Romney in Quakertown: Says he’ll do ‘opposite’ of Obama on Israel

— by Ira Forman

Mitt Romney in Quakertown (Bucks County, Pennsylvania) claimed Saturday that he would “look at the things the President has done and do the opposite” in our relationship with Israel.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

He responded with ridicule when asked what he would do, if elected, to strengthen U.S. relations with the Jewish state.

‘I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite,’ Romney said, to laughter and applause from members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, an evangelical Christian political organization.

But Romney is, once again, trying to score cheap political points by distorting President Obama’s strong record of support for the state of Israel.

Does Mitt Romney want people to believe he would reverse President Obama’s commitment — in both words and actions — to Israel’s security and the unshakable bond between our two countries?

If Romney was to actually do the opposite of what the President Obama has done, he would jeopardize Israel’s security and international standing:

  • Would Romney actually reverse President Obama’s policy of increasing security assistance to Israel every year, including unprecedented support for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system? President Obama has increased his request for security assistance to Israel every year of his administration, and his budget includes a record-high $3.1 billion in military assistance to Israel in addition to missile defense spending. President Obama has also directed the Pentagon to expand U.S.-Israel security cooperation, committing $205 million dollars to assist in shielding Israelis from mortars and rockets as part of an ongoing effort to “deepen and expand the quantity and intensity of cooperation to the fullest extent”
  • Would Romney actually let Israel stand alone at the United Nations? President Obama prevented Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations with Israel and unilaterally seek statehood recognition through the United Nations. He used the first Security Council veto of his presidency to stop condemnation of Israel settlements and stood by Israel in pushing back against the one-sided Goldstone Report. Prime Minister Netanyahu called President Obama’s support for Israel at the United Nations “a badge of honor.”
  • Would Romney actually refuse to come to Israel’s aid when they ask for help? When Israel’s embassy in Cairo was attacked by protestors in September 2011, President Obama called on Egypt to protect the embassy and offered his support to Prime Minister Netanyahu; the next day, Netanyahu publicly thanked the President for his help and called it a “decisive and fateful moment.” When Israel’s Carmel Forest caught fire in 2010, the worst natural disaster in Israel’s history, Prime Minister Netanyahu turned to President Obama for help, and the President directed his administration to “get Israel whatever it needs. Now.

Israeli leaders have highlighted President Obama’s steadfast support for the Jewish state. In an address to the Union for Reform Judaism, Ehud Barak said that the bonds between Israel and the United States are “stronger and deeper than ever” under President Obama. President Peres said that you should judge a President on his record and that under President Obama, Israel and the United States have “the best relationship on the issue of security…. this is a fact.”

It’s time for Romney to stop distorting President Obama’s record on Israel to score political points. Our relationship with Israel is far too important.

 

DHS Secretary Napolitano Visits Israel for Strategic Talks

— by David Streeter

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Israel this week for a number of strategic talks with high-level Israeli officials.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a press release recapping the first day of her trip:

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano … traveled to Jerusalem where she met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and other Israeli officials to discuss security-related issues, and signed a Joint Statement on the implementation of the Global Entry trusted traveler program for Israeli citizens with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

‘This agreement is part of the United States’ strong and enduring partnership with Israel, dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of both our countries,’ said Secretary Napolitano. ‘Global Entry will expedite the customs and security process for trusted Israeli air travelers arriving in the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security.’

Recap of the second day of the trip after the jump.
DHS said in a press release summarizing her second day in Israel:

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano … concluded her visit to Israel, delivering remarks on the Department’s collaboration with international partners to combat terrorism and facilitate trade and travel at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, and meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials to discuss security-related issues.

‘The United States remains steadfastly committed to Israel’s security.  The bonds between our two nations are unshakeable, lasting and critical to both our peoples,’ said Secretary Napolitano.

During her remarks, Secretary Napolitano underscored the importance of partnering with Israel to address shared challenges – from preventing terrorism to securing the global supply chain to preparing for and recovering from natural disasters….

Secretary Napolitano also met with Minister of Defense Ehud Barak and Minister of Home Front Defense Matan Vilani to discuss cooperation and recent progress on issues related to information sharing, global supply chain security, aviation security and emergency management.

Obama Admin. to Provide Israel with $70M for Iron Dome

— by David Streeter

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hosted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon today for bilateral discussions focused on Israel’s security and Iran. Panetta announced during the meeting that the Obama Administration will be providing Israel with an addition $70 million in funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is in addition to the $205 million previously given.

Panetta’s statement and reaction from JTA after the jump.
Panetta said in a statement:

The level of security cooperation between the United States and Israel has never been stronger. One important example of this cooperation is U.S. support for Israel’s Iron Dome short range rocket and mortar defense system.

I was pleased to inform Minister Barak that the President supports Israel’s Iron Dome system and directed me to fill the $70 million in assistance for Iron Dome that Minister Barak indicated to me Israel needs this fiscal year.

My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens. That is why going forward over the next three years, we intend to request additional funding for Iron Dome, based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat. This is part of our rock solid commitment to Israel’s security and comes on top of approximately $3 billion in annual security assistance for Israel.

The U.S. has already provided $205 million in assistance for that system, and operational batteries have already proven effective in defending against rocket attacks on Israel earlier this year. Iron Dome has already saved the lives of Israeli citizens, and it can help prevent escalation in the future.

Minister Barak and I have been discussing additional U.S. support for Iron Dome, and in recent months our departments have been working closely to gauge Israel’s security needs and production capacity for that system.

This is assistance that, provided Congress concurs, we can move quickly, to ensure no shortage in this important system. Meanwhile, we will stay in close consultation in the years ahead to ensure we are making necessary investments in this important system.

JTA reported:

Legislation under consideration in Congress, shaped in consultation with administration officials, would deliver $680 million to Israel for the system, which earlier this year successfully intercepted rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The system was funded in part by $205 million transferred by the United States to Israel in 2011.

Barak in a statement said he ‘greatly appreciated’ the announcement, adding that ‘This additional funding for the Iron Dome system comes at a crucial time for the Israeli people.’

Barak is in Washington to discuss with Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton efforts to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon….

Israel would likely seek to shore up its defenses against attacks on its borders ahead of any conflict with Iran, as Iran would be likely to pressure surrogates in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to attack.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also praised the Obama administration for its announcement.

‘This funding will enable the Jewish state to better protect its citizens, thus preventing a wider conflict,’ AIPAC said in a statement. ‘Missile defense programs are a cornerstone of U.S.-Israel cooperative programs. The two allies work together to develop innovative technologies that advance the security of both nations.’

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon Returns From Israel

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon concluded a three day visit to Israel today for consultations with senior Israeli officials including Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, Chief of the General Staff Gantz, and National Security Advisor Gen. Yaakov Amidror.  Mr. Donilon and his delegation addressed the full range of security issues of mutual concern.  The visit is part of the continuous and intensive dialogue between the United States and Israel and reflects our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.  Mr. Donilon relayed to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the President looks forward to meeting with him at the White House on March 5.

Gen. Dempsey in Israel: “America is Your Partner”

— by David Streeter

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey visited Israel to conduct high level meetings regarding the Iranian threat. The New York Times reported on Dempsey’s trip:

The meetings were closed and their contents were not revealed. But General Dempsey, on his first visit to Israel as military chief, was quoted in brief remarks released by the office of Israel’s defense minister as saying, ‘We have many interests in common in the region in this very dynamic time, and the more we can continue to engage each other, the better off we’ll all be.’…

General Dempsey began his visit here with an intimate dinner on Thursday evening at a restaurant in Jaffa with his counterpart, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel’s military chief of staff. The men were joined by their wives. Early Friday, General Dempsey was greeted at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv with an honor guard and held meetings with General Gantz and other senior commanders.

The top generals ‘discussed military-to-military relations, the new U.S. defense strategy, budget and economic issues and regional security challenges,’ Col. Dave Lapan, the Special Assistant for Public Affairs in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement.

Other meetings were held with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Barak and Israel’s president, Shimon Peres. General Dempsey also visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, where he wrote in the visitors’ book, ‘We are committed to ensuring that such a human tragedy never happens again.’ He departed Israel before the onset of the Sabbath at sundown on Friday.

Each of the meetings ‘reinforced the deep and special relationship shared by Israel and the U.S.,’ Colonel Lapan said, and ‘served to advance a common understanding of the regional security environment.’…

Mr. Peres told General Dempsey on Friday that ‘Even today in a very complicated situation we can find a common ground. We have profound trust in your democratic system and your armed forces.’ General Dempsey assured Mr. Peres that ‘America is your partner and we are honored to have you as a partner in that regard.’

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Military, General Martin E. Dempsey, visited Israel On January 19th — 20th, 2012. This was General’s Dempsey’s first visit to Israel, and he was hosted by the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz.
During his visit, General Dempsey held a private meeting with Lieutenant General Gantz, as well as a briefing with senior commanders of the General Staff, focusing on cooperation between the two militaries, as well as mutual security challenges. During his visit, General Dempsey also met with the Minister of Defense, Mr. Ehud Barak, with the Prime Minister, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, and with the President, Mr. Shimon Peres.

General Dempsey was welcomed to the IDF General Headquarters in Camp Rabin (the Kirya) by an IDF honor guard of soldiers and to the sounds of the national anthems of Israel and the United States of America. General Dempsey also visited the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Museum, where he was very moved by the exhibition.

In brief remarks after the tour, Dempsey noted the significance of the date — 70 years to the day of the infamous Wannsee Conference held in that Berlin suburb on Jan. 20, 1942. It was at that meeting that senior officials of the Nazi regime discussed their “Final solution to the Jewish problem.”

“We are committed to ensuring that such a human tragedy never happens again,” Dempsey wrote in the museum’s visitor’s book.

Shalom TV Live Premiers Today Throughout North America

— by Alan Oirich

Barack Obama, Glenn Beck, Ed Koch and Ehud Barak will headline the premiere of Shalom TV Live

Jews throughout North America will have a new channel available for viewing beginning today, February 1, 2012, as “Shalom TV Live” premieres with a wide array of programming.

Shalom TV Live can be viewed online on any computer or mobile device by visiting the Shalom TV Web site. The channel will also be premiering in New York City and in Miami on Hotwire Communications and will soon be carried on cable systems throughout the country.

The new television channel will compliment Shalom TV’s extremely successful Free Video On Demand programming which is currently available in more than 40 million homes on virtually every cable system in the United State and on Rogers Cable in Canada.

A Jewish “PBS-style” channel in the breadth of its programming, the first week of Shalom TV Live features:

  • the annual dinner of the Zionist Organization of America in NY and the addresses of ZOA President Morton Klein and keynote speaker Glenn Beck;
  • the Union For Reform Judaism’s Biennial in Washington, DC, with President Barack Obama, Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky, and outgoing URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie,
  • an interview with former New York City Mayor Ed Koch
  • an interview with the recent past chairman of the Presidents Conference, Alan Solow, a longtime friend of President Obama.
  • And viewers will share in the fiftieth anniversary of the Foundation For Jewish Culture as its CEO, Elise Bernhardt, presents Jewish Cultural Achievement Awards to individuals who have made major cultural contributions, including Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt.

In addition, Shalom TV Live will feature a daily newscast from Israel, children’s programming every morning and afternoon, a series profiling the hottest Israeli musical artists (“Muzika”), and an “HBO-like” series following Jewish singles in their search for that special someone (“From Date To Mate”).

More after the jump.
Shalom TV Live will also provide viewers with a front-row seat to the outstanding programs presented at The 92nd Street Y in New York; and the channel’s Jewish Studies programming will enable one to learn to read and understand Hebrew (“From The Aleph Bet”), study a page of Talmud (“Dimensions of the Daf”), sit with rabbis from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem (“Rethinking Judaism”), and be introduced to the mysteries of Kabbalah (“Kabbalah Revealed”). Shalom TV also plans on telecasting live Friday Night Services preceded by a D’var Torah on the week’s Torah reading by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.

Shalom TV, a nonprofit network, is free of charge as both a VOD service and a live channel. Network president Mark S. Golub explains that the launch of the Shalom TV Live will do nothing to the Video On Demand programming which will remain available on all cable systems.

“There is something very exciting about doing live television,” Golub explains. “In addition to news from Israel, Shalom TV will now be able to cover breaking stories as they occur and our guests will be able to interact with our audience via telephone. And with a live channel, many Jews and non-Jews will find it especially easy to access Shalom TV and share in the information, education, and entertainment Shalom TV provides the entire community.”

To watch Shalom TV Live and to see the week’s program schedule; to access archived programs; and to find how to access Shalom TV’s Video On Demand network on your cable system, visit the Shalom TV Web site and click on “Find Us.” Everyone is also encouraged to call their cable provider and ask them to add Shalom TV Live to their channel lineup.

Shalom TV, America’s national Jewish television network, is available for free on virtually every cable system in America. It can be found in the free Video On Demand section on Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, Verizon FiOS, Antietam, Cox Communications, RCN, Bright House, Armstrong, Service Electric Cablevision, Service Electric Cable TV, Buckeye CableSystem, MetroCast, Blue Ridge Communications, Frontier, WOW!, Click!, GCI, and Rogers Cable (Canada).

Obama’s Right Wing Critics Should Be Dizzy from All their Spinning

— by Marc R. Stanley

Ever since President Barack Obama’s inauguration, his right wing critics have devoted countless hours and millions of keystrokes to spinning the President’s record of support for Israel so far from reality that it threatens the historical bipartisan foundation of American support for Israel. The vortex of right wing spin was fully on display last week as Republican partisans and right wing pundits pounced on selectively-chosen quotes and inaccurate media reports to continue their baseless attacks on Obama’s stellar record of support for Israel.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delivered-in front of a pro-Israel crowd gathered to substantively and civilly discuss Israel-an entire address that discussed the actual steps taken by the Obama Administration to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. Right wingers took five words from the question and answer section, removed their context, and ran wild with them as if they nullified every pro-Israel action described in Panetta’s speech.

More after the jump.
Despite what you may have heard or read, Panetta-who is widely regarded as being pro-Israel by many involved with the issue-made two things crystal clear. First, “Israel will always have the unshakeable backing of the United States,” and second, that the President is considering a “wide range of military options” as part of his approach to stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

As usual though, Republicans overlooked Panetta’s positive statements and continued their effort to make Israel a partisan wedge issue. The spin on Panetta’s speech was so far removed from reality that the nonpartisan American Jewish Committee weighed in and criticized the inaccurate reports of Panetta’s speech, in addition to setting the record straight on his strongly pro-Israel statements.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton-also a stalwart supporter of Israel-received similar treatment following an off-the-record session during the same Israel forum that Panetta spoke at. Clinton reportedly expressed concern over certain recent Knesset bills and incidents regarding women and Israel’s Orthodox community. Predictably, Obama’s right wing critics spun Clinton’s reported comments past the point of reality, and largely ignored the mainstream American Jewish leaders and organizations that vocally expressed similar concerns about similar issues.

These two recent incidents highlight the lengths that Obama’s right wing detractors will go to malign his Administration’s stellar record of support for Israel. After vocally opposing the Palestinians’ unilateral state declaration, increasing security cooperation with Israel to unprecedented levels-including supplemental funding for the Iron Dome missile system that protects Israelis from Hamas’ rockets, consistently defending Israel’s legitimacy at the United Nations, personally intervening to save Israel’s diplomats in Cairo, and personally authorizing the delivery of any equipment Israel needed to fight the Carmel fire, Obama’s naysayers simply have little substance to criticize.

As a result, those seeking to make Israel a partisan wedge issue create bogus stories based on inaccurate media reports and remarks taken out of context. Most seriously though, right wing partisans politicize the occasional tactical disagreements that have zero act on the fundamental core principles of the U.S.-Israel relationship. When Israeli and American leaders state publically that the U.S.-Israel relationship is as strong as it has ever been-as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren have all loudly and repeatedly stressed-right wing partisans tune out and keep pushing their spin and smears. Their hope is that their efforts will bring the mass exodus of Jews from Democratic Party to the Republican Party that they’ve been wishing for since at least the 1980’s.

Recent polls of American and Israeli Jews indicate that the right wing spin of Obama’s Israel record is not causing the massive Israel-based shift that Republicans want to see. Given the wide distance separating the Republican presidential field from the majority of American Jews, right wing partisans should be dizzy to the point of sickness by now. But since the GOP-from Party leaders to presidential candidates to rank-and-file members of Congress-has demonstrated its intent to politicize the U.S.-Israel relationship without regard to Obama’s actual record, those who support a strong bipartisan consensus of support for Israel must speak out loudly to refute the spin before the relationship suffers collateral damage from their partisan attacks.

Originally published in the Texas Jewish Post. Marc R. Stanley is the Chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Ed Koch Likes Romney & Gingrich, But He Will Vote For Obama

— by Alan Oirich

In an exclusive interview on Shalom TV, one of the nation’s leading Democrats has some kind words for two of the candidates vying for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

When asked by Shalom TV President Mark S. Golub who among the current Republican candidates would be best for America and for Israel, the former New York City Mayor groups the two front runners together, saying:

I believe that both Romney and Gingrich–one of which will be the Republican candidate–are both able. I’m not voting for either of them; I am voting for Obama; but they’re both able; they are fine Americans (I mean, they have a philosophy which is not mine); but they will do what they think is in the best interest of America–and they are also both very supportive of Israel.

Mr. Koch also described how after the Turner victory, the President reached out to him. In a private meeting in New York City, after the President gave what Mr. Koch calls a “magnificent” pro-Israel speech at the United Nations, Mr. Obama told the former Mayor that he didn’t understand why the Jewish community is upset with him given how very supportive of Israel he is. Mr. Koch explained to the President that he would not have been so upset with Mr. Obama if, when the President had placed demands on Israel, he had also made demands of Hamas. Koch reports the President’s responding, “Didn’t I?”

After the half hour meeting, Mr. Koch was convinced that Mr. Obama believes he is a friend of Israel and now supports Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign because of the President’s strong stand in opposition to Palestinian statehood at the United Nations and because the President has been praised by Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, for being one of the most supportive of all U.S. presidents when it comes to supplying military aid.

Full interview follows the jump.

Barak “Lavishes Praise” on Obama for Resolve

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak-Israel’s most decorated soldier and former Prime Minister-strongly praised President Barack Obama’s commitment to stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program during an interview with Israel Radio. Politico reported:

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak lavished praise on the president Thursday, commending him for being ‘ready to undertake the fiercest of political risks to his survival, in order to make good on what he believes in’ and defending him against those who call him a ‘soft appeaser.’

Barak forcefully pushed back against those who question Obama’s consistent resolve when it comes to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran by saying:

He added, ‘We are asked, sometimes, whether Obama is really a soft appeaser. To that, I say: “Go ask Osama bin Laden.”‘

Barak, who met with Obama in Washington last week, also hailed the president’s ‘internal consistency,’ which he said ‘stems from being a leader,’ and also pointed to Obama’s ‘circumspection that comes from seeing, above, only the heavens and one’s own conscience.’