Menendez: Security Cooperation With Israel Has Never Been Better

— by Jason Berger

Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) arrived in Israel. Upon his arrival, he published an op-ed in Ha’aretz, detailing his views and opinions on issues most prevalent to the Jewish state.

On the US-Israel Relationship, he wrote:

Some in Washington look at the challenges in the new Middle East and advocate disengagement. I strongly disagree. We cannot stand up for America’s interests — or Israel’s — from the sidelines. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and engage in support of our ideals, values and interests.

More after the jump.


Courtsey of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen

The U.S.-Israel relationship is stronger than it has ever been. And our support is growing with investments in the Iron Dome missile defense system, training and joint military exercises, intelligence cooperation, and partnerships in research and development for military equipment.

Senior U.S. and Israeli defense officials will tell you our security cooperation has never been better — and for good reason. Today, America and Israel face a region in turmoil and increasingly complex and pressing threats.

On Iran:

Its provocative actions threaten not only U.S. national security and regional stability, but pose an existential threat to Israel. Iran continues to export terrorist activity directly and through proxies, like Hezbollah. It actively supports the Assad regime in Syria with fighters, arms and petroleum. And its drive for nuclear weapons is accelerating.

We cannot allow the Iranians to continue to stall through talks while simultaneously bringing hundreds of new centrifuges online, which is why I have led the efforts in the U.S. Senate to impose crippling sanctions that have cut Iran’s oil exports in half. We need to toughen those sanctions to further reduce purchases of Iranian oil. We need to prevent Iran from buying dual use items on the international market that benefit its nuclear program and we need to explore options for increasing military pressure on Iran to make clear that we will take all necessary steps to prevent a nuclear capable Iran, including the military option if all others fail.

On Egypt:

Egypt also presents a dynamic set of challenges. We must encourage Egypt to work with the IMF to stabilize its economy and pursue longer-term institutional reforms that will allow democracy to gain a foothold. At the same time, we will make clear that U.S. aid to Egypt is not a blank check, which is why Congress has made our assistance to Egypt contingent on upholding the 1979 Peace Treaty.

On the peace process:

As for the peace process, it has always been my position that we must move toward an acceptable two-state solution. We have seen new momentum with Secretary Kerry’s personal diplomacy. The rekindling of the Arab Peace Initiative and new investments in the Palestinian economy are positive steps. I am hopeful that we can resume negotiations and avoid distractions and grandstanding at inappropriate venues like the United Nations.

New York Times and Ha’aretz Get An F In E-1 Geography

With Israel’s announcement that it plans to proceed with construction in Area E-1, east of Jerusalem, earlier falsehoods about that land reemerge. Thus, Ha’aretz reports that construction in E-1

would effectively bisect the West Bank and sever the physical link between the Palestinian territories and Jerusalem.

Similarly, the New York Times reports:

Construction in E1, in West Bank territory that Israel captured in the 1967 war, would connect the large Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem, dividing the West Bank in two. The Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem would be cut off from the capital, making the contiguous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations last week virtually impossible.

So is it true that construction in E-1 would bisect the West Bank, and severing Palestinian contiguity, and cutting off Palestinian areas from Jerusalem? The answer is no. As CAMERA pointed out in 2005 (The Contiguity Double Standard):

Palestinian contiguity in the West Bank would be no more cut off with the so-called E-1 corridor than would Israeli contiguity if Israel were to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, even with slight modifications.

Here’s why. First, take a look at this map of the region.

More after the jump.
As CAMERA earlier explained:

The black X marks the approximate location of the new neighborhood near Ma’aleh Adumim. To the west of the X is Jerusalem. The red line surrounding the X is the planned route of the security barrier, which will encircle Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem.

Those who charge that Israeli building in Ma’aleh Adumim severs north-south contiguity disregard the fact that Palestinian-controlled areas would be connected by land east of Ma’aleh Adumim (marked on the map) that is at its narrowest point ~15 km wide.

Moreover, Israel proposes to build tunnels or overpasses to obviate the need for Palestinians to detour to the east through the corridor.

Ironically, many of those who argue for greater contiguity between Palestinian areas, at the same time promote Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 boundaries, which (even with minor modifications) would confine Israel to a far less contiguous territory than that of the West Bank. As shown on the map above, there is a roughly 15 km wide strip of land separating the Green Line (and the Security Fence) from the Mediterranean Sea (near Herzliya). Also shown is the circuitous route necessary to travel via this corridor between northern and southern Israel. (e.g. from Arad to Beit Shean.)

Nor is it true that the construction would cut off Palestinian areas from Jerusalem. Access to Jerusalem through Abu Dis, Eizariya, Hizma and Anata is not prevented by the proposed neighborhood, nor would it be precluded by a string of neighborhoods connecting Ma’aleh Adumim to Jerusalem.

Israel’s Oldest Newspaper Endorses Obama

— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Yesterday, Haaretz, the oldest Israeli daily newspaper, endorsed President Obama. It’s a must-read. Take a look at these excerpts, then forward it to everyone you know:

“Tens of millions of Americans will go to the polls on Tuesday to vote for a president and vice president. It will be an important day for American democracy. This will be the Americans’ day, but the outcome of the elections will impact the entire world.

For Americans in general, and American Jews in particular, the United States’ attitude toward Israel is just one of many factors to consider – among internal and foreign affairs, the economy and defense – when casting their vote …

A deeper examination of the core issues comprising the two countries’ relations — devoid of political and personal interests — reveals no grounds for portraying Obama in a negative light.

Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, assisted Israel’s defense by toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and deterring, albeit for a limited period, Iran’s accelerated progress toward attaining nuclear weapons. Bush contributed to Israel’s peace, even if partially, by being the first president to adopt the two-state solution. His support even enabled the evacuation of settlements from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

Obama continued this two-way track vis-a-vis Iran and the issue of Palestinian statehood. Under his pressure, Israel suspended for the first time — for a while — construction in the settlements. Relations between the two countries’ armed forces have never been so close. Obama’s challenge in his second term, if he wins the elections, is to lead the region to a stable arrangement of peace and security.

The outcome of the elections will be determined by the voters’ decision as to which of the two candidates is good for America. But if any of them are vacillating in their vote over whether Obama has been a good president for Israel, the answer is yes.”

Read more.

Anti-Choice Extremism Will Repel Jews


TPM: American Bridge, the Democratic super PAC, is targeting Mitt Romney online with one of the harshest ‘war on women’-themed spots of the cycle.”

— by Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)

Mitt Romney has staked out an aggressively anti-choice stance from the beginning of his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. To this day his website says that ‘he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,’ pledges to end federal funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, and to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, a burdensome policy that undermines the efforts of international organizations to promote safe and effective family planning programs.

He has also gone further, proposing a fiscal plan that would completely eliminate Title X – the only federal program dedicated exclusively to family planning – taking a harder line stance than many other pro-life advocates.

But that’s not Romney’s only extremist position when it comes to a woman’s right to make medical decisions about her own body. Last year, when Mitt Romney was asked by Mike Huckabee on FOX News whether, while governor of Massachusetts, he would have ‘supported a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life as conception’ Romney replied, ‘absolutely.’ And it’s hard to forget earlier this year, when he referred to morning-after pills as ‘abortive pills’ and referred to the president’s health care provision providing free contraception as a ‘violation of conscience’ at a rally in Colorado.

Perhaps Gov. Romney’s most egregious attempt to appeal to anti-choice voters was his selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.

Congressman Ryan proudly cosponsored the ‘No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act’ which only made exceptions for federally funded abortions in the case of “forcible rape,” excluding victims of ‘non-forcible rape’ such as those who are victims of statutory rape, those who are raped while drugged, or those who have a limited mental capacity. Rape is rape, there are no valid distinctions. Congressman Ryan also cosponsored the ‘Sanctity of Human Life Act’ – also known as a ‘Personhood Amendment’ – which would define life as beginning at the moment of fertilization, effectively outlawing abortion, many types of birth control, and procedures like IVF that help couples trying to conceive.

When it comes to a woman’s right to choose, the Romney-Ryan ticket is about as extreme as it gets….

According to the 2012 Jewish Values Survey by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute, 95 percent of Jewish Democrats support abortion rights in all or most cases, along with 77 percent of Jewish Republicans. We need a leader who we know we can trust to protect a woman’s right to make her own decision, not Mitt Romney, who would take that right away….

Abortion is a sensitive topic to discuss and one on which not everyone agrees. Nonetheless, the Jewish community seems to speak in virtually one voice on the issue of choice – it is a fundamental and important right that must not be taken away…. For this pro-choice Jewish mother of three, the choice is clear – President Barack Obama will stand up for the rights of women of my generation, and that of my daughters.

Complete article can be read at Haaretz

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Says Sanctions Against Iran Effective

— by Sari Weintraub

International sanctions against Iran are having a significant effect, according to the Israeli foreign ministry. In an internal document obtained by Haaretz, the ministry asserts that as a result of the latest round of sanctions, Iran faces serious economic problems and domestic unrest, primarily as a result of restrictions on the Iranian oil industry.

The Obama Administration has been a leader in imposing this damaging sanctions; in a speech before the UN General Assembly today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Under the leadership of President Obama, the international community has passed some of the strongest sanctions to date… it’s had an effect. Oil exports have been curbed and the Iranian economy has been hit hard.”

Earlier this week, the Obama Administration initiated further sanctions against Iran’s national oil company.  

Bronfman: Obama’s Support for Israel “Bone Deep”

— by Rachel Shabad

Former President of the World Jewish Congress Edgar M. Bronfman wrote an op-ed in Haaretz saying that President Barack Obama has led an incredible effort to strengthen the U.S.- Israel relationship. According to Bronfman, Obama’s support has made the Jewish State of Israel safer and more secure than in the past.

Bronfman wrote:

President Obama has led a resurgence of joint military cooperation between Israel and the United States. In fact, following President Obama’s directive, the United States Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces have increased their strategic collaboration on defense technology, deployment, tactics, and intelligence to levels never before experienced.

Whether it is joint military exercises to stave off threats from terrorist and rogue regimes, or advancement and deployment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, President Obama has led a breakthrough in a mutually beneficial partnership with Israel.

Nevertheless, despite the clear facts and substantial evidence, political partisans and opponents of the president continue a coordinated campaign to sow seeds of doubt about President Obama’s support for Israel. The effort is not new. It began in 2008 when people stressed his middle name and used it as a weapon. From there, they began to call then-Senator Obama a Muslim. With the Muslim myth debunked, these same critics moved on and began questioning the president’s place of birth.

Now, they are claiming that President Obama cannot be trusted to keep Israel safe. Despite all evidence to the contrary, these political partisans believe the American people-and particularly the Jewish community-are uninformed and that we cannot tell the difference between rhetoric and reality.

The reality is that when confronted with rhetorical attacks and efforts to sow doubts about his support for Israel, President Obama could have simply adopted the swagger and bravado of his predecessor. It would have been easy for President Obama to go on a speaking tour pandering to the Jewish community and those in America who love Israel. But that is not his style. President Obama is a thoughtful, decisive and pragmatic leader. He values substantive solutions over political gamesmanship. Forgoing the bluster and bravado of others, President Obama continues his practical and deliberate support for the State of Israel.

I have had the great privilege to work with successive U.S. Presidents over the past half-century on countless issues. On matters relating to Israel, one comment now stands out in my mind more than any other. While sitting in the Oval Office not long ago, President Obama looked me in the eye and said, ‘My commitment to Israel’s security is bone-deep.’ It is reflected in his actions; it comes from a passion to secure the Jewish State, and it traces through his roots.

President Obama is a man who has taken those words and honored them with action. As a result, the State of Israel is more secure and I will be proud to vote for him this November.

Sec. Clinton Meets with Peres and Other Leaders in Israel

— by Max Samis

As part of her current overseas diplomatic trip, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently in the State of Israel, her fourth such trip during her time in office. During her visit, Clinton is expected to discuss a wide range of topics with a number of prominent Israeli leaders.

Ilon Ben Zion of The Times of Israel reported:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Israel early Monday morning for a two-day visit following a trip to Egypt. She was accompanied by US Middle East envoy David Hale and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represents Washington at the talks between world powers and Iran.

Clinton met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem Monday morning and was set to hold meetings with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day. She will also meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at her hotel in Jerusalem. This is Clinton’s fourth visit to Israel since taking office…

During her visit, Clinton is also expected to try to make inroads in restarting direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Clinton will likely ask the Israeli government to release Palestinians imprisoned in Israel since before the Oslo peace process, and will ask President Mahmoud Abbas to refrain from requesting observer state status from the UN.

Upon landing, Clinton paid a visit to the residence of Israel President Shimon Peres, where the two leaders held a joint press conference. Barak Ravid of Haaretz wrote:

Talking to the press, Clinton said, ‘It is a time of uncertainty but also of a big opportunity in the region. At times like these friends like us need to work together in a smart, creative and courageous way…’

Following his meeting with Clinton, Peres said that, Egypt is a key state in the region and that Israel wants to uphold the peace treaty with Egypt. ‘We respect the results of the elections in Egypt, and hope for another 30 years of peace,’ he said.

Peres added that he was convinced that there is international understanding of the danger that the Iranian regime represents to the world, and highlighted that the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran have started to work.

‘I hope that Iran will return to its rich legacy and be a country that does not threaten anyone, and no one makes threats against,’ he said.

More after the jump.
Greer Fay Cashman of The Jerusalem Post also reported:

Clinton praised Peres, saying no other individual had done so much to build the alliance between Israel and the US. ‘Few people know the inextricable link between security and peace,’ she stated.

Peres was also complimentary of Clinton, referring to her as ‘a constant friend’ who is “blowing the wind of freedom all over the world.”

Peres told Clinton that he appreciated the fact that she came to Israel immediately after Egypt because Egypt is the key country in the Middle East and it depends on Egypt and Israel to continue the march of freedom for the whole of the region.

Peres reiterated what he has frequently said, that peace between Israel and Egypt has saved the lives of thousands of Egyptians and Israelis.

You can watch the video of Clinton’s remarks here or below. You can also see photos from Clinton’s visit with Peres below. The full transcript of Clinton’s remarks can also be read here.

Clinton also paid a visit to the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, where she spoke with Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Speaking to the staff and families of the embassy and consulate, Clinton said:

But mostly I wanted to say thank you to all of you for the work that you do every single day here in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv supporting the extraordinarily important ties between the United States and Israel, working with the Palestinian Authority on so many of the issues that are critically important, assisting a huge number of Americans who visit this area, and of course, continuing our commitment as we seek to support a lasting peace. You are working at the forefront of one of our most important and challenging diplomatic efforts. Here in the Consulate General you are assisting with development and security, helping to build the infrastructure for a future Palestinian state. In the Embassy you’re sustaining one of our most important alliances, building the people-to-people connections that are so important to our relationship. And over the last year and a half, you’ve all continued to promote American interests amid the turbulence and unpredictable circumstances of the changes sweeping the region.

Looking at all of you is very reassuring. I read cables. I get reports. But I like seeing you in person. And it’s not just because you handle so many complex issues with great poise and professionalism, but it’s also frankly because this group represents the sort of collaboration across ethnicities and faiths that is so essential in the 21st century. It’s essential to move toward the goals of bringing people together, of finding common ground, and of building a future based on mutual respect and mutual interests…

So from President Obama and myself, thank you. Thank you for your exemplary service, your commitment, for representing the United   States so well. We may not always say it, but we know it, and whenever I get a chance to say it, I try to do so because I want you to hear it: We know what you’re doing and we appreciate it very, very much.

Click here to read her full remarks.

Clinton also met with Defense Secretary Ehud Barak, discussing the various security needs facing Israel and the ongoing cooperation between the two countries. Stuart Winer of The Times of Israel, along with the AP, wrote:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday saying the bonds between Israel and America are strong.

‘The Americans consistently and constantly backup Israel’s security needs,’ Barak said in the meeting.

Clinton’s remarks from her meeting with Barak can be read here.

Clinton is also expected to attend a dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later this evening, followed by a press conference in Jerusalem.

Clinton is just the latest official from the Obama administration to visit Israel, following National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and ahead of the just-announced visit by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Israel Wants More of Obama’s Policies, Not Less

— by Max Samis

Following Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s assertion that he would “do the opposite” of President Barack Obama when it comes to Israel, Steven Grossman wrote in Haaretz that Israelis in fact want more of Obama’s policies — not less. Grossman went through Obama’s policies piece by piece, finding that to reverse them would simply mean “a less secure Israel.”

Grossman wrote:

Romney has taken his outrageous campaign rhetoric to a new level of hyperbole. Romney told religious conservatives he would do ‘the opposite’ of what President Barack Obama has done on Israel. Which raises the question: what has the President done, and what would Romney change?

Let’s start with the facts. Under President Obama, security assistance to Israel has increased to unprecedented levels. The Administration has dramatically increased funding for the Iron Dome system – which has already saved Israeli lives from the terror of Hamas rockets. The President has given Israel access to our most sophisticated military systems, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and initiated the largest joint exercise between the U.S. and Israeli militaries. While working to strengthen Israel’s security, the President has insisted that any future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza be demilitarized.

Following the Romney plan and doing the opposite would mean, simply, a less secure Israel.There’s more. The Obama Administration has fought for Israel’s inclusion in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It has vetoed every UN resolution condemning Israel and defended Israel against the Goldstone Report. It boycotted the anti-Israel Durban II Conference and stood up for Israel in the wake of the Gaza Flotilla incident when no one else would.

The President has demanded that Palestinians negotiate directly with Israel, rather than pursue a misguided and dangerous statehood strategy at the UN. Meanwhile, he has refused to recognize Hamas until it renounces terrorism, accepts Israel’s right to exist, and abides by all prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Doing the opposite would only serve to weaken Israel’s hand in diplomacy and on the global stage.

Going above and beyond the realms of security aid and diplomatic engagement, President Obama has acted – swiftly and forcefully, in moments of imminent danger – to save individual Israeli lives.

To take one example: when Israelis faced an angry mob at their embassy in Cairo and Prime Minister Netanyahu called the White House in the middle of the night for help, President Obama didn’t hesitate to act. He took the initiative, called the Egyptian military leadership immediately, protected the Israelis from harm, and got them home safely.

And in the face of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the President’s policy has been clear: Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. He worked with Congress to impose some of the toughest sanctions ever enacted on the Iranian regime. He built an international coalition to follow suit, creating a united front to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Today, our sanctions are biting and stronger than they have ever been.

Now, back to Governor Romney’s proposal: if we suspend rational belief for a moment and take him at his word, what would ‘the opposite’ look like? What could we expect from a Romney Administration when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship?

The impact of reversing course is plain: an Israel that’s less secure and weaker on the world stage, facing an Iran closer to a nuclear weapon, without a White House ally willing to protect Israel’s people at a moment’s notice. Is this really what’s in store from a Romney White House? Is this honestly what Mr. Romney believes?

At the end of the day, there are only two things we can believe about Mitt Romney when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Either he is engaged cynical partisan demagoguery or he is woefully ignorant of the state of the U.S.-Israel relationship under President Obama’s leadership.

Doing ‘the opposite’ is a risk the American people can’t afford to take.

All People Deserve Respect


— by David Street

Yesterday, President Barack Obama joined with the sweeping majority of American Jews in supporting marriage equality for all Americans. Leading Jewish organizations including the NJDC lauded the President’s show of support.

“To put it plainly, the vast majority of American Jews are behind the President in support of marriage equality,” commented NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris. “In recent decades, many of our community’s mainstream institutions have worked to welcome and include gays and lesbians-to the point where it is now a widely accepted norm, with certain Jewish clergy routinely performing same-sex marriages. But perhaps most notably, the recent poll released by the Public Religion Research institute found that at least 81% of American Jews support marriage equality — showing that grassroots American Jewry, our communal institutions, and now the President are united on this important civil rights issue.”

A roundup of their statements appears below.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

We enthusiastically welcome President Obama’s endorsement today of marriage equality for all couples. History will regard his affirmation of this core right for the LGBT community as a key moment in the advance of civil rights in America. … Civil marriage has historically connoted social acceptance and the recognition of not just a legal relationship between two individuals, but as the Supreme Court has recognized, is ‘the most important relation in life’ (Maynard v. Hill); it is ‘a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred’ (Griswold v. Connecticut). These rights are due no less to same sex couples than heterosexual ones, as the President’s comments today acknowledge….

The support of the President on this issue is particularly meaningful to us as Jews. Our holy texts teach us that all people are created b’tselem Elohim (in the Divine image) (Gen. 1:27), and as such are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. We are inspired by our faith and history to stand up for the rights of LGBT Americans, including civil marriage, for we have known the experience of being victims of group hatred, persecution, and discrimination. We feel a keen empathy for those who are still be victimized, deprived of opportunities, and discriminated against because of who they are.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

We are gratified to know that President Obama has said publicly what so many of us have known for some time — that civil marriage is a basic civil right. It should not be denied to anyone.  We stand firm in our belief that civil marriage, which is not bound by halacha [Jewish law] but conveys many civil rights and privileges, should be open to all. That comes from our belief that human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim — in God’s image — and therefore have an inherent dignity.

Keshet, which works to “ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Jews are fully included in all parts of the Jewish community” sent the tweet on the right.

More reactions after the jump.
Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization of America, said:

Hadassah commends President Obama for taking an important step today in showing his commitment to and respect for the LGBT community. Hadassah has long supported LGBT rights, and we firmly believe that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans are treated equally and have equal access to the same rights. Hadassah is committed to the preservation of rights for all people and vigorously condemns discrimination of any kind. As Zionists, Hadassah members understand the dangers of bigotry.

National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy K. Kaufman said:

NCJW hails President Obama’s decision to express his personal support for same-sex marriage. NCJW has been a staunch supporter of marriage equality and we happily welcome the president to this fight for fundamental human rights at this important time. While setbacks such as the lamentable vote yesterday in North   Carolina are unfortunate, we firmly believe that supporters of marriage equality are on the right side of history. NCJW is proud to work with the President of the United States to ensure that gays and lesbians are protected equally under the law and are treated with the dignity they deserve.

The National Jewish Democratic Council‘s Chair Marc R. Stanley said:

On behalf of NJDC’s board, staff, and membership, I am pleased that the President has made a decisive statement in support of marriage equality. From working to end the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy to ending the Federal Government’s defense of the unjust Defense of Marriage Act, this President has demonstrated an unmatched record of progress in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. President Obama has admirably continued to demonstrate the values of tikkun olam in his work to make America a better place for all Americans. I am truly proud of President Obama and know that so many others in the Jewish community share my feelings.

Bend the Arc

: A Partnership for Justice’s Alan van Capelle said:

Tonight when I go home and look at my six month old son it will be the first time I will be able to tell him that our president believes we are a family. For many Americans, this is a political issue. For millions more, it’s deeply personal.

I applaud President Obama for coming out in support of marriage equality. Today, he showed himself as a leader who is in step with a majority of Americans, and millions of people of faith all over this country who support the right of gay and lesbian people to marry, including 76 percent of American Jews.

Haaretz reported that Israeli LGBT leaders lauded the President’s statement of support:

Irit Rosenblum, founder and CEO of the organization New Family, called the move extremely important. ‘It is a huge step for the enlightened world that the strongest leader publicly recognizes the new family. In doing so, he is obviously posing a challenge to the world’s religious public. I think that this is certainly a very brave act. He is creating the necessary world balance. At a time when it seems the world is becoming increasingly fundamentalist and conservative, this is a liberal point of light.’

According to New Family, there are currently some 18,000 same-sex families living in Israel. Some 4,500 children are being raising in same-sex families, and that number has risen significantly in recent years….

Itay Pinkas, chairman of Tel Aviv’s gay community center, also joined in praising Obama, Pinkas further criticized the situation of the LGBT community in Israel. ‘The only two leaders to bring up the rights of the community in a congressional speech were Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama spoke of the importance of equality during his inauguration speech…he is one of the heads of state most supportive of equality for all citizens.’

Jay Michaelson explained Three Reasons Obama’s Right on Gay Marriage in The Forward:

First is the ‘who.’ Obama’s support of same-sex marriage signals that he’s not going to let a noisy religious minority dictate public policy. This is important for all religious minorities, including the Jewish one, because that same group of angry fundamentalists wants to Christianize America, support the radical settler-fringe in Israel against Israel’s own best interests (as reflected by the mainstream of Israeli public opinion), and erode the separation of church and state. … If American Jews care about maintaining our religious freedom, we must not allow sectarian religious values to dictate public policy. Period.

Second is the ‘what.’ Obama’s statement brings him in line not just with 55% of the American public, as revealed in a recent Gallup poll, but with the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist religious people as well….

Most American Jews …  know that the two obscure and unclear verses in Leviticus may be interpreted in any number of ways. And we know that the core values of our religious and social traditions are upheld, not undermined, by interpreting them narrowly, such that they apply to virtually no LGBT people today.

Which brings me to my third point, which is the religious nature of Obama’s statement itself. What the President said today means little as a statement of public policy since it has little impact ‘on the ground.’ It means more as an expression of personal conviction and conscience. What he said was that, over time, he has seen the truth of same-sex couples: that they are as capable of commitment, love, and sanctity of opposite-sex ones; and that it is an injustice to deny the benefits of marriage to gay people. Those are religious values, expressed in a personal way. It demonstrates the growth of individual conscience: he used to feel one way, but over time, in a careful and long process of discernment, he has now come to feel a different way….

Obama’s statement is thus a model for how all of us ought to evolve on issues of values and society. We grow as human beings by a combination of humility and courage: humility in the face of what we do not know, and courage to take a stand and change our minds. If that’s not a Jewish value, I don’t know what is.

Ha’aretz’s Lousy Headline

From CAMERA:

Yet again, Ha’aretz provides an example of how its distorted coverage provides fodder to anti-Israel writers abroad. Yesterday Ha’aretz’s Web site published the following headline:

This dismal headline implies that the Israeli army is seeking to upgrade means in which to harm civilian populations. Indeed, one must read the article itself several times to understand the new brigade’s actual purpose: to increase precision of attacks on combatants so as to minimize harm to civilians. But the dismal online headline, coupled with the lack of clarity in the article itself, points falsely instead to IDF intentions to massacre, a notion that anti-Israel blogger Richard Silverstein jumps on.

One need only look at the English print edition for a straight-forward headline: “IDF plans to set up first short-range rocket battalion.” Ha’aretz editors take note: an accurate subheadline would read: “New rockets would reduce casualties among non-combatants during strikes against terrorist targets in populated areas.”