Biden Gives Green Light For Israel To Stop Iran

— by Jake Sharfman

Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Rabbinical Assembly National Convention today, in Atlanta, and spoke on issues such as the U.S-Israel relationship, the military cooperation between the two countries and the Obama Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.

In his speech, Vice President Biden also expressed his concern about the State of Israel and the international assault attempting to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state, saying, “I’m more worried about Israel today than I have been any time in my career, because it’s a different struggle.”

Biden on Romney’s “Profound Misunderstanding” of Foreign Policy

Biden: “No president since Truman has done more for Israel than Obama.”

— by Max Samis

Speaking at New York University, Vice President Joe Biden gave an address on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy successes that directly refuted many of the claims made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. According to Biden, Romney has a “profound misunderstanding” of the role of Commander-in-Chief and a clear record of “distorting” the President’s record. Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press wrote:

In a campaign speech delivered at New York University Law School, Biden laid out a robust defense of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record while eviscerating Romney for lacking vision and for ‘distorting’ Obama’s record in a way that has been counterproductive to U.S. interests.

‘If you’re looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,’ Biden said, saying Obama’s decisions on both foreign and domestic policy had made the U.S. safer.

Biden cast the former Massachusetts governor as an inexperienced foreign policy thinker who would delegate decisions to staff and advisers. He also hit Romney on his reputation for flip-flopping on issues.

‘We know when the governor does venture a position it’s a safe bet that he previously took or will take an exactly opposite position,’ Biden said, noting that Romney had originally supported setting a time frame for pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan only to later criticize Obama’s plan to do so by the end of 2014.

Biden repeatedly used Romney’s own words against him, such as when Romney downplayed the significance of capturing Osama bin Laden during Romney’s 2008 presidential bid and, more recently, when Romney said Russia was the United States’ gravest geopolitical foe.

‘As my brother would say, “Go figure,”‘ Biden said to laughs.

Biden made special note of Obama’s commitment to Israel’s safety and security, accusing Romney of twisting the president’s positions. Fouhy wrote:

On Israel, Biden said Obama has stood firm in support of the Jewish state – often alone and facing criticism from other allies. He noted that Romney had accused Obama of ‘throwing Israel under the bus.’

‘The governor is falling back on one of his party’s favorite tricks of late – distort and mischaracterize your opponent’s position. Keep repeating the distortions and mischaracterizations over and over again,’ Biden said.

Biden also criticized Romney’s positions on Iran, firmly stating that the governor continues to attack the president without offering any difference in opinion or strategy. Fouhy wrote:

On Iran, Biden said Romney’s call for crippling sanctions and a U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon simply mirrored Obama’s approach.

‘The only step we could take that we aren’t already taking is to launch a war against Iran. If that’s what Gov. Romney means by a “very different policy,” he should tell the American people,’ Biden said.


Jewish Organizations Push To Protect Women

— by Max Samis

As Congress debates the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act — which has been passed and reauthorized with bipartisan support several times since it’s inception in 1994 — prominent Democrats marked April 17 as “Equal Pay Day,” recognizing the importance of continuing to fight for gender equality in the workplace. Several leading Democrats issued statements and penned op-eds in order to raise awareness of the issue, as well as the larger fight for women’s rights.

Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said:

President Obama and Democrats understand that equal pay is so important for women and their families that one of the first pieces of legislation Democrats passed in 2009 and the first bill the President signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ensures that women can fight for equal pay for equal work, and on National Equal Pay Day we celebrate our continued fight for economic equality, regardless of gender.

The President’s commitment to women is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney and the GOP’s attitude toward equal pay for women. While Democrats and the President were making equal pay for equal work a priority, nearly every Republican in the House and Senate voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who Mitt Romney has called a ‘hero,’ recently repealed that state’s fair pay law; and Mitt Romney refuses to say if he would have signed Lilly Ledbetter had he been president at the time. His campaign on a conference call last week couldn’t even articulate a response when asked his position on the law….

On Equal Pay Day women can rest assured that Democrats and President Obama will continue the fight for equal pay for equal work and will fight for their right to make health care choices for themselves and their families. It’s a shame that Mitt Romney and Republicans can’t say the same thing.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — the first female speaker in American history — also said:

I’m proud of the accomplishments of the Democratic-led Congress on behalf of equal pay and fairness. The Lilly Ledbetter Act-the first bill President Obama signed into law-restored the right of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay in court. Further, under the Affordable Care Act, soon women will no longer be charged higher premiums than men for the same coverage and no longer will being a woman be treated as a pre-existing condition.  

On Equal Pay Day, we honor all of our nation’s women, who through their labor – at home and in the workplace – have made our country strong. And we recommit to opening the doors of opportunity for the next generation of women.

Graph of pay gap by profession, a map of pay gap by state, and op/eds by Senators Gillibrand and Boxer follow the jump.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote an op-ed in The Huffington Post, discussing the importance of pay equity not just to women, but to the national economy as a whole. Gillibrand wrote:

…[T]he issue of pay equity is not merely one of fairness. Equal pay for equal work is vital for our economic growth and middle class financial security. With more and more women contributing to household incomes, the lack of equal pay for women hurts all middle class working families-men and children included. In New York alone, women head more than 1,000,000 households. It’s estimated that because of the wage gap, New York families are deprived of $8600 a year. Nationwide, it’s been estimated that if women were paid a dollar on the dollar for equal work, the U.S. GDP could grow up to 9 percent.

Gillibrand also discussed pay equity in regards to women’s health. She wrote:

In addition to being an economic security issue, the failure to pay women a salary that’s equal to men for equal work is also a women’s health issue. The fact is that the salary women are paid directly impacts the type of health care services they are able to access for both themselves and their families. For example, if we closed the wage gap, a working woman in New York would be able to afford more than 2 years worth of additional family health insurance premiums. At a time when women’s health services are increasingly vulnerable to budget cuts, it’s more important than ever that women have financial security to maintain access to basic care for them and their families.

In Politico, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote an op-ed asserting that contrary to what Republicans may have you believe, the “war on women” is very real:

Suppose it’s the championship basketball game and one player is committing foul after foul. Each time, he denies he’s committed any offense.

Eventually, he fouls out. But even as he heads to the bench, he’s protesting that he did nothing wrong.

That’s what we’re seeing today from Republicans who claim there is no ‘war on women.’ The Republican National Committee chairman likened it to a ‘war on caterpillars.’ The Senate Republican leader claims it’s all manufactured – even as female members of his caucus warn about the growing backlash against the GOP from women.

House Republicans have introduced more than 30 bills that would restrict a woman’s reproductive health care. Those same Republicans, who decry an all-too-powerful government, have no problem deciding what health care is right for our daughters, or sisters or mothers….

Here in Congress, 116 Republicans in the House and 19 Republicans in the Senate are co-sponsors of ‘personhood’ legislation, which would criminalize abortion with no exceptions for the mother’s life or health. … It could even bar doctors from providing life-saving care to women with dangerous ectopic pregnancies.

It doesn’t end there. Republicans in Congress blocked an international treaty – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – even though the only other nations refusing to ratify it are Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga.

They also oppose increasing the minimum wage – when women make up about two-thirds of all workers now earning minimum wage or less. Not one Republican is a cosponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which helps protect women from domestic violence, when the bill was in the Senate Judiciary Committee. They voted to repeal the health care law – including the part that says no more gender discrimination in the pricing of health insurance policies and the part that offers free preventive services like mammograms, STD screening, well-woman visits and birth control.

The facts are the facts. The Republicans have launched a war on women. Despite all the denials, women get it – and so do the men who care about them.

In addition to the fight for pay equality, Democrats have pushed for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Led by Vice President Joe Biden – who originally wrote and sponsored the bill as a Senator from Delaware in 1994 – a group of lawmakers and private citizens spoke today about the importance of passing the bill with bipartisan support. Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown wrote:

‘The idea we’re still fighting about this in Congress, that this is even a debatable issue, is truly sad,’ Biden said during remarks at the Eisenhower Office Building. ‘It’s not a reflection on the law. It is a reflection on our inability in this town to deal with something that by now should just be over in terms of debate about it.’

‘No one should question whether this is needed,’ Biden said at the end of his remarks. ‘It would have been bad if the law had never been passed. But imagine now, the message it sends if it is not reauthorized. Just ask what message it would send to every one of our daughters, every woman imprisoned in their home.’

Several prominent Jewish organizations have also spoken out in favor of VAWA’s reauthorization. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Hadassah have all urged their supporters to contact their local Congressional delegations and urge that they vote to pass the reauthorization of VAWA immediately. This is too important to wait.

  • Click here to read Senator Gillibrand’s entire op-ed.
  • Click here to read Senator Boxer’s entire op-ed.
  • Click here to read about how President Barack Obama’s actions have reflected Jewish values, including his accomplishments on women’s rights.

US Gender Pay Gap By State

Hanukkah Comes Early to the Obama White House

— by David Streeter

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the White House’s annual Chanukah party last night that was attended by many prominent Jewish leaders and activists. Vice President Joe Biden, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, several Jewish members of Congress, NJDC Chair Marc R. Stanley, NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris, and a number of other NJDC leaders were all among the event’s attendees. Before the party started, Obama remarked to the guests:

Welcome to the White House.  Thank you all for joining us tonight to celebrate Hanukkah-even if we’re doing it a little bit early.

I want to start by recognizing a few folks who are here. The ambassador to the United States from Israel, Michael Oren, is in the house.

We are honored to be joined by one of the justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is here. We are thrilled to see her. She’s one of my favorites … I’ve got a soft spot for Justice Ginsburg.

And we’ve got more than a few members of Congress here and members of my administration in the house, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Jarrod Bernstein is here….

I also want to thank the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir-the Voice of Tradition-for their wonderful performance, but more importantly, for their extraordinary service to our country.

And I want to thank all the rabbis and lay leaders who have come far and wide to be here with us today.

Now, as I said, we’re jumping the gun just a little bit. The way I see it, we’re just extending the holiday spirit. We’re stretching it out. But we do have to be careful that your kids don’t start thinking Hanukkah lasts 20 nights instead of eight. That will cause some problems.

This Hanukkah season we remember a story so powerful that we all know it by heart-even us Gentiles. It’s a story of right over might, of faith over doubt. Of a band of believers who rose up and freed their people and discovered that the oil left in their desecrated temple-which should have lasted only one night-ended up lasting eight.

More after the jump.

It’s a timeless story. And for 2,000 years, it has given hope to Jews everywhere who are struggling. And today, it reminds us that miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Because to most people, the miracle of Hanukkah would have looked like nothing more than a simple flame, but the believers in the temple knew it was something else. They knew it was something special.

This year, we have to recognize the miracles in our own lives. Let’s honor the sacrifices our ancestors made so that we might be here today. Let’s think about those who are spending this holiday far away from home-including members of our military who guard our freedom around the world. Let’s extend a hand to those who are in need, and allow the value of tikkun olam to guide our work this holiday season.

This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations. And that includes, of course, our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel.

So while it is not yet Hanukkah, let’s give thanks for our blessings, for being together to celebrate this wonderful holiday season. And we never need an excuse for a good party….

So as I look around, I see a whole bunch of good friends. We can’t wait to give you a hug and a kiss and wish you a happy holiday. The guys with whiskers, I won’t give you a kiss.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya noted that the party’s traditional kosher Chanukah foods were accompanied by “sushi rolls, caramelized pearl onions, shitake mushrooms, [and] pine nut herb crusted lamb chops.”

White House Pool Report by C. J. Ciaramella

The foyer was adorned in festive winter decorations. President Obama gave his remarks at a podium, next to a menorah with all eight candles lit.

Obama spoke for about four minutes to the group of approximately 550 guests, including many American Jewish community leaders, about the meaning of the Hannukah story.

“This Hannukah season, we remember a story so powerful that we know it by heart … even us gentiles,” Obama said. “A story of right over might, faith over doubt, a story about a band of believers who rose up and freed their people.”

President Obama said the Hannukah story is a reminder that “miracles come in all sizes,” and the holiday season is a time to “recognize the miracles in our own lives.”

“This is also time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations, and that of course includes our unshakable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel,” Obama said to applause.

After speaking, Obama left to meet with guests in the Map Room of the White House.

Notable guests included Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, White House Director of Jewish Outreach Jarrod Bernstein and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, for whom President Obama said he had a “soft spot.”

Many members of Congress were also present, as was the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir.

Guests were treated to an all-kosher menu including dill and vodka Scottish smoked salmon and roulade of chicken breast. All food was prepared under the strict rabbinical supervision of Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Lubavitch Center of Washington (Chabad), in cooperation with the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington.

The menorah for this year’s ceremony was lent by The Jewish Museum, New York and is dedicated to General Joseph T. McNarney, who served as the Commander in Chief of United States Forces in the European Theatre from November 1945 to March 1947.

Separate Fact from Fiction of Obama’s Israel Record

— by Jason Attermann

Pro-Israel activist Steve Sheffey wrote an opinion piece for The Jerusalem Post warning about the false smears likely to be spread by right-wingers against President Barack Obama’s strong pro-Israel record as the presidential campaign heats up.

The campaign to delegitimize President Obama in the eyes of pro-Israel voters will only intensify between now and November 6….

Opponents of territorial compromise and Americans who use concern for Israel to mask concern about paying their fair share of taxes compose most of the 20-25 percent of Jews who vote Republican. But that’s not enough to win an election; hence their efforts to distort President Obama’s record on Israel. Most Jews support the Democratic domestic agenda, so if there is no reason to oppose the president based on Israel, there is no reason to oppose him at all.

Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program, restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the previous administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, taken US Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and is mounting a diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

More after the jump.
According to Sheffey, Obama’s detractors will attempt to delegitimize his extensive commitment to Israel’s security through the techniques of “repetition of falsehoods,” “baseless speculation,” and “guilt by association”-all of which have been engaged in before. Sheffey simplifies the situation as merely one of separating the facts of Obama’s actions from the fiction perpetuated by his opponents:

President Obama has surrounded himself with pro-Israel advisers, from Hillary Clinton to Dan Shapiro to Joe Biden to Rahm Emanuel. Yet we still hear about alleged influences from Obama’s past. Obama has been president for nearly three years. Evaluate President Obama the way the pro- Israel community has always evaluated our leaders and representatives: by looking at what they’ve done, not by trying to read their minds or via conjectures about influences that are impossible to prove or disprove.

If unprecedented military cooperation between the US and Israel, unambiguous opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and unrelenting defense of Israel in international forums is what happens when someone knows Jeremiah Wright, we ought to send all our candidates to his church. President Obama’s record proves that he is one of the best friends of Israel ever to occupy the White House. The only question is whether attempts to manipulate the emotions of pro-Israel voters by distorting the president’s record will succeed. The answer depends on our ability to separate fact from fiction.

VP Joe Biden at Yeshiva Beth Yehuda 75th Anniversary Dinner

Remarks by Vice-President Joe Biden

Ladies and gentlemen, 97th anniversary — I’m told you began with a weekly class of just five students some 97 years ago.  And now, you’re the largest Jewish school system in the state.  And nearly a century — for nearly a century you’ve set a standard for excellence not just in Jewish education, but in education period, preparing each generation for leadership and service in the community, which is an unyielding Jewish tradition.

    I’m probably one of the few Christian members of the Congress who can say the motzi.  (Laughter.)  I’ve attended more Jewish dinners than some of you have.  (Applause.)  I’ve raised more money from AIPAC than some of you have.  (Applause.)  I have spent more money raising money for the Federation than some of you have.  (Laughter.)  You think I’m kidding, don’t you.  I’m not.

More after the jump.
      It’s a testament to all of you that so many of Michigan’s leaders are assembled here today — your master of ceremonies indicated, reading off all of the people who are here.  It is a testament to the great, great work that you do.

    Although I was not educated here, I was not educated in the tradition — I was not educated in a Jewish school, I was educated in the traditions of Judaism.  I was educated about the oppression and genocide committed against the Jews, the historic ties between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.  I was educated at my dinner table by what my Jewish friends at home refer to — and you would — as a righteous Christian, a man who taught us that without vigilance, the safe haven of Israel, it could happen again without Israel.

    I got in trouble some years ago and Carl may remember.  About 18, 20 years ago, I was speaking to the Zionist Organization of Baltimore.  And I said, I am a Zionist, for I learned you do not have to be a Jew to be a Zionist.  The fact of the matter is that the man who raised me was absolutely committed to the notion that it should never happen again, the man who could not understand why there could even be a debate about the establishment of the state of Israel.  That man was my dad.

    So it was no surprise to my friends when I was elected to the Senate in a state less than 1 percent of the Jewish — less than 1 percent of the population is Jewish, that I got so deeply involved early on in the Senate with the business of Israel.  I was elected when I was 29 years old.  And I continued my education, because I had the opportunity to get there and be educated by men like Hubert Humphrey, like Abe Ribicoff, like Jack Javits — people who were my mentors as a young kid in the United States Senate.

    And like all of you, I feel we have an obligation to educate all of our children about the darkest moments of the past, so we can avoid them in the future.  That’s why when children — when my children were old enough, I took them — as Carl remembers — my first trip taking my oldest son at 15, then my second son when he turned 15 to Europe.  We literally flew into Germany, went down to Munich, got in a car and drove to Dachau, the first place they ever visited, because I wanted them to understand what mankind is capable of, the incredible humanity.

    But I also wanted them to understand that the most horrible circumstances imaginable that occurred there and in other concentration camps is only paled by the endurance of the human spirit.  Folks, it’s more than just Zachor.  It’s more than just remembrance.  It’s an American national security interest that Israel remain free, secure in a democratic state in the Middle East.  As I said when I — (Applause.)

    If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one.  As I said in a speech I recently made at Tel Aviv University, American support for Israel is not just an act of friendship; it’s an act of fundamental national self-interest on the part of the United States, a key component of our broader efforts to secure this region and the wider world as well as secure our own security.  President Obama feels exactly the same way.

    When we came to office, when it came to standing up for Israel’s security both in terms of the threat it faces and countering those who seek to delegitimize Israel — this is the most concerted effort in my 36 years in the Senate and two and a half years as Vice President that I have seen an effort to literally delegitimize Israel as a nation state.  It’s occurring in Europe.  It’s occurring around the world.

    The commitment we have made — all my colleagues in the Senate and House that are here, all our administration — is equal to and surpasses that of any of our predecessors.  Early in our administration when the President gave his speech in Egypt to the Muslim communities around the world, he made our commitment plain as day, standing in Cairo in the midst of an Islamic audience.

    He told the audience in the heart of the Arab world, and I quote, that “America’s bond with Israel is unbreakable.”  Now listen — (Applause.)  Listen to what he said this September at the United Nations General Assembly.  He said, “Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it.  Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombers on their buses.  Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region other children are taught to hate them.  Israel, a small country with less than 8 million people looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten and are committed to wipe it off the face of the map.”

    That statement was not made at a Jewish dinner.  That statement was made for the whole world to hear before what was a mildly hostile General Assembly.

The threats against the Jewish state have changed dramatically since I first became a senator in 1973.  Then, there was no concern about a nuclear armed Iran, Hamas armed with sophisticated rockets, Hezbollah with longer range missiles, uncertainty among Israel’s neighbors during what has become known as the Arab Spring.

    So now, as a consequence of those changes our commitment to Israel’s security must and does reflect those new threats.  In spite of our own tough economic times — I need not tell folks in Detroit about tough economic times.  In spite of these tough economic times, the President with the help of the Congress has secured $3 billion in annual assistance for Israel, the most ever.  (Applause.)

On top of that, the President asked for an additional $205 million to help Israel produce what is referred to as the Iron Dome, the short range rocket defense system that has intercepted dozens of rockets along the Gaza border, rockets that could have struck hospitals, schools, or homes.  And it is now being installed along the Lebanese border.

    President Obama saw firsthand the need for a system back in 2008, when he was — when he actually visited the region.  He saw how the residents of the border areas were perpetually in the cross hairs of Hamas and Hezbollah.  And he worked with Israel on two new missile defense systems — Arrow and David’s Sling — on a high-powered radar system that could detect missiles by satellite and give the Israelis early warning of a launch against them.

    It’s not just the technology, but the human relationships that will ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge.  Since taking office, we’ve launched the most comprehensive and meaningful strategic and operational consultations across all levels of our government, unprecedented in their scope, frequency and character.

    The largest ever joint military exercise in our joint history — Juniper Cobra, it was referred to as.  The most visits by senior high-level Department of Defense officials and their Israeli counterparts — over 200.  Such cooperation, as you observed, only exists with the closes allies; cooperation that a friend of mine for 39 years, Benjamin Netanyahu himself, has rightly called unprecedented.

    The President is also keenly aware of the existential threat that Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons could and would pose to Israel.  It would also be, I might add, a direct and serious threat to the United States.  That’s why President Obama is absolutely determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, period.  (Applause.)

    We have built up the strongest and most far-reaching sanctions that Iran has ever seen.  As a result, Iran is increasingly isolated, and we are not — we’ve severely set back its ability to buy technology to continue its nuclear and missile programs.  We’ve made it increasingly difficult for Iran to do basic business transactions around the world.  For example, major multinational companies have suspended or stopped some $60 billion worth of energy projects with Iran, while banks, insurers and other financial institutions have ceased doing business altogether, just in the last 18 months.

    And don’t take my word for it.  Here’s what President Ahmadinejad — after saying initially the sanction had no consequence — here’s what he recently told the Iranian parliament, just two weeks ago.  And I quote, “the West as imposed the most extensive and dastardly sanctions.”  He went on to say, “Every day our banking and trade activities and our agreements are being monitored and blocked.  This is the heaviest economic onslaught,” he went on to say, “in our nation’s history.  Our banks cannot make international transactions anymore.”  And he went on.

    The Israelis know that they can count on us and on this President.  As recently as this September, when demonstrations in Cairo turned violent, and protestors breached the wall of the Israeli embassy there, tearing down Israel’s flag and threatening the security of the embassy staff, the Israeli’s asked for our help.  President Obama immediately responded.

Afterwards Bibi, I should refer — I’ve known him so long — the Prime Minister, Netanyahu, said of the President, I quote, “I requested his assistance at a decisive, I would say even fateful moment.  He said he would do everything possible, and that’s exactly what he did.  He activated all the United States’ means and influence, which are certainly considerable.  I believe we owe him a special debt of gratitude.”

Even — even as we remain vigilant to any and all threats to Israel’s security, we will have — and I can tell you for eight Presidents we always have had — tactical disagreements over policy.  But none of these disagreements go to the heart of our relationship.  They never have.  And we will never allow it to occur.

That’s more important than it ever has been today, because, as I said, we are witnessing the most sustained aggressive attempt to de-legitimize Israel that I have ever seen.  And I have been more deeply involved in this issue than anyone but four people who are still in the United States Congress.

The United States is fighting these efforts with everything we have.  It was one thing to help stop the sale of AWACS to the Saudis — I voted against AWACS to the Saudis years ago.  It’s a very different thing — it’s a very different thing to meet the pernicious undermining of Israel’s statehood that is occurring subtly all around the world.

We stood by Israel when the Goldstone Report on the 2009 Gaza War was issued, because we will always support Israel’s right to self-defense.  We refused to attend events that — (applause) — and by the way, this has been bipartisan — we’ve refused to attend events that legitimize the flawed — excuse me — 2001 World Conference Against Racism, which outrageously singled out Israel for criticism.

We vetoed the U.N. Security Council resolution that declared Israel’s settlements illegal, and we’re working around the clock to prevent the United Nations and its agencies from further isolating Israel, and from prematurely endorsing a Palestinian bid for statehood.  (Applause.)

And we are strongly — strongly — opposed to the decision by UNESCO to in fact recognize Israel as part of its organization to approve the Palestinian bid for full membership.

We have repeatedly made clear to the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the international community, that long-lasting peace can only be achieved — as Israeli leaders have argued from the beginning — by negotiations between the two parties themselves, period.  Period.  (Applause.)  As the President said of the United Nations last month, There are no shortcuts to peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we know, as our Israeli friends know, and I think everyone knows, that the status quo between Israel and the Palestinians is not sustainable.

For the Palestinians, statehood will not just fulfill legitimate, long-sought aspiration common to all people’s, it will restore the fundamental dignities and self-respect that their current predicament denies them and their current actions keep them from achieving.  For Israel, this is about both preserving its identity as a Jewish state, and achieving the lasting security that Israel deserves.

It is no secret that demographic realities make it increasingly difficult for Israel to remain both a Jewish homeland and a Democratic country, in the absence of a Palestinian state and an agreement.

Like many Americans, I’ve experienced the magic of Israel many, many times.  But at a relatively young age, when I had just turned 30, I first visited on the eve of the Yom Kippur War.  My very first meeting was with a woman I’ve always admired — had always admired — from afar, as millions of Americans did.

I remember being ushered into her office where she sat me down in front of her desk, and she had behind her a series of maps that she kept pulling back, up and down, while she chain-smoked.  She, Golda Meir, explained to me what had happened in the Six-Day War.  She read to me the most woe-some tales and letters from young men, young Israeli soldiers, and women who had been killed on the front.

There was a young man sitting next to me named Yitzhak Rabin, who I met for the first time.  As the Prime Minister spoke, I think she could see my sense of apprehension as I thought of the daunting threats that faced Israel at the time.

About an hour and a half into our meeting, she suddenly looked at me and she said, Senator, would you like a photo — would you like a photo opportunity?  I thought, What in the heck did that come from?  (Laughter.)  I said, Of course I would, Madame Prime Minister.  Many of you have been in her office, the same office.  We got up, they opened the double doors and walked out into that hallway, and there are all kinds of press there.

And as we’re standing next to one being photographed like it was a press conference — not speaking, just being photographed — she looked straight ahead, and talked to me while I was looking straight ahead.  And she said, Senator, you look worried.  And I said, Well, I am — I looked at her and I said, I am, Madame Prime Minister, after what she had just told me.  She said, Don’t worry, Senator.  We Israelis have a secret weapon in our conflict with the Arabs.  We have nowhere else to go.  We have nowhere else to go.

With the United States, past Presidents and this President know, that Israel has nowhere else to go.  That’s why we have done more than any administration on the security front with Israel because we know it has nowhere else to go.  To make sure that Israel can stay exactly where she is — a Jewish state, secure and free.  And that is why the bond between America and Israel is absolutely unshakeable.

So, ladies and gentlemen, as my dear grandfather used to say every time I walked out his door, he’d say, Joey, keep the faith.  Ladies and gentlemen, keep the faith.  I commit to you, as a supporter of Israel for 40 years, and the record to show it, that I can match against any man or woman who ever served in the United States Senate, I guarantee you we will stand with Israel because we know she has nowhere else to go.  And we want her to stay right where she is.  (Applause.)

God bless you all, and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

Biden Explains Back to Work Act Trade-offs

— VP Joe Biden

Watch them and see how they choose. Are they going to put 300,000 teachers back in the classroom, 15,000 firefighters back on the job and thousands of police officers back on the beat or vote to save people with incomes of more than $1 million a one-half of 1 percent increase on the their taxes for every dollar they make over a million?

Biden Wrongly Accused in Jewish Press of Flip-Flop on Pollard Pardon

Jonathan Pollard tried unsuccessfully to sell the classified documents to Australia before approaching Israel.

Mr. Biden clearly opposed a Pollard pardon in March 2007.

— Rabbi Mark S. Golub, President, Shalom TV

Last week, a number of Jewish media sources ran a story suggesting Vice President Joe Biden had changed his position on a pardon for Jonathan Pollard when he told a Jewish group in Florida that he opposed freeing the American Jew imprisoned for passing classified information to the State of Israel. For example, Israel National News suggested that the Vice President was simply protecting President Obama in a piece entitled Biden Flip-Flopped on Pollard, Took the ‘Hit’ for Obama. The story’s opening sentence read: “US Vice President Joe Biden ‘took the hit’ for President Obama to oppose freedom for Jonathan Pollard.”

This story also ran in similar fashion in the JTA, Ynet and IMRA; and I have seen it echoed by various blogers.

I have been especially surprised by these reports of a Biden “flip flop” on a Pollard pardon since the source cited as proof of the Vice President’s change of position is an interview I conducted with him for Shalom TV in March 2007 when Mr. Biden was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination (video after the jump).

I am surprised because the stories seriously distort Mr. Biden’s unequivocal opposition to a Pollard pardon by emphasizing one sentence out of context–while ignoring the unambiguous thrust of Mr. Biden’s position which he clearly articulated in that March 2007 interview.

In direct answer to my question on a pardon of Jonathan Pollard, Mr. Biden began by saying, “He has to serve his sentence, he has to serve his sentence.”

In almost every story quoting his Shalom TV appearance, this part of Mr. Biden’s answer is omitted.

Rather, in a somewhat irresponsible fashion, clips now appear on the internet which only include one sentence of Mr. Biden’s response, in which he said: “Now there is a rationale in my view why Pollard should be given leniency.”

News sources have used this single sentence to suggest that during his bid for the Democratic nomination in 2007, Mr. Biden supported a pardon for Pollard.

But if one listens to Mr. Biden’s complete answer to the Pollard question, it becomes clear that he was not equating “leniency” with a “pardon;” and that in 2007 he was adamantly opposed to any pardon of Jonathan Pollard.

Here are Mr. Biden’s complete words from that March 2007 interview:

Now there is a rationale in my view why Pollard should be given leniency. There’s a rational for that. But there is not a rationale to say, ‘No, what happened did not happen and he should be pardoned.’… If I were president, to go and pardon Pollard would make a lie out of the notion that there are certain rules, period. You cannot give classified information, period. Even to a friend. If this were Great Britain it would be the same thing. So the standard has to be maintained.

One may agree or disagree with Mr. Biden on the issue of a pardon for Jonathan Pollard; but Jews should not be misled into thinking Mr. Biden has changed his mind on the matter. There is something disappointing about a Jewish news source presenting one sentence of an interview out of context and using it to create an erroneous impression.

Biden Quotes Rebbe at National Museum of American Jewish History

After his remarks at festivities celebrating the grand opening of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia’s Old City, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden invited Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, director of the city’s Lubavitcher Center and chairman of the umbrella organization Agudas Chasidei Chabad, to join him at the stage.
According to Shemtov, who also serves as chairman of the umbrella organization of Agudas Chasidei Chabad, the vice president’s remarks were poignant. They encapsulated the Rebbe’s insistence that not only Jews living in America, but all Americans, remain steadfast in – as the words in the Declaration of Independence state – their “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

— Joshua Runyan

Drawn by the chance to celebrate 350 years of American Jewish history at the newest addition to the most historic square mile in the nation’s first capital, hundreds of people from across the country descended on Philadelphia to hear Vice President Joseph Biden announce that a new museum’s Jewish stories were, in fact, manifestations of distinctly American ideals.

“In telling the story of the American Jewish experience, this museum in my view, tells the story of America’s identity,” Biden said Sunday at festivities in front of the new $150 million home of the National Museum of American Jewish History.

In hailing the contributions of a host of American Jews, Biden – a Scranton, Pa., native who represented neighboring Delaware in the U.S. Senate before ascending to the White House – quoted from a diary entry written by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, upon his 1940 departure from Lisbon, Portugal, and much-awaited arrival in the United States. The diary page is on permanent display in the museum’s “Only in America” exhibit, along with two other items connected to the Chabad-Lubavitch leader. (The museum also highlights the contributions of 17 other Jewish figures, including Dr. Jonas Salk and Albert Einstein.)

“We have to heed the words of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson,” stated Biden. “We should not satisfy ourselves with what we have accomplished and we should always strive to realize the potentials and abilities that G-d has given us to perfect the world.

“This is the message that the museum will spread to the whole world.”

After his remarks, the vice president instructed his Secret Service agents to invite Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, the director of the Lubavitcher Center in Philadelphia, to make his way from the audience and join him at the stage. The two embraced for several minutes.

Along with the diary entry, the museum’s display includes a Congressional Gold Medal posthumously awarded in 1995 on occasion of the Rebbe’s birthday and corresponding National Education Day, and a dollar that the Rebbe gave businessman Ronald Perelman to signify his participation in the philanthropist’s charitable distributions. On that bill, the Rebbe circled the words “In G-d We Trust,” and in an attached letter, empowered Perelman to be an emissary to “spread the proclamation on the bill.”

The Rebbe’s guidance, noted Shemtov, strengthened a modern spiritual awakening on these shores and inspired generations of Jewish activists and leaders.

More after the jump.
“The Rebbe restored confidence and faith and hope to the physically destitute who had given up, and the spiritually destitute, who had been given up on,” explained the rabbi. “He taught that a person must always do more to reach his potential.”

Other speakers on Sunday, including Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, pointed to the museum’s location – caddy corner to Independence Hall – as significant.

“Nowhere else but in Philadelphia,” said the mayor, “the cradle of American liberty, can this story be told so well or so honestly.”

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, is one of 18 individuals to be included in a permanent exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History, which officially opens this month in Philadelphia.

National Museum of American Jewish History Opening

Long-time board members and supporters of NMAJH, Lyn and George Ross, have their names emblazoned on the new museum.

Bonnie Squires

One of the great mysteries surrounding the evolution of the new National Museum of American Jewish History site was solved at a press preview right before the official opening and dedication of NMAJH.  For months I had been wondering – how could Patrick Gallagher, the “interpretive designer” who worked so closely with Gwen Goodman, Executive Director Emerita, the board of trustees, and the new CEO Michael Rosenzweig, have translated the vision of Goodman and her board into the amazing new building on Inde
pendence Mall?

I mean – you don’t have to be Jewish to love bagels and lox.  But do you have to be Jewish to interpret the history of Jews in America into a museum which will speak to all ages, all ethnic groups, all different expressions of Judaism, all the immigrant groups in American society?

Some of the older artifacts in the new museum, like this pile of immigrant suitcases, look outstanding in their new home.

So I asked Gallagher, as he stood next to Goodman, after the press conference.  And he answered, “I’m Jewish!”  Now at first I thought he was joking – until Goodman confirmed that yes, indeed, Patrick was Jewish.    Gallagher had converted to Judaism in his twenties when he was getting married.

And like other people who have studied their way into Judaism, instead of simply having been born into the religion, Gallagher probably knows a lot more about Jewish history, traditions, customs and practices than many of those born Jewish.

Gwen Goodman, Executive Director Emerita of the National Museum of American Jewish History, and Patrick Gallagher, the interpretive designer of the new museum.

For ten years, Goodman and her board worked with Gallagher & Associates, in creating the core exhibition. The new museum has been designed by the internationally acclaimed architectural firm Polshek Partnership Architects.

The grand opening gala will feature performances by Bette Midler and Jerry Seinfeld, along with seminars by academics and a ribbon-cutting featuring Vice President Joe Biden.  Nearly one thousand patrons and sponsors will attend the gala concert and dinner, with national figures flying in from around the country.

And as Polshek explained, the beacon atop the glass and terra cotta structure will act as a reflection of the Statue of Liberty’s torch, a call to freedom; a reminder of the Eternal LIght which shines in every synagogue around the world; as well as a reflection of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, American icons of freedom, just across the street from the new National Museum of American Jewish History.

The move to Independence Mall included the 19th century statue, now situated on the Caroline and Sidney Kimmel Plaza, which was a gift from the Jewish community of Philadelphia.

Photo credits: Bonnie Squires

Explaining the mission of the NMAJH are (left to right) architect James Polshek and NMAJH CEO Michael Rosenzweig.