Full Text Israel Political Brief November 20, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Statement on the Release of Jonathan Pollard

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PM Netanyahu’s Statement on the Release of Jonathan Pollard

Source: PMO, 11-20-15

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning, issued the following statement on the release of Jonathan Pollard:

“The people of Israel welcome the release of Jonathan Pollard. As someone who raised Jonathan’s case for years with successive American presidents, I had long hoped this day would come. After three long and difficult decades, Jonathan has been reunited with his family. May this Sabbath bring him much joy and peace that will continue in the years and decades ahead.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief November 10, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Address to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly

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

Source: PMO, 11-10-15


PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the GA
Photo by Haim Zah, GPO Click Here to Enlarge Picture

-Transcription-

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks at the GA

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m delighted to be here today with you, the leaders of Jewish communities across North America. You work tirelessly to strengthen Jewish identity and you work tirelessly to support the State of Israel. You are Israel’s partners, you are my partners in building the Jewish future.

Now, this past year has not been simple. Great issues were debated. Passions ran high and the stakes were even higher. But we must always remember two simple truths. The first one is that no matter what disagreements there are between Israel and the United States, Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel. Here’s the second truth: No matter what disagreements there have been within the Jewish community, maintaining the unity of our people is of paramount importance. There is only one Jewish people. There is only one Jewish state. And now, more than ever, we must work together to unite the Jewish people and secure the Jewish state.

Israel is a state of amazing, amazing successes. If we were in the South, I would say amazing grace. I’m saying it here too – amazing success, amazing grace. You know all about the start-up nation. You know that Israel is a global epicenter of innovation, of ingenuity – a leader in water technology, in agritech, in medicine, in science, in cyber.

I want to give you two numbers. First on water: We had twice the rainfall in 1948, the year of Israel’s founding and one-tenth the population. So in 67 years, the water supply has gone down by half from rainfall, roughly half, and the population has grown ten times. Our GDP per capita has grown 40 times, and with it goes water usage. So we had to have a big water problem, but we don’t. We have a water surplus. Israel leads the world by far in the recycling of waste water and in so many other technologies related to water. And people are coming to us and they say: Teach us. Or la’goyim. Teach us. Teach us what you’ve done for yourself. We can do it in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America. Every week somebody else comes and says teach us how to get water out of the stone.

So here’s another little factoid. Is that how you call it, factoid? Factum? Fact. Okay, here’s another fact. In 2014 Israel was receiving 10% of the global investment in cyber security. That’s an extraordinary number given that we are… It’s about 100 times our size in the relative population of the world. In 2015 that number has changed. It grew from 10% to 20%. It doubled in one year, one year. So in cyber, Israel is punching 200 times above its weight. That’s an extraordinary figure.

In cyber, in water and in many, many other fields of Israeli technology, our economy continues its remarkable ascent. In 1948, Israel had roughly the same GDP per capita as our neighbors. Today Israel’s GDP per capita has surpassed the European average and according to three of the four indices that I looked at before I came here, it surpassed that of Japan. And as our economy has grown, so has the reach of Israeli exports. Today Israel is dramatically increasing trade with India and China. I point that out because they’re two small countries, and together with our small country, we encompass about a third of the population of the world, which is another factoid you can file away. The combination of new innovations, really new products and services, and new markets, is propelling Israel’s economy to ever greater and greater heights.

That’s important because, you see, while we have tremendous opportunity, we also have one or two challenges. I think you’ve heard about them. We have to pay for defense. Defense is very, very expensive. In fact, it gets more and more expensive all the time, so the principal way by which we pay for our defenses is by growing our economy. And the other, I have to say, is the generous support that we are getting from the United States of America, and yesterday I had a wonderful discussion with President Obama how to secure that assistance for the coming decade. Thank you America and thank you President Obama.

I know that all of you are proud of Israel’s stunning technological achievements. But I think we should no less be proud of Israel’s values. And you see those values on display every day. You see it in our freedom – when you watch the passionate speeches in our Knesset, if you bring noise plugs, and indeed when you read the spirited debate in our press – bring pink sunglasses; it’ll lower the glare. But this is democracy. This is intense, robust democracy.

You see it in our pluralism – in our growing and thriving Christian population, the only Christian population in the Middle East that is growing and thriving and not shrinking and being decimated; in our proud and our strong LGBT community. Tel Aviv is a renowned capital of pluralism and diversity and tolerance, as is Israel altogether.

You see it in our egalitarianism. You see it in an Arab schoolboy who knows that – or schoolgirl – they can grow up to be Knesset members or ambassadors or a Supreme Court justice. We have an Arab Supreme Court justice, in case you didn’t know. And it’s the only truly independent court in a very, very large radius. You see it in Israeli schoolgirls who know they can become fighter pilots, central bank governors and prime ministers. We’ve had one of each, actually more than one of each – one of each for prime minister.

You see our compassion when you visit the hospitals, the field hospital that we’ve set up that treat thousands of wounded Syrians from the battles inside the Syrian inferno. We set up a field hospital I think about ten or fifty yards away, on our side of the Syrian border, and we take in these people who’ve suffered unbelievable tragedy. We take care of them at our expense and we’ve been doing so for years. You won’t read about it, but you should know about it. It’s very important.

And you see our values when you follow our expert rescue teams to faraway places like Haiti and Nepal. Just recently we had this horrible earthquake in Nepal and the biggest rescue delegation was from India. That’s a small country. The second largest in the world came from Israel. Second largest rescue delegation in the world.

Now, the demonstration of liberal democratic values would be impressive anywhere, anytime. But what is truly remarkable is that Israel upholds these values in the darkest and most oppressive region on earth and when facing unmatched security challenges. This is why when our detractors defame Israel, we must defend Israel. This is why when they tell us that we should be ashamed of Israel, we must tell them we are proud of Israel.

From my office in Jerusalem the dangers facing Israel can sometimes appear daunting. Israel is surrounded by many forces driven by fanaticism and hatred. Militant Islam is on the march – the Sunni extremists led by ISIS, the Shiite fanatics led by Iran.

But despite these enormous dangers, I have no doubt that Israel will continue to flourish in the years and decades ahead because the people of Israel are strong, because the alliance between America and Israel is strong and because the partnership between Israel and Jewish communities around the world is strong.

Through decades of war and terrorism, three generations of Israelis have shown extraordinary fortitude and resilience. I visit our troops just about every week. I go and see our young men and women in uniform and it is an experience that I hope that all of you can share, possibly have shared. To talk with our young men and women in uniform is to be inspired by their deep faith in the justice of Israel’s cause and by their fierce determination to defend our homeland. We’re going to be celebrating Hanukkah. These are the new Maccabees. They have such fortitude, such courage, such spirit. These soldiers are Israel’s future. So believe me when I tell you, Israel’s future is in very, very good hands.

The second source of my confidence in Israel’s future is the unshakeable alliance between Israel and America – an alliance that I believe will only get stronger. And as I said, yesterday I had a very good meeting with President Obama at the White House, and I deeply appreciate his commitment to bolster Israel’s security at the time when the Middle East is becoming more dangerous than ever.

And I also want to say that we are sharing so many things. The United States is giving indispensable help to Israel, indispensable, but Israel is returning that assistance almost on a daily basis in intelligence and in many other things. I think that what is important is not merely President Obama’s commitment to bolstering Israel’s security for the next ten years, but also his commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can defend itself by itself against any threat. That is the most important commitment. And despite our disagreement over the nuclear deal with Iran, I believe that America and Israel can and should work together now to ensure Iran complies with the deal, to curb Iran’s regional aggression and to fight Iranian terrorism around the world.

Now, the third reason I am confident about the future is the tremendous partnership between us. Since the founding of Israel, well, even before the founding of Israel, you have been our partners in building the Jewish future. Your support has been invaluable in helping Israel successfully absorb millions of immigrants, build world-class hospitals, create an oasis of modernity in the middle of the desert, and in the last two decades, well, in the last two decades, well, Israel has begun investing in you.

This was a revolutionary idea that was put to me, a young prime minister, 20 years ago. They said, well, you know, the Diaspora and Jewish communities, especially in North America, have been investing in Israel, you know, for five decades. How about returning the favor? As our economy grows, we could invest in Jewish education, in Jewish identity. And I said, well, that’s a crazy idea. I like that. So well before we reached our current economic levels, we began, and Natan Sharansky remembers that very well, we began to invest in Birthright, which I thought was an extraordinary idea.

Now, half a million people later, half a million young Jews, young men and women who have visited Israel, I’m proud to say that we’ll continue to invest in Birthright. It is, after all, our birthright. And tens of thousands of course, tens of thousands have participated in the longer Masa programs. And thousands have decided to make Israel their permanent home. I think the hundreds of thousands have come back to their communities – this is a large number. Hundreds of thousands who come back to the Jewish communities with stronger Jewish identities and a stronger commitment to the Jewish future – that strengthens the Jewish world. It is a remarkable program. And whether Jews decide to live in Israel or not, I want to guarantee one thing to each and every one of you: As Prime Minister of Israel, I will always ensure that all Jews can feel at home in Israel – Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Orthodox Jews – all Jews.

As a testament to my commitment to this principle, I have established a roundtable, headed by my Cabinet Secretary, to address the concerns of the different streams of Judaism in Israel. That’s significant. That’s a governmental decision. You want to know our politics? Not now, but that’s a significant decision. This is a roundtable of the Government of Israel in which the various streams of Judaism sit together side-by-side to discuss problems and more importantly to discuss solutions. And now, for the first time, the Government of Israel is joining with the Jewish Agency to invest in strengthening Reform and Conservative communities within Israel. I am also hopeful that we will soon conclude a long overdue understanding that will ensure that the Kotel is a source of unity for our people, not a point of division. And we’re getting there, I have to say.

My dear friends,

The unity of the Jewish people is important at all times, but especially at this time. It’s especially important when the assault on the Jews is not confined to the Middle East, because as Michael said correctly there is a wave of anti-Semitism that is raging across Europe, but it goes beyond there to other continents as well.

I want to say something about anti-Semitism. My father was a great historian and a student of this phenomenon. It has ancient roots. It goes back roughly to Hellenistic times, five hundred years before the birth of the Christian era. It has a long tradition and old traditions die hard. Sometimes they don’t die. For centuries the world believed the worst things about Jews – and these lies were believed not just by the ignorant masses; they were believed as well by the educated elites. They said about us that we were poisoners of wells, spreaders of plagues, killers of children. Now the lies that were once leveled at the Jewish people are now leveled at the Jewish state. They say that Israel harvests organs, spreads AIDS and executes innocent children.

Once, the Jewish people couldn’t even raise its collective voice to fight against these lies, these slanders. Today, we have a voice. Today we have a voice. And we must ensure that our voice is heard loud and clear. We must speak out against the slander of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Now, whether it’s the Prime Minister of Israel speaking at the United Nations or Jewish students speaking at a college campus, we can and must fight lies and the only way you fight lies is telling the truth. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We have everything to be proud of. Stand up proudly. Speak the truth about Israel. Be proud as Jews.

The truth is Israel is a great country, a deeply moral country. Of course, like all countries, Israel is not a perfect country. But Israel is constantly judged by many in the international community according to a standard of perfection that is applied to no other country and that no country could possibly meet.

There is a name for holding the Jews to a different standard than other people. You know what it’s called. It begins with an “a” and it ends with an “m”. We recognize it for what it is. You cannot, you cannot hold the Jewish state to what I call the triple standard. One standard is for the dictatorships – you don’t expect much of them. The second standard is for the democracies. And the third standard – it’s not even a double standard, it’s the triple standard. There’s a special defined standard for the democracy called Israel. No way, no double standards, no triple standards. Treat Israel fairly. Treat Israel decently.

Now I have a friend whom you may know. His name is Alan Dershowitz. And he gave what I think is a very good test. He said this in the Oxford Student Union. By the way, he said he was the only one who won an Oxford Student Union debate on Israel. He gives a great fight. So here’s what our friend Alan Dershowitz, a great exponent of the truth, said. He said name a single country in the history of the world faced with threats comparable to those faced by Israel that has a better record of human rights, complies more rigorously with the rule of law and does more to minimize civilian casualties. He asked that and the answer was: There is no other country. Israel stands at the top of the list.

And I think we have to speak the truth about peace as well. The truth is that the reason that we don’t have peace yet with the Palestinians is not because of the settlements or a territorial dispute, the territories that that were won in our defensive war of 1967. Israelis and Palestinians had a conflict for half a century – almost 50 years – before Israel captured any of those territories or built even a single one of those settlements. And afterwards, we left part of that territory – Gaza. Left it to the very last centimeter or inch. Stripped out the settlements, went to the ’67 boundaries, uprooted all the people who were there, disinterred people from their graves. What did we get? Peace? We got rockets.

The truth is that the reason that there isn’t peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state in any boundary. That’s the truth. If you recognize the problem, you’ll be able to get to its solution.

And here’s another simple truth: The truth is that Israel seeks peace. The truth is that I seek peace. And when Israel, the people of Israel, the governments of Israel, met Arab leaders who wanted peace equally, like Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein, Israel made peace. We could do so when you meet an Arab leader who essentially says we’re burying the past. We’re seizing the future. We have no more demands of the Jewish state.

And when Israel will face a Palestinian leadership that seeks peace, that is willing to bury the past, that will make no more demands on the State of Israel – not get a state next to Israel in order to displace Israel, not get a state next to Israel in order to flood the adjoining State of Israel with millions of Palestinian descendants; when we meet a leader who actually is willing to recognize finally the Jewish state, we will have peace and that is the first requirement, the most essential requirement.

I remain committed to a vision of two states for two peoples where a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state, and Israel will continue to work for peace in the hope that what is not achievable today might be achievable tomorrow.

My friends,

If you have any doubts about Israel’s future, I suggest you think about how far Israel has already come. You know, for each of us, especially the older ones, we have a personal perspective that we can… we can assess the future based on the road we’ve travelled so far. I was born a year after the founding of the state, and the change, in my perspective, has been nothing less than stunning.

I remember as a child the excitement that gripped my friends and the entire country as we celebrated our first decade of independence, chag asor. It was a decade in which we won our War of Independence and doubled our population. And as Israel turned 20, I celebrated as a young soldier, with my fellow soldiers and with the people of Israel – I’d enlisted shortly after our great victory in the Six Day War and I was still awed that only a year earlier we had liberated and reunited our eternal capital Jerusalem.

I remember the feeling, I remember the feeling at the end of the Six Day War. I’d grown up in Jerusalem, and my father’s office – he was the editor-in-chief of the Hebrew Encyclopedia – and his office was right next to the wall separating Jerusalem. And I would go there because the bicycle fixers were there, so I always knew that I couldn’t go that direction because I’d hit the wall and Jordanian snipers. And all of a sudden, there was, at the end of the Six Day Way, there was a breach in the wall and we started flowing, just thousands, tens of thousands flowing through that breach into the Old City to the Kotel. And we went there and just stood next to the Kotel. Nobody said anything. We were just so mesmerized by realizing the dream of ages. That was what I remember from the third decade of Israel’s existence, the beginning of the third decade.

And then, at the end of it, when Israel turned 30, we were on the verge of achieving a great historic peace with the largest Arab country, with Egypt. And when I was privileged to preside over Israel’s 50th anniversary celebrations as prime minister, we were already at peace with Jordan and we were busy welcoming home nearly a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Now, two decades have passed since that 50th anniversary – nearly two decades since that 50th anniversary celebration, and we have since then liberalized our economy, won eight more Nobel Prizes – that’s a large number – built 21st century roads and rails, discovered gas, transformed Israel into a global technological power and reversed that joke, “How do you make a small fortune in Israel? Start with a big fortune”. Turned it completely on its head. And we are showing the world new ways to travel, new ways to enrich life, new ways to protect health, new ways to grow crops. Today we’re forging new ties with countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and no less important, today we’re forging new ties with Arab states in the region that increasingly see Israel not as an implacable enemy but as a valued ally, as a partner, in confronting common dangers together. I hope they also see it as a partner in seizing the future for the betterment of their peoples in this great battle between modernity and medievalism. Modernity must win.

So now that Israel is approaching the end of its seventh decade, we can only marvel at what we have been able to achieve against impossible odds. And I have no doubt that despite the enormous challenges we still face, Israel will continue to thrive because I believe in the indomitable spirit of our people, because I believe in our unshakable bond with the United States and because I believe in you, in the unbreakable bond that unites Jews everywhere with the Jewish people. It’s a bond of faith. It’s a bond of hope – not the shallow hope of wishful thinking but the deep wellspring of confidence that comes from a people who have forded history’s most turbulent rivers and emerged triumphant on the other side in the Promised Land. That’s what I believe in.

Thank you all for your indispensable part in our common journey. And thank you all for your unceasing efforts to secure our common future. Thank you all. Thank you very much.

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 23, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Sends Condolence Letter to the Sassoon Family

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PM Netanyahu Sends Condolence Letter to the Sassoon Family

Source: PMO, 3-23-15

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a condolence letter to the Sassoon family which lost seven children last Shabbat in a fire in Brooklyn. The children were laid to rest in Jerusalem earlier this evening.

Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote to Gabriel, the father of the family:

“Dear Gabriel,

I was deeply shocked to hear about the tragic deaths of your beloved children, Eliane, David, Rivka, Yehoshua, Moshe, Sarah and Yaakov. From what I have heard about them, they were children imbued with values, who were a source of pride and joy for you. Each one of your children was a world unto him or herself, unique and special. There is no greater sorrow than the loss of children and the pain is even greater because they were so young. The entire Jewish People feels your pain.

As a family with faith, your dear ones embody the verse (Leviticus 10:3), ‘Through those that are close to Me will I be sanctified’. May you find the inner strength to cope with the tragedy that has befallen your family. May the memories of your children be a source of strength and consolation. I wish a full and quick recovery to your wife Gayle and your daughter Tziporah.

Yours in deep grief over the loss of seven pure souls,

Sincerely,

Benjamin Netanyahu.”

ראש הממשלה נתניהו שלח מכתב תנחומים לבני משפחת ששון ששבעה מילדיה נספו בשריפה בברוקלין
23/03/2015
יום שני ג’ ניסן תשע”ה
ראש הממשלה בנימין נתניהו שלח היום מכתב תנחומים לבני משפחת ששון ששבעה מילדיה נספו בשבת בשריפה בברוקלין והובאו הערב למנוחות בירושלים.

במכתב כתב ראש הממשלה נתניהו לאב המשפחה: “גבריאל היקר, שמעתי בזעזוע עמוק על מותם הטראגי של ילדיך האהובים אליען, דוד, רבקה, יהושע, משה, שרה ויעקב. ממה ששמעתי אודותם, אני למד על ילדים ערכיים שהיוו מקור גאווה ושמחה עבורכם. כל אחד מילדיך היה עולם ומלואו, יחיד ומיוחד. אין יגון גדול יותר מאובדן בנים ובנות, והייסורים גדולים עוד יותר כשמדובר בילדים רכים בשנים. עם ישראל כולו כואב את כאבכם.

כמשפחה מאמינה נתקיים ביקיריכם הפסוק ‘בקרוביי אקדש’ – במקורבים אליי אקדש. מי ייתן ותמצא את תעצומות הנפש להתמודד עם האסון שפקד את המשפחה כולה, ותשאב מזיכרון ילדיך מקור כח ונחמה. אני מאחל רפואה שלמה והחלמה מלאה לרעייתך גייל ולבתך ציפורה. עמכם ביגונכם העמוק על אובדן ילדיכם, שבע נשמות טהורות. בברכה, בנימין נתניהו”.

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 30, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech to Jewish Federation Leaders in New York — Transcript

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PM Netanyahu’s Remarks to Jewish Federation Leaders in New York

Source: PMO, 9-30-14
יום שלישי ו’ תשרי תשע”ה

Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today, in New York, met with Jewish federation leaders and made the following remarks:

“Every time I come to the UN I try to tell the truth as it is. But here’s a picture I didn’t show in the UN yesterday. This is an impending execution. But this isn’t ISIS, this is Hamas. And during the recent fighting in Gaza, right around the time that ISIS was doing its grisly deeds, Hamas executed dozens of Palestinians just to impose fear and force the population of Gaza into submission. It’s true there are some differences between Hamas and ISIS – for example ISIS beheads people and Hamas puts a bullet in the back of their heads. But to the victims, and the victims’ families, the horror is the same. The point I was trying to make yesterday and I’m making today is that we are faced with a world-wide network of militant Islamists, groups and regimes. It’s not that they have a common war-room. They have war-rooms against each other because all of them wish to dominate first the region in which they are in and then ultimately the entire world. But they all share this fanatic ideology; they all have not only unbridled ambitions but also savage methods. And the more they have the capability to realize their ambitions, the more they’ll unleash their pent-up aggression against our common civilizations.

This is the point that I think is most important – We all support the efforts led by President Obama to stop and defeat ISIS, there’s no question that that has to be done. But to defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is, as I said yesterday and I’ll say it again, is to win the battle and lose the war. We have to stop ISIS, defeat ISIS, but we have to prevent Iran from getting the capability to produce nuclear weapons.”

 

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

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Netanyahu sends condolences to families of Kansas Jewish center shootings

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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Adelsons donate another $40 million to Birthright

Source: JTA, 5-23-13

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

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

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Obama to US Jews: Peace vital but prospects bleak

Source: Jerusalem Post, 3-8-13

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

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

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Jewish_Political_Brief

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ZOA chief: US Jews shied away from Hagel row

Source: Jerusalem Post, 2-13-13

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

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

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Memo To The Next Knesset: Get To Know American Jewry

Source: The Jewish Week, 1-22-13

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

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

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President Obama’s Rosh Hoshanah Greeting

Source: WH, 9-13-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Obama’s Jewish Support Continues to Drop

Source: Israel National News, 9-11-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: JTA, 7-17-12

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

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

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Adelsons Infuse Cash Into Birthright Program

Source: Israel National News, 7-17-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2012

The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of the State of Israel

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

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

Sincerely,

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

Affiliations provided below for identification purposes only

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marvin Lender (Connecticut) – Former National Chairman, UJA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Israel National News, 7-15-12

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

Delegates at AIPAC conference
Hezki Ezra

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

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

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ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

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

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

Source: Israel National News, 6-11-12

Free Pollard protest

Free Pollard protest
Israel news photo: Flash 90

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Pollard protest
Israel news photo: Flash 90

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: JTA, 5-30-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama hosts Jewish heritage event at White House

Source: JTA, 5-30-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remarks by the President to a Jewish American Heritage Reception

Source: WH, 5-30-12

East Room

5:17 P.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END
5:21 P.M. EDT

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

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

Source: JTA, 5-31-12

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

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

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

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

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

Obama chats with Conservative leaders

Source: JTA, 5-29-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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