Barry Rubin’s Fuzzy Thinking

Barry Rubin— by Steve Sheffey

A recent article by Barry Rubin provides a preview of the misleading arguments and half-truths we can expect from now until November. Rubin compresses so much nonsense into so little space that I’ll only cover some of his article today, and the rest later.

Rubin begins his article with a strawman argument, that we claim President Obama is good simply because he speaks warmly about Israel. It is true that President Obama speaks warmly about Israel, but his record is the basis for the claim that he is strong on Israel.

President Obama’s record on Israel is outstanding.

President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President 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 Bush 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 organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

Not all presidents say “nice” things about Israel.

Rubin gets it wrong even on his own terms. Words do matter, and not all presidents say nice things about Israel. Gerald Ford threatened to reassess America’s strategic relations with Israel, Ronald Reagan condemned Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor, Bush I decried lobbyists for Israel (he actually attacked citizen lobbyists like you and me), and in 2003 Bush II rebuked then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by rescinding $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. In 2004, the Bush administration abstained rather than veto a UN resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons smuggling. If President Obama had done anything like what Ford, Reagan, Bush I or Bush II had done to Israel, then maybe Rubin would have something to write about.

It is true that President Obama speaks warmly of Israel, but Rubin leaves out to whom President Obama speaks warmly about Israel.

It’s easy to tell AIPAC how important the US-Israel relationship is. AIPAC already knows. The difference between President Obama and previous presidents is that President Obama eloquently delivers the case for Israel and a strong US-Israel relationship to those who need to hear it most.

During the 2008 campaign, I participated in a conference call with Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), one of Israel’s best friends in Congress in either party. Rothman asked us to imagine the impact of a president named Barack Hussein Obama telling the entire world, including the Arab world, that America stands with Israel.

That’s exactly what President Obama did when he went to Cairo in 2009 and told the Arab and Muslim world that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable.”

He told the Arab and Muslim world, a world rife with Holocaust denial, that to deny the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”  He told them that threatening Israel with destruction is “deeply wrong.” He said that “Palestinians must abandon violence” and that “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” And he said that “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Who knows where we’d be today if previous Presidents had had the courage to personally deliver this message on Arab soil.

In 2011, President Obama went to the UN, another forum not known for its love for Israel, and told the world that

America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: 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 bombs 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 of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.

These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

The Israeli newspaper Yehidot Aharonot said that “An American President has never given such a pro-Israel speech at the UN.”

Isn’t that what we want from our President?

Under President Obama, the US-Israel relationship is warmer than ever.

Yet Rubin says that President Obama is “cold” toward Israel. Former Congressman Robert Wexler explained just last month that this “coldness” argument is

the argument Republican surrogates make. They say he’s cold. I hear that he doesn’t feel Israel in his kishkes. I think that’s something you say when you don’t have any factual arguments to make. What does it mean that he’s cold? Does being cold mean articulating the strongest pro-Israel argument ever at the UN – a forum not warm to Israel? Is it cold that America has engaged in the largest joint military operation between the US and Israel in Israel’s history during the Obama administration? Is it cold that more than 200 high-level Pentagon officials visited Israel during the last calendar year? Is it cold that America and Israel will likely engage in an even larger joint military exercise this year? And I’ll tell you one group who doesn’t believe the relationship is cold – that’s the current leadership in Tehran.

No wonder the vast majority of Jews vote Democratic and will continue to vote Democratic.

Aside from exceptions like Congressmen Joe Walsh and Ron Paul, the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans support pro-Israel positions. But only the Democratic party is good on Israel and the other values we cherish.

Profiles in Absurdity

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) escorts Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) into the House of Representatives for the 2012 State of the Union

Part 3 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives
— Allen West’s belated Valentine’s Day message to colleague Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

To revive the economy, a majority of the House slashed  $126 million during February 2011 from the National Weather Service, the agency which operates the Pacific Tsunami Warming Center in Hawaii, which in turn issued warnings minutes after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan.

“The nation is in an historic fiscal crisis, and it is imperative that the Congress roll back spending in virtually every area — including NOAA — so that we can help our economy (get) back on track,” explained Jennifer Hing, GOP congressional spokeswoman

Tea partiers ignored safety concerns when they eliminated $61 billion in expenses. The House passed a bill slashing $61 billion, but the Democratic-controlled Senate disregarded the legislation.

More after the jump.
A union representative, quoted by the Associated Press, said the proposal could lead to furloughs and rolling closures of weather service offices, which might in turn impair the center’s ability to issue warnings comparable to those issued on March 11. “People could die,” said Barry Hirshorn, Pacific region chairman of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

The weather service cuts were part of $454 million in reductions for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Hawaii’s congressional delegation, all Democrats, asserted the need for the warning system, AP reported. “This disaster displays the need to keep the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center fully funded and operational,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I hope my Republican colleagues in the House are now aware that there was a horrific earthquake and tsunami in the Pacific.”

Hing, spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, insisted that House members understand that critical lifesaving and safety programs are maintained, according to AP. She said funds for a network of buoys to detect tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean will be retained.
It would be devastating if Hawaii and California were struck by a tsunami without an opportunity to minimize the damage. Hawaii is a tourist mecca and California is our most populous state, home of countless, innovative industries.

One would think the Republicans are anxious to preserve that part of our economy.

Our system has produced many members of the House and Senate who have done well, and there have been times they disgraced their office. A few samples of the latter, mainly Republicans:  

John A. Boehner infused three odious attitudes into this Feb. 15, 2011, sound bite:

Over the last two years, since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it. We’re broke.

Boehner, Speaker of the House then, was accused of lying about those 200,000 jobs and shed no tears — his specialty, remember? — over lost jobs, but what’s really incredulous is his claim that “we’re broke.” He broke the national bank, along with most of his cronies in Congress and the former Bush administration. They could have saved programs under the “human services” label by raising taxes on the wealthy.

Thank the filibuster and the Senate’s composition. The Democratic majority in December 2011 sought to restore higher tax rates for couples earning more than $250,000 yearly, but the filibuster process blocked it.

George W. Bush entered the White House with a comfortable surplus and produced a colossal deficit. In between, the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and slashed taxes for the wealthy.

Our military forces exited Iraq at the end of 2011 and, at this writing, we are stuck in Afghanistan. In December 2010, Democrats in Congress sought to revive higher tax rates for the wealthy, but Senate Republicans filibustered their way to maintain the lower tax rates.

Boehner never complained. He must share the blame now that “we’re broke.” So be it.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, Sen. John McCain reminded Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius at a committee hearing that his governor sent her a request to waive Medicaid requirements to save $541 million in annual state expenses. This exchange was broadcast on C-span.

In March 2010, when Obama signed the watered-down Affordable Care Act into law. McCain did his part in quashing any chance for creation of a publicly-funded health-care system.

On Jan. 19, 2011, 242 Republicans and three Democrats in the House passed the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law.” Arizona’s Republican House members who voted for it were Jeff Flake, Trent Franks, Paul R. Gosar, Benjamin “son of Dan” Quayle and David Schweikert, while Arizona Democrats Ed Pastor and Raul M. Grijalva voted against the bill. Of course, Democrat Gabrielle Giffords was hospitalized after surviving the Jan. 8 assassination attempt.

Arizona was among 26 states challenging the health-care law in court. One federal judge even ruled the entire law to be unconstitutional. However, these challenges were expected to be decided by the Supreme Court.

At the same time, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer faced a cash-flow nightmare. Collectively, many states were contending with a budget gap estimated at $125 billion. Brewer wanted to make up for almost half the state’s deficit by dumping 280,000 Arizonans from Medicaid coverage.

She sent a letter to Sebelius asking for a waiver in the new health-care law that requires the states to retain eligibility levels if they want to receive federal Medicaid money, according to The New York Times; other governors in both parties planned to follow suit. She wrote:

Please know that I understand fully the impacts of this rollback, and it is with a heavy heart that I make this request. However, I am left no other viable alternative.

Brewer wanted to unload 250,000 childless adults and 30,000 parents from Medicaid who were allowed eligibility as the result of a 2000 referendum. It was funded from cigarette levies and a tobacco lawsuit until 2004, when the general fund took up the slack, according to the Times.

Here was my recommended response from Sebelius, the mild-language version:

Jan, you talk about a heavy heart. You and your pals in Congress have hardened my heart. Democratic governors will get serious consideration for a waiver, but not any of you knotheads from Austin, Atlanta, Tallahassee or your beloved Phoenix. You might not have this problem if your cohorts in Congress had not obstructed a serious initiative to reform our health-care system. As my Democratic friends from the Bronx would say, waiver this! And give my best regards to Sen. McCain.

Rep. Allen B. West, a Republican, revealed serious mental-health issues when he sent Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz a nasty personal note after she attacked his defense of a bill to reduce Medicare and other domestic spending on July 19, 2011. (Okay, so I’m not licensed to make m-h diagnoses; you judge).

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that Schultz, a Democrat, took to the House floor and said:

The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries — unbelievable from a member from south Florida.

West left the chamber immediately after his own speech, prompting Schultz’s rebuttal on the floor. He subsequently fired off this memo to Schultz and House leaders:

Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own congressional district!

Actually, West focuses on a different congressional district. He lives in Schultz’s district, but represents an adjacent district covering parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, though that’s a minor aspect.

In a fundraising letter, West wrote that Schultz “attacked me personally for supporting the legislation.” He has also griped about criticism for being a black conservative, sort of the Clarence Thomas of  Congress.

Schultz’s criticism of West on the House floor is known as “fair game.” Politicians habitually snipe at each other over policy issues. The grown-ups take it in stride, but West could not, well, take it.

Schultz was on target when she told The Miami Herald:

It’s not really surprising that he would crack under the pressure of having to defend that. If he feels that concerned and gets that churned up over having to defend his position then he probably should reconsider his position.

Hmm… Since when was she licensed to make mental-health diagnoses?

Tom DeLay offered these words of wisdom on Jan. 10, 2011:

This criminalization of politics is very dangerous, very dangerous to our system. It’s not enough to ruin your reputation. They have to put you in jail, bankrupt you, destroy your family.

“This criminalization of politics” did not disturb DeLay when he engineered the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 because the president lied about…his sex life.

DeLay felt far differently about it when Travis County Court Judge Pat Priest in Austin sentenced him to three years in prison for money laundering and conspiracy — the result of his role in channeling corporate donations to Texas state races in 2002, according to the New York Times.

The evidence presented at the trial showed that DeLay and two associates routed $190,000 in corporate donations in 2002 to several Republican candidates for the state legislature, using the Republican National Committee as a conduit. Texas law bars corporations from contributing directly to political campaigns.

DeLay and his Republican friends pushed for Clinton’s impeachment on grounds that he lied in court about sexual activity with Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern. There were suggestions that Clinton’s denial did not constitute perjury. Clinton did nothing that affected his presidential duties. However anyone regards Clinton’s behavior, what’s the difference in terms of his job?

It was petty stuff, which is what DeLay claims about his conviction and sentencing. In fact, he charges that the Democratic district attorney was using the law to avenge his empowerment of Republicans.

DeLay was not using the power of impeachment to avenge Clinton’s empowerment of Democrats?

DeLay’s hypocrisy surfaced then, but his abuse of the Constitution’s impeachment clause was offensive.

Impeachment is briefly covered in Article II, Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors


The framers of the Constitution had higher purposes for the impeachment clause than settling political scores. Now DeLay, who appealed his sentence, felt victimized by an unfair legal situation. Bad law or not, he was still convicted of violating it.

Next excerpt: To change policy, change the system

Deja Vu: Massachusetts Governors Mitt Romney & John Kerry

Gingrich’s ad “The French Connection” points out linguistic and policy similarities between Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). Now that Romney has given us a glimpse of his taxes we see yet another similarity, “both ended up paying Buffett-rule-esque rates… despite incomes that put both of them squarely in the top percent of earners.” This financial advantage is easily seen on the airwaves in Florida where Romney is outspending Gingrich by 5 to 1.

According to AP, if you “add up the wealth of the last eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. Then double that number. Now you’re in Romney territory.”

Romney is currently trailing in the polls. However, speculation is flying that Rick Santorum might suspend his campaign to attend to his daughter Bella’s pneumonia, or drop out entirely if as expected he performs poorly in Florida tomorrow. Having been endorsed by former candidate Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich said, “I think that the election will be substantially closer than the two polls that came out this morning. When you add the two conservatives together we clearly beat Romney. I think Romney’s got a very real challenge trying to get a majority at the convention.”

Romney Backer Lobbied for Arab Bank

Arab Bank  Investigated by Bush Treasury for Links to Terrorism

— by David Streeter

JTA’s Ron Kampeas provided additional reporting yesterday on the story of Patrick Cave-a fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney-and the lobbying work that Cave did on behalf of the Arab Bank. The Arab Bank was investigated for links to Palestinian terrorism by the Bush Administration’s Treasury Department and paid a significant fine to settle with the Treasury.

Kampeas’ full article appears the jump.
Why did Romney fundraiser continue to lobby for Arab Bank?

— by Ron Kampeas, JTA

Ben Smith at Politico reported Monday that a fundraiser for Mitt Romney, Patrick Cave, lobbied for the Arab Bank, which has faced accusations that it was used as a conduit for funneling money for Palestinian terrorist groups. The allegations prompted a Treasury Department investigation several years ago.

Regarding his lobbying, Cave tells Politico:

We encouraged [Arab Bank] to settle with the Treasury Department and cooperate with the Treasury Department and we were successful in communicating to the Congress any concerns they may have about the business.

I followed up with Cave, who told me he had nothing to add, in part because the bank’s no longer a client. (He last reported lobbying for the Arab Bank in 2008.)

According to USA Today, the Jordanian-based Arab Bank settled with the Treasury in August 2005, paying a $24 million fine, without admitting wrongdoing. The Treasury, USA Today reports, alleged that there were ‘serious’ weaknesses in the bank’s controls to prevent money-laundering and terrorist financing. The USA Today article also reported that ‘Arab Bank agreed in February [2008] to virtually shut down its New York office.’

The bank has faced lawsuits from families of victims of terrorist attacks. Among other things, the suits alleged that the bank facilitated the transfer of Saudi money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

According to this Jerusalem Post story from September of this year, the lawsuits are still very much alive.

Citing lobbyist disclosure forms, Politico reported that Cave’s company, the Cypress Group, had been paid by the bank for ‘its help managing congressional inquiries about the lawsuits.’

I’ve seen the lobbying filings: Cave’s lobbying, according to the 2008 filing, was for ‘issues related to the Bank Secrecy Act.’ The Act ‘requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, file reports of cash transactions exceeding $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities.’ In total Cave’s company was paid $323,000 for its work for Arab Bank.

Cave is a co-host of a $500-per-person fundraising event for the Romney campaign taking place tomorrow morning in Washington.

I asked the Romney campaign for comment on Monday and have yet to hear from them.

Time’s Klein: Romney “Wrong on Israel”

— by David Streeter

Time’s Joe Klein sharply criticized Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for continuing to perpetuate falsehoods about President Barack Obama’s strong record of support for Israel. Romney claimed today that “U.S.-Israeli relations have hit a low not seen since the Jimmy Carter years,” and repeated the false attack regarding Obama’s stance on Israel’s borders.

Klein wrote in response to Romney:

When he’s having a tough time-as he is this week-Mitt Romney’s first instinct is to attack President Obama. … But Romney’s execution is usually clunky. Last week, we had the Romney ad that pretended Barack Obama was saying something that John McCain had actually said-McCain wanted to avoid talking about the economy in 2008, a brilliant strategy. That was skeevy in the extreme, especially after it became clear that the Romney staff thought the controversy over their unscrupulousness would work in their favor (tone deaf politicians always assume the public is stupid enough to buy such stuff).

This week we have another example. Romney’s press office [put out a] statement about the President and Israel…

Actually, US-Israeli relations are better than they were when George H.W. Bush was President and Secretary of State Jim Baker threatened to cut off aid if Israel didn’t stop expanding its illegal settlements on the West Bank, and (then) in Gaza. And among the few good things Jimmy Carter accomplished overseas was the Camp David Accords, which has provided a generation of peace between Israel and Egypt, a peace now jeopardized by the Arab Spring.

The other inaccuracy-alluded to [in Romney’s statement] but expounded upon in Romney’s stump speeches-is the notion that Obama wants Israel to return to its 1967 borders. He doesn’t. He wants the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, to be the basis for peace negotiations. Somehow, Romney neglects to mention the land swaps.

The fact is, Obama’s policy toward Israel has been in line with that of every US President since Nixon. No American President has favored the annexation of any Arab lands. The fact is that US-Israeli military and intelligence cooperation, especially when it comes to sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program, has never been greater….

One would hope that Romney, as one of the few plausible Republican candidates, would eschew such cheesy behavior…would not misrepresent Obama’s positions on foreign policy so gleefully. But, if this race continues to slip away from him, I suspect that’s exactly what we’ll continue to see.


Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates Awarded Liberty Medal

Liberty Medal award-winner Secretary Robert Gates and David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center

Presenting the Liberty Medal to former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates were SFC Dana Graham of the Liberty USO, Anthony Odierno, representing the Wounded Warrior Project, and David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center.

After a lifetme of public service, in the CIA, and ending with serving as Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Robert Gates was awarded the Liberty Medal on September 22 at the National Constitution Center.  The word “liberty” took on added meaning as David Eisner, the president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, had invited Iraq war veteran Anthony Odierno, representing the Wounded Warrior Project, and SFC Dana Graham of the Pennsyvalnia Army National Guard, representing the USO of Pennslvania and Southern New Jersey (Liberty USO), to present the actual Liberty Medal to Dr. Gates.

More after the jump.

Jim Gardner, of Channel 6 ABC, hosted the television broadcast of the Liberty Medal ceremony.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was one of the dignitaries who appeared by video to congratulate Secretary Gates and sing his praises.

With Governor Tom Corbett and Mrs. Lisa Nutter joining other diginitaries on stage, the program included video tributes from Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mayor Michael Nutter.  Gates is unique in having served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, which made his remarks of concern for the condition of public discourse in the country and in the nation’s capital today even more pertinent.

The VIP audience included a representation of the area’s Jewish community, some of which are pictured here.

(photos by Bonnie Squires)

Harold and Lynn Honickman

Joan Specter awaits Senator Arlen Specter, who was teaching a class before attending the Liberty Medal event.

Eugene and Roz Chaikin

A new twist on this year’s Liberty Medal ceremony was the introduction of the official timepiece by Hublot, presented to Secretary Gates at the gala which followed  the award ceremony.

Steve and Sandy Sheller

Passports, Provisos and Photo Captions

— by Rabbi Avi Shafran

When you stop to think about it, the fact that so much of the world’s attention-not to mention so much jealousy, anger and irrationality-has for so many years been so keenly focused on so small a piece of real estate as Yerushalayim is astounding.

Actually, in a certain way it’s enthralling too, demonstrating as it so powerfully does how special the geographic epicenter of the Jewish People-the dynamo of holiness that sanctifies the rest of Eretz Yisrael-is, today no less than ever.

Over history, many empires claimed sovereignty over the quintessentially Jewish city, site of the batei mikdash, the central Jewish Holy Temples; and many marauders overran it. Now, to add to all the indignities visited upon the Holy City over the millennia, Jerusalem is being summoned to appear before the United States Supreme Court.

Well, okay, not exactly. What the High Court will be considering is the passport of a Jerusalem-born boy. Menachem Zivotofsky’s parents, American citizens, requested of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv that “Israel” be listed as the country in which their son entered the world. Then-President George W. Bush had mere weeks earlier signed a bill directing the U.S. State Department to do just that upon parents’ request.

More after the jump.
But Mr. Bush made clear at the signing that the law “impermissibly interferes with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct the nation’s foreign affairs.” That proviso, in which Mr. Bush essentially rejected the authority of the law he signed, was reminiscent of the executive orders issued by every sitting president since 1998 that, despite the 1995 “Jerusalem Embassy Act” mandating the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the move would not actually happen. The justification for the orders is the need to “protect the national security interests of the United States.” The guardedness, in other words, is seen as necessary to preserve the government’s claim of objectivity with regard to any future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

And so the State Department maintains that U.S. passports of individuals born in Jerusalem list only the city’s name, without anything appended.

In 2003, the Zivotofskys sued the State Department on behalf of their son, and that litigation-dismissed, and then resurrected on appeal-is what the Supreme Court will begin to consider next month. An alphabet soup of Jewish groups have jumped into the fray with “friend of the court” briefs, almost all in support of the Zivotovskys. An exception was the American Jewish Committee, whose representative contended that while it does consider “West Jerusalem” to be part of Israel, it believes that “all issues in the Israel-Palestinian conflict have to be settled at the negotiation table.”

In the meantime, the Obama administration came in for some criticism on the issue. The New York Sun’s website reported recently that photographs posted on the White House website that had carried captions referencing “Jerusalem, Israel” had been altered to read simply “Jerusalem.” The changes were presumably an effort to avoid the captions being invoked in the upcoming Supreme Court case-although photo captions obviously have something less than legal import.

In response to an inquiry, a White House official said the “U.S. policy for more than 40 years has been that the status of Jerusalem should be decided in final-status negotiations between the parties. As in prior administrations, the White House photo captions should reflect that policy.”

Indeed, the White House site’s captions during the Bush years also omitted “Israel” in at least some Jerusalem-datelined photos. Former Bush administration official Elliot Abrams told the Washington Post that the White House during those years “did not have a hard-and-fast rule” for statements and press releases about identifying Jerusalem as being in Israel.

In the end, the Supreme Court will decide what it will. And Israel will negotiate what it will. And believing Jews everywhere will continue to know what we have always known: That, whatever any court or any country might contend, Yerushalayim, the city Jews have faced in prayer thrice daily for thousands of years, is the heart and home of Klal Yisrael.

In fact, maybe that phrase is what passports should put after Jerusalem’s name.


Rabbi Shafran is an editor at large and columnist for Ami Magazine.

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov Dry Bones Kirschen

Pres. Bush Also Used Prior Armistice Lines as Basis for Negotiations

— by Brad Bauman

In 2005, nearly six years ago to the day, President George W. Bush stood next to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and asserted that the 1949 Armistice Lines should serve as the basis for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

In his comments, President Bush said,

“Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice Lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity on the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today; it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.”

Complete text of speech follows the jump.
President Bush. Thank you. Mr. President, it is my honor to welcome the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people to the White House.

We meet at a time when a great achievement of history is within reach, the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state. President Abbas is seeking that goal by rejecting violence and working for democratic reform. I believe the Palestinian people are fully capable of justly governing themselves in peace with their neighbors. I believe the interests of the Israeli people would be served by a peaceful Palestinian state. And I believe that now is the time for all parties of this conflict to move beyond old grievances and act forcefully in the cause of peace.

President Abbas’s election 4 months ago was a tribute to the power and appeal of democracy and an inspiration to the people across the region. Palestinians voted against violence and for sovereignty, because only the defeat of violence will lead to sovereignty.

Mr. President, the United States and the international community applaud your rejection of terrorism. All who engage in terror are the enemies of a Palestinian state and must be held to account. We will stand with you, Mr. President, as you combat corruption, reform the Palestinian security services and your justice system, and revive your economy. Mr. President, you have made a new start on a difficult journey requiring courage and leadership each day, and we will take that journey together.

As we work for peace, other countries must step up to their responsibilities. Arab States must take concrete measures to create a regional environment conducive to peace. They must offer financial assistance to support the peaceful efforts of President Abbas, his Government, and the Palestinian people. And they must refuse to assist or harbor terrorists.

Israel must continue to take steps toward a peaceful future and work with the Palestinian leadership to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, especially their humanitarian situation. Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes roadmap obligations or prejudice final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem.

Therefore, Israel must remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion. The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of its security effort must be a security, rather than political, barrier. And its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities. As we make progress toward security and in accordance with the roadmap, Israeli forces should withdraw to their positions on September the 28th, 2000.

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice Lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity on the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today; it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.

The imminent Israeli disengagement from Gaza, parts of the West Bank, presents an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a return to the roadmap. All parties have a responsibility to make this hopeful moment in the region a new and peaceful beginning. That is why I assigned General Kip Ward, who is with us today, to support your efforts, Mr. President, to reform the Palestinian security services and to coordinate the efforts of the international community to make that crucial task a success. The United States also strongly supports the mission of the Quartet’s special envoy, Jim Wolfensohn, to make sure that the Gaza disengagement brings Palestinians a better life.

To help ensure that the Gaza disengagement is a success, the United States will provide to the Palestinian Authority $50 million to be used for new housing and infrastructure projects in the Gaza. These funds will be used to improve the quality of life of the Palestinians living in Gaza, where poverty and unemployment are very high. I’ve also asked Secretary Rice to travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah before the beginning of the Israeli withdrawal. Secretary Rice will consult with Israelis and Palestinians on the disengagement, their shared commitments, and the way back on the roadmap.

As we work to make the disengagement succeed, we must not lose sight of the path ahead. The United States remains committed to the roadmap as the only way to realize the vision of two democratic states living side by side in peace and security. It is through the roadmap that the parties can achieve a final permanent status agreement through direct negotiations.

The people of the Middle East have endured a long period of challenge, and now we have reached a moment of hope. Leaders from around the world have made a moral commitment: We will not stand by as another generation in the Holy Land grows up in an atmosphere of violence and hopelessness. With concrete actions by the United States, the Palestinians, Israel, and other nations, we can transform this opportunity into real momentum.

Mr. President, we will work with you to help realize the dream of a free and democratic Palestine, to bring greater freedom, security, and prosperity to all peoples in the region, and to achieve the lasting peace we all seek.

Welcome back to the White House.

President Abbas.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. I’d like to thank you for this warm welcome and express my view in order to strengthen the relationship between Palestine and the United States. The Palestinian people share with the American people the same values of peace, freedom, and democracy. We are confident that the two peoples will benefit from continuing and developing this relationship.

Today we have conducted very intensive and constructive discussions with you, Mr. President, and with your senior administration officials. We discussed ways to support the opportunities to revive and resume the peace process in the Middle East. These discussions afford us with the opportunity to emphasize the central and essential role played by you, Mr. President, and by your administration in supporting and advancing the peace process toward the realization of your vision of ending the Israeli occupation that started in 1967 and the establishment of a democratic, free, and independent Palestine to live side by side with the State of Israel, in order to create a better future for the peoples of the region. We have reiterated again to you, Mr. President, our strong commitment to the peace option, and through negotiations, we can achieve- the two sides can achieve their objectives.

We also discussed the efforts that have been undertaken by the Palestinian Authority throughout the past few months to bring about calm. These efforts have brought about the reduction of violence to the lowest level in 4 years and once again reopened the window of hope for progress toward peace. We emphasized our determination to maintain and preserve this calm. The Palestinian Authority exerts a great deal of efforts in reforming our security organizations, and the truth is, our efforts are fully supported by our own people who repeatedly reaffirmed their commitment to peace and negotiations.

In our talks, we also discussed the ongoing democratic process in Palestine. This process has successfully presented, through the Presidential elections and the local and municipal elections, that the Palestinians have succeeded in carrying out transparent and fair elections under very difficult circumstances, another example of the capability of our people and their ability to build an independent democratic state once we achieve our freedom and our independence.

We expect that our people will be helped and supported to make their democratic experiment a successful one. We look forward to the free movement and the freedom of movement and the removal of Israeli roadblock and checkpoints and the Israeli withdrawal to positions prior to September 28th, 2000, and as well as implementing the various understanding that we have reached with the Israeli Government in Sharm al-Sheikh. We stress that democracy cannot flourish under occupation and in the absence of freedom.

In this regard, we expressed our deep concern over the continuous Israeli settlement activities and the construction of the wall on our land, particularly in the area of Jerusalem. These settlement activities, in addition to undermining President Bush’s vision in establishing a Palestinian and contiguous state, that it is a viable state that can live side by side by the State of Israel, also contributes to the feeling of frustration and despair and the loss of hope. Stopping this is one of the requirements of the road-map. Time is becoming our greatest enemy. We should end this conflict before it is too late.

We are extending our hands to the Israeli people in good intention. We are saying that peace and dialog and the recognition of the other side’s rights is what will create a good neighborhood and achieve security and prosperity for our people and the peoples in the region.

We have assured the President that the Palestinian Authority is ready to coordinate with the Israeli side in order to ensure the success of its withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank upon the Israeli evacuation. We see this evacuation as a part of ending the occupation, and it should not be at the expense of the West Bank. We must then immediately move to permanent status negotiations to deal with the issues of Al-Quds-East Jerusalem-as a capital of the future state of Palestine, the issues of refugees, settlements, borders, security, and water, on the basis of President Bush’s vision and on the basis of U.N. resolutions and the basis of the Arab Initiative.

It is time for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to end-right now. It is the time for our people, after many decades of suffering and dispossessions, to enjoy living in freedom and independence on their own land. And we should accelerate the freedom of our prisoners in order to be a part of peacemaking.

Mr. President, we end our discussions in Washington, and we are more determined to move forward in the path of freedom, reform, and democracy. We depart Washington; we are more confident about the role that you will play and the role that your administration will play in order to move the process forward and achieve lasting peace.

Mr. President, at the end, I would like to thank you very much for your hospitality and expressing the American-and demonstrating the American support to the Palestinian administration and the Palestinian people. We continue to look forward to work with you ahead in order to achieve our common objectives of peace, security, and democracy and freedom.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

President Bush. Good job, good job. Two questions a side, starting with Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press].

Palestinian Democracy/Hamas

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, you just spoke about the rejection of terror. Are you satisfied that President Abbas is moving aggressively enough, doing everything he can to shut down terror groups? And do you think that he should, for example, close Hamas or remove from positions of power associates of Yasser Arafat?

President Bush. I believe that-and I know the President is committed to democracy. After all, he ran on a platform that said, “Vote for me. I’m for peace, and I believe in democracy.” That’s what he told the Palestinian people when he ran, and he won with 62 percent of the vote, I think it was. So in other words, he’s committed. That’s what he said he was going to do, and he’s now fulfilling it.

Our position on Hamas is very clear. It’s a well-known position, and it hasn’t changed about Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist group. It’s on a terrorist list for a reason. As the elections go forward, of course, we want everybody to participate in the vote. There is something healthy about people campaigning, saying, “This is what I’m for.” The President ran on a peace platform. You know, maybe somebody will run on a war platform. You know, “Vote for me. I promise violence.” I don’t think they’re going to get elected, because I think Palestinian moms want their children to grow up in peace just like American moms want their children to grow up in peace. As a matter of fact, I think the people that campaign for peace will win.

The goal of a-is, of course, a Palestinian state based upon rule of law, and you cannot have a democracy based upon rule of law if you have armed bands of people who will use their weapons to try to achieve a political outcome. We discussed this with the President. He can give you his own views. I will just tell you, he is-he believes strongly in democracy and understands that aspect of democracy.

And so I’m-I think there’s something healing about asking people to vote. And hopefully, as more people participate and more people see progress on the ground in terms of real, tangible benefits when it comes to democracy like being able to make a living or being able to send your child to a school that works or being able to get good quality health care, that more and more people will reject the notion that the only-a state based upon violence is a positive state.

Israeli Settlements/Israeli Security Wall

Q. President Abbas, regarding settlements and the erection of the wall, are your positions before that you gave to your voters among the Palestinian public? And the question to President Bush, we heard your remarks. You talked about clear American position about the issue of settlements. But Israel continues to build settlements and continues to seize Palestinian territories. What is your position, Mr. President?

President Bush. Well, I told you what my position was. And it’s exactly what I said when I was in Crawford, by the way, when Prime Minister Sharon was there as well. I mean, when you say you’re going to accept the roadmap, you accept the roadmap, and part of the obligations of the roadmap is not the expansion of settlements. And we continue to remind our friends the Israelis about their obligations under the roadmap, just like we remind President Abbas about the obligations under the roadmap that the Palestinians have accepted. So nothing has changed.

Adam [Adam Entous, Reuters], yes.

Oh, I’m sorry. I beg your pardon.

President Abbas.
The first one.

President Bush. I beg your-sorry, yes. Just trying to cut you off. [Laughter] It’s an old Rose Garden trick.

President Abbas. Regarding the issue of settlements and the wall, our position is very clear from the beginning. When we talk about two states, we are talking about a Palestinian state within the boundaries of 1967. That means that those boundaries, in our views, should go back to the Palestinian people. This is what the roadmap states, and this is what is in various U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Also President Bush talked about ending the occupation that started in 1967. In our views, the wall-there is no justification for the wall, and it is illegitimate, as well as settlements. It is illegitimate and should not allow. We heard from the President that these activities should stop. I believe this is an important step in order to get to the permanent status negotiations. During the permanent status negotiations, we will put all these issues on the table. And we express our views that does not contradict international legitimacy.

President Bush. Now Adam.

Egyptian Presidential Elections

Q. Mr. President, President Bush, the First Lady, under the Egyptian pyramids this week, enthusiastically endorsed Mubarak’s first steps towards direct Presidential elections. Two days later, Mubarak supporters attacked the opposition in the streets. Was it premature to back Mubarak? What’s your message to Mubarak now?

President Bush.
I also embraced President Mubarak’s first steps and said that those first steps must include people’s ability to have access to TV and candidates ought to be allowed to run freely in an election and that there ought to be international monitors. That’s-and the idea of people expressing themselves in opposition to the government and getting a beating, is not our view of how a democracy ought to work. It’s not the way that you have free elections. People ought to be allowed to express themselves, and I’m hopeful that the President will have open elections that everybody can have trust in.

Final question here. Oh, sorry. That’s what happens when you don’t get called on.

Gaza/Palestinian Democracy

Q. To President Bush, Mr. President, Israel insists on controlling the Gaza airspace as well as the port, after its unilateral withdrawal. What practical steps are you prepared to take, sir, to deter Israel from doing so and ensuring that the Gaza disengagement remains an integral part of the roadmap?

And to President Abbas, in the article that was published in the Wall Street Journal today, you emphasized the link between democracy and freedom. Do you feel concerned that the new Palestinian democracy could go back under the occupation and under the lack of freedom? Thank you.

President Bush. Actually, my answer kind of ties into the question you asked the President. You know, one of the things when you are in the position I’m in, I’m able to observe attitudes and opinions. And clearly there’s a lot of mistrust, and you can understand why. There’s been war, violence, bloodshed. The only way to achieve all the objectives is for there to be a democracy living side by side with a democracy. And the best way to see-to solve problems that seem insoluble now is for there to be a society which evolves based upon democratic principles.

And so there’s going to be a lot of issues that come up as this process evolves that are going to be difficult issues. But as more people trust each other, then those issues become easier to solve. And so one of my cautions to both sides in this very important problem is to make sure that we stay focused on getting things right initially, and what needs to happen is that Palestinians, with the world’s help, fill the void created by the withdraw from Gaza with a society which is hopeful. And that means people can find work, and people can send their kids to school, the health care system functions well.

I told the President, there’s a lot of international help that will be available, particularly as his Government earns the trust of the donors. And the best way to earn the trust of the donors is to work to develop this-to take advantage of this opportunity and develop a state. Israel has obligations to help. You noticed, in my statement I said “help improve the humanitarian situation on the ground.” And America wants to help.

Now as a democracy evolves and people see that this is a Government fully capable of sustaining democratic institutions and adhering to rule of law and transparency and puts strong anticorruption devices in place, answers to the will of the people, that it becomes easier to deal with issues such as airspace. The West Bank will become an easier issue for everybody to meet obligations. We’ve got a fantastic opportunity now.

When I-I told the President, there’s no doubt in my mind we can succeed. President Abbas is a man of courage. Part of the success is going to require courageous decision by the President. And I take great faith in not only his personal character but the fact that he campaigned on a platform of peace. He said, “Vote for me. I am for peace.” And the Palestinians voted overwhelmingly to support him.

And so there will be a series of issues that come up-you know, how do we deal with this issue, or how do you deal with that issue-all of which will become easier to deal with as the Government succeeds in Gaza. And the United States stands with the Government to help them succeed.

President Abbas. Thank you. Regarding the democracy and freedom, I am saying that when we have chosen democracy as a way of life, this was not an adventure. This was a determination and a strategy that democracy is the only way to move forward and for life among different nations. But democracy is like a coin; it has two sides. On one side it’s democracy; on the other side of the coin is freedom.

It’s true, now we lack freedom, and we are in dire need to have freedom. We do not live in freedom in our homeland. This will weaken the hope to continue this democracy and will weaken the democratic march. But we will not go back. Our strategy is clear, and we are determined to achieve our freedom in order to complete and achieve both sides of the coin, and we can live a normal life.