How Not To Advocate for Israel

Obama%20Fox%20530[1]Last week we saw four examples of how not to advocate for Israel:

1. Don’t back lawsuits you can’t win.

The Supreme Court struck down a law that forced the President, through the Secretary of State, to identify, upon request, citizens born in Jerusalem as being born in Israel even though the United States has never acknowledged Israel nor any other country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.

President Bush did not enforce this law, and neither has President Obama. No one should have been surprised that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Executive Branch. But as a result of this short-sighted lawsuit, which never should have been brought, the Palestinians are claiming victory and pro-Israel groups are upset.
[Read more…]

New Jewish Faces on Capitol Hill in 2013

PM Netanyahu Meets with Senator Daniel Inouye— by David A. Harris

Now that the 113th Congress has been sworn-in, we thought you would be interested in learning a little bit about the newest members from our community who are bringing their Jewish values to Capitol Hill.

Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presents Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) with a replica of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jerusalem
(September 2, 2012). Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO

More after the jump.

  • Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz was appointed to the U.S. Senate following the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) — a pro-Israel giant and true friend of the American Jewish community. Notably, Senator Schatz was sworn into the Senate with a Tanakh, and his entrance into the Senate brings the total of Jewish partisan Democrats to 10 — the number required for a minyan. (Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an eleventh Jewish senator who caucuses with the Democrats, is an Independent.)
  • Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL) is a former Mayor of West Palm Beach, Florida and she successfully fought a tough campaign against a formidable opponent. Frankel is very familiar with the issues that concern her constituents, including protecting the social safety net and support for Israel.
  • Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL), who was defeated following his first term in 2010, is beginning the second chapter of his congressional career in the 113th Congress. Grayson is an outspoken advocate for many of the issues of concern to American Jews, and his voice will be important in rallying the Democratic caucus.
  • Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) was a prominent voice in both the California Assembly and Senate, and believes in so many of the policies supported by the clear majority of our community.
  • Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL) is a distinguished businessman and Jewish leader from Chicago who ousted incumbent Representative Robert Dold (R-IL). Schneider is an outspoken Israel supporter and is committed to protecting America’s middle class.

Israel Opponent Appointed To Senate Foreign Relations Committee

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) expressed outrage over Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) new membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee given his deeply disturbing record when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

Senator Rand Paul’s membership in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should be raising red flags and provoking severe concern across the pro-Israel community. The decision by Republican Senate leaders to give a bigger microphone and a prominent platform to someone who has repeatedly called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and used his leadership PAC to push an anti-foreign aid agenda is simply outrageous. As we’ve said for months, Senator Paul and his father’s acolytes are becoming legitimate forces in today’s Republican Party — and pro-Israel Republicans have repeatedly and epically failed to address this growing issue within the GOP ranks. Now this failure has very real consequences. The overwhelmingly pro-Israel American public deserves much better than a radical ideologue on the Senate’s primary diplomatic committee who has demonstrated a singular obsession with slashing aid to the Jewish state.

More after the jump.
Senator Rand Paul twice pushed for ending U.S. “welfare” (in his words) for Israel — which prompted seven Democratic Senators to author a letter firmly rejecting Paul’s proposal. Further, Paul has been a staunch opponent of general U.S. foreign aid — which has long been supported by the pro-Israel community — and even used his leadership PAC to push his anti-foreign aid agenda during the 2012 campaign.

Unfortunately, membership in the committee is not likely to cause a change in Paul’s behavior. As Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin noted (emphasis added):

Replacing them will be Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rand Paul (R-KY), and newly minted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Paul has been a thorn in the State Department’s side since he came to the Senate, pushing for drastic cuts in U.S. foreign aid and holding up several State Department nominees. His new SFRC perch will allow him to ramp up those activities.

Jewish Hawaiian Lieutenant Governor Replaces Sen. Daniel Inouye

— by Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris

The National Jewish Democratic Council is pleased to see that Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz has been selected to serve in the United States Senate. The late Senator Inouye left behind a tremendous record of partnership with the Jewish and pro-Israel communities — and we are fully confident that Brian Schatz will continue that robust partnership. The entire NJDC family wishes Schatz the best of luck and we look forward to working with him in the future.

Senator Daniel Inouye (1924-2012)

  • President pro tempore of the United States Senate.
  • Represented the State of Hawaii in Congress since statehood.
  • First Japanese-American in Congress and in the Senate.
  • Served during World War II earning a Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star Medal, 2 Purple Hearts.

— by Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris

On behalf of NJDC, we extend our condolences to Senator Inouye’s family and the people of Hawaii. The Senator leaves behind a distinguished record of heroism and service to our country that has inspired members of younger generations to enter public service. Senator Inouye was one of the strongest pro-Israel voices on Capitol Hill, and his leadership within the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittees resulted in significant increases in aid for Israel. He was a true mensch in every sense of the word, and we are deeply saddened that he is no longer with us.

It’s Time to Throw the Obama Smears ‘Under the Bus’

Reprinted courtesy of the NJDC and Jerusalem Post

— by David A. Harris

The pro-Israel community must work to expand and broaden itself so that we can continue the tradition of broad bipartisan support for Israel.

This past election, we heard many scurrilous claims – if not outright lies – from some partisan Republicans and political conservatives both here and in Israel, individuals committed to putting Mitt Romney in the White House at almost any cost. After four years of President Barack Obama’s pro-Israel presidency, one of the most odious claims was that if given a second term, the president would somehow “throw Israel under the bus” and reveal a sinister version of himself that he’d kept under wraps during his first term.

More after the jump.
Many Republicans insisted on this deeply disturbing narrative and similar claims, but the overwhelming majority of American Jews demonstrated that they saw through these myths on Election Day. And in November 2012, Israel’s supporters around the world saw these bogus claims shattered by more of the president’s singular pro- Israel leadership.

But a key question lingers: when will the anti-Obama Israel myths stop? And when will partisan Republicans end the disgraceful and dangerous tactic of turning Israel into an election wedge issue – something they did in this election to an extent never seen before? Let’s pause for a reality check.

Shortly after Election Day, the president and members of his administration clearly supported Israel’s right to defend itself as Operation Pillar of Defense began. Indeed, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres multiple times throughout the conflict in order to convey their support and discuss the constructive roles the United States could play.

The president and members of his administration personally condemned Hamas’ rockets and placed the blame for the escalation squarely at Hamas’ feet. In addition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shuttled around the region to ensure that Egypt would play an important role in reining in Hamas and instituting a vital cease-fire.

But of course even before Pillar of Defense began, President Obama and his administration were outspoken champions of the revolutionary Iron Dome missile defense system – which the Bush administration greeted with skepticism and ultimately took a pass on, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Iron Dome proved itself effective against Hamas’s rockets and prevented countless Israeli casualties prior to Pillar of Defense. But the critical test took place during the heavy barrage of rockets during the operation itself – and the Iron Dome passed with flying colors, while garnering praise throughout the Israeli government. Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said that if the Iron Dome was traded in the stock market, “it would have multiplied its share value several times over.”

Israeli officials lined up after the conflict to thank President Obama for his support of Israel’s actions and for the Iron Dome. In particular, Defense Minister Ehud Barak – Israel’s most decorated soldier – reiterated what he has proudly declared over and over: “The security relationship, as well as the intelligence relationship between our two countries, has never been so close… and we are highly thankful for this.”

However, the president’s support for Israel began long before the war.

The president and UN Ambassador Susan Rice were Israel’s best allies in the United Nations throughout the past four years. Under their leadership, the United States amassed an unprecedented 100% pro-Israel voting record in the UN, passed the most significant Iran sanctions ever, and made significant progress combating what Ambassador Rice dubbed “anti-Israel crap.”

So it should have surprised nobody that the United States worked assiduously and voted against the Palestinians’ upgrade to UN non-member observer status. Even though the vote’s result was apparent well before the General Assembly convened that day, America’s delegation made an impassioned case against the upgrade and reiterated that stunts in the Israel-obsessed UN are no substitute for direct negotiations.

President Obama led and acted precisely the way a deeply pro-Israel president would, and he deserves our community’s thanks. While some of the president’s critics have expressed their appreciation, many have not. The harshest critics – who routinely spewed venom and lies during the campaign – should be lining up single file to make up for the embarrassment they’ve caused the pro-Israel community with their absurd attacks.

Their silence – and continuing malfeasance – should concern all of us who care about the US-Israel relationship.

The pro-Israel community must work to expand and broaden itself so that we can continue the tradition of broad bipartisan support for Israel.

One of the best ways to start is by giving credit where credit is due – and by throwing the Obama smears themselves “under the bus,” once and for all.

The writer is president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

New Website Shows Romney’s Iran Ties

— by David A. Harris

Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a microsite, titled Mitt Romney and Iran, showing the troublesome economic ties Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to Iran. While Romney tries to talk tough on Iran, he allowed his personal investments and Massachusetts’s pension fund to directly benefit from business with Iran.

Jewish voters deserve to know the numerous financial ties Mitt Romney has with Iran. Governor Romney often talks a good game when speaking about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but when he had the opportunity to act-both as governor and with his personal investment-he came up far short. Former Congressman Mel Levine summed it up best:

If Romney has seemingly gotten away with this … in the name of gaining even more personal wealth, imagine what he would do as president when he actually has the responsibility to make tough decisions to stop Iran.

You can visit Mitt Romney and Iran by clicking here

Background after the jump.
The website Mitt Romney and Iran details Mitt Romney’s personal investments and the various ties many of his investments have with Iran. Such companies include China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Gazprom, and BNP Paribas. The website also covers various companies involved with Iran that the Massachusetts pension fund was invested in during the time Romney served as governor of the state. These companies include the AXA Group and Barclays.  

I Will Stand With Israel if They Are Attacked

Obama schools Romney on the fact that we have “fewer horses and bayonets.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN in July 2012 that he thought Obama Administration was “doing more than anything he could remember in the past” for Israel’s security. Sarah Silverman’s sister Rabbi Susan Silverman asked some Israelis what they thought Barak meant…

— by David A. Harris

President Obama’s statements of unequivocal support for Israel tonight — including his commitment to stand by Israel if it is attacked by Iran — is just the latest demonstration of this President’s rock-solid commitment to the Jewish state and its security. His words speak for themselves, and indeed they speak so powerfully that all Governor Mitt Romney could do was chime in with a quiet ‘me too’ reply. In fact, Governor Romney tonight just  continued to mislead the American people about President Obama’s record — especially concerning Israel and Iran. For pro-Israel voters, only one candidate in this race has a proven record when it comes to standing up for Israel’s security, and those voters were reminded of that tonight. President Obama showed — in this exchange, and throughout the evening — why and how he has stewarded the U.S.-Israel relationship and the effort to halt Iran so powerfully and with maturity, seriousness and confidence over the past four years.

Rush transcript of Obama’s remarks (emphasis added):

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, Israel is a true friend, it is our greatest ally in the region, and if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel.  I have made that clear throughout my presidency.

MODERATOR BOB SCHIEFFER:  So you are saying-you have already made that declaration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I will stand with Israel if they are attacked, and this is the reason why, working with Israel we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.  

In fact, this week we will be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week, but to the issue of Iran, as long as I’m President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.  I made that clear when I came into office.  We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy.  Their currency has dropped 80 percent.  Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago.  So their economy is in a shambles.  And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security and it’s a threat to Israel’s national security.  

We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.  Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that’s unacceptable.  And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map.  So the work that we’ve done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice.  They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States President, me, who said we’re not going to take any options off the table.

The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that during the course of this campaign he has often talked as if we should take premature military action.  I think that would be a mistake because when I sent young men and women into harm’s way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.

Memories of Senator Arlen Specter (1930-2012)

— President Barack Obama

Arlen Specter was always a fighter.  From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent – never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve.  He brought that same toughness and determination to his personal struggles, using his own story to inspire others.  When he announced that his cancer had returned in 2005, Arlen said, “I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents and I’m going to beat this, too.”  Arlen fought that battle for seven more years with the same resolve he used to fight for stem-cell research funding, veterans health, and countless other issues that will continue to change lives for years to come.  Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the rest of the Specter family.

— Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris

We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of former Senator Arlen Specter. Senator Specter sat in the Republican Party for most of his career, and he was a consummate public servant whom we respected greatly as he advocated for Pennsylvanians — and a crucial voice of moderation. When he joined the Democratic Party later in his career, we were proud to welcome him as a Jewish Democrat — and his votes were crucial to helping President Obama during the first year of his presidency. Senator Specter has left behind a proud legacy of public service that will hopefully guide future generations of public servants, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice had the honor to interview Senator Specter in our August 2009 edition.

More after the jump.
— Vice-President Joe Biden

Jill and I are deeply saddened. Arlen Specter was a great Senator who lived his life the way he died, with dignity and courage. He was my friend and I admired him a great deal.

For over three decades, I watched his political courage accomplish great feats and was awed by his physical courage to never give up.  Arlen never walked away from his principles and was at his best when they were challenged.

Jill and I are thinking of Joan at the moment – she was an incredible partner through his life journey. Our hearts go out to Shanin and Stephen and all who were deeply touched by his life.  

Smears, Lies and Videotape: RJC and the Day after Yom Kippur

— by David A. Harris

It’s very said that on the day after Yom Kippur, Jewish Republicans have decided to jump right back into shamefully smearing the President’s record — on the same day in which the Israeli Prime Minister praised President Obama’s leadership and cooperation with Israel in front of the United Nations. Some of the experts featured in the video come from a small segment of the right wing, and are not reflective of Israel’s broad public opinion — let alone the leaders who have heaped praise upon the President. Worse, some of the key points in the video are factually misrepresented, including statements regarding President Obama’s support for Israel’s security, the scenes of Democrats, and statements regarding the so-called snub that never happened. This video offers nothing more than the same innuendo and smears that Jewish Republicans have tried to peddle for the last four years, and their smear campaign has not worked — and will not work.”

The video features many instances of distorted — if not factually incorrect — information.

  • The Israeli government has repeatedly debunked the snub myth from 2010. In fact, when NJDC issued a fact sheet authorized by the Israeli embassy debunking the myth, the Republican Jewish Coalition called the embassy-approved statements “BS.”
  • The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman, who is quoted in the video, has criticized prior instances of his quotes being cherry-picked for the sole purpose of making Israel a political football.
  • At 3:41, right wing pundit Barry Rubin contradicts statements by Israeli leaders who have effusively praised the President’s security cooperation with Israel, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak who said, “I should tell you honestly that this Administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”
  • The Democratic legislators featured in the video have all praised the President’s leadership when it comes to Israel and Iran — and are supporting his reelection.
  • The video repeats the right wing’s baseless attack on this Administration for upholding the same position on Jerusalem as his predecessors.