a particularly cheerful mood. Among the guests were his wife Michelle, Vice President Joe Biden, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “The story of Hanukkah is one of right over might, of faith over doubt,” he remarked.
    Getting into the holiday spirit Obama was brimming with jokes and good wishes. “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” he noted. “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight.”
    Addressing the US’s ties with Israel he said: “This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.”
    Obama seemed particularly jovial as he said, “So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season. And we never need an excuse for a good party.” He later noted, “We can’t wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday.”
    Addressing the miracle of Hanukkah, the President said: “This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart – even us Gentiles.” He added, “And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling.”…. – YNet, 12-9-11
  • Michelle Obama is hostess for early Hanukkah party: It’s beginning to look a lot like Hannukah. Michelle Obama and her husband, along with Joe and Jill Biden, welcomed 550 guests last night to the White House to celebrate the Jewish holiday, even though it doesn’t start until Dec.20.
    “We’re jumping the gun just a little bit,” President Obama joked to the crowd, which included Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and ambassador to Israel Michael Oren.
    “The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems…”
    He added, “And we never need an excuse for a good party.”… – USA Today, 12-9-11
  • Obama fights for Jewish support amid GOP attacks: …Firing back, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Romney’s comments “outrageous” and questioned his own policies. The White House cited military aid to Israel and support at the United Nations, and pointed to statements from Israeli officials backing up Obama’s assertion.
    The fiery debate will probably continue Wednesday when the GOP presidential candidates attend a Washington forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
    Obama campaign officials say they will be ready to respond. And the next day, Jewish leaders will be at the White House for briefings on Israel and a Hanukkah party, followed by an Obama speech next week to an expected audience of nearly 6,000 at a conference of the Union for Reform Judaism…. – AP, 12-6-11

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 7, 2011: GOP Candidates Speeches at Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum — Transcripts

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

LIVE BLOG: U.S. presidential candidates speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition

Haaretz’s minute-by-minute updates as Republican presidential hopefuls talk about Israel, American Jews, the economy and the Iranian threat.

Source: Haaretz, 12-7-11

Hundreds of people convened Wednesday on a rainy morning in the Ronald Reagan building at the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington. Unlike the presidential debates, this time the candidates took stage one by one, offering to answer the audience’s questions.

There was one candidate missing, though. The organizers have decided not invite Rep. Ron Paul, saying that even though the decision seems “ill advised,” there is no reason “to allow Paul to pretend he is anything but an extremist who is far outside of the mainstream, especially when it comes to issues concerning the U.S.-Israel alliance.”….

C-SPAN full video coverage

Video: Newt Speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Candidate Forum

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Newt discusses his support of Israel and his plan to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s chosen capital of Jerusalem…. Read Full Story

Mitt Romney Delivers Remarks to Republican Jewish Coalition

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Mitt Romney today delivered remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C. The following remarks were prepared for delivery.
I am grateful to the Republican Jewish Coalition for hosting this forum.
Thank you Chairman Flaum and Matt Brooks for your leadership.
And, of course, I join you in honoring the service of Ambassador Sam Fox.  Ambassador Fox has contributed in extraordinary ways to our economy, to our communities, to our nation, and to Israel.
Today, we gather as Republicans, Americans, and friends of Israel.  For us, the last three years have held a lot of change, but haven’t offered much hope.
Our debt is too high and opportunities are too few.  Almost a trillion dollars in failed stimulus and trillions more in deficits have left millions of Americans out of work.
The unemployment rate has been over 8% for 34 months.  Over the last four years, the median American income has fallen by 10%, even as the costs of food and fuel and healthcare have risen. Americans are suffering. The poor have a safety net and the rich are doing just fine, but middle-income Americans have never seen things so bad.
Internationally, we have witnessed a weakening of our military and a decline in our standing in the world.
President Obama’s troop withdrawals in Iraq and Afghanistan were based upon electoral expediency, not military requirement.
He has bowed to foreign dictators.  And when the opportunity arose to defend freedom, he’s either been late to the game or failed to show up at all.
President Obama rushed to apologize for America, but he has hesitated to speak up for democracy and freedom.
He has visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iraq.  He even offered to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yet in three years, he has not found it in his interest to visit Israel, our ally, our friend, the sole Middle East nation that fully shares our values, the nation in President Truman’s words, that is an “embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”
No, over the past three years, President Obama has instead chastened Israel.  In his inaugural address to the United Nations, the President chastised Israel, but said little about the thousands of Hamas rockets raining into its skies. He’s publicly proposed that Israel adopt indefensible borders. He’s insulted its Prime Minister. And he’s been timid and weak in the face of the existential threat of a nuclear Iran.
These actions have emboldened Palestinian hard-liners who now are poised to form a unity government with terrorist Hamas and feel they can bypass Israel at the bargaining table. President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East.
As President, my policies will be very different. I will travel to Israel on my first foreign trip. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. I want the world to know that the bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable. I want every country in the region that harbors aggressive designs against Israel to understand that their ambition is futile and that pursuing it will cost them dearly.
I would not meet with Ahmadinejad. He should be excluded from diplomatic society. He should be indicted for the crime of incitement to genocide under Article III of the Genocide Convention. Iran’s ayatollahs will not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons on my watch. A nuclear-armed Iran is not only a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the entire world.  Our friends must never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need. Our enemies should never doubt our resolve.
Today, you will hear from several of my fellow Republicans. Like me, each will acknowledge President Obama’s failings toward Israel. Like me, each will assure you of our friendship and commitment to Israel. We are not distinguished from one another by our opposition to President Obama … or even by our support for Israel.  What distinguishes us is our experience, our perspective, and our judgment.
I spent 25 years in business.  I’ve signed the front and the back of a paycheck.  I’ve helped businesses, like the Sports Authority and Staples, to grow from start-ups to international enterprises.  I’ve served as governor of a state and the steward of the Olympics.
My perspective is informed by those experiences and by the defining constants in my life: my 42-year marriage to my wife, Ann; the life we’ve built with our five sons; and the faith that sustains us.  My family, my faith, and our freedom – these are enduring truths in my life. My commitments are firm, and they do not falter.
When I was young, I had the opportunity to live abroad.  I recognized that the greatest advantage my parents had given me was being born in America.  I am passionate about the principles that have made this nation the land of opportunity and a shining city on a hill.
I believe in America. I believe it is the greatest nation in the history of the earth.  I believe that the next century must be an American century. Our highest priority must be to maintain a people, an economy, and a military so strong that no nation would ever risk challenging it.
My faith in America stems both from my faith in the American people, and from the principles that have made our people strong. We are a people from all parts of the world and all walks of life, but we are strengthened by our nation’s unique founding principles. It is not accident or luck that made America the greatest nation in the world – it is the power of our values and beliefs.
We weathered a Great Depression.  We emerged victorious from two world wars.  We faced down an Evil Empire.
Today, as we face new challenges and threats, I have every conviction that the American people, edified by American principles, will rise to the occasion again, securing our safety, our prosperity, and our peace.
One of these principles is a merit-based society.  In a merit-based society, people achieve success and rewards through hard work, education, risk taking, and even a little luck. The founders considered this principle to be one endowed by our Creator, and called it the “pursuit of happiness.” We call it opportunity, or we call it the freedom to choose our course in life.
A merit-based, opportunity society gathers and creates a citizenry that pioneers, that invents, that builds and creates.  And as these people exert the effort and take the risks inherent in invention and creation, they employ and lift the rest of us, creating prosperity for us all. The rewards they earn do not make the rest of us poorer, they make us better off.
American prosperity is fully dependent upon our opportunity society. I don’t think President Obama understands that. I don’t think he understands why our economy is the most successful in the world. I don’t think he understands America.
He seeks to replace our merit-based society with an entitlement society.  In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people to enjoy truly disproportionate rewards are the people who do the redistributing—the government.
Entitlement societies are praised in academic circles, far removed from the reality of a competitive world. Opportunity is replaced by the certainty that everyone in an entitlement society will enjoy nearly the same rewards. But there is another certainty: they will be poor.
In an entitlement society, the invigorating pursuit of happiness is replaced by the deadening reality that there is no prospect of a better tomorrow. Risk-taking disappears, innovation withers, and small business is replaced by large, government enterprises.  And the result is a nation that stagnates, that declines, that cannot defend itself.
I am convinced that this is where President Obama’s “fundamental change” is leading America. And it informs aspects of his foreign policy. Internationally, President Obama has adopted an appeasement strategy. Appeasement betrays a lack of faith in America, in American strength, and in America’s future.
Like others among the Washington elite, he believes that America’s role as the leader of the world is a thing of the past; that this will be a post-American century, perhaps an Asian century. American strength, he imagines, will eventually or possibly be eclipsed. And so, President Obama seeks to appease those he believes will balance us or challenge our leadership.
This appeasement by this Administration has taken many forms.  It includes offers to engage with the world’s most despicable dictators. It consists of concessions to Russia to remove our missile defense sites from Poland and to exclude tactical nuclear weapons from the new, remarkably one-sided, New START treaty. President Obama even looks the other way as China employs unfair trade tactics that endanger our economy and kill jobs.
This President appears more generous to our enemies than he is to our friends. Such is the natural tendency of someone who is unsure of America’s strength – or of America’s rightful place in the world. The course of appeasement and accommodation has long been the path chosen by the weak and the timid. And history shows it is a path that nation’s choose at their own peril.
The President promised that he would fundamentally change America. He is doing just that. At home, he is changing us from an opportunity nation to an entitlement nation. He is building a government so large that feeding it consumes a greater and greater share of the people’s production. And it is a government so intrusive that it can command free people and free enterprises according to its bureaucratic will.
Abroad, he is weakening America, shrinking our military, shrinking our commitments to our friends, accommodating our foes, and appeasing the competing forces that are vying for global leadership.
This election is not only a referendum on President Obama’s failures on employment, on income growth, on housing, on recovery, or on a nuclear-intent Iran, on an emboldened China and on friends like Israel being put at greater risk. This election will decide what kind of America we will be. It is defining.
Will we remain an opportunity nation or become an entitlement nation? Will we remain the leader of the free world, or become a follower in a more dangerous world?  Will America be transformed by Barack Obama, or will America be restored with the founding principles that have made this the greatest nation history has ever known?
Many think that because of his staggering failures, President Obama will be easily defeated. But an incumbent is rarely turned out of the White House, and his resort to class warfare and demagoguery are powerful political weapons.
In less than a year, Americans will be asked to make a choice about the kind of country they want to live in and the kind of future they will bequeath to their children.
It will be a choice between entitlement and merit, between appeasement and resolve.
Our party must offer a candidate who can make the case for freedom, opportunity and strength.  Our nominee must offer Americans more than just a chance to vote against President Obama; our nominee must give Americans an opportunity to vote for a different path and a better future.  A path dictated not by government, but determined by a free people.  A path marked by the virtues of merit, not by the slow decline of entitlement.  A path that achieves prosperity through opportunity, and peace through strength.
This is what Americans deserve.  This is what the moment demands.  And this is what I will deliver, with your help.
Join me. Join me, and I will lead our Party and our Nation through these difficult times to a brighter future.
America has been a shining city on a hill. That light is dimming. But together, we will reignite the spirit of American greatness.
We have wandered and drifted. I will lead us to a better place.  Join me, and together we will reclaim and rebuild the America we love.
I believe in America. Our fight starts today. Join me.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.

Rick Santorum: National security could trump economy in 2012 election

Source: LAT, 12-7-11Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum speaks during the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum Dec. 7, 2011 at Ronald Reagan Building and International Center in Washington. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Former Sen. Rick Santorum said there’s good reason why he’s talking a lot more about foreign policy than other Republican candidates.

“Because I believe that there’s a very good chance that by next election day, the national security issues in this country will be of higher priority in the eyes of the American people than the economy,” he said Wednesday morning in Washington.

Santorum was the first of six Republican presidential candidates — and one potential vice presidential nominee — to speak at a forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Invoking the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the former Pennsylvania senator slammed President Obama for a policy of “appeasement” with regard to Iran that has allowed that nation to become a much bigger threat.

“I know people in this country are tired of war. But our Pearl Harbor already happened,” he said.

Iran has grown stronger because of Obama’s indifference, he argued. The so-called Arab spring should have begun in Iran in 2009, but Obama failed to support democratic uprisings there. And yet he threw an ally of the United States and Israel — Egypt — “under the bus” in the face of demonstrations that included the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The president, for every thug and hooligan, for every radical Islamist, has had nothing but appeasement,” he said. “Ladies and gentlemen, learn from history.”

Jon Huntsman, who spoke next, was a marked contrast in tone, focusing his remarks on the economy, and a larger sense in the nation that there is no longer trust in its leaders.

“We are in a deep funk as a people,” he said. “And we are crazy in this country if we don’t find the kind of leadership that we so desperately need.”

Jon Huntsman: My foreign policy is focused on economy

Source: CBS News, 12-7-11

Unlike other GOP presidential candidates who moved to paint themselves as the greatest potential allies to Israel at a gathering of Republican Jewish voters in Washington on Wednesday, Jon Huntsman focused his remarks almost exclusively on the economy.

The former Utah governor said he wanted a foreign policy determined “first and foremost by economics,” and went on to deliver his standard call to reduce the national debt and bring down joblessness. He got mostly tepid applause from the audience at the forum, where all six candidates are scheduled to speak today.

Huntsman did finally get to the topic of Israel during the last few minutes of his speech.

“What matters to me is our commitment to Israel, that there be no blue sky between us,” Huntsman said. “There is some sense today that we are not together. Those days under my administration will be gone.”

Prodded to elaborate on his Middle East policy in the question and answer session with the audience, Huntsman said that he will not stand for a nuclear Iran and that in containing the Iranian threat, “all options are on the table.”

TRANSCRIPT: Michele Bachmann Delivers Remarks At Republican Jewish Coalition Forum

Source: Yeshiva World, 12-7-11

“I’m honored to be here today in the company of so many friends. Thank you Dan for that kind introduction. Like this organization, I have been a long-time advocate for the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. My love for Israel and its people deepened while I worked on a kibbutz just after graduating from high school.

“Today, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On that fateful day a 19-year-old Minnesotan on board a submarine patrol in the waters outside of Pearl Harbor reported sighting a Japanese submarine, but the warning sign of the bigger calamity to come was all but ignored. The same is true today with Iran and other dangerous actors in the world. We are ignoring the warning signs, and I worry what other ‘Pearl Harbors’ might be in our future.

“It seems as if lately, our president has forgotten the importance of Israel to America and thinks of our relationship only in terms of what we do for Israel. The president is more concerned about Israel building homes on its own land than the threats that Israel and America face in the region.

“The president was right to promise to veto the Palestinians‘ bid for statehood in the U.N. Security Council. But in large part it is the president’s weakness in the Middle East that has emboldened the Palestinians to attempt to achieve statehood through the U.N. rather than at the legitimate negotiation table with Israel. Our policy has confused engagement with appeasement and has inspired Israel’s enemies.

“The Palestinians must recognize Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence against Israel in order to become a serious partner in peace with Israel.

“My administration’s policy will be that, the Palestinian Authority’s compliance with its prior agreements is the first step that must be taken to assure peace in the Middle East. The Palestinian Authority must meet its existing written obligations to collect illegal weapons; pursue terrorists; cooperate with Israeli security forces; change the Fatah Constitution which still calls for the complete eradication of the State of Israel; and to stop inciting terrorism.

“I stand with Israel. And aid to Israel now more than ever, is a necessity–they are our most trusted ally and the only real democracy in the Middle East. But if we are to continue to provide assistance to Israel, we must get our own fiscal house in order.

“A vocal minority, called Occupy Wall Street, otherwise known as the Obama re-election team, believes that the economic problems we face are capitalism or free markets. They’re not. The problem is government doing what both the constitution and decent morality prohibit, that is cronyism capitalism, or forcefully taking your money for the purpose of paying off a politician’s political friends. The problem is one set of standards for individual Americans and another set of standards for those who make political donations to candidates.

“The problem is an individual tax code with 3.8 million words that’s too complicated for the average American to understand and a corporate tax code that makes America hopelessly uncompetitive at almost 40 percent when you add the federal and state taxes. And a tax code that contains loopholes that are exploited by companies large enough to hire an army of lawyers. As Investor’s Business Daily wrote, in 1981 the entire developed world had high corporate tax rates, averaging 47 percent. Then capital became mobile and rates plummeted to 25 percent and haven’t stopped falling. The United States remains stuck since 1986 in an out of date high corporate tax rate that sent companies fleeing America for a more competitive tax climate. Just ask any number of companies why they left America and they’ll tell you that between the high tax and unreasonable regulatory burden in America, other nations are now a more profitable place to do business. For your sake and your future, America, and Occupy Wall Street in particular, needs to wake up and stop blaming job creators for the failures created by selfish politicians who wink at their political donors.

“Politicians assure their friends that with government’s financial backing, their businesses will never fail.

“It happens every day, and it has to stop. After all, we’re not a Banana Republic; we’re the United States of America and we need to act like it.

“We need a system that forces large, well connected corporations to play by the same rules as small businesses and individual Americans and that protects and provides fair competition in free markets.

“You see, there’s a reason our Founding Fathers decided to establish our political capital in a different city than our financial capital. It’s time for us to reaffirm the wisdom of that decision by getting Washington D.C. out of free markets. I’m running for president because I understand the difference between free markets and Bernie Madoff style government.

“My administration will stop the Obama administration’s dangerous policies and delegitimization of Israel. Obama has delegitimized Israel by wrongly describing Israel as a 60-years long occupation, which displaced and caused Palestinian suffering, and by wrongly blaming Israel and settlements for the lack of peace in the Middle East.

“Obama abandoned prior U.S. policy and U.N. Resolution 242’s insistence that Israel is entitled to defensible borders. The Obama administration also abrogated former President Bush’s commitments in Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon. Bush’s letter and subsequent Congressional resolutions committed the U.S. to the policy that Israel will retain large West Bank settlement blocks, that there will be no right of return to Israel for ‘Palestinian’ refugees, and that the Palestinian Authority’s compliance with its obligations, including the Palestinian Authority’s obligation to stop inciting terror, is the first step that must be taken towards Middle East peace.

“Instead, Obama improperly calls for Israel to retreat to indefensible 1949 armistice lines with swaps, and to then still face further demands to divide Jerusalem and allow a Palestinian ‘right of return’ to overrun the entire State of Israel. The Obama administration has also unconditionally given the Palestinians unprecedented amounts of U.S. foreign aid, and opposed Congressional efforts to condition aid on the real steps that would bring about peace.

“The so-called Palestinian ‘right of return,’ would demographically destroy Israel by swamping it with millions of Arabs who never lived in Israel, thereby turning the world’s only Jewish state into the world’s 23rd Arab state.

“Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently once again publicly displayed this administrations disdain for Israel putting Israel on the same footing as the Palestinians and declaring that they ‘get to the damn table’ to resume peace talks. And the president derisively said Israel’s Prime Minister was someone ‘he had to deal with everyday.’ But the president’s ambassador to Belgium went even further and justified anti-Semitism because of Israel’s actions toward the Palestinians, and the president should fire him for those irresponsible remarks.

“Instead of defaming Israel, as the Obama administration has done, my administration will recognize that, in the words of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, Israel is a country that ‘is based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets,’ and which has ‘safeguard[ed] the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions.’

“And like Israel’s Declaration of Independence, my administration will similarly call upon Israel’s neighbors to cooperate with the Jewish nation and return to the ways of peace for the common good of all.

“While the president demands Israel give back land necessary to protect their existence, he has taken his eye off of the most serious threat to Middle East security, a nuclear Iran. Some 80 years ago the world saw evil rising. A mad man spoke, but the world did not listen and the world sank into an enormous conflict and millions of Jews lost their lives.

“Today a mad man again speaks and once again it seems as if the world isn’t really listening though Iran’s president has made his intentions for Israel clear. He intends to wipe Israel from the face of the earth once he obtains nuclear weapons, and he will seek to use them against the United States shortly after achieving his first goal.

“Consider the Iranian constitution, which states that Iran’s Army and Revolutionary Guard ‘will be responsible…for fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God’s way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world.’

“And Iran has made good on that promise over the last 30 years from the bombing of the United States Marine base in Beirut to being the leading supplier of arms to kill Americans in Iraq. Iran is at the heart of much of Israel’s problems.

“Two principles must guide U.S. policy toward Iran. First, we must never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. And second, we must realize that this is as much a threat to U.S. national security as it is to Israel’s and should not outsource U.S. national security to the United Nations. This is the moment for clarity in standing with Israel and against Iran.

“We can’t afford to wait until the election to change course, the president must make it the policy of the United States now to support the dissidents of the current regime in Iran to bring down the terrorist leaders and replace it with a democratic government at peace with the U.S., Israel and the free world.

“The U.S. must be clear that it is the policy of the United States to stop Iran from building and deploying nuclear weapons. In leading from behind the president has been ambiguous with Iran and has given them the luxury of time to advance their nuclear weapons program without real punishment as we learned from the IAEA report last week.

“The U.S. should develop and deploy comprehensive ballistic missile systems on land, at sea, in the air, and in space to protect the American people and our allies from the threat of ballistic missiles. Iran, with the help of the Chinese has obtained missile delivery systems for nuclear weapons that pose a threat to Israel, to the region and potentially the United States.

“While the United States does not buy oil from Iran, Iran is a major player in the oil market and affects its price, which directly affects the United States. We need to legalize American energy production to free us from Iran’s influence through oil.

“The U.S. must immediately end appeasement and weakness towards Iran and pursue decisive, common sense strategies ignored or rejected by the current administration.

“We need Secretaries of State and Defense who fully support a pro-freedom and security policy towards Iran, and we need them to replace those in the bureaucracy — especially at State — who will not fully support this policy.

“We need crushing economic sanctions on Iran, including on the central bank and the oil and gas industries. We must hurt the Iranian economy more severely by doing damage to their oil revenues and their central bank.

“The president stands with Occupy Wall Street, but he doesn’t stand with Israel. When Israel looks at President Obama, they don’t see a friend. The State Department should regularly expose the atrocious activities of the Iranian regime that are arresting, imprisoning, torturing and murdering innocent Iranian citizens.

“We must accelerate covert operations and cyber operations in Iran and order the CIA Director to take all means necessary to stop Iran from getting the Bomb before it is too late. The Pentagon should prepare a war plan, as a last resort, should all else fail in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

“But the president’s lack of leadership and the failure of the Supercommittee this week will lead to, in Defense Secretary Panetta’s words, ‘devastating cuts that will seriously damage readiness’ making a military response more difficult. President Obama has seriously damaged the security of Israel by decreasing our status as a military superpower.

“Part of that plan should be to direct the Navy to make preparations for a possible blockade of Iran’s ports from all oil and gas imports and exports to cut off critical petroleum revenues from going to the regime in Tehran.

“We should continue comprehensive missile defense development while moving additional Aegis and Patriot missile defense systems into the Middle East to protect U.S. citizens and assets, Israel and our allies. We must sell Israel the additional fighter jets, bunker buster bombs, refueling tankers and other materials they need to defend themselves.

“A Bachmann administration will recognize that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, a vibrant democracy and America’s staunch ally. My administration will fully recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, and will be the first administration to finally implement the laws passed by Congress requiring the State Department to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. My administration will also recognize Israel’s 1980 annexation of the Golan Heights and any settlements, which Israel, as a sovereign state, chooses to annex. Simply put, my administration will accord Israel the respect to which sovereign, democratic nations are entitled.

“On the day of my inauguration as president I will announce that the U.S. Embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “I do not take lightly the prospect of committing U.S. troops in an effort to stop Iran. Only a fool wishes for war. But we must be prepared to do whatever is necessary to stop the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear weapon and massively destabilizing the region by attacking our ally Israel, and supplying those weapons to even more radical regimes or individuals that would use them to do harm to America and its way of life. I recognize that the security of America is intertwined with the security of Israel.

“Hitler once famously said in justification of his order to murder millions of Jews, ‘Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?’ Ahmadinejad is counting on the same collective memory today as he marches toward a second holocaust.

“We must send him the message that – we will never forget!

“God bless you and God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America.”

Israel Political Brief December 7, 2011: GOP Candidates Speak out in Support of Israel at Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger to be published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

From left: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum address the Republican Jewish Coalition. | AP Photos
Speaking to the RJC, the candidates all promised to strengthen the alliance with Israel. | AP Photos

IN FOCUS: REPUBLICAN JEWISH COALITION 2012 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES FORUM

Live Twitting from the RJC Forum @ #RJC2012

“You’ll see some very strong, clear, unequivocal contrast between the vision of Republicans running and the current president as it relates to Israel, a turbulent Middle East and pushing back on the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons.” — Matthew Brooks, RJC’s Executive Director

“This one-sided continuing pressure that says it’s always Israel’s fault no matter how bad the other side is has to stop.” — Newt Gingrich

“We will send the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I will ask [former Bush 43 administration U.N. ambassador] John Bolton to be secretary of State!” — Newt Gingrich

“I will travel to Israel on my first foreign trip. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. I want the world to know that the bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable.” — Mitt Romney

“Three years in office and [President Obama] hasn’t found time to visit Israel, our friend, our ally, the nation in the region that shares our values… throwing Israel under the bus…. Over the last three years, Obama has instead chastened Israel” — Mitt Romney

“I already have secured a donor who said they will personally pay for the ambassador’s home to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Like you, my commitment is unequivocal and unchanging. We stand with Israel. Millions of Jews lost their lives. Today, a madman is speaking and once again it seems as if the world isn’t really listening.” — Michele Bachmann

“This torrent of hostility toward Israel, it doesn’t seem to be coordinated. It seems to be a natural expression of this administration’s attitude toward Israel.” — Rick Perry

“If you can’t live with a nuclear Iran, and I can’t, then you have to say all options are on the table.” — Jon Huntsman

Republican candidates rattle sabers against Iran: Republican presidential candidates on Wednesday rattled sabers against Iran and accused President Barack Obama of being soft in his support for Israel as they vied for the backing of Jewish Republicans.
One by one, the major contenders for the Republican nomination to face the Democratic president in 2012 told the Republican Jewish Coalition conference they would strengthen ties with Israel and not let Iran develop a nuclear weapon.
Candidates took time out from criss-crossing Iowa, New Hampshire and other early voting states to seek Jewish support, hoping to make inroads into a traditionally Democratic voting bloc.
A theme throughout the speeches was the Republican desire to strengthen the U.S. commitment to Israel and ensure it remains a democratic bulwark in an unstable region threatened by the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon…. – Reuters, 12-7-11

  • G.O.P. Candidates, at Jewish Coalition, Pledge to Be Israel’s Best Friends: The leading Republican candidates drew enthusiastic applause from Republican Jewish leaders here on Wednesday after accusing President Obama of falling short in his support of Israel while coddling its adversaries. But it remained to be seen how far those arguments will carry them, especially given the candidates’ rightward tilt on other issues that have traditionally been important to American Jews.
    The speeches to the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum suggested that the candidates would differ substantially from previous Democratic and Republican administrations on critical elements of the Middle East peace process. Some indicated they would put less pressure on Israel on issues like the contours of an independent Palestinian state…. – NYT, 12-8-11
  • Gingrich: ‘We need a dramatically rethought strategy for the Middle East’: Newt Gingrich offered up a sweeping critique of American policy toward the Islamic world during his appearance at today’s Republican Jewish Coalition presidential candidates’ forum.
    “We need a dramatically rethought strategy for the Middle East,” the former House speaker and current Republican frontrunner told the gathering on Wednesday afternoon.
    In comments that he acknowledged at the outset were not politically correct, Gingrich expressed concern about America’s stance toward “radical Islam,” saying it was currently based on lies and appeasement.
    He reiterated his criticism of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recent speech at the Saban Forum about Israel, calling it “outrageous.”
    “This one-sided continuing pressure that says it’s always Israel’s fault no matter how bad the other side is has to stop,” Gingrich said.
    He also reiterated his vow to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to great applause.
    Gingrich connected his criticisms of President Obama’s policies toward Israel to his broader criticisms of the president’s approach toward the Islamic world….. – Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich, the RJC crowd-pleaser: Per Summers, Gingrich said he would make John Bolton, a former potential candidate, his secretary of state.
    As for the current one, he said, to great effect, “The fact that Secretary [Hillary] Clinton could talk about discrimination against women in Israel and then meet with Saudis?”
    He also said he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a huge applause line (despite how difficult it actually would be to do, as all candidates who pledge it and then take office learn)…. – Politico, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich Sees Growing Radical Islamist Threat: Newt Gingrich on Wednesday equated the United States’ understanding of what will be a “long struggle with radical Islam” to where the country stood with the Soviet Union just after World War II, on the eve of a cold war that would dominate American foreign policy for more than four decades.
    The country is “about where we were in 1946, when we were trying to understand the Soviet Union,” Mr. Gingrich said. “We had not yet had George Kennan’s long telegram explaining the source of Soviet power.”
    The stark comments by Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who is now leading polls of the Republican field, came during a well-received speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington…. – NYT, 12-7-11
  • The Politics of Israel: Campaign 2012: Presidential hopeful and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney speaks to the Jewish Republican Coalition’s 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington.
    In American presidential politics wrapping yourself in the Israeli flag is a no-brainer. Stalwart support for Israel is important for many American-Jewish voters, an important source of campaign donations, and a potential swing vote in key battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Fealty to Israel plays well with evangelical Christians who back the Jewish state largely out of theology, and who can make the difference in early-voting states like Iowa and South Carolina. Strong backing of Israel is viewed as a litmus test for powerful lobby groups in Washington, D.C.
    Especially for a field of Republican presidential candidates who are almost uniformly attacking Barack Obama’s foreign policy from the neoconservative right, the temptation has proven irresistible to use the president’s failed attempts at peacemaking in the Middle East, and frosty relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a cudgel…. – National Journal, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich and Bachmann Would Move Embassy to Jerusalem: Republican presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich said on Wednesday that as president he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a proposal designed to appeal to American Jewish voters. It also escalated the jockeying among the GOP candidates to be viewed as the most pro-Israel choice.
    Rival candidate Michele Bachmann, a House member from Minnesota, said on Wednesday that she too would insist on moving the embassy. Bachmann and Gingrich were among six GOP candidates who spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s candidates’ forum in Washington.
    Jerusalem is the declared capital of Israel, but that fact is not internationally recognized because of the long-standing territorial disputes with the Palestinians…. – National Journal, 12-7-11
  • Newt Gingrich Rips Panetta’s Israel Policy Speech: And today, the major candidates—except for Ron Paul, who believes the United States should cut aid to Israel and let it handle its own affairs—are expressing their take at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum … – U.S. News & World Report, 12-7-11
  • US politics live blog: GOP candidates at Republican Jewish CoalitionThe Guardian UK, 12-7-11
  • GOP 2012 presidential rivals target Obama’s Israel record at Jewish forumChicago Sun-Times, 12-7-11
  • GOP hopefuls scold Obama on ‘timid’ Israel supportBoston Globe, 12-7-11
  • Romney says Obama has ‘chastened’ Israel; he would visit nation in first trip as PresidentWaPo, 12-7-11
  • Romney Gets Enthusiastic Reception at Republican Jewish ForumWSJ, 12-7-11
  • Romney: My first visit as US President would be to the Jewish state of Israel: “I want the world to know that the bonds between the US and Israel are unshakable,” he said. “I wouldn’t meet with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. … – Ha’aretz, 12-7-11
  • Romney: Why I’d be better for Israel than Obama: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney reaffirmed his commitment to Israel as America’s partner in the Middle East while accusing President Barack Obama of hindering peace in the region, during his speech Wednesday before the Republican Jewish Coalition.
    The former Massachusetts governor took the president to task for criticizing Israel, not saying enough about the thousands of Hamas rockets fired into the country and his support for Israel to adopt “indefensible borders.”… – CNN, 12-7-11
  • Republicans Decry Obama Israel Policy in Bid for Jewish Vote: Romney was one of six Republican presidential candidates scheduled to address the Republican Jewish Coalition at the day- long forum hosted by the group…. – BusinessWeek, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich says he’d name John Bolton as secretary of state: Newt Gingrich received a standing ovation from the audience at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on Wednesday for promising to appoint John Bolton to be secretary of state if elected president. … – MSNBC, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich vows to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: Newt Gingrich worked to one-up Mitt Romney and the other Republican presidential hopefuls in his approach to relations with Israel, pledging to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. … – The Hill, 12-7-11
  • Republicans talk tough on Iran, vie for Jewish vote: Republican unity and a wall-to-wall turnout packed the Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2012 Presidential candidates forum as would-be commanders-in-chief offered up tough talk Tuesday on Iran and against US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy. … – Jerusalem Post, 12-7-11
  • Republican Candidates Aim at Obama Foreign Policy: The Republicans are expected to press this case on Wednesday at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Washington, just as they have stepped up attacks in recent days, demanding that Howard Gutman, the ambassador to Belgium, be recalled after he said … – NYT, 12-6-11
  • Gingrich says Obama should ‘renounce anti-Israel remarks’ from admin officials: “I’m confident this will be the most comprehensive effort in presidential campaign history.” Republican presidential candidates will meet Wednesday in Washington at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Candidate Forum…. – The Hill, 12-6-11
  • The Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum: In addition to the traditional debates, Mike Huckabee and Jim Demint have already held presidential forums. Donald Trump is hosting a debate. Yet one event that demands attention is the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) 2012 Candidates Forum…. – Washington Times, 12-6-11
  • Gingrich: ‘We need a dramatically rethought strategy for the Middle East’: Newt Gingrich offered up a sweeping critique of American policy toward the Islamic world during his appearance at today’s Republican Jewish Coalition presidential candidates’ forum.
    “We need a dramatically rethought strategy for the Middle East,” the former House speaker and current Republican frontrunner told the gathering on Wednesday afternoon.
    In comments that he acknowledged at the outset were not politically correct, Gingrich expressed concern about America’s stance toward “radical Islam,” saying it was currently based on lies and appeasement.
    He reiterated his criticism of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recent speech at the Saban Forum about Israel, calling it “outrageous.”
    “This one-sided continuing pressure that says it’s always Israel’s fault no matter how bad the other side is has to stop,” Gingrich said.
    He also reiterated his vow to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem to great applause.
    Gingrich connected his criticisms of President Obama’s policies toward Israel to his broader criticisms of the president’s approach toward the Islamic world….. – Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich, the RJC crowd-pleaser: Per Summers, Gingrich said he would make John Bolton, a former potential candidate, his secretary of state.
    As for the current one, he said, to great effect, “The fact that Secretary [Hillary] Clinton could talk about discrimination against women in Israel and then meet with Saudis?”
    He also said he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a huge applause line (despite how difficult it actually would be to do, as all candidates who pledge it and then take office learn)…. – Politico, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich Sees Growing Radical Islamist Threat: Newt Gingrich on Wednesday equated the United States’ understanding of what will be a “long struggle with radical Islam” to where the country stood with the Soviet Union just after World War II, on the eve of a cold war that would dominate American foreign policy for more than four decades.
    The country is “about where we were in 1946, when we were trying to understand the Soviet Union,” Mr. Gingrich said. “We had not yet had George Kennan’s long telegram explaining the source of Soviet power.”
    The stark comments by Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who is now leading polls of the Republican field, came during a well-received speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington…. – NYT, 12-7-11
  • The Politics of Israel: Campaign 2012: Presidential hopeful and former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney speaks to the Jewish Republican Coalition’s 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington.
    In American presidential politics wrapping yourself in the Israeli flag is a no-brainer. Stalwart support for Israel is important for many American-Jewish voters, an important source of campaign donations, and a potential swing vote in key battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Fealty to Israel plays well with evangelical Christians who back the Jewish state largely out of theology, and who can make the difference in early-voting states like Iowa and South Carolina. Strong backing of Israel is viewed as a litmus test for powerful lobby groups in Washington, D.C.
    Especially for a field of Republican presidential candidates who are almost uniformly attacking Barack Obama’s foreign policy from the neoconservative right, the temptation has proven irresistible to use the president’s failed attempts at peacemaking in the Middle East, and frosty relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a cudgel…. – National Journal, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich and Bachmann Would Move Embassy to Jerusalem: Republican presidential front-runner Newt Gingrich said on Wednesday that as president he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a proposal designed to appeal to American Jewish voters. It also escalated the jockeying among the GOP candidates to be viewed as the most pro-Israel choice.
    Rival candidate Michele Bachmann, a House member from Minnesota, said on Wednesday that she too would insist on moving the embassy. Bachmann and Gingrich were among six GOP candidates who spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s candidates’ forum in Washington.
    Jerusalem is the declared capital of Israel, but that fact is not internationally recognized because of the long-standing territorial disputes with the Palestinians…. – National Journal, 12-7-11
  • Newt Gingrich Rips Panetta’s Israel Policy Speech: And today, the major candidates—except for Ron Paul, who believes the United States should cut aid to Israel and let it handle its own affairs—are expressing their take at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum … – U.S. News & World Report, 12-7-11
  • US politics live blog: GOP candidates at Republican Jewish CoalitionThe Guardian UK, 12-7-11
  • GOP 2012 presidential rivals target Obama’s Israel record at Jewish forumChicago Sun-Times, 12-7-11
  • GOP hopefuls scold Obama on ‘timid’ Israel supportBoston Globe, 12-7-11
  • Romney says Obama has ‘chastened’ Israel; he would visit nation in first trip as PresidentWaPo, 12-7-11
  • Romney Gets Enthusiastic Reception at Republican Jewish ForumWSJ, 12-7-11
  • Romney: My first visit as US President would be to the Jewish state of Israel: “I want the world to know that the bonds between the US and Israel are unshakable,” he said. “I wouldn’t meet with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. … – Ha’aretz, 12-7-11
  • Romney: Why I’d be better for Israel than Obama: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney reaffirmed his commitment to Israel as America’s partner in the Middle East while accusing President Barack Obama of hindering peace in the region, during his speech Wednesday before the Republican Jewish Coalition.
    The former Massachusetts governor took the president to task for criticizing Israel, not saying enough about the thousands of Hamas rockets fired into the country and his support for Israel to adopt “indefensible borders.”… – CNN, 12-7-11
  • Republicans Decry Obama Israel Policy in Bid for Jewish Vote: Romney was one of six Republican presidential candidates scheduled to address the Republican Jewish Coalition at the day- long forum hosted by the group…. – BusinessWeek, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich says he’d name John Bolton as secretary of state: Newt Gingrich received a standing ovation from the audience at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on Wednesday for promising to appoint John Bolton to be secretary of state if elected president. … – MSNBC, 12-7-11
  • Gingrich vows to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: Newt Gingrich worked to one-up Mitt Romney and the other Republican presidential hopefuls in his approach to relations with Israel, pledging to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. … – The Hill, 12-7-11
  • Republicans talk tough on Iran, vie for Jewish vote: Republican unity and a wall-to-wall turnout packed the Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2012 Presidential candidates forum as would-be commanders-in-chief offered up tough talk Tuesday on Iran and against US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy. … – Jerusalem Post, 12-7-11
  • Republican Candidates Aim at Obama Foreign Policy: The Republicans are expected to press this case on Wednesday at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum in Washington, just as they have stepped up attacks in recent days, demanding that Howard Gutman, the ambassador to Belgium, be recalled after he said … – NYT, 12-6-11
  • Gingrich says Obama should ‘renounce anti-Israel remarks’ from admin officials: “I’m confident this will be the most comprehensive effort in presidential campaign history.” Republican presidential candidates will meet Wednesday in Washington at the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Candidate Forum…. – The Hill, 12-6-11
  • The Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Presidential Candidates Forum: In addition to the traditional debates, Mike Huckabee and Jim Demint have already held presidential forums. Donald Trump is hosting a debate. Yet one event that demands attention is the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) 2012 Candidates Forum…. – Washington Times, 12-6-11

Israel Political Brief December 6, 2011: Remarks on Israel by three U.S. officials Clinton, Panetta & Gutman spark furor among Jewish community

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Remarks on Israel by three U.S. officials spark furor

Source: JTA, 12-6-11

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke at the 2011 Saban Forum in Washington on Dec. 2, 2011. (Brookings Institution)
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Other Media

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke at the 2011 Saban Forum in Washington on Dec. 2, 2011. (Brookings Institution)

The Obama administration is reaping a whirlwind of criticism in the wake of pointed remarks about Israel by several U.S. officials over three days.

The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, caused an uproar when he suggested on Dec. 1 that hostility among European Arabs and Muslims toward Jews was rooted in anger over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and should be distinguished from traditional forms of anti-Semitism. Jewish groups condemned his remarks, which drew calls for his dismissal from Republican presidential front-runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

The following day, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stirred controversy when he told an audience at the Saban Forum, an annual Washington conclave for American and Israeli policymakers, that Israel needs to “get to the damn table” to negotiate with the Palestinians and “mend fences” with its neighbors. The Anti-Defamation League expressed “surprise and dismay” at a speech that it said “disproportionately put the onus on Israel to overcome its isolation.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made waves a day later at the Saban Forum when she reportedly expressed some concerns about the state of Israeli democracy.

The confluence of controversies has added up to a headache for the Obama administration’s Jewish supporters and given fodder to its critics.

“This is the worst weekend we’ve had in a while,” said a Jewish Democratic activist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, referring to the outcry over the remarks.

Each set of remarks share a common theme, said the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman.

They’re “putting all of the onus on Israel, and that’s with Panetta, with Hillary and with the ambassador,” he said. “It’s something that we’ve had a problem with this administration.”…READ MORE

Israel Political Brief December 4, 2011: Israeli lawmakers oppose Hillary Clinton’s criticisms of Israeli democracy at Saban Forum

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Clinton’s criticisms of Israeli democracy raise hackles

Source: JTA, 12-4-11

Israeli lawmakers rejected U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s criticisms of Israeli democracy made during a closed forum in Washington.

Clinton reportedly rapped two bills making their way through the Knesset that would restrict funding to left-leaning human rights organizations, as well as the marginalization of women in Israel, citing the examples of religious Israeli soldiers leaving programs that feature women singing and women sitting in the back of the bus on some religious bus lines.

She reportedly made the comments, which were reported in the Israeli media, during a closed session Saturday of the Saban Forum attended by American and Israeli political figures.

“Israel is a living, breathing liberal democracy,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said at the start of Israel’s weekly Cabinet meeting. “The issue of the exclusion of women and separation is unacceptable and must be stopped, but to claim there is a threat on Israeli democracy is a big stretch.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan called on “elected officials around the world [to] examine their domestic problems first.” He added, “I hope that government steps will demonstrate our commitment to equality between men and women.”

Israel Political Brief December 4, 2011: White House Distances Itself from Belgium envoy Howard Gutman’s anti-Semitism remarks

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

White House raps Belgium envoy’s anti-Semitism remarks

Source: JTA, 12-4-11

The White House distanced itself from its ambassador to Belgium after the envoy said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the cause of Muslim anti-Semitism.

“We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and that there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel,” the White House said in a statement sent to Jewish leaders on Saturday night.

Howard Gutman, who is Jewish, said last week at a conference in Brussels on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union that “A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” He added that “an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”

Gutman, an attorney, raised major funds for Obama’s 2008 elections campaign, after which he was appointed ambassador by the president.

On Sunday, Gutman said he regretted that his statements to the conference were “misinterpreted,” according to the European Jewish Press, citing the U.S. Embassy in Belgium.

“My personal history and the history of my family testify to the importance I attach to this subject and my unwavering commitment to fight anti-Semitism,” Gutman, the son of a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, reportedly said.

Israel Brief December 4, 2011: Gilad Shalit went on hunger strike during captivity

ISRAEL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Report: Shalit went on hunger strike during captivity

Source: JTA, 12-4-11

Former captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit launched a hunger strike that put his life in danger shortly before his release.

The hunger strike is what led in part to Hamas agreeing to an exchange, as the terrorist group feared Shalit would die and it would lose its main bargaining chip, Yediot Achronot reported Sunday. The daily Israeli newspaper cited an intelligence report on Shalit.

According to the report, shrapnel fired during the kidnapping entered Shalit’s body, barely missing vital organs, and the wounds eventually healed.

The report also said that Iran and Hamas gave misleading information to Israeli intelligence on Shalit’s whereabouts, hoping that an Israeli rescue force would enter a booby-trapped house in northern Gaza.

Shalit reportedly was guarded by the same four Hamas members throughout his captivity.

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

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

 

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

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

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 1, 2011: US Speaker John Boehner Criticizes President Obama’s Israel Position on Facebook after Contradictory Campaign Speech

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ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Boehner slams Obama Israel remark

Source: AFP, 12-1-11

Republican US House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday blasted President Barack Obama’s boast of having done more for Israel’s security “than any previous administration.”

Republicans have denounced Obama’s statement that Middle East peace will ultimately require Israel and a future Palestinian state with borders from before the 1967 Israel-Arab war and shaped by “mutually agreed” land swaps. Boehner’s criticism came a day after the president declared at a fundraiser in New York City that “no ally is more important than the state of Israel” and trumpeted his own efforts to help the staunch US ally….READ MORE

John Boehner on Facebook:

At an event last night, President Obama reportedly claimed his administration has done more for Israel “than any previous administration.” Are you kidding me? This is the same White House that wants Israel to withdraw to the indefensible 1967 borders. Where I’m from, we stand by our friends, especially the ones who have always stood by us.

Remarks by President Obama at a Campaign Event

Source: WH, 11-30-11
Private Residence
New York, New York

6:17 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me begin by just thanking Jac and Phyllis — and their adorable grandchildren.  (Laughter.)  And their children — I don’t want to skip over a generation.  (Laughter.)  But the grandchildren are really my buddies.  This guy says he’s going to be a future president.  (Laughter.)  So I’m just kind of warming up the seat for him.  (Laughter.)

But in addition to the Rosens, I want to make sure that everybody had a chance to say hello to somebody who has been a dear friend and is an outstanding DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  (Applause.)

I’m going to keep my remarks very brief at the top, because what I want to do is spend as much time in dialogue and answering questions as possible.

When I came into office, we knew that this was going to be an extraordinary time in the life of the country, and in the world.  I don’t think any of us realized what an extraordinary transformation would be taking place over these last several years.  They’ve been tough years.  They’ve been tough years for the American people.  They’ve been tough for the world.  And we’re not out of the woods yet.  But I begin any meeting like this by saying that we should remind ourselves how much we’ve accomplished over the last three years.

When we came into office, the economy was contracting at 9 percent.  It has grown over the last 3 years — not as fast as we’d like, but we have been able to sustain a fairly steady pace of growth.  When I came into office, we had lost 4 million jobs before I was sworn in, and 4 million jobs in the three months after I was sworn in.  About six months later, we were creating jobs, and we’ve had private sector job growth for 20 consecutive months.

Along the way, in addition to preventing a financial meltdown and preventing a second Great Depression, we were able to pass a historic health care bill that’s going to make sure that 30 million people have coverage.  We were able to pass a Wall Street reform package that, although some folks in New York are still grousing about it — (laughter) — is going to ensure that we do not have the same kinds of crisis that we had in the past.  We were able to make sure that we ended the war in Iraq, as promised, and by the end of this year we’re going to have all of our troops out, which is going to be an extraordinary homecoming for families all across America.  Thanks to the great work of folks like Debbie, we were able to end practices like “don’t ask, don’t tell,” make sure that we expanded college loans for millions of students all across the country.

So a huge amount of progress has been made, but what we also know is we’ve still got a lot more work to do.  On the domestic front — Jack and I were just downstairs talking — the housing market and the real estate market is still way too weak and we’ve got to do more.  We’re doing some stuff administratively.  We’re hoping that we can get a little more cooperation from Congress to be more aggressive in tackling the housing market and the real estate market.

We still have to put people back to work.  And I was just in Pennsylvania talking about why it’s so important to make sure that we pass a — continue, essentially, a payroll tax cut that helps small businesses and individual families so that there’s more money in circulation and businesses can really latch on to this recovery and start expanding their payrolls.

Internationally, we’ve been managing I think an extraordinary period not just of two wars, which we’re now winding down, but, as Jack alluded to, enormous tumult in the Middle East.  And so far, at least, what we’ve been able to do is manage it in a way that positions America to stand on the side of democracy, but also be very firm with respect to the security of our allies.  And obviously, no ally is more important than the state of Israel.

And as Jack alluded to, this administration — I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration.  And that’s not just our opinion, that’s the opinion of the Israeli government.  Whether it’s making sure that our intelligence cooperation is effective, to making sure that we’re able to construct something like an Iron Dome so that we don’t have missiles raining down on Tel Aviv, we have been consistent in insisting that we don’t compromise when it comes to Israel’s security.  And that’s not just something I say privately, that’s something that I said in the U.N. General Assembly.  And that will continue.

We do have enormous challenges in making sure that the changes that are taking place in Egypt, the changes that are taking place throughout the region do not end up manifesting themselves in anti-Western or anti-Israel policies.  And that’s something that we’re going to have to pay close attention to, and work diligently on in the months to come.

In the meantime, there are other regions in the world in which we’re making enormous progress.  I mean, we’ve been able to not only reset relations with Russia, manage relations with China, but we’ve also been able to mobilize world opinion around U.S. leadership in a way that many people had thought had been lost when I came into office back in 2008.

So the bottom line is this:  Over the last three years we have made enormous progress.  People aren’t feeling all that progress yet because we had fallen so far and some of the problems that we faced — whether it was on health care or energy or employment — those are problems that had been building up over decades.  And we never anticipated that we would solve them over night because these problems weren’t created overnight.  But the trajectory of the country at this point is sound.

The question is, in 2012 does it continue?  And, frankly, we’ve got another party that — how will I say this charitably — (laughter) — in the past I think has been willing at times  to put country ahead of party, but I’d say over the last couple of years, has not.  Everything has become politicized, from the most modest appointment to getting judges on the bench, to trying to make sure the economy grows — everything has been looked at through a political lens.  And that is what people are tired of. And, frankly, that’s the reason that Congress right now is polling at 9 percent.

People want Washington to work on behalf of the American people, not on behalf of folks in Washington and special interests.  And that has been a great challenge.  This election in 2012 is going to pose a decision for the American people in terms of what direction we want to go in.  There’s fundamental differences in terms of direction.

Their view is that less regulation, a shriveled government that is not doing much for people in terms of giving them a ladder up into the middle class, that that’s their best vision; that we don’t invest in science, that we don’t invest in education, that we don’t invest in infrastructure and transportation — all the things that made us a great power, they seem willing to abandon for ideological reasons.

And I was so moved listening to Jack’s story, because Jack is exactly right — his story is our story.  It’s my story; it’s your story.  At some point our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents came to this country seeking opportunity.  And they had to work hard; they had to hold themselves personally responsible, they had to take risks.  But they also knew that there was a country here where if you did try hard, then somebody might give you a little bit of help; that we were in it together, there were ladders of opportunity that existed.

And that’s what we have to rebuild for the 21st century.  And that requires us to make some decisions about, are we going to have the best schools in this country, are we going to have the best infrastructure, are we going to do what it takes, so these guys end up being part of an America where everybody can still make it if they try; regardless of whether they came from Russia, or they came from Poland, or they came from Mexico, or they came from Kenya, that they’re going to have a chance to succeed, and live out the same kind of dreams that the Rosen family has been able to live out.

Our kids are going to be fine.  And I always tell Malia and Sasha, look, you guys, I don’t worry about you — I mean, I worry the way parents worry — but they’re on a path that is going to be successful, even if the country as a whole is not successful. But that’s not our vision of America.  I don’t want an America where my kids are living behind walls and gates, and can’t feel a part of a country that is giving everybody a shot.

And that’s what we’re fighting for.  That’s what 2012 is going to be all about.  And I’m going to need your help to do it. (Applause.)

So, thank you, very much.  (Applause.)

END
6:27 P.M. EST

Israel Political Brief December 1, 2011: Obama touts his pro-Israel credentials at campaign event

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Obama touts his pro-Israel credentials

Source: JTA, 12-1-11

President Obama said his administration had done more than any other to help Israel.

“I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more for the security of the State of Israel than any previous administration,” Obama said Wednesday during a campaign fundraiser at the New York home of Jack Rosen,  chairman of the American Council for World Jewry and a former president of the American Jewish Congress.

“We don’t compromise when it comes to Israel’s security,” the Democratic president said. “And that will continue.” He referred to Israel as the most important ally of the United States.

Obama, who is running for re-election in 2012, has been dogged by criticism of his Middle East diplomacy, especially by pro-Israel activists who believe he erred in pressuring the Netanyahu administration over West Bank settlement-building.

Israel Political Brief December 1, 2011: Gilad Shalit recovering well, his grandfather says

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Shalit recovering well, his grandfather says

Source: JTA, 12-1-11

Gilad Shalit has recovered from the physical ordeal of his Gaza captivity, his grandfather said.

Tzvi Shalit met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to update him on the rehabilitation of the Israeli soldier who was seized by Hamas-led gunmen in 2006 and kept incommunicado until his release as part of an Egyptian-brokered prisoner swap in October.

“Gilad has put on weight.  He really is back to normal,”  Netanyahu’s office quoted Shalit’s grandfather as telling the prime minister.

“You saved my grandson for me.  In the current situation in the region, it would have been impossible to return him.”

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