Full Text Israel Political Brief September 16, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu to visit US President Barack Obama at the White House on November 9

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Statement by the Press Secretary on the Visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Source: WH, 9-16-15

President Obama on November 9, 2015 will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. The President looks forward to discussing with the Prime Minister regional security issues, including implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to peacefully and verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and countering Tehran’s destabilizing activities. The President also looks forward to discussing Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, the situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the need for the genuine advancement of a two-state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel as well as the unprecedented security cooperation, including our close consultations to further enhance Israel’s security.

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 11, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement marking anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks transcript

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PM Netanyahu’s statement marking anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks

Source: MFA, 9-11-15
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Friday, 11 September 2015), made the following statement:
“The Government and people of Israel stand with the United States of America in marking 14 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
As we remember those who perished, we remain committed to fighting the forces of militant Islam that have caused so much death and destruction both before and since that terrible day. Our commitment is matched only by our conviction that we will prevail.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 10, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Meets with British PM David Cameron Remarks Transcript

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PM Netanyahu Meets with British PM David Cameron

Source: PMO, 9-10-15

Following is an excerpt from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the start of his meeting in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron:

“I look forward to discussing with you everything you mentioned – three specific areas; First security. The Middle East is disintegrating under the twin forces of militant Islam: The militant Sunnis led by ISIS and the militant Shiites led by Iran. And I believe that we can cooperate in practical ways to roll back the tide of militant Islam both in the Middle East and in Africa altogether.

Secondly, and no less important, peace. I want to say here in 10 Downing Street, and reaffirm again that I am ready to resume direct negotiations with the Palestinians with no conditions whatsoever to enter negotiations, and I’m willing to do so immediately.

The third point is technology – the future belongs to those who innovate. Britain and Israel are two great centers of technology. Israel is a global hub of innovation, especially in cyber security. And I think that if we pool our resources together we can offer a better future and great prosperity.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 3, 2015: President Reuven Rivlin welcomed to Vatican meets Pope Francis

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President Rivlin welcomed to Vatican

Source: MFA, 9-3-15


The President expressed his distress over the wave of anti-Semitism which has swept the world. The Pope agreed with the President on the issue, noting that those who seek to threaten Israel’s existence are rooted in anti-Semitism.
President Rivlin meets with Pope Francis
Copyright: GPO/Haim Zach
(Communicated by the President’s Spokesperson)

President Reuven Rivlin this morning (Thursday, September 3) visited the Vatican and held a private meeting with Pope Francis. He was welcomed to the Vatican in an official reception which included a traditional honor guard of the Vatican’s Swiss Guard and then received by Prefect of the Papal Household, Msgr. Georg Gänswein, before going on to hold a private meeting with Pope Francis. Afterwards President Rivlin met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Full Text Israel Political Brief August 29, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu meets Italian PM Matteo Renzi transcript

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PM Netanyahu meets Italian PM Matteo Renzi

Source: PMO, 8-29-15

Italy, Benjamin Netanyahu
Our common civilization today is under threat from militant Islam and the savagery of the Islamic State of ISIS. But I believe that a far more serious threat is posed by the Islamic State of Iran, and specifically its pursuit of nuclear weapons.


PM Netanyahu meets Italian PM Matteo Renzi
PM Netanyahu meets Italian PM Matteo Renzi
Copyright: GPO/Kobi Gideon
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening (Saturday, 29 August 2015), met with Italian Prime Matteo Renzi and told him at the start of their meeting:

Thank you, my good friend Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

I want to thank you for the extraordinary hospitality you’ve shown me and my wife and my delegation. And I have to tell you that your visit to Israel made a great impression. All the people of Israel were moved by your historic speech in the Knesset. I’ve heard many speeches in the Knesset. Yours was one of the exceptional ones that touched on basic truths that bind our two countries and our common civilization.

Equally, I was enormously impressed by my visit to the Milan Expo. It’s a testament to the creativity of the people of Italy and to your leadership. And I look forward to discussing with you this evening how we can further expand the cooperation between Israel and Italy in technology, in agriculture, in culture and science, in fighting terrorism, in security and stability for our world.

There is a simple rule that is absolutely critical for the future of our societies. The future belongs to those who innovate.

Italy has always been at the forefront of creativity. You only need to stand in this amazing hall next to the paintings of Vasari and the statues of Michelangelo to understand how creative and how powerful Italy has been over the centuries and today.

Israel in turn is a global hub of technology. And I think that together we can innovate more than separate, both for the benefit of our two peoples, but also for the benefit of other peoples. Specifically we discussed in Israel and I hope we’ll continue this tonight, how we can expand our cooperation in African countries that yearn for our expertise.

It’s a great pleasure for me to visit you in your home town of Florence. I think the first time we met, you came as Mayor of Florence, and Florence is clearly one of the world’s most magnificent cities. It has left an indelible mark on our common civilization.

That civilization today is under threat from militant Islam. The savagery of the Islamic State of ISIS captures the world’s attention, and justifiably so.

But I believe that a far more serious threat is posed by another Islamic state, the Islamic State of Iran, and specifically its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Let me make clear, Matteo, that Israel doesn’t oppose a civilian nuclear program in Iran. We oppose a military nuclear program in Iran.

And regrettably, the deal with Iran allows it to keep and expand a formidable nuclear infrastructure that is completely unnecessary for civilian nuclear purposes, but is entirely necessary for the production of nuclear weapons. The deal will give Iran within 13 years the ability to make as many centrifuges as they want, enrich as much uranium as they want to whatever level that they want. And this will put the Iranian Islamic state that practices terrorism worldwide, it will put it on the threshold of an entire nuclear arsenal.

But well before that, Iran will get hundreds of billions of dollars of sanctions relief and investments to fuel its aggression and terrorism in the Middle East, in North Africa and beyond that. I think that this will make Iran far richer and far stronger militarily, and it will make it far more difficult to confront its nuclear ambitions in the future.

Prime Minister, Matteo, today your country and all of Europe face a wave of increasing illegal immigration. Thousands upon thousands flee the horrors of militant Islamic terrorism in Libya, across the Middle East and in Africa. This is a great tragedy and a great challenge.

We both want to see greater security in the Mediterranean region and beyond. We are committed to building a better world where our children can enjoy peace and prosperity. And I believe this is what the people of Israel and the people of Italy expect from us both. And this is what we shall discuss in the spirit of the wonderful and growing friendship between us. I believe we can help each other. I believe we can help Italy and Israel. I believe that together, we can help the world.

And I want to thank you once again for…well, it’s a warm friendship and a warm greeting. I didn’t expect it to be this warm, but it is extraordinary and your city is extraordinary. Thank you, thank you, Matteo, and thank you all. Thank you.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief August 4, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Appoints Fiamma Nirenstein as Ambassador to Italy

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PM Netanyahu Appoints Fiamma Nirenstein as Ambassador to Italy

Source: PMO, 8-10-15
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to appoint Fiamma Nirenstein as Ambassador to Italy. She is a former member of the Italian Parliament, a member of European Friends of Israel and a founding member of the Friends of Israel Initiative. In 2011, she was elected Chairperson of the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians.

She has published ten books in Italian and two in English. She moved to Israel in 2013 and received Israeli citizenship. Upon her appointment as Ambassador to Italy, she will renounce her Italian citizenship.

Prime Minister Netanyahu: “I am convinced that Fiamma Nirenstein will bring with her to the position her considerable diplomatic and political experience, and will succeed in deepening relations between Israel and Italy, our close friend, including in the diplomatic, economic, cultural and security spheres. The connection between Jerusalem and Rome is over 2,000 years old. I am pleased to send Fiamma Nirenstein to strengthen this link.”

Fiamma Nirenstein: “I am happy to accept this mission that the Prime Minister has set before me, to strengthen relations between Israel and Italy. I promised the Prime Minister that I would do everything in my ability to strengthen the brave links between the two countries.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief August 4, 2015: PM Netanyahu’s Address to the Jewish Federations of North America Trab

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PM Netanyahu’s Address to the Jewish Federations of North America

Source: PMO, 8-4-15

Following is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to the Jewish federations of North America:

Thank you.

It’s good to be with you today.

I want to thank our hosts, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents.

And I want to thank all of you for taking the time in the middle of a busy day.

Our time today is short, so I’d like to get right to the point.

I want to talk with you about three fatal flaws in the nuclear deal with Iran.

And I also want to dispel some of the misinformation and, regrettably I have to say, the disinformation about the deal and about Israel’s position.

I want to answer some of your important questions.

The most important point I have to make today is this:

The nuclear deal with Iran doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb.

It actually paves Iran’s path to the bomb.

Worse, it gives Iran two paths to the bomb.

Iran can get to the bomb by keeping the deal or Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.

First let’s understand how Iran gets to the bomb by keeping the deal.

See, the deal allows Iran to maintain and eventually expand a vast and increasingly sophisticated nuclear infrastructure.

This infrastructure is unnecessary for civilian nuclear energy, but it’s entirely necessary for nuclear weapons.

Astonishingly, the deal gives Iran’s illicit nuclear program full international legitimacy.

If Iran keeps the deal, in a decade or so – at most 15 years – the main restrictions on this vast nuclear program will expire. They’ll just end.

The deal’s limitations on the number of centrifuges Iran has and on the quantity of uranium Iran enriches, those restrictions will be lifted.

And at that point Iran will be able to produce the enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and it could produce that arsenal very quickly.

After 15 years, Iran’s breakout time will be practically zero, just a few days.

I think President Obama said as much in an interview with NPR.

By keeping the deal Iran will become a threshold nuclear weapons power.

The deal does make it harder for Iran to produce one or two nuclear weapons in the short term.

But it does so at a terrible price.

Because the deal makes it far easier for Iran to build dozens, even hundreds of nuclear weapons in a little over a decade.

Now, 10 to 15 years pass in no time.

I think it was like yesterday and I remember this very well, all those preparations for the Y2K bug and the celebrations of the new millennium.

That was 15 years ago. It’s a blink of an eye.

We’re told that this deal buys us time, but 10 to 15 years is no time at all.

So by keeping the deal, Iran can get within a decade or so not just to one bomb, but to many bombs.

But Iran has a second path to the bomb, one that would give it a nuclear weapon in far less time.

You see, Iran could violate the deal.

And there’s good reason to think that Iran will do so, that it will cheat.

They’ve done it before. They’ll do it again.

Now, people don’t really contest that, but they argue that Iran will be prevented from cheating because we’ll have good intelligence and unprecedented inspections.

Well, let me start with intelligence.

I have the greatest respect for Israel’s intelligence capabilities.

I have the greatest respect for the intelligence services of the United States and Great Britain.

But it has to be said honestly. For years none of us discovered the massive underground nuclear facilities Iran was building at Fordo and at Natanz.

For years none of us discovered that the Syrians were building a nuclear reactor for plutonium production.

So I can tell you from experience, it’s very precarious to bet the deal’s success on intelligence.

Now what about inspections?

Neither intelligence nor inspections prevented North Korea from building atomic bombs despite assurances that they wouldn’t be able to do so.

And while the deal with Iran allows for ongoing inspections of Iran’s declared sites, what about Iran’s secret nuclear activities?

See, under the deal, if a facility is suspected of housing a hidden nuclear activity, inspectors must wait at least 24 days – that’s 24 days! – before getting access to those suspected sites.

Not only that, the inspectors must first share with Iran the critical intelligence that led them to suspect these sites in the first place. That’s actually astounding.

Some have said that 24 days is not long enough to conceal evidence of illicit nuclear activity.

But as leading experts have pointed out, 24 days is more than enough time to clean up a site of all traces of illicit activity.

It’s like the police giving a drug dealer three and a half weeks’ notice before raiding his lab.

Believe me, you can flush a lot of nuclear meth down the toilet in 24 days.

I’ve heard the claim that the deal blocks Iran’s covert path to the bomb.

But no matter how good your intelligence is, no one can credibly make such a claim.

How can you block what you don’t know?

So Iran can keep the deal or Iran can cheat on the deal.

Either way the deal gives Iran a clear path to the bomb, a difficult path to one or two bombs today and a much easier path to hundreds of bombs tomorrow.

Now, here’s the thing – everybody in the Middle East knows what I’ve just said.

And the countries in the region threatened by Iran have already made clear that they will work to develop atomic bombs of their own.

So the deal that was supposed to end nuclear proliferation will actually trigger nuclear proliferation. It will trigger an arms race, a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, the most volatile part of the planet.

That’s a real nightmare!

But the deal’s dangers don’t end there.

See, the deal gives Iran also a massive infusion of cash and Iran will use this cash to fund its aggression in the region and its terrorism around the world.

As a result of this deal, there’ll be more terrorism.

There will be more attacks.

And more people will die.

It’s been said that most of the money that Iran will get will not go to Iran’s terrorism and aggression.

Well, let’s suppose that’s true.

Let’s suppose that Iran just takes 10% of the money for terrorism.

That’s 10% of nearly half a trillion dollars that Iran is expected to receive over the next 10 to 15 years. That’s a staggering amount of money.

And that would turn any terrorist group sponsored by Iran into a terrorist superpower.

So for all these reasons –

Iran’s two paths to the bomb and the cash jackpot Iran stands to receive –

For all these reasons, this is a very dangerous deal, and it threatens all of us.

My solemn responsibility as Prime Minister is to make sure that Israel’s concerns are heard.

It wasn’t long ago, certainly not that long ago, that the Jewish people were either incapable or unwilling to speak out in the face of mortal threats, and this had devastating consequences.

I’ve been very clear – the days when the Jewish people could not or would not speak up for themselves, those days are over.

Today we can speak out. Today we must speak out.

And we must do so together.

Here in Israel, Isaac Herzog, the Leader of the Labor Opposition, the man who ran against me in this year’s election and who works every day in the Knesset to bring down my government, Herzog has said that there is no daylight between us when it comes to the deal with Iran.

This is simply not a partisan issue in Israel.

Sure, some people disagree, but overwhelmingly across the political spectrum, a huge majority of Israelis oppose the deal.

So this is not a partisan issue in Israel.

It shouldn’t be a partisan issue in the United States either.

Nor is it a personal issue.

This isn’t about me.

And it’s not about President Obama.

It’s about the deal.

I’m asking you to rise above partisan politics as we in Israel have risen above it.

Judge the deal on its substance and on its substance alone.

The more people know about the deal, the more they oppose it.

And the more people know about the deal, the more the deal’s supporters try to stifle serious debate. They do so with false claims and efforts to delegitimize criticism.

Yet there’s one claim that is the most outrageous: that those who oppose this deal want war.

That’s utterly false.

We in Israel don’t want war. We want peace. Because it’s we who are on the front lines.

We face Iran’s terror on three borders. We face tens of thousands of Iranian rockets aimed at all our cities. We face Iran, whose regime repeatedly calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

We face Iran whose terrorist proxies try to kill Jews every day.

We know that Iran is not only the leading state sponsor of terrorism, it’s also the leading state sponsor of anti-Semitism.

Israelis are going to be the ones who pay the highest price if there’s war and if Iran gets the bomb.

The claim that we oppose this deal because we want war is not just false. It’s outrageous.

Israel wants to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program and Israel wants peace. This deal will advance neither goal.

I don’t oppose this deal because I want war.

I oppose this deal because I want to prevent war, and this deal will bring war.

It will spark a nuclear arms race in the region and it would feed Iran’s terrorism and aggression. That would make war, perhaps the most horrific war of all, far more likely.

Don’t let the deal’s supporters quash a real debate.

The issue here is too important.

Don’t let them take your voice away at this critical moment in history.

What we do now will affect our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren – in Israel, in America, everywhere.

This is a time to stand up and be counted.

Oppose this dangerous deal.

Thank you.

Full Text Israel Political Brief July 2, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks on the Passing of Sir Nicholas Winton, the British Schindler Transcript

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PM Netanyahu’s Remarks on the Passing of Sir Nicholas Winton

Source: PMO, 7-2-15

Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks on the passing of Sir Nicholas Winton:

“The Jewish people and the State of Israel owe an eternal debt to Nicholas Winton who singlehandedly saved hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazis.

In a world plagued by evil and indifference, Winton dedicated himself to saving the innocent and the defenseless. His exceptional moral leadership serves as an example to all humanity.

Nicholas Winton will forever be remembered by us with the deepest admiration and gratitude. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

 

Full Text Israel Political Brief July 1, 2015: PM Netanyahu’s Address at US Independence Day Celebrations at the US Ambassador’s Residence

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PM Netanyahu’s Address at US Independence Day Celebrations at the US Ambassador’s Residence

Source: PMO, 7-1-15

Sara and I are delighted to be with all of you. This is a great day because on the 4th of July, all Israelis unite with our American brothers and sisters. It’s our celebration too. That’s because the history of our two countries is remarkably intertwined. The Founding Fathers of America were inspired by the Bible, and specifically by the Book of the Exodus, by the dream of building freedom in a new Promised Land. And as you stand in the Chamber of the American Congress, you see right across you the image of one man – Moses, with a quote from the Bible.

And since the establishment of the United States, that’s two and a half centuries, the vision of justice and the vision of peace espoused by the Prophets of Israel served as a guiding light for Americans from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King to many others seeking to form a more perfect union.

But just as our heritage inspired America, America inspired us. If you read the Founding Fathers of Zionism, you see how powerful and inspirational the American Revolution was – the ideas of freedom and liberty. They reverberated everywhere for people seeking liberty, but they reverberated powerfully for the Zionist movement and the ideas of reestablishing our land, our promise, our justice here.

Zionism has always been about freedom, about national freedom, the Jewish people returning to our ancestral homeland to rebuild our one and only sovereign state. But it’s also been about personal freedom. We built the State of Israel on the same democratic foundations upon which the United States was built.

And what a remarkable foundation it’s proven to be.

The Middle East is plagued by tyranny. Majorities are oppressed. Minorities are persecuted. Women are subjugated. Gays are lynched. The press, if there is any, is muzzled.

Yet in this turbulent and violent Middle East, Israel stands out as a beacon of freedom and human rights, with unfailing constancy, an island of democracy in a sea of despotism.

The Middle East is imploding all around us. States that have existed for a century are disintegrating. The forces of militant Islam are rushing to fill the void, the militant Sunnis led by ISIS, the militant Shiites led by Iran.

Iran conducts a campaign of aggression in the region and terrorism worldwide. It seeks to build nuclear weapons to advance its mission to export the Islamic revolution, so they say, around the globe. For the mullahs that rule Tehran, Israel is the small Satan and America is the great Satan. They say, Dan, we are you and you are us. And you know something? On this, they are absolutely right. We stand with America. America stands with us.

Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon, Iran’s worldwide campaign of terrorism and aggression must be stopped. So too must the campaign of ISIS, whose savagery is now sweeping the Middle East. We ourselves have felt the reverberations of Islamist terrorism in the last few days. Today I visited the hospital of those Israelis wounded – remarkable heroism shown by a young woman and by a young man. And we grieve for the loss of a brilliant, brilliant young Malachi. We suffer those pains and we see that that terrorism is not only exploding within our own country. We see ISIS at the gates – across the border in the Golan, across the border in Egypt. We send our condolences to the government and people of Egypt for the fallen Egyptians slain by ISIS terror.

We must stand up to all the forces of militant Islam, those led by Iran, those led by ISIS. We should not strengthen one or the other. We should weaken both of them. And as we do this, we will continue our quest for a durable and secure peace with the Palestinians, mindful that we must not let militant Islam gain another foothold.

My friends,

The values we share are at the heart of the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel. Dan, we are family. Let me translate. We are mishpucha. And we are partners.

I take this opportunity to once again express my appreciation to President Obama, the United States Congress and the people of America. I want to thank them for their continual support of the State of Israel. Across the length and breadth of the United States, Americans of all stripes stand with the Jewish state. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again tonight: Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel.

On this day that celebrates freedom both of us know this: Neither one of us can take life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness for granted. Americans and Israelis have paid a high price to protect these sacred principles. We are stronger when we face our great challenges together.

And today the bells of freedom ring across America. They ring loud in Israel too. May we always cherish our freedom. May we always cherish our friendship.

On behalf of all Israelis, I wish all Americans a happy 4th of July. God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America.

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 26, 2015: Israeli response to Vatican recognition of Palestinian Authority as a state

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Israeli response to Vatican recognition of PA as a state

Source: MFA, 6-26-15

Israel cannot accept the unilateral determinations in the agreement which do not take into account Israel’s essential interests and the special historic status of the Jewish people in Jerusalem.

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its regret regarding the Vatican decision to officially recognize the Palestinian Authority as a state, in the agreement signed on Friday (June 26, 2015). This hasty step damages the prospects for advancing a peace agreement and harms the international effort to convince the PA to return to direct negotiations with Israel.

We also regret the one-sided texts in the agreement which ignore the historic rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and to the places holy to Judaism in Jerusalem. Israel cannot accept the unilateral determinations in the agreement which do not take into account Israel’s essential interests and the special historic status of the Jewish people in Jerusalem.

Israel will study the agreement in detail, and its implications for future cooperation between Israel and the Vatican.

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 22, 2015: Israeli response to the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry

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Israeli response to the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry

Source: MFA, 6-22-15
It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted. This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate.
The 2014 Gaza Conflict: Factual and Legal Aspects – The Full Report

Israel is studying the Commission of Inquiry Report (COI) from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHRC). However, some initial comments can be made about the COI process in general:

1) It is well known that the entire process that led to the production of this report was politically motivated and morally flawed from the outset. Just as Israel seriously considered every complaint, no matter its origin, it will also seriously study this report. We take note of the fact that the authors of this report admitted that they lacked much of the relevant information.

It is regrettable that the report fails to recognize the profound difference between Israel’s moral behavior during Operation Protective Edge and the terror organizations it confronted.

2) This report was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution, given an obviously biased mandate, and initially headed by a grossly biased chairperson, William Schabas. The UNHRC has a singular obsession with Israel, passing more country specific resolutions against Israel than against Syria, Iran and North Korea combined – in fact, more than against all other countries combined. The commission of inquiry’s mandate presumed Israel guilty from the start and its original chairman, William Schabas, was compelled to resign due to a blatant conflict of interest (paid work for the Palestinians), which he concealed from the United Nations.

3) The COI also lacked the necessary tools and expertise to conduct a professional and serious examination of armed conflict situations.

Israel will consider the report in light of these essential failings. It would encourage all fair-minded observers to do the same.

4) Israel is a democracy committed to the rule of law, forced to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists who commit a double war crime: They indiscriminately target Israeli civilians while deliberately endangering Palestinian civilians, including children, by using them as human shields.

5) In defending itself against attacks, Israel’s military acted according to the highest international standards. This was confirmed by a comprehensive examination by Israeli military and legal experts, as well as reports produced by internationally renowned military professionals.

6) Israel will continue to uphold its commitment to the law of armed conflict despite the brutal tactics of its enemies. Israel will continue to investigate alleged wrongdoing in accordance with international standards and to cooperate with those UN bodies that conduct themselves in an objective, fair and professional manner.
See: The 2014 Gaza Conflict: Factual and Legal Aspects – THE FULL REPORT

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 22, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Statement on the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry report

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Statement by PM Netanyahu on the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry report

Source: MFA, 6-22-15
Israel does not commit war crimes. Israel is defending itself from a murderous terrorist organization that calls for its destruction and which has perpetrated many war crimes. We will not sit, and have not sat, idly by.
Israel will continue to uphold its commitment to the laws of armed conflict despite the brutal tactics of its enemies, and it will continue to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing in accordance with highest international standards.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Monday, 22 June 2015), at the Knesset, issued the following statement:
“The report on Operation Protective Edge issued by the commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council is biased. The commission that wrote this report was appointed by a council that calls itself the ‘Human Rights Council.’ In effect, it does everything but look after human rights. This is a body that condemns Israel more than Iran, Syria and North Korea combined. It first appointed to head the commission a man who was caught inciting against the State of Israel and who also took money from the Palestinians. It first began to investigate events in the region from the day after – the day after – the kidnapping of the three youths, who were murdered. It is on this basis that one needs to consider its findings, conclusions and recommendations.
Israel is defending itself and is doing so in accordance with international law. We are not the only ones who say this. Last week we issued a detailed, professional report that evaluated our actions, in accordance with international law, against terrorists that fire at civilians and hide behind civilians. This is also backed up by the report issued by senior US and European generals who claimed, and reached the conclusion, that Israel defended itself in accordance with the standards of international law. But they say, ‘above and beyond’. One of the senior generals said that there is no country that acted like the State of Israel and went beyond the letter of the law to observe international law.
Israel does not commit war crimes. Israel is defending itself from a murderous terrorist organization that calls for its destruction and which has perpetrated many war crimes. Any country that wants to live would have acted this way. But the commission expects a country, the citizens of which have been attacked by thousands of missiles, to sit idly by. We will not sit, and have not sat, idly by. We will continue to take strong and determined action against all those who try to attack us and our citizens, and we will do so in accordance with international law.”

* * *
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued the following statement today (Monday, 22 June 2015):
“Israel is a democracy committed to the rule of law. Time and again it is forced to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists who commit a double war crime: They deliberately target civilians while deliberately hiding behind Palestinian civilians. The Palestinian civilians they use as human shields include children, and they deliberately target our civilians while deliberately putting their civilians in harm’s way.
In defending itself against such attacks, Israel’s military acted, and acts, according to the highest international standards.
The report in hand was commissioned by a notoriously biased institution; it was given an obviously biased mandate; it was initially headed by a grossly biased chairperson who received money from the Palestinians and was forced to resign.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has a singular obsession with Israel. It has passed more resolutions against Israel than against Syria, North Korea and Iran combined. In fact, it has passed more resolutions against Israel that against all the countries of the world combined.
So, Israel treats this report as flawed and biased, and it urges all fair-minded observers to do the same. Such fair-minded observers recently investigated Israel’s conduct in the Gaza campaign. They include senior generals from the United States and NATO countries. They found that not only did Israel uphold the highest standards of international law, in the laws of armed conflict, they said that Israel exceeded the highest standards.
Israel will continue to uphold its commitment to the laws of armed conflict despite the brutal tactics of its enemies, and it will continue to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing in accordance with highest international standards.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 21, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu remarks meeting with French FM Fabius rejects France’s Palestinian peace initiative

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PM Netanyahu meets with French FM Fabius

Source: MFA, 6-21-15

Peace will only come from direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions. It will not come from UN resolutions that are sought to be imposed from the outside. President Abbas believes he can avoid such direct negotiations.
PM Netanyahu meets with French FM Fabius

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today (Sunday, 21 June 2015), met with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and told him at the start of their meeting:

“Mr. Foreign Minister, the history of the French and Jewish people is long and interconnected. It was the French Revolution that brought about the emancipation of French Jews, and it gained them full civic rights. And Jews began to participate in French life in all areas: In culture and literature, in economics, in politics. We were inspired in many ways by the principles of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité.’ Theodor Herzl and the founding fathers of Zionism drew much inspiration from the experience of France.

France was also our closest ally in the formative years of the state. We will never forget the crucial support that was offered to us in times of need. And I believe today France also has a crucial role to play. We urge France to stand firm and prevent a bad deal that will pave Iran’s path to the bomb.

The new US State Department report on Iranian involvement in terrorism is another wake-up call. Iran’s subversion and aggression is rampant, both in and beyond the Middle East. Its terror network now encompasses over 30 countries in many continents. And under the imminent nuclear agreement, Iran will not only receive a clear path to nuclear weapons, it will also receive many, many billions of dollars, enabling it to upgrade its terrorism worldwide and of course its aggression in the region.

Mr. Minister, today in Jerusalem a Palestinian terrorist brutally stabbed a policeman. On Friday a Palestinian terrorist shot dead an Israeli citizen. Not only has the Palestinian Authority refused to condemn these acts of violence, it continues unabashedly with its campaign of incitement against Israel and Israel’s civilians. Official Palestinian propagation of violence and hatred are par for the course. It must be unequivocally condemned by all those who seek to advance peace.

Six years ago at Bar-Ilan University I laid out my vision of peace based on two states for two peoples. In this vision, a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state. And while I place no conditions on entering talks, I know that the twin foundations of peace are mutual recognition and security. Mutual recognition means that the Palestinians must finally recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. I find it frankly inconceivable that while the Palestinians expect us to recognize a Palestinian nation-state, they refuse to accord us the same privilege, recognizing a Jewish nation-state. And if they continue to refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state, what kind of peace are they offering us?

I think the other pillar, the need for security, is self-evident for anyone that follows developments in this region. The Middle East is undergoing a period of unprecedented volatility and violence. States that have existed for almost a century are disintegrating before our eyes. And Islamist extremists are rushing to fill up the vacuum. ISIS leads the Sunni radicals. Iran heads the Shiite militants. And Israel faces terrorist armies amassed on our borders in the North and in the South.

A peace that isn’t anchored in iron-clad security arrangements on the ground, in which Israel can defend itself, such a peace will simply not survive and we will not agree to it. Our concerns are not pretexts or excuses. They are genuine. A peace deal that ignores these realities will be swept away by the winds of extremism and violence that blow throughout the Middle East.

Mr. Foreign Minister, peace will only come from direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions. It will not come from UN resolutions that are sought to be imposed from the outside. President Abbas believes he can avoid such direct negotiations. He wants to avoid the give and take of negotiations. And why does he go that route? Because even though the Palestinians ran away from the negotiations again and again and again, it is Israel that is being blamed.

Last year, the Palestinians slammed the door on Secretary Kerry’s framework for negotiations. They slammed the door on Prime Minister Barak. They slammed the door on Prime Minister Sharon. They slammed the door on Prime Minister Olmert. They slammed the door on me.

They attempt to impose terms on Israel, but they will fail. And this attempt will not merely fail, it will drive peace away. First, Israel will resist the imposition of terms from the outside. And second, the Palestinians will never agree to negotiate if they think the international community will give them what they want without negotiations. I think there is no magic shortcut. Peace demands a commitment to direct negotiations without preconditions. Peace demands a sustained effort to overcome obstacles. I am ready for such an effort.”

The Prime Minister also said: “We’ve been informed by the Government of Egypt that it is dispatching an ambassador to Israel. This is an important piece of news. We appreciate it. It’s something that has been, that is deeply welcomed in Israel and I think it’s very good for cementing the peace that exists between Egypt and Israel.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 18, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Address at the 2015 Genesis Prize Ceremony honoring Actor Michael Douglas

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Address by PM Netanyahu at the 2015 Genesis Prize Ceremony

Source: PMO, 6-18-15

Tonight we’re all here to honor the Genesis Laureate of 2015, Michael Douglas. And this morning Sara and I and our son Yair had the pleasure of hosting, welcoming Michael, his wife Catherine and his two children, Dylan and Carys. What a beautiful family.

I was always impressed with Michael and Catherine because they’re great actors, which means they’re great artists. And to borrow a phrase, which I did, from one of your father’s movies – you too cast a giant shadow over your profession and set a standard for all actors to follow.

In fact on the way over here, Michael and I were talking and I asked him: You remember that movie? You remember that movie in the jungle? You remember those movies. How can you forget them? They’re unforgettable, because you and Catherine are unforgettable actors.

There are two other unforgettable people who loom large in our people’s story and they’re my two close friends, the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky and the Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein.

You know, we always ask in Israel when we meet somebody, we say: So, what did you do in the army? Because it sort of tells you – I’m talking about politicians now – it sort of tells you what did you do before you started wearing masks, because politics always involves that to a certain extent.

Yuli and Natan before they came into politics, they were in prison in the Soviet Union. They fought for freedom. They came here and they deserve the prominence and respect that they have in Israel and around the world. I salute you both.

And I want to take this opportunity to thank Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Kahn for your dedication and for your commitment, for your generosity. And to you, Stan Polovets, the Chairman and CEO of the Genesis Prize. Thank you for everything you’re doing, Stan.

And thanks too to Len Blavatnik who participates in this project.

And thank you to all the members of the Selection and Prize Committee, thank you.

The Prime Minister’s Office, the Jewish Agency and the Genesis Prize Foundation have united around this important project, and if I had to summarize in one word what it is that we’re trying to foster, that word is pride – pride in the Jewish people, pride in the Jewish state. And there is much to be proud of, because the Jewish people are remarkable in so many ways. Not only because we brought the Book of Books, the idea of monotheism, the prophetic ideas of salvation and human rights and the equality of all people under God. But also because after about 1,500 years where we did all that in this land, we were dispersed to the far corners of the earth, which is not unique, it happened to many peoples, in fact it happened to a majority of the peoples in antiquity. They were dispersed, they were gone, they lost their identity and disappeared. This is actually the most common thing that happened to the peoples of the past.

The one thing that is unique about the Jewish people is that having been dispersed, they refused to disappear. And they kept saying year after year for two millennia, they kept saying: We’ll be back. It sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger. We’ll be back. We’ll be back in the Jerusalem, back in the land of Zion, back in the Land of Israel, and this seemed an impossible dream. But we did achieve it. That return and the ingathering of the exiles, and this dawns on you on special occasions and I was once a soldier and we marched through the Judean desert, we just covered the whole thing, and it was a hot day and you wait to get to the end point in the evening and the end point was foothills of Masada.

Now, it’s hard to have a sense of elation when your muscles are strained, your feet are sore, you’re covered with sweat, and yet I remember in that night looking up to that mountain where the last remnants of Jewish resistance were defeated by the Romans in 73 CE. That’s almost 2,000 years ago, and we were demolished. I was standing exhausted in this place where our people were supposed to be exhausted, finished, dead, dispersed, gone, and I was standing there, a soldier in the army of Israel, the army of the Jewish state, and I look at that mountain top and I think of the Roman commander Silva and I said, I actually said this: Silva, we’re back! We came back.

When we came back, we climbed so many mountains, we crossed so many deserts, and we created a country like no other. It’s a country that though beleaguered has created these amazing things – technology, you got your cell phone? You have Israel in your palm. So many applications, so many innovations. You drink a glass of water, not only in Israel but in many countries now, you’re drinking the product of Israeli technology and number one in recycling. I was in China with President Xi and they said: We want to have your dairy industry. They drink a lot of milk in China. And I said: Well, that’s a very good choice because you know which cow produces more milk per cow than any other cow? You think it’s a Dutch cow or French cow? No, it’s a Jewish cow. It’s a computerized cow. Every moo is computerized. And the same is true with water. Hundreds of millions around the world are enjoying the products of Israeli innovation. That’s the old problem that we’ve solved with the new techniques.

But there’s a new problem that we’re solving, and that’s the problem with cyber security. You need it. You can’t have the geometric growth of the internet economy without having cyber protection.

And the other day, as I told Michael this morning, in fact last week the Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, visited my office and he says: Israel is number one, number one digital powerhouse in the world. I said: Eric, aren’t you exaggerating a bit? He said: No, I’ll be precise. In absolute measures that I make, you’re number two after Silicone Valley, after Cambridge, MAS and after Cambridge, England. Sorry, before Cambridge MAS, before Cambridge England. Per capita you’re way off the charts, and what you’re doing now in Israel is setting a growth engine for the next 50 years. So Israel is all that, and medicine. A lot of the drugs that people use and the medical applications originate here. So it’s not merely doing good things for us. It’s doing good things for humanity.

Israel is an oasis of technology, of innovation. It’s an oasis of freedom, an oasis of freedom and liberty and life in a region that appears to be a sea of darkness and despotism.

Democracies are tested under fire. And we’ve been tested from day one. But we maintain our values, we’ve built here a rumbustious democracy. Jay, you come to the Knesset for one day, it’ll give you material for a lifetime. This is a democracy where all, Jews and non-Jews alike are equal under the law, in the one and only Jewish state. Jews can come here and live here as free people and they can come here from any part of the world. All Jews can feel at home here. And as Prime Minister of Israel, I’m committed to strengthening the unity of the Jewish people, and I will continue to reject any attempt to divide the Jewish people and to de-legitimize any Jewish community. Everyone is welcome – Reform, Conservative, Orthodox alike. Everyone.

Of course, the greater irony is that Israel, this unbelievably vivid, lively democracy, is the most maligned free society on earth. In the UN Human Rights Council there are more resolutions on Israel – it’s the majority of the resolutions – more than North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Syria combined. And you know, when you face this criticism, this torrent of unfair criticism every day and every hour, it assumes the cache of self-evident truth. That’s what slander always tends to do. And under this attack, you can easily bow your head, but I want to tell you that the days when the Jewish people bow their heads, those days are over.

Since we founded the Jewish state, we resist. It’s not that the attacks on the Jews or their state have ceased with the founding of Israel. It’s that we have the capacity to resist. That’s new, and that’s something that evaded our people for centuries.

And Michael, your father understands this, you understand this, and as I discovered this morning, your son understands this. Like your father, you’ve turned your battles into action. You serve as a UN messenger of peace – that’s the good UN – and on the occasion of Israel’s 50th independence celebrations, you hosted a nationally broadcast television tribute to Israel. You know, our 70th anniversary is coming. I was in the 50th anniversary as prime minister. It may be possible that I’ll be there on the 70th. Why don’t you do it again? And earlier this year, you wrote very movingly in the Los Angeles Times about your son Dylan’s experience with anti-Semitism. This piece created an online sensation and it drew painful attention to a subject many would prefer to sweep under the rug. You publicly denounced anti-Israel groups that call for a boycott of the Jewish state. You correctly described the boycott movement as an ugly cancer. Ugly cancer. For there can be no tolerance for intolerance, for those who dehumanize and vilify the Jewish state. Mind you, we’re not perfect. We have our imperfections. Who doesn’t? But there’s a world of difference between pertinent, legitimate criticism and the kind of vilification that is addressed to Israel every day that is really meant to deny us our right to live as a free people in our land.

And rather than suppressing your Jewish identity, you chose to embrace it. But I think the most moving embrace is the decision to celebrate Dylan’s bar-mitzvah in Israel, and it demonstrates both your commitment to our heritage and to our land, to our country.

So Michael, I wish to applaud you for all your accomplishments, and the impact you will certainly have in your years ahead in fulfilling your role as a Genesis Laureate. I applaud you, Michael, for coming here to Jerusalem, our capital for 3,000 years where we are shaping our future while we remember our past. I applaud you – and I think this the most important thing – for setting an example to Jews everywhere to stand tall and stand proud. Be proud Jews.

Thank you all. Thank you.

Full Text Israel Political Brief May 31, 2015: PM Netanyahu’s Condolences to the Biden Family on the death on Beau Biden

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PM Netanyahu’s Condolences to the Biden Family

Source: PMO, 5-31-15

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his statement at the end of his meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier:

“I would like to offer Israel’s sincere condolences to my good friend Vice President Joe Biden on the passing of his son Beau. Vice President Biden spoke many times to me about Beau over the years, we’ve known each other for many, many years. And in his all too short life, Beau Biden achieved a great deal, and gave so much. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the entire Biden family at this difficult time.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief May 31, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks to Celebrate Israel 2015 in New York

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PM Netanyahu’s remarks to Celebrate Israel 2015 in NY

Source: PMO, 5-31-15
PM Netanyahu’s Greetings to ‘Celebrate Israel 2015 Parade’ in NY:

Our dear friends,
I salute you for saluting Israel.
Israel has no greater friend than America.
America has no greater friend than Israel.
I salute you from Jerusalem, the capital of our people for 3,000 years and the united capital of Israel for the last 48 years.
I send warm greetings to the thousands of you honoring Israel at the 2015 Celebrate Israel Parade.

You have gathered to express your solidarity with the one and only Jewish state. And in so doing, you are sending a powerful message of support for the essential justice of Israel’s cause.
In this turbulent region of the middle east, where countries are imploding, militant Islam runs rampant, terrorists butcher the innocent and human rights are routinely trampled upon, Israel stands out as a beacon of freedom and human rights, as a model of tolerance and diversity and as the one country in which the equal rights of all citizens are fiercely protected under the law.
So as y
ou salute Israel today in the streets of Manhattan, know that you are standing up for what is right and what is just.
Thank you. God bless you.

Full Text Israel Political Brief May 13, 2015: PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Knesset Special Session Marking Victory Over Nazi Germany Day

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PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Knesset Special Session Marking Victory Over Nazi Germany Day

Source: PMO, 5-13-15

-Translation-
Every child in Israel learns the story of Joseph Trumpeldor, whose bravery still serves as an example of sacrifice for one’s country. But anyone who digs deeper into the role played by Jewish fighters in the campaign to defeat Nazi Germany discovers that in the ranks of our people are hundreds of thousands of additional heroes. These courageous fighters, imbued with a sense of mission, were the ones who seven decades ago freed humanity from the bloody nightmare imposed on it during six years of war.

Approximately one and a half million Jewish soldiers were among the ranks of the Allied armies fighting the Nazis. The majority of them served in the Red Army and the American army. Out of half a million Jewish fighters in the Red Army, more than 200,000 men and women died in battle. This is an unbelievable percentage of fallen soldiers by any measure, both in terms of the rate and in terms of the enormous number. Anyone who has been in battle knows how vast that number is. Many of them were young men and women, 17, 18 years old, who said goodbye to their parents before leaving for the front and never saw them again.

The fighting along the long and twisting Eastern Front, in snow, in mud, took place over 1,418 days, from Moscow to Berlin and Prague, and yes, Mr. Speaker, through Stalingrad and Kursk and all those places which echo from the pages of history. For you, they are a part of your personal history. This whole route is littered with your fallen countrymen, buried without a grave or a headstone.

This was not just the collision of tank with tank, submarine with submarine, plane with plane. In numerous cases, the soldiers of the Red Army charged at the Germans with knives, axes, shovels, even pitchforks, and often with bare hands.

The holding actions and the shift to counterattacks between 1942 and 1943 succeeded in shattering the myth of an invincible Nazi army. This is the first stage of any victory – the change, the enemy’s understanding that they are going to lose. And as the war progressed, the Soviet Army landed blow after blow on the Germans. It happened parallel to and at the same time as the attacks by the other Allied armies from the West, including Jewish fighters who landed and fought on the beaches of Normandy, and in all the battles from that point on. This effort pushed the Nazis back and led to their final surrender in May 1945.

Dear veterans, I know your lives were divided in two – before the war and after it. And despite the time that has passed, you can still recall the smallest details of every step, every operation, every battle. Your lives changed beyond recognition during those difficult years. Your remember with great pain your comrades who fell, your loved ones who did not live to see the moment of victory, but at the same time you can hold your heads high because it is thanks to you that the free world survived and that the Jewish people were saved from annihilation.

The historical lesson of what occurred is that radical regimes that call for genocide and seek to invade other countries cannot be conceded to. When faced with the enemies of freedom, enlightenment and progress, one should stand forcefully, in a timely fashion, to prevent them from having the opportunity to make use of destructive tools to realize their murderous aspirations.

The new government that will soon be sworn in will face many challenges – political, military, economic and social, but the ongoing challenge of the Iranian threat will take a central place. Just today the Arab press quoted an Iranian senior official saying that Iran has divine permission to eliminate Israel. He said that even if an agreement is not reached on the nuclear issue, Iran has a holy mission that it will not give up – to destroy the State of Israel. These statements are heard by representatives negotiating with Iran and they continue on as usual.

The Iranian threat does not pass over any of us – Jew and Arab alike. The missiles their Hezbollah proxies fired at us did not distinguish between Jew and Arab in the State of Israel. Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon, while at the same time expanding its tentacles of terror across the Middle East, obligate us to determinedly defend our sovereignty and security.

We do not stand alone against Iran’s fanaticism. There are many countries, even in our immediate surroundings, which correctly see in Iran’s steps the danger to the peace of the world and to their own peace. I believe that here are sown the seeds to expand the circle of parties in our region that will soon extend their hands to us in peace. The horrible damage caused Islamist extremism is clear to everyone. It is time that the moderate countries make their voices heard – to make alliances, to create cooperation, to establish friendly relations and peace.

At the same time, we do not stop in our efforts to warn the world powers that a conciliatory agreement with Iran will turn out to be a mistake that will exact a very heavy cost, and in any event Israel will defend itself by itself against any threat. Unlike in the past, we have the strength to defend ourselves from threats of destruction, those same threats we could not defend ourselves against 70 years ago.

One of the veterans said to me, “In the Soviet Union and in Israel, defending the homeland is a profession.” I would add also a mission. There were years during which we stared in amazement and wonder at your many medals, even though not everyone knew your stories. However, with time, things have changed and today, when you march in front of us in glory and splendor, we see ourselves as those who stand with you in a single line.

I participated in a moving and wonderful ceremony at Latrun the other day. It was an experience for all the participants to see the stories of the Jewish fighters from around the world, dramatic, heartwarming, heartbreaking stories. It was just as moving to see the grandchildren – officers and soldiers in the IDF – your grandchildren, standing there and expressing the meaning of heritage, their profound commitment, what they learned from you. Because your heroism, the heroism of the veterans who saved the world, is the heroism of the fighters in the Israel Defense Forces who defend the State of Israel. Both that heroism and this one are intertwined. Your past and your present are integrated in order to ensure a better and safer future for the State of Israel.

We salute your courage and honor your resilience. The people of Israel owe you their lives, and humanity owes you its deliverance from the darkness. Be strong and of good courage, congratulations on your tremendous work. Thank you.

Israel Musings April 25, 2015: Obama WH-Israel thaw continues on Yom Haatzmaut, but not towards Netanyahu

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Obama WH-Israel thaw continues on Yom Haatzmaut, but not towards Netanyahu

April 25, 2015

After Congressional Democrats warned President Barack Obama and the administration, their harsh rhetoric towards Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would cost the Democrats votes in the 2016 elections, Obama has been trying to placate and improve relations especially…

Full Text Israel Political Brief April 23, 2015: Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at the 67th Annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration

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Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden the 67th Annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration

Source: WH, 4-23-15 

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
Washington, D.C.

7:29 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Ron, Mr. Ambassador, my name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel.

I was thinking as Ron was saying that he doesn’t know what it’s like in Catholic families — whether we argue as much as allegedly occurs in Jewish families.  Well, I settled all that.  Two of my three children married Jews.  (Laughter.)  And you want to see what happens then.  (Laughter.)

As a matter of fact, my daughter — I — the dream of every Irish-Catholic father is for his daughter to marry a Jewish surgeon.  (Laughter.)  And she did.

But I want you to know I think the only time on record, at least in the state of Delaware, in the oldest Catholic church in the state, the second oldest — 1842 — we signed the ketubah in the Catholic rectory.  (Laughter.)  Not a joke.  (Laughter.)  Not a joke.  I think that’s a first.  We had a chuppah on the altar, handmade, magnificently, beautiful chuppah.  And we had a Catholic priest, Father Murphy, and a rabbi, and it was hard getting a rabbi, by the way.  (Laughter.)  I had to go up to Montgomery County to find one.  (Laughter.)  And the reason why — Montgomery County, Pennsylvania — and the reason he came is his mother loved me.  (Laughter.)  But — and my daughter asked me, she said, Daddy, what do you want played at the wedding?  I said, just one — maybe the concluding hymn could be “On Eagles’ Wings”.

And so the rabbi was a wonderful guy, literally presided over 75 percent of the wedding.  The vows were administered by the Catholic priest.  And as the wedding party was departing, as the bride and groom were departing down the aisle, they played the hora.  (Laughter.)  So I figured it out.  One way to end arguments is to marry.  (Laughter.)

Look, the fact of the matter is that 77 years [sic] ago, at midnight on May 14, 1948, against all odds, in the wake of searing tragedy, defiant in the face of overwhelming military numbers massed on its borders, the modern State of Israel was born.   (Applause.)

What you did next was no less than miraculous.  You were blessed with one of the greatest generations of founding fathers and mothers of any nation in the history of the world — Ben-Gurion, Meir, Begin, Sharon, Rabin, Peres.  They all fashioned Israel into a vibrant, vibrant democracy.

And in the process, you built one of the most innovative societies on Earth.  In the process, you defended your homeland and became the most powerful military in the entire region.  And all these years later, things have changed, but the danger still exists.  But the people of Israel still live in a dangerous neighborhood.  And just to be an Israeli — it still demands uncommon courage.

Much has changed, but two things have remained absolutely the same: the courage of your people and the commitment of mine.  (Applause.)

So today, we celebrate your independence and our friendship, which was born just 11 minutes after Israel’s founding.  And President Obama and I are proud to carry forward the unbroken line of American leaders –- Democrat and Republican —- who have honored America’s sacred promise to protect the homeland of the Jewish people.

It’s no secret that, like administrations before us, as the Ambassador said, we’ve had our differences.  I have been here for a long time, for eight Presidents.  I’ve witnessed disagreements between administrations.  It’s only natural for two democracies like ours.  As Ron said, we’re like family.  We have a lot to say to one another.  Sometimes we drive each other crazy.  But we love each other.  And we protect each other.   (Applause.)

And it’s hard to see with these lights, but I suspect I know many of you personally.  As many of you heard me say before, were there no Israel, America would have to invent one.  We’d have to invent one because Ron is right, you protect our interests like we protect yours.  (Applause.)

So let’s get something straight.  In this moment of some disagreement occasionally between our governments, I want to set the record straight on one thing:  No President has ever done more to support Israel’s security than President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

Just look at the facts.  Each time a rocket has rained down from Gaza, President Obama stands up before the world and defends Israel’s right to defend itself like any other nation.

Under President Obama, with the United States Congress, America has provided $20 billion in military assistance to Israel -– and cutting edge weaponry needed to maintain the qualitative advantage against any potential opponent.

You all know the stories of Iron Dome.  What you may not know is that next year, we will deliver to Israel the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter –- our finest -– making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft.  No other.  (Applause.)

And we continue to discuss, as the Israeli military here and the intelligence communities will tell you in Israel as well as here — we continue to discuss what more must be done in the near term and the long term to continue to strengthen Israel so she can maintain that edge.  (Applause.)

Our commitment to protect Israel’s security in my case and many of your case is not just political or national interest, it’s personal.  It’s personal for me and it’s personal for the President.

You’ve heard me say this many of my friends out there before, but it bears repeating on this day, it began at my father’s dinner table.  My father was a righteous Christian.  We assembled to eat, to have discussions — and occasionally eat.  My father talked about how he could not understand why there was a debate among Americans or why there was a debate among American Jews about whether or not we should have recognized Israel; why there would be any debate about why we hadn’t done more; why we hadn’t — that’s where I first learned about not bombing the railroad tracks.  I learned from my father about the concentration camps.  And the first thing I did with my children when each of them turned 15, I took them to Europe, flew them directly to Dachau, and made them spend a day there with me.  And I’ve done the same with my grandchildren.  My grandchild Finnegan as recently as just a month ago where we met with a 94-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, as well as Dachau.  He showed us the camp because he was proud — proud — to welcome the Vice President and his granddaughter.

All you have to do to understand is stand on the Golan and look down.  I remember the first time I did that as a young senator.  All you have to do is wander throughout Israel.  All you have to do is take that helicopter ride the entire length of the fence.  All you have to do is just look at the map.  All you had to is set foot at Yad Vashem -— and you understand.

I’ve had the great privilege of knowing every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda Meir and more than just casually.  And I’ve worked with many of you in this room for up to 40 years.  You know me.  You raised me.  You educated me.  And I know you.

So believe me when I tell you:  It’s not only personal to me, it’s personal to President Obama, as well.  The President was raised with memories of his great-uncle, who marched with Patton’s Army to liberate Jewish prisoners from the horrors of Buchenwald.  As a young man, he grew up learning about Israel from the stories of Leon Uris’ in “Exodus”; the Six-Day War; and Moshe Dayan, with his eye patch and his courage.  I remember sitting in front of Golda Meir’s desk as she flipped those maps up and down, chain-smoking, talking about the losses of the Six-Day War, sitting next to her military attaché at the time, a guy named Rabin.

But Barack, as a young senator — being 19 years younger than I am, he heard about it.  He read about it.  As senator, Barack Obama went to a small town in southern Israel to see with his own eyes the lives of the families who live under threat of rockets -– families that he has helped protect as Commander-in-Chief, under Iron Dome.

As President, he stood in Jerusalem, and declared to the whole world, “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.  So long as the United States of America is there, Israel will never be alone.”  (Applause.)  He means it.  He means it.  You know I mean it.  I’m telling you he means it.

That’s my President.  He understands the need for Israel to have the right and the capacity and the capability to defend itself.  At the same time, he says, “we have Israel’s back” — and you can count on it.

The same commitment to the survival and security of Israel is fundamental to our strategy for the entire Middle East.  And then we get into the controversial piece.  Iran.  Remember this is the President who made it for the first time in American history a declared policy of the United States to use all the instruments of our power to prevent -— not contain, prevent –- Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon.  He stated that all options are on the table -— then he made sure of what did not exist before.  He made sure we spent the time and money and the research to develop the capacity required to act against their capacity to develop a weapon if ever needed.

Over the skepticism of many, we worked with the U.S. Congress, our European allies, and Russia, China, to put in place the toughest sanctions regime in modern history.

We also knew the cost of not negotiating.  Midway through the last administration, the U.S. government refused to directly engage.  It insisted at the same time that Iran dismantle its entire program.

The result?  By the time President Bush left office, Iran had dramatically advanced its movement toward ability to acquire a nuclear weapon.  So we’ve taken a different approach, combining unprecedented pressure with direct diplomacy to find an enduring solution.

Negotiations began.  And we’ve come a long way.  And you’ve all seen the parameters that were put forward.  It’s a framework, only a framework — not a final deal.  A great deal of work lies ahead to see if Iran will actually enshrine the commitments that went into that framework as part of a final deal.

If they do, each of Iran’s paths to a bomb would be meaningfully and verifiably blocked.  Iran would cut its enrichment capacity by two-thirds; shrink its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent.  Breakout time to create a weapon’s worth of bomb-grade material will go from two to three months, which it is today, to over a year.

The deal would ensure at least a one-year breakout cushion for a decade.  And for years after that, the breakout time would continue to be longer than it exists today.

We’ll prevent the Arak reactor from ever being a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons.  We will put in place the toughest transparency and verification requirements in history -— providing the best possible check against a secret path to the bomb.

This isn’t a grand bargain between the United States and Iran.  It’s a nuclear bargain between Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany, the EU, America and Iran.  It’s based on hard-hitting, hard-headed, uncompromising assessments of what is required to protect ourselves, Israel, the region, and the world.

And if the final deal on the table that doesn’t meet the President’s requirements, we simply will not sign it.

A final deal must effectively cut off Iran’s pathways to the bomb.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

A final deal must ensure a breakout timeline at least for one year for a decade.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

A final deal must include phased sanctions relief, calibrated against Iran taking meaningful steps to constrain their program.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

A final deal must provide a verifiable assurance to the international community demands to ensure Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful going forward.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

And if Iran cheats at any time and goes for a nuclear weapon –- every option we have to respond today remains on the table.  And your military will tell you, and more.

I’ve been involved in arms control negotiations since I was a kid in the Senate at 30 years of age — every major SALT agreement, START agreement, and toward the end, I was deeply involved negotiating when Brezhnev was still around, leading a delegation of senators.  But just like arms control talks with the Soviet Union —- another regime we fundamentally disagreed with, another regime whose rhetoric was outrageous and unacceptable, another regime whose proxies were forcefully making trouble, and we forcefully countered around the world –- we negotiated to reduce the nuclear threat to prevent a nuclear war.  And it kept us safer.  That’s what we’re attempting to do today.

We also continue to agree with Israeli leaders going back decades –- from Rabin to Sharon, whose funeral I had the great honor of eulogizing –- that a two-state solution is essential to Israel’s long-term survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.   Consistent with our commitment to Israel’s security and survival, the United States stands ready to help Israel decide — if they decide — how to get there and if they want our help in getting there.

I’ll always remember what my friend and mentor, and Holocaust survivor who worked for me as my national security advisor before he became Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos once said.  He said, “the veneer of civilization is paper thin.  We are its guardians and can never rest.”

That’s why we must never retreat from fighting every scourge and source of anti-Semitism as we find it.  You see, in too many places where legitimate criticism crosses over into bigotry and anti-Semitism; where an explicitly anti-Semitic attack takes place at a kosher grocery store; assaults on religious Jews in the streets of major European capitals.  Some of you may remember how harshly I was criticized as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee over 15 years ago when I held hearings on anti-Semitism in Europe.  Emerson said, society is like a wave, the wave moves on, but the particles remain the same.  Wherever, in whatever country, whatever circumstance it rears its head, we have to stop it.

Enough is enough.   We have to fight it everywhere we find it.

I’ll conclude — and my friends kid me and I imagine Ron may, as well — telling you the story about my meeting with Golda Meir.  The reason I do it had a profound impact on me, one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life.  I think I’ve met every major world leader in the last 36 or 37 years in the world, in a literal sense.

But I remember meeting for close to an hour with her.  She went through what happened in the Six-Day War, and the price that was paid.  And I just had come from Egypt.  They let me go to Egypt and go to the Suez Canal.  And I was saying to she and Rabin that I thought that they were getting ready to attack again.  And everyone including my military and Israeli military thought I was crazy.

I remember driving from Cairo all the way to out to the Suez.  And you could see these great plumes of dust and sand.  But none it seemed isolated.  It turns out it was maneuvers taking place in the desert.  And I was really worried.  And we went through, and she painted a bleak, bleak picture — scared the hell out of me, quite frankly, about the odds.

And all of a sudden she looked at and she said, would you like a photograph?  And I said, yes, ma’am.  And those double-blind doors opened up into that hallway — not hallway.  It looks like — it’s a foyer.  And we walked out, and the press was standing there.  We didn’t say anything.  We just stood side by side.  And she must have thought I looked worried.  And it’s an absolutely true story.  She didn’t look at me, she spoke to me.  She said, Senator, you look so worried.  I said, well, my God, Madam Prime Minister, and I turned to look at her.  I said, the picture you paint.  She said, oh, don’t worry.  We have — I thought she only said this to me.  She said, we have a secret weapon in our conflict with the Arabs.  You see, we have no place else to do.

I was criticized in the national press a couple weeks ago when I said that, in fact, every Jew in the world needs there to be an Israel.  And it was characterized by some of the conservative press as saying that I was implying Jews weren’t safe in America.  They don’t get it.  They don’t get it.  Israel, Israel is absolutely essential — absolutely essential — security of Jews around the world.  And that’s why you have never farmed out your security.  You’ve accepted all the help we could give.  The most admirable thing about you is you’ve never asked us to fight for you.  But I promise you, if you were attacked and overwhelmed, we would fight for you, in my view.  (Applause.)

The truth of the matter is we need you.  The world needs you.  Imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century if Israel were not sustained, vibrant and free.

We’ll never stop working to ensure that Jews from around the world always have somewhere to go.  We’ll never stop working to make sure Israel has a qualitative edge.  And whomever the next President is — Republican or Democrat — it will be the same because the American people, the American people are committed.  The America people understand.

So I say happy birthday, Israel.  Happy Independence Day.  May God bless you and may God bless and protect the United States of America.  Thank you all so very much.  (Applause.)

END
7:52 P.M. EDT

Israel Musings April 12, 2015: Obama and Democrats’ Jewish voter problem over Iran deal, Israel and Netanyahu

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama and Democrats’ Jewish voter problem over Iran deal, Israel and Netanyahu

April 12, 2015

Jewish public opinion and support of President Barack Obama has never been more contentious as when the president celebrated his eighth Passover and his seventh in the White House on Friday, April 3, 2015. The recent announcement of the…
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