Israel Political Brief July 24, 2012: GOP Leaders: President Barack Obama’s Announcing He Will Visit Israel in Second Presidential Term Comes 4 Years Too Late

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

GOP Leaders: Obama Announcement Comes 4 Years Too Late

Republican leaders have criticized an announcement made Monday that if President Obama were to get re-elected, he would visit Israel.
Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney
Reuters

Republican leaders have sharply criticized an announcement made Monday that if President Obama were to get re-elected to serve a second term in office, he would visit Israel.

“President Obama’s promise to visit Israel in his second term comes four years too late, and is emblematic of the lack of close coordination with Israel Candidate Obama led us to expect in 2008,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement released by the Mitt Romney campaign.

“It also does not make up for the many shortcomings of his Middle East policy, ranging from the fact that Iran continues to race forward with its nuclear weapons program to his administration’s haplessness in the face of Syria’s support of terrorism, threats to use weapons of mass destruction and support of instability in the region,” he said, according to the statement….

“Our relationship with Israel should be a priority, not a distraction. President Obama has found time to visit dozens of other nations – including some near to Israel in the Middle East – and his treatment of our closest ally in the region has been profoundly disappointing,” he said.

Former United Nations ambassador John Bolton said in an interview with WABC Radio on Monday that, “Obama has been in office three and a half years, and he has had time to do more fundraisers than any other first-term American president, has probably played more rounds of golf than any other president since Dwight Eisenhower, and yet he has not had time to fit into his busy schedule even one trip to Israel.”

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a backer of Republican Mitt Romney and the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also lashed out against President Obama for failing to visit Israel during his first term.

“Next week, Mitt Romney is traveling to Israel for the fourth time. Meanwhile, Barack Obama has yet to visit Israel as President, even as he has found time to visit numerous other countries around the world, including in the Middle East. We can only speculate about why the President has failed to visit the capital of our closest ally in the region, but we don’t need to speculate about the timing of the latest hint from the White House that President Obama will travel to Israel in his second term.

“It’s politically inspired, coming as it does only days before Mitt Romney heads off to Jerusalem.  One should not play political games with U.S. foreign policy, particularly at a moment when the Middle East is a tinderbox,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

Israel Political Brief March 25, 2012: US Congress lift holds & release $88.6 million in aid to Palestinians

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Congress frees up some PA funds

Source: JTA, 3-25-12

The United States plans to release $88.6 million in development funds for the Palestinian Authority.

Congress members announced the planned release Friday to the grudging gratification of the PA, which needs the money to stay fiscally afloat.

In August, Republican lawmakers froze $147 million in U.S. aid to protest the PA’s attempt to sidestep stalled peace talks with Israel and win statehood status at international forums.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, limited the release to $88.6 million.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called the release “very important” but told reporters, “The entire sum must be sent … in order to support the Palestinian Authority’s budget.”

Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: Congressional Impact AIPAC Activists to Press for Tough Iran Sanctions, Aid to Israel

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Congressional Impact AIPAC Activists to Press for Tough Iran Sanctions, Aid to Israel

Source: AIPAC, 3-6-12

In a resounding show of support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, thousands of AIPAC activists from all 50 states will ascend Capitol Hill today to conduct more than 500 lobbying meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

At the top of the agenda will be stopping Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. AIPAC activists will encourage their representatives to support resolutions in the House and Senate (H. Res. 568 and S. Res. 380) affirming that it is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and opposing any reliance on a policy seeking to contain a nuclear-capable Iran.

The Senate resolution is being led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Robert Casey (D-PA). The House resolution was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA).

Similarly, delegates will urge senators to support the Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act of 2012 (S. 2101), which would escalate the level of sanctions against the regime’s human rights violators and sharply tighten the enforcement of existing sanctions law. The measure was introduced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL).

AIPAC activists will also urge lawmakers to support the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, which House and Senate members plan to introduce in the coming days. The legislation is expected to recommend several ways to strengthen U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation in such fields as missile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence and cyber-security.

The House version of the bill is being led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), while the Senate legislation is being spearheaded by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

Finally, the AIPAC citizen-lobbyists will be asking their representatives to support $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel as part of the fiscal year 2013 budget. The aid request reflects the fifth year of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel, signed in 2007 and beginning in 2009, which called for a gradual increase in U.S. security assistance to the Jewish state in order to meet growing regional threats.

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

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

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.

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