Israel Political Brief March 5, 2013: AIPAC heads to the Hill: The diplomacy trap

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

AIPAC heads to the Hill: The diplomacy trap

Source: Washington Post (blog), 3-5-13

In concluding the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference Tuesday, executive director Howard Kohr announced that committee representatives would call upon every Senate and House member….READ MORE

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Full Text Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Text of Leader Cantor’s AIPAC Speech

Source: Newsroom America Feeds, 3-4-13

Thank you, it is an honor to be here at AIPAC’s policy conference. And, it’s an honor to be here with my good friend, one of Congress’ strongest pro-Israel allies Steny Hoyer.

Tonight, we celebrate a friendship between two countries. Simple in concept, but mighty in force. This friendship is centered on commitment to community and dedication to faith. It values education, human progress, and the guarantee of opportunity for all. With this friendship, the world is a better place.

The alliance between the United States and Israel is often tested, but never shaken. We’ve helped protect each other. We’ve help protect our friends, and we’ve helped protect humanity.

If there is a tsunami, our military and aid ships are the first to set sail. If disease is ravaging a nation, or as is the case of AIDS in Africa, an entire continent, we send help. And we save lives. Israel shares our moral compass. When massive earthquakes struck Haiti and Turkey, Israel was among the first to offer assistance. And hundreds of Israeli rescue workers responded to the deadly terrorist attacks in East Africa, saving the lives of Africans injured in the attacks on America’s embassies.

For those of us who have visited Israel, you know what a special place it is. You have walked down the Tayelet in Tel Aviv on a Thursday afternoon and you’ve seen the people leisurely lingering in cafes as the waves of the Mediterranean crash in the background.

But for many Americans, the only images of Israel that they see are of blown out clubs and cafes, missiles firing, death and tragedy. That in itself is a tragedy.

These news stories often miss the beauty and the human element of why our nations care so much for one another. But, these stories do serve as a constant reminder of the threat Israel faces, and why Israel needs our friendship.

Asher Afriat needs no reminders. Asher is a friend to many of us, and he’s here tonight. He owns a travel company in Israel, and leads many of the AIPAC tours. Several months ago, when rockets were flying over Israel, Asher sent me an email. He was up early in Tel Aviv, on his way to pick up some tourists. He saw some young reservists with packed military bags waiting to be picked up. He yearned to drop everything and jump in the truck with them. As he drove, his favorite radio station was interrupted by Code Red Alerts.

“A somber mood took over,” he wrote. But a few minutes later, Asher passed the entrance to the Ben Shimon Forest, a magnet for mountain bikers from across the country and one of his favorite riding places. The parking lot was jam packed with cars and hundreds of bikers ready to “shred” the countryside. Despite rockets flying, they all came. Asher could barely stand the urge to pull over and get his own bike out. But he pressed on, now with a big smile on his face. In his email he observed: “How surreal is this moment, how incomprehensible is the reality we live in”

Yet for me, that moment of Asher’s reflected the true essence of Israel with all its pain and beauty.

We are here together tonight, people of all faiths to support Israel and the US-Israel relationship. So, to all our Christian brothers and sisters who are with us, we salute you and we thank you for standing with Israel.

Thank you for standing with us to defend the gift that is Israel. Israel is a gift to all free loving people around the world. The Jewish people know and realize this gift better than anyone. The creation of the modern state of Israel had a special effect on what it means to be a Jew. Before 1948, we Jews often had difficulty defining ourselves publicly, and instead we were defined by stereotypes.

The craven hook nose man counting money behind closed doors. Secretive. Untrustworthy. The caricatures were ugly, and unfortunately some still linger.

But after Israel was created, people around the world began to see something else. They saw farmers, and warriors, and creative souls. They saw innovators, scientists and chemists giving back to the world and saving lives. The survival of Israel and what it says about its Jewish and Arab citizens is a bulwark against ever returning to the days of being the eternal outsider – the wandering Jew.

Throughout my entire political life, I have never known a time where I have questioned America’s resolve and support for Israel. I have never questioned America’s historic support for the little guy against the bully. I have never questioned the role we play as protectors of liberty and defenders of justice. Until now.

It is only recently where I have begun to worry. I worry that some of our nation’s leaders are complacent. I worry that some in Washington think we must retreat to our domestic politics and reduce focus overseas. I worry that in the pursuit of comity with Israel’s foes, some will seek distance. I worry that they indeed overlook the gift that is Israel.

And I worry that Israelis worry. And these worries are not unfounded. Israel’s under attack.

A while back, I received a briefing in Israel from one of the engineers of the Iron Dome system. His name was Avi Sacher. Avi’s presentation was impressive. He demonstrated through slides and video the precision and agility of the anti-rocket defense system.

Avi beamed with pride as he explained how countless lives were saved by the Iron Dome technology. How families were spared despite deadly rockets aimed at their home, and how mothers were relieved to see their children safe while sirens wailed at terrorists’ rockets overhead.

Five days later, still in Israel, I met with Avi again. His enthusiasm was gone and there was pain in his eyes. He spoke with great emotion as he told us of the one rocket that had gotten through. It somehow slipped past the defense system, hitting the town of Be’er Sheva, and killing an innocent Israeli. He was tortured by that experience. And Avi went back to work, determined to perfect the system that had already saved countless lives.

The importance of the Iron Dome’s capability was driven home again recently during the conflict in Gaza. The Iron Dome has to be right 100 percent of the time, or Israelis die.

As important as they are, defensive systems like Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Arrow are not panaceas. True peace will require an end to Iranian backed weapons smuggled into Gaza. It will also require a recognition by Hamas and the Palestinians that violence does not help, but hurts their cause. Only when Palestinians lay down their arms, can we hope to achieve peace.

My message to you tonight is this: Our enemies know that if they divide the United States from Israel, they will defeat Israel. And they will be one step closer to defeating America. That is their goal. That is their mission. And we must not ever, ever let them succeed.

Three weeks from tonight, we will be sitting down with our families to celebrate Passover, and the words we will read from the Haggadah seem as relevant today as ever – “In every generation, they rise against us to destroy us.”

Just listen to President Ahmadinejad or Ayatollah Khamenei speak anywhere at any time and their intentions are clear. Iran is a direct and immediate threat to Israel, to our allies in the region and to the civilized world. But, some in Washington hold the view that Iran is all bluster. That Iran can be contained and negotiated with. But that impression is wrong.

We need to be clear-eyed that the nuclear talks with Iran cannot be unending, and that they may fail. We need to recognize that military action against Iran may become necessary to protect America, Israel and our allies.

America must be prepared to lead from the front. And the challenge should not be Israel’s alone to bear.

In Syria, tens of thousands of people have been brutally and relentlessly slaughtered by an evil dictator intent on massacring his people. Our hearts ache as we see mass graves, all too familiar to us Jews.

But, Syria is not just a moral challenge, it’s a strategic challenge.

The United States cannot and should not stand aside and let the chips fall where they may. We’ve got to be on the side of those looking to end Assad’s tyranny.

We cannot guarantee that those who succeed him will be greater friends to our nation or Israel, anymore than Assad was. But without action, we can guarantee that more innocent lives will be lost. We will have failed to shape the outcome of this conflict. And we will guarantee that Syria’s future leaders will not have known the helping hand of America when the Syrian people so desperately needed help.

Beyond just Syria, the entire Middle East is in an epic state of political transition and uncertainty. The stakes could not be higher. When there is no American leadership; there is no leadership.

Bottom line, Israel’s security goes hand in hand with America’s security. And, America’s security depends on freedom and democracy growing and open societies hearing our message. America’s security depends on putting a stop to the bullying on the world playground.

To all of you here tonight at AIPAC, the future depends on your voice. It must be heard on Capitol Hill and it must be heard by this Administration. It must be heard around the world.

We must now and forever stand with Israel, or we risk losing the great promise of America.

Thank you.

Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: Bill introduced to make Israel ‘major strategic ally’

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Bill introduced to make Israel ‘major strategic ally’

Source: JTA, 3-4-13

“We need to recognize that military action against Iran may become necessary to protect America, Israel and our allies,” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, said in his address Monday night to the AIPAC conference….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Hoyer Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference

Source: Southern Maryland News Net, 3-4-13

“We gather tonight recognizing that Israel’s existence is testimony that faith and courage can triumph even in a cauldron of enmity, terror, and constant threat.

“Israel’s history is that of a courageous people’s perseverance against injustice from one generation to the next. It is a history Americans understand and look to for inspiration.

“The State of Israel, though besieged by forces of hatred, intolerance, and extremism, has never abandoned its founding principles nor lost sight of its historic mission – to provide freedom and sanctuary in a democracy for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland.

“Some of my proudest moments as a Member of Congress were working with many of you to help Soviet Jews emigrate from behind the Iron Curtain to reach that freedom and security in the land of their ancestors.

“In January, we lost a dear friend and a passionate advocate in Ambassador Max Kampelman, who was instrumental in that effort. I was Chairman of the Helsinki Commission at the time, and Max was leading the negotiations with the Soviet Union on arms reduction and human rights.

“Max may no longer be with us, but his legacy of linking human rights to international security is a practice that can serve us well today. The safety and prosperity of democracies such as Israel, which promote freedom and individual rights, advance America’s national security interests.

“Today, we continue to fight for what Israel represents: an outpost of freedom in a region where democracy struggles to take hold with no guarantee of success. From Tahrir to Tripoli, from Aden to Aleppo, America and Israel will remain vigilant and work to ensure that legitimate yearnings for democracy are not hijacked by extremists.

“And nowhere must we be more united and vigilant than when facing the threat posed by Iran. The stakes have never been higher.
“If there is one lesson we have learned about the Middle East in recent years, it is that nuance is not only not effective but can be dangerous. We must speak with unambiguous clarity: the United States will not accept a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran. They must know our clear intent and firm commitment. America and Israel cannot leave any uncertainty in the minds of those who describe us as their common foes.

“Let there be no doubt that it is in America’s direct interest to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. A nuclear Iran would set off an arms race in the region, pose a clear and present danger to American troops stationed in the Middle East and Europe, and threaten Israel’s very existence.

“As nuclear talks with Iran continue, still without result, Iran’s leaders must understand that these talks cannot go on indefinitely. Let me repeat this point, because it is critically important: the day will come when diplomacy ends. And Iran’s leaders will ultimately decide whether it is because they have willingly dismantled their nuclear weapons program or whether they have compelled the free world to do it for them.

“The threat from Iran comes not only from its nuclear ambitions but from its long history of state-sponsored terrorism across the globe. A nuclear-armed Iran would be even more aggressive in sponsoring its deadly agents of terror – Hamas and Hezbollah – and proliferating its weapons of mass destruction.

“There are some who say that Hamas and Hezbollah are simply politicians. Make no mistake: they are terrorists.

“Those in Europe who think differently ought to listen to the defense of one Hezbollah agent who was arrested in Cyprus scouting areas frequented by Israelis. He said – and I quote: ‘I was just collecting information about Jews. This is what my organization is doing everywhere around the world.’

“The threat Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israel and to the Jewish people is chillingly clear.

“And so, like any sovereign nation, it is Israel’s right to take such steps as are necessary to defend itself and its people. It is not only international norms that give Israel that right but the hard lessons of Jewish history.

“As my friend Eric Cantor said earlier – later this month, Jews in America and throughout the world will open the Passover Haggadah and remember that history with these perennial words: ‘In every generation there are those who have risen against us.’ And the sentence continues: ‘but the Holy One saves us from their hands.’

“Doing so is not only the work of God but for our generation, which must continue to strengthen and fortify the relationship between Israel and America.

“Thanks to the work AIPAC performs on Capitol Hill and around the country, Congress’s support for Israel has endured and grown stronger each year. The bipartisan nature of Congress’s support makes it ever more clear to those who would do the Jewish State harm that Israel is here to stay – and will never, never stand alone.

“One direct result of America’s commitment to Israel’s security is Iron Dome. I hope you will join me in thanking again the operators of Iron Dome for protecting Israel’s border communities.

“But America’s ties with Israel run far deeper than matters of security and statecraft. The United States, a young nation, and Israel, heir to an ancient birthright, were founded on the same values. These are the principles of human dignity and basic justice first laid out in the Torah and embraced by America’s Founders. A line connects the wisdom of our shared scripture to the hearts and minds of those who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.

“Jewish history is and always will be intertwined with American history. And from helping to draw back an Iron Curtain to constructing an Iron Dome, it has been the privilege of my life to work with you to shape that history.

“And, with clarity in our common cause, with the courage to pursue our common commitment, we must face our shared challenges with an iron resolve. Such is AIPAC’s legacy and our enduring mission: to ensure the survival and success of Israel – and the safety and security of its people – in our generation and for every generation yet to come.

Jewish Political Brief November 7, 2012: Jewish Congressional Wins: Jews in the 113th Congress

JEWISH POLITICAL BRIEF

Jewish_Political_Brief

JEWISH POLITICAL BRIEF: JEWS & POLITICS

The Chosen: Jews in the 113th Congress

Source: JTA, 11-7-12

The next Congress will have 10 Jews in the Senate and 22 in the House of Representatives, a decline from the 112th Congress….READ MORE

Jewish Political Brief November 7, 2012: Congressional races: Republican Jewish hopefuls defeated, new faces for House Demcrats

JEWISH POLITICAL BRIEF

Jewish_Political_Brief

JEWISH POLITICAL BRIEF: JEWS & POLITICS

Congressional races: Republican Jewish hopefuls defeated, new faces for House Dems

Source: JTA, 11-7-12

In a generally rough night for Republicans, the GOP’s top Jewish congressional prospects all went down to defeat, but there are some new Jewish faces in the House Democratic caucus. Read more »

 

Israel Political Brief July 19, 2012: US House of Representatives Passes Bill on Expanded US-Israeli Military Cooperation

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

House passed bill on expanded U.S.-Israeli military cooperation

Source: JTA, 7-19-12

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to strengthen security cooperation between the United States and Israel….READ MORE

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

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ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

House committee chair places hold on Palestinian aid

Source: JTA, 10-3-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Political Brief August 8, 2011: 55 Republican, 26 Democratic congressmen to arrive for week-long trips sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: Jerusalem Post, 8-8-11

Eighty-one congressmen, or about 20 percent of the US House of Representatives, will visit Israel over the next three weeks during Congress’s summer recess, with the first group of 26 Democrats scheduled to arrive on Monday.

The Democratic delegation will be followed by two Republican ones, bringing a total of 55 Republicans.

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Most of the representatives are freshmen congressmen, with 47 – or fully half of the freshmen Republicans voted into office in 2010 – making the trip.

For many of them, this will be their first trip to Israel.

The week-long trips are sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which brings large delegations of congressmen here every other August.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) will head the Democratic delegation, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) will lead one of the Republican groups.

Hoyer, in a statement, said he looked forward to “returning to Israel to continue learning firsthand about the evolving security situation in the Middle East, the deep challenges facing Israel, and the role the US can play in the region during this time of uncertainty.

I’m pleased members of Congress have this opportunity to study American interests in the Middle East and gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved in increasing stability in the region.”

The delegation will visit both Israel and the West Bank, and is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Among those on the delegation arriving Monday are Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., Ohio’s Betty Sutton, and Pennsylvania’s Mark Critz.

In a related development, The Israel Project will be bringing a group of 18 Washington-based ambassadors from Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America to Israel on Monday for a weeklong tour and high-level meetings. Like the congressmen, they will also go to Ramallah, for a meeting with PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Among the countries represented on the trip are Albania, Barbados, Belize, Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Macedonia, St. Lucia and Uganda.

Some of these countries have been mentioned by officials in Jerusalem as likely candidates to either vote against, or at least abstain, when the vote on Palestinian statehood comes before the UN in September.

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