Obama, Congresspersons Call for Justice System Reform at Local NAACP Convention

President Barack Obama pressed the 10,000 conventioneers at the NAACP to help him effect domestic reforms, including the criminal justice system, as well as investments in education.

President Barack Obama pressed the 10,000 conventioneers at the NAACP to help him effect domestic reforms, including the criminal justice system, as well as investments in education.

The thousands of NAACP delegates, alternates and supporters who descended on the Philadelphia Convention Center for the 106th national convention of the NAACP were rewarded for their travels and loyalty. Many members of Congress spoke at the plenary sessions and themed workshops.

President Barack Obama, just on the heels of the successful negotiation with Iran, flew from Washington to Philadelphia to address the NAACP convention. His speech focused on domestic priorities, with no mention of the Iran deal, but the news spread and no one needed to be reminded that the President has had a couple of really good weeks.

Speakers like Congressman James Clyburn (SC-6) and U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, spoke passionately about the need to reform the criminal justice system, to root out discrimination and profiling and unequal sentencing for African Americans.

President Obama, in his speech, explained why he commuted sentences for dozens of prisoners who, if they had been charged and sentenced today, would have received far less severe prison terms for non-violent drug offenses or possession of drugs like marijuana. He gave examples of ex-offenders he had just met, who had served their sentences and then redeemed their lives. They are now tax-paying citizens.

Right before I came out here, I met with four former prisoners, four ex-offenders. Two of them were African American, one of them was Latino, one of them was white. All of them had amazing stories. One of them dropped out of school when he was a young kid. Now he’s making film about his experience in the prison system.

One of them served 10 years in prison, then got a job at Five Guys — which is a tasty burger — and they gave him an opportunity, and he rose up and became a general manager there, and now is doing anti-violence work here in the community.

It was a treat to watch the NAACP session on resolutions, the debates from the floor, the challenges to the chair, the re-counts, the urging of the NAACP member from Georgia to pass a resolution requiring the removal of ALL Confederate flags from every single state’s public grounds. This amended resolution, or “game-changer,” as the NAACP calls them, passed overwhelmingly.

And it was heartening on the day of the first plenary session to hear Cornell Brooks, the national president of the NAACP, tell a story about a baby born down south who weighed only three pounds and was not expected to survive until night-time. But the doctor who delivered the baby told the mother to pray, if she believed in God. Brooks said the woman called for a chaplain in the hospital, but no preacher or minister was available. But here was a rabbi serving as chaplain, and he came and prayed with the mother.

Senator Bob Casey was featured at the NAACP Convention opening plenary session.  He urged the 8000 attendees from around the country to contact their members of Congress and push for Casey's funding bill for universal early education.

At the NAACP Convention opening plenary session, Senator Bob Casey urged the 8000 attendees to contact their members of Congress around the country and push for his universal early education funding bill.

Then Brooks delivered the punch-line: “And that is why I am standing here today!”

Although I did not hear a mention of the three martyred civil rights workers, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, I thought about them often as I traveled the halls of the Philadelphia Convention Center from plenary session to workshops. Listening to heroes like Congressman Jim Clyburn, Senator Bob Casey (PA), Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), and Senator Corey Booker (NJ), was inspirational.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, urged the conventioneers to register to vote and get involved in politics.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, urged the conventioneers to register to vote and get involved in politics.

Wasserman Schultz, from Florida, who heads up the Democratic National Committee, focused on voting rights reform in her address to the entire corps of NAACP members. She told me about the unfairness of the voter ID laws in many states and of her intention to increase registration and voting patterns of African Americans.

I bumped into Joyce Kravitz, the president of Tikvah/AJMI, the Philadelphia region’s nonprofit agency for families with members dealing with mental illness. Kravitz, a social work professor, has been an NAACP member for many years, and she attended this year’s convention with her former student, an African American social worker.

Pennsylvania state Representative Jim Roebuck, who has been advocating for Governor Tom Wolf’s budget which restores funding for pre-K and public education, was in attendance. Congressmen Chaka Fattah (PA-2) and Brendan Boyle (PA-13) accompanied President Obama on Air Force One from D.C. to the convention.

NAACP has made national news every day of the convention, and President Bill Clinton and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch made the closing day of the convention memorable.

Photo credit: Bonnie Squires

Philadelphia to Host 2016 Democratic National Convention

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney were nominated at the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney were nominated at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. They went on to defeat Vice-President Al Gore and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in the 2000 Presidential Election.

Mayor Nutter commented on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) decision, that Philadelphia will host the 2016 Democratic National Convention the week of July 25, 2016:

We believe that it was our proven track record of hosting big events safely and efficiently with a dynamic team of top-tier professionals to organize and manage a conference of this magnitude, paired with our City’s tremendous amenities, its accessible location and historical significance, which made Philadelphia the ideal choice for the 2016 DNC.

The last time Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention, President Harry Truman was nominated to run against Gov. Thomas  Dewey (R-NY) and three dozen Southern delegates walked out to form the Dixiecrat Party and nominate Gov. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

The last time Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention, President Harry Truman was nominated to run against Gov. Thomas Dewey (R-NY) and three dozen Southern delegates walked out to form the Dixiecrat Party and nominate Gov. Strom Thurmond (R-SC).

The DNC’s technical advisory group evaluated cities across the country, looking at factors such as hotel capacity, transportation, security, financing and logistics.

The DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, said that “In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering.”

Additional details on the convention structure, host committee, and staff, will be made available in the coming weeks.

Hillary and the Hijab: Self-Degradation, or Just “House Rules”?

Last Friday’s Dry Bones is a belated attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for wearing a headscarf on a state visit to Islamic countries where women traditionally wear a ḥijāb.

Perhaps we have simply forgotten manners?

There is such a thing as “house rules”. When you are invited to someone’s home, you are a guest and you are expected to follow local rules and customs.

I don’t take off my shoes at home or at my synagogue. But some of my friends remove their shoes when they enter the front door, and I have no problem doing likewise. Similarly, the Tomb of the Patriarchs (The Cave of Machpelah) in Hebron can only be accessed via the Ibrahimi Mosque, so I remove my shoes for the occasion in deference to Muslim tradition.

When gentiles visit my synagogue, they don a yarmulkah in respect for our customs. This is simple politeness.

More after the jump.
Obviously, we keep our principles. When visiting a vegetarian home, I have no trouble adapting to their diet, but I will not eat treif meat to accommodate a non-kosher host. Eating meat is just a habit which I can adapt, but keeping kosher is a moral conviction which I would not compromise just out of politeness. Hopefully, my host would understand if I don’t eat and perhaps offer me a beverage or other acceptable alternative. In the end though the onus is on me to comply with the host’s rules, and if there is no mutually acceptable alternative then I should politely turn down the invitation.

In the case of a headscarf, it is not Hillary Clinton’s tradition to cover her head, but she probably does not have a moral conviction against ever having her head covered. Even if she would rather not — out of support for Islamic women who may be coerced into wearing the ḥijāb — it is not a pleasure trip. She comes at the plenipotentiary representative of the interests of the United States of America, so sometimes she has to “take one for the team” as it were.

Of course, when the favor is returned and foreign diplomats visit her on American soil, the visit is governed by our house rules so head coverings are optional for everyone, so Hillary chooses to not wear one.

It is simply a question of manners.

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com.

Hillary Clinton Receives National Constitution Center Liberty Medal

— article and photos by Bonnie Squires

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia held another one of its world-class events last week, as Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received the Liberty Medal before an audience of 1,300 people.

The medal honors men and women of courage and conviction, who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. Secretary Clinton was recognized for her advocacy of women’s rights and human rights around the globe.

More after the jump.


(Left to right) Bill Sasso, Esq., Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center, each praised Hillary for her life-long activities for the common good.

ABC News Anchor and Correspondent Elizabeth Vargas served as the mistress of ceremonies, and presenters included:

  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, chairman of the National Constitution Center’s Board of Trustees;
  • Dr. Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania and National Constitution Center Trustee;
  • Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter;
  • No Labels Co-Founder Mark McKinnon;
  • Journalist and Human Rights Advocate Roxana Saberi; and
  • National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen, who presented the medal to Secretary Clinton.

Appearing in video tributes during the ceremony were:

  • Former British Prime Minister and previous Liberty Medal recipient Tony Blair;
  • Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan;
  • tennis legend Billie Jean King;
  • actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen;
  • News Political Commentator Cokie Roberts, and
  • other friends, sponsors and dignitaries.

Governor Bush and Secretary Clinton were both gracious in their remarks about each other, even though it is possible that in 2016 each of them will represent their respective political parties in the presidential election.


Dr. Amy Gutmann, Penn president, who chaired the Liberty Medal selection committee, gave a rousing speech about Hillary Cllinton’s accomplishments in gaining equality for women and minorities around the world. Gutmann also got excited when she predicted that Clinton would become the first woman president of the U.S.


(Left to right) Marciarose Shestack, Bob Rovner, Esq., Commissioner Josh Shapiro and his wife Lori Shapiro, and Bill Sasso, Esq., host of the reception.


(Left to right) Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, Tom Knox and Anne Ewers, CEO of the Kimmel Center, joined hundreds of guests at the President’s Reception.


(Left to right) Sandy and Steve Sheller, Esq., were delighted to talk with former Governr Ed Rendell.


(Left to right Patrons Barbara and Len Sylk are joined by Diane Semingson.


Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Rina Cutler speaks to her friend Dr. Afaf Meleis, dean of the Penn School of of Nursing.

Clinton Calls Women to Lead in Bryn Mawr

— article and photos by Bonnie Squires, The Public Record

When Hillary Clinton spoke last Tuesday at Bryn Mawr College, the site of The Women in Public Service Project’s second annual two-week summer session, I did not expect her to announce her decision to run again for president — it would be too early. But she did make a joke about getting into trouble whenever she advocates for more women to lead countries.

As expected, Tea Party proponents were quick to say that her appearance was a “smokescreen for her campaign for president.” I did not see any smokescreen here, but I wish she would announce the campaign sooner than planned.

More after the jump.
Clinton was there to keynote a project she had launched while she was Secretary of State, partnering at first with five leading women’s colleges, including Bryn Mawr. Her friend and ally, former Congresswoman Jane Harman, now head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, gave an enthusiastic introduction to Clinton, rattling off her accomplishments: first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, Senator and secretary of state.


Left to right: Betdy Williams, former State Sen. Constance Williams and former Congresswoman Jane Harman

Many of those present for her speech had walked a long mile with Clinton; and many clearly hoped to continue walking with her.

I kept thinking about the time during the Democratic presidential primary in 2008, when Clinton, then a candidate for the nomination, appeared at a campaign event in Philadelphia’s western suburbs, accompanied by her daughter Chelsea and her mother. And I recall standing with Hillary in a Center City hotel the night of the Pennsylvania primary election, when she won by a huge margin. What an exhilarating moment that was!

Harman asked how many had been with Hillary in Beijing in 1995 for the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women. My hand shot up, as did a few others. I spotted former State Sen. Connie Williams across the way, and her hand was raised as well. Then Harman reminded us that Hillary had told the world in Beijing, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”

That elicited great applause from the hundreds of alumnae, students, and elected officials, and the 50 women delegates to this year’s institute. But Hillary told the audience, “Speech is not a policy, [it] does not create change.” If women are not at the table, then the discussion cannot be fully reflective of the needs of all the people, she insisted.


Left to right: State Rep. Tim Briggs; Juliet Goodfriend, CEO of Bryn Mawr Film Institute; and Lynn Yeakel, of Drexel Institute for Women’s Health & Leadership.

Clinton certainly believes in the power of women. She asked how many of us had seen the film about Liberia, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” When murderous rampages overwhelmed the country, the women of Liberia rose up, marched on the facility where the warring sides were supposedly negotiating for peace, and blockaded the building, not letting anyone leave until the peace had been agreed upon.

She spoke mainly to the delegates from third-world countries which had undergone conflict or civil war, many wearing their colorful native costumes. The goal of The Project is “50 by 50:” to have 50% of the public service positions worldwide held by women by the year 2050.

I am glad I have saved all my “Hillary for President” buttons and signs, because it looks like there is a good chance I will be using them again in a couple of years.

Happy 90th Birthday President Peres!

— by Jason Berger

Yesterday, Israeli President Shimon Peres started his 90th birthday celebration in the only way he knows: in style. The list of celebrities and politicians joining President Peres is long, and it includes President Bill Clinton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barbara Streisand and Robert De Niro.

Haaretz wrote about what President Clinton had to say to President Peres:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton delivered his much awaited speech, telling Peres, “You are the world’s social Einstein.”

“You have tried to put together a unified theory of meaning to unite politics and philosophy and psychology and history and science and technology,” he said. ” Every one of us who has been blessed enough to know you… has been made a little bigger, a little stronger, and a little more optimistic that one day your theory will be real.”

“On your 90th birthday, what we really celebrate, is your great gift to all of us. God bless you.”

Following the jump are a excerpts from the interviews the press has been conducting with President Peres.
Washington Post:

Q: How do you see Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to get the peace process going again?

A: I’m impressed by his seriousness, his devotion, but I don’t underrate the difficulties that he’s facing. I think we have to stand by his side and help him to fulfill his mission, which is our hope…

Q: You’ve been outspoken in saying Israel should not bomb the Iranian nuclear program unilaterally. Do you still feel that way?

A: I won’t talk about it. I want to say that I think President Obama proposed a policy which is reasonable and, in my eyes, acceptable. He committed himself that he will not permit a nuclear Iran, and he says the way to achieve it is to start by nonmilitary means without excluding such a [military] possibility. Now, what America can do, we cannot do. But if America and we can act together, it is for us the right thing to do. I don’t think we have to monopolize the danger of Iran, because I think Iran is a danger to all of us.

AP:

A: For me, what is important is tomorrow, the next day. What happened until now is over, unchangeable. I’m not going to spend time on it. So I am really living in the future. I really think that one should devote his energies to make the world better and not to make the past remembered better…

I am not running for anything and I am not running away from anything. I am trying where I can to be a unifier, to unite. When I have to voice my view I do, and I shall continue to do it.

Foreign Policy:

Q: How important is the United States to the survival of Israel?

A: Very. I believe vision precedes strategy; not only for Israel, but for the entirety of humanity. Many nations became great or attempted to achieve greatness by taking from the other. The United States became great by giving, not by taking. The one that contributes generates friendship, which is always wiser and cheaper than creating animosity…

Q: What impact did President Obama’s visit have?

A: A tremendous impact. He was wise, sincere, and friendly. He brought a fresh breeze to the Middle East, which reinvigorated public opinion in the region and encouraged everyone to believe that we can achieve a better tomorrow. The people of Israel want peace and are willing to pay the price for peace. President Obama’s visit encouraged them to believe that it can happen and made clear to the people of Israel, once again, that the United States is a true, dedicated, and loyal friend of the state of Israel. It was a historic visit and a hopeful moment for us all.

A Reasonable Request: PLO Ratification of the Oslo Accords


Arafat (right) signed the accord without the PLO’s sanction

— by David Bedein

Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry passionately called for the renewal of talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Former President Bill Clinton, who hosted the PLO-Israel ceremonies on the White House lawn twenty years ago, is on his way to Jerusalem for high profile lectures, where he will also call for renewal of negotiations. And Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, who served as Israel’s foreign minister at the outset of negotiations with the PLO two decades ago, is about to convene thousands of dignitaries at a conference at the President’s mansion, that will call to expedite negotiations with the PLO.

Veteran observers of middle east politics may ask: what is there to negotiate about?

More after the jump.
Indeed, there is an item on the table that is hardly a minor detail: The Palestinian Liberation Organization did not ratify the Oslo Accords after Yasser Arafat and Mahmuod Abbas signed them on the White House lawn.

On September 13, 1993, at the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Simon Peres signed the “Declaration of Principles” (DOP) between Israel and the PLO together with Arafat and Abbas. The agreement, which had been hammered out in Oslo, stipulated mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO. It required the PLO to cease and desist from terrorism, and for the PLO to nullify its covenant, which calls for Israel’s destruction.

The Israeli Knesset ratified the accord one week later, by a vote of 61 to 50, with 9 abstentions. However, what received hardly any attention was the fact that on October 6, 1993, the PLO executive did not ratify the Oslo accord, for lack of a quorum.

Very few people know or remember that Pinchas Inbari, the only Israeli correspondent covering the PLO in Tunis at the time, writing for the Israeli left-wing Hebrew newspaper Al HaMishmar, broke the story that Arafat announced in Tunis that he could not get a quorum of the executive council of the PLO to ratify the Declaration of Principles of the Oslo Accords. Al HaMishmar then ran a headline, which reported that the PLO did not ratify the accord.


Yossi Beilin was sent to Tunis to thank Arafat for the ratification of Oslo, which never happened

Carrying Al HaMishmar in my hand, I walked into the office of the Israel Government Press Office director at the time, Mr. Ori Dromi, and showed him the headline. Dromi, an appointee of Rabin, made it clear that from the Israeli government’s point of view, this meant that Arafat signed the accord without the sanction of the PLO.

The rest of the Israeli media, however, did not report that the PLO never ratified the accord, and the Israeli government acted as if it had done so.

Inbari was scheduled to appear on Kol Yisrael’s popular morning radio show when he got back from Tunis. However, the Prime Minister’s office asked Kol Yisrael to cancel that appearance. Instead, the Israeli government dispatched then-Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yossi Beilin, to fly to Tunis to thank Arafat for facilitating the ratification of the Oslo accord, which the PLO never did.

Why is this important? According to the Israeli law, since the PLO did not ratify the Oslo accord, which renounce terrorism, the PLO and Fatah were never stricken from Israeli law books as “a terrorist entity,” a status that the PLO received on March 1, 1980.

The same goes for American law. In March 2002, US government designated the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades of the Fatah as a terror organization. That designation was never changed. Under US law, any government that aids and abets an organization defined as a terror organization will forfeit US foreign aid assistance.

On two occasions, the Palestinian National. Council gathered to discuss the PLO Covenant, which calls for Israel’s destruction: on April 24, 1996 and on December 14, 1998. On neither occasion did the PNC cancel it.

In other words, there is a real reason to renew negotiations with the PLO: The first items on the agenda would be to ask that the PLO finally ratify the Declaration of Principles of non violence and mutual recognition, which constituted the essence of the Oslo Accord. The other request would be to cancel the PLO Covenant.

Aren’t those requests reasonable?

Israel Behind The News
Funds Needed to Continue Proactive News Investigations

  • Dangers of Further US Aid to the PLO Army
  • Threat of Planned PLO Army Deployment in Hebron and Jerusalem
  • UNRWA and PA for War Curriculum, financed by US and the West
  • Conflicts of Interests of Israeli businesses invested in the Palestinian Authority

Biden: “It’s Beyond My Capacity to Do Justice to Lautenberg”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s funeral was held yesterday at the Park Avenue Synagogue. Among the speakers were Vice President Joe Biden, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). 41 Senators, Gov. Chris Christie and six members of the House of Representatives attended the event.

Menendez said:

Frank Lautenberg was a man for his time. One of the greatest generation. The last of the Senate to have served in World War II. His story was an American story, but from his heart and for his lifetime, he was a kid from Paterson, New Jersey.

More after the jump.

Anyone who knew Frank knew he was destined to make something of himself. And he did.

Clinton said:

Frank always had something to say. It was usually a running commentary of what we were doing and what we weren’t doing. You just couldn’t help but have a smile on your face at least one time during the conversation.

Biden, who gave the longest speech, said:

I realize it’s beyond my capacity to find the words to do justice to Frank Lautenberg.

The Vice President also told that Lautenberg met with him around Christmas and asked his advice about whether he should run for another term in the senate. Biden told him he should. “it was clear that he desperately wanted to run again,” he said. “He never quit anything. He never gave up. He never gave in.”

Biden joked that he often rushed to Union Station to catch the train back to Delaware. One time, he said, he got to the station late and found the conductor waiting on the platform. “I got up to the conductor and he said ‘Hey Joe, don’t worry. You’re Okay. We’re holding it up for Lautenberg.’ They never once held it for me.”

Lautenberg’s wife, Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg gave the final speech. She said the only thing that would have made her husband more happy than seeing all his friends there was to see them at a campaign fundraiser for him. “He taught us how to think at a much deeper level,” she said.

President Obama Returns to Israel


Barack Obama and Joe Biden welcome Shimon Peres in the Oval Office.

— by Steve Sheffey

President Obama will visit Israel in March, fulfilling a campaign promise and making him only the fifth sitting president to ever visit Israel. He previously visited in 2006 and 2008. Only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton visited Israel during their first terms; Richard Nixon and George W. Bush visited Israel in the last year of their second terms.

The goal of the President’s trip is to reaffirm the strong friendship between the United States and Israel and to work with Israel on two key issues: Iran and Syria.

When it comes to the US-Israel relationship, we must stand together, regardless of partisan differences on other issues.

More after the jump.
President Obama returns to Israel in March. He visited Israel in 2006 and 2008. This will be his first visit as President. Former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl told reporters in June 2012 that “we can expect [Obama] to visit Israel in a second term should he be elected.” And so he is.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren said “We’re delighted that he’s coming. President Obama was always welcome in Israel. He’ll be received enthusiastically by the government of Israel, by the prime minister of Israel, by the people of Israel.”

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said “The visit will be a good opportunity to reaffirm the strong and enduring bonds of friendship between Israel and the US.” Shapiro emphasized that the most pressing issues facing the two countries are the Iranian nuclear program and the potential transfer of chemical weapons in Syria. Read more in the Jerusalem Post.

Only two presidents visited Israel in their first term: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon and George W. Bush visited Israel in the last year of the their second terms. Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush never visited Israel as president.

During his first term, in 2003, George W. Bush did manage to participate in a summit at the Port of Aqaba in Jordan, just nine miles from Israel (closer to Israel than Cairo). But Bush didn’t visit Israel. Instead, Bush said that “we have a problem with Sharon” and was visibly irritated with the then-Prime Minister. Remember how the Democrats exploited this for political gain in the 2004 election? Me neither.


Only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton visited Israel during their first term

During the 2012 campaign, President Obama was criticized by some people for not having visited Israel during his first term, as if US presidents routinely visited Israel. We were told how important it was for the President to visit Israel and what a shame it was that he hadn’t.

At the time, I said that I wished President Obama had visited Israel. Of course it’s good if the president visits Israel. It’s good if any politician visits Israel. The more times the better as far as I’m concerned. But the reality is that presidential visits to Israel are unusual. We in the pro-Israel community judge office holders on their policy positions, not their travel itineraries.

If the criticism from our Republican friends during the campaign was sincere, one would expect them to be praising President Obama for fulfilling a campaign promise and visiting Israel. Our Republican friends claimed last June that the reasons President Obama didn’t visit Israel were his personal distaste for Israel, his fear of being booed and rejected by Israelis, his desire to distance himself from Israel, and a desire to avoid drawing attention to the failed peace process.

And what do they say now? They say going to Israel is a mistake on President Obama’s part. Not the right time. I’m not making this up. If President Obama had visited Israel last year, do you think they would have praised President Obama for going or decried it as an election stunt? The President can’t win with this crew. If President Obama split the Sea of Reeds and walked through it dry-shod, they’d say he couldn’t swim.

It’s okay to disagree about policy. It’s okay to change your mind. But when you’ve excoriated President Obama for four years for not visiting Israel, and then he does exactly what you’ve said was so important, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the President is doing something we should all be proud of and thankful for. The President of the United States is visiting the State of Israel. That’s good. And there is never a bad time to visit Israel.


Obama meets with Jewish organizations leaders, 2011

The reality is that prior to his re-election, President Obama eliminated Osama bin-Laden, did 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, secretly sold Israel the bunker-busting bombs it requested but did not receive during the Bush administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, took US-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against a 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 in the UN Security Council.

After his re-election, freed from the need for Jewish votes, what did President Obama do? He spoke out against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state at the UN, stated yet again that “we’re not going to let Iran get a nuclear weapon,” and forcefully condemned Hamas and unequivocally supported Israel’s right to defend itself in Gaza. And now he’s going to Israel.

When it comes to the US-Israel relationship, we must stand together. This is essential reading from Aaron Keyak. We can’t afford to let Israel become a partisan issue. There are major policy differences between Democrats and Republicans, but Israel is not one of them.

Please send Aaron’s op-ed to anyone who loves Israel and the values we cherish — even (or perhaps especially) disillusioned Republican moderates looking for a political home. Better yet, share this entire article by using the symbols at the top or the bottom to post it on Facebook or Twitter.