Agudath Israel Salutes Obama’s Unwavering Support of Israel

Letter from Agudath Israel of America to President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

We at Agudath Israel of America and our constituency of Orthodox Jews across the United States, salute your clear and unwavering support of Israel’s security.

Your recent public words confirming our nation’s endorsement of Israel’s right to defend herself, and place responsibility for the current conflict squarely where it belongs, in the lap of Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza, are deeply appreciated.

Thank you also for your leadership and foresight in 2010, when the United States committed considerable special aid to Israel for the expansion of the Iron Dome missile interception system. Today we see how Iron Dome has played so crucial a role in recent days in preventing loss of innocent life and destruction of property.

In a time when some other nations, sadly, seem equivocal regarding terrorism, whether waged by individuals or by state actors like the current government in Gaza, the clarity of vision and resolve you have demonstrated set an example of how principle is more important than politics.

Thank you once again. As always, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Sincerely,

Rabbi David Zwiebel

Israel Begins “Pillar of Defense” In Response To Hamas Attacks From Gaza

PHILADELPHIA, PA. – In the last week alone, Hamas, a terrorist organization, has launched 150 rockets at Israel’s south. Currently, 15% of Israel’s population is currently under a terrorist attack.

Israel cannot tolerate the escalation of rocket fire aimed at its citizens.

To impair the terrorist infrastructure, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) responded with targeted strikes against those responsible.

The Israel Air Force (IAF) seriously impacted Hamas’s long-range missile capabilities and underground weapons storage facilities. The IAF has acted restrained and surgical in its response to the Hamas missile escalations, and has not targeted the long-range missiles stored in mosques, schools, and hospitals. Hamas, conversely, is deliberately firing at Israeli civilian population centers, including schools, hospitals and houses of worship.

More after the jump.  
Hamas rockets fired at Israeli civilians in the past have had a range of up to 25 miles. Today, the IDF targeted the Fajr-5, which has a range of nearly 40 miles, putting three million Israelis within terrorist missile range. This additional range encompasses the major metropolitan area of Tel Aviv.

As part of Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel eliminated Ahmed al-Jabri, the head of the Hamas military wing, who joined Hamas in 1995 and rose to a senior leadership position in 2004. He was directly involved in numerous terrorist attacks against Israel, including the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.

“We are sending an unequivocal message that our citizens will not be hostage to terrorist missile fire and cross-border attacks,” Ambassador Michael Oren said. “The scope of the IDF’s defensive operation depends on Hamas and whether it takes the decision to cease firing missiles on our neighborhoods and homes. Israel has the right and duty to defend itself from terrorist attacks designed to kill thousands of its citizens.”

Consul General to the Mid-Atlantic Region in Philadelphia, Mr. Yaron Sideman commented, “We are not acting in a vacuum. In the past 24 hours, Israel has endured 120 missiles fired indiscriminately at our nation. In the past year, over 800 missiles were fired. In 2009, over 2500 missiles were fired at our citizens. Israel showed much restraint to numerous attacks. “
 

Israel Set to Unleash New and Improved Iron Dome Battery

— by Gabe Cahn

Ynet, the Jerusalem Post, and JTA all reported over the weekend that Israel’s missile defense systems are undergoing substantial improvements to better ensure the safety of Israelis.

The fifth Iron Dome battery, which features upgraded interception range and response time, successfully passed the testing phase last week. According to the Ynet article:

Since Iron Dome first became operational, in April 2011, the system has intercepted over 100 Grad and Gaza terrorists at Israel’s south.

‘This is another outstanding achievement by all those involved in the system’s upgrade,’ Defense Minister Ehud Barak said…

Iron Dome’s seventh and eights batteries will be funded mostly by US aid funds in 2013. Some $70 million have already been appropriated to the project and an additional, similar, sum is due next year.

More after the jump.
JTA also reported that:

‘The series of trials are designed to expand and improve the operational capabilities as we face an unprecedented array of threats.  The most recent trial – which was completed successfully – marks a significant upgrade in the operational capabilities of the Iron Dome system,’ according to a Defense Department statement.

Another testament to “the depth and ingenuity of the US-Israel military alliance,” is the bilateral development of the Arrow 3 missile defense system. The Jerusalem Post reported that:

Once operational, the Arrow 3 will be the most advanced missile defense system in the world, a powerful example of the fruits of the US-Israel relationship…

The Arrow 3 interceptor missile boasts twice the range of the Arrow 2, despite being significantly smaller and weighing only half as much. Costs have dropped as well, with the Arrow 3 interceptors expected to run $2.2 million a piece, about 20 percent less than the Arrow 2.

Statement by NSC Spokesman Tommy Vietor on National Security Advisor Tom Donilon’s Meetings with Israeli Delegation

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon hosted a delegation of senior Israeli officials on November 12 for consultations on Iran, Syria, and a range of other regional security issues.  The Israeli delegation was headed by Major General (retired) Yaakov Amidror, Chairman of Israel’s National Security Council and National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Today’s meetings were the latest in a series of regular, high-level consultations between the United States and Israel, consistent with our strong bilateral partnership, and part of our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.

Debka Reports “Two readiness exercises in Israel”

DEBKAFile reports:

The annual Israel home front drill, “Turning Point 6,” taking place Sunday simulates a major earthquake followed by a tsunami washing up from the Mediterranean against Israel’s coastal cities. It postulates 7,000 deaths, 70,000 injured and 170,000 rendered homeless. Updated Homeland Front directives advise people in its path to run for open ground instead of staying indoors.

The US-Israeli three-week war game also starting Sunday simulates an Iranian, Syrian and/or Hizballah missile attack on Israel. It deploys 1,000 American and Israeli soldiers each, using Patriot, Arrow and Iron Dome anti-missile batteries. The Israeli homeland exercise is also relevant to a possible war with Iran. Its commander, Lt. Gen. Eyal Eisenkott, said the practice would inure the population and authorities to preparedness for different kinds of emergencies.

Obama and Israel

— by Steve Sheffey

Move a Chicagoan to San Diego and soon he’ll forget the wind, sleet and snow and start complaining when the temperature drops below 60 degrees. Relations between Israel and the United States are warmer under President Obama than under previous administrations, yet we hear that the President has a “Jewish problem.” The problem is not Obama, but us: In only three years, we’ve lost historic perspective. We’re criticizing Obama for what would have gone unnoticed in other administrations.

  • Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger threatened to “reassess” America’s relationship with Israel. Obama has declared that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable,” and Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak credited Obama for the strongest relationship between the two countries ever.
  • Ronald Reagan suspended arms shipments to Israel and supported a UN resolution criticizing Israel for bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor. Obama secretly sold Israel the bunker busting bombs it requested during the Bush administration and cast the only UN veto of his administration against the one-sided anti-Israel UN Security Council resolution on settlements.
  • George W. Bush pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections and made little progress in stopping Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons. Obama has not negotiated with Hamas. He has mobilized the international community to impose the toughest sanctions ever against Iran and flat-out declared that he will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, saying no options are off the table.

Obama’s pro-Israel accomplishments compare favorably with any Republican president. Yet we keep complaining.

We say he has not visited Israel as president, forgetting that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are the only two presidents who visited Israel during their first terms in office. George W. Bush did not visit Israel until his seventh year as president. Ronald Reagan never visited in his entire life. Obama went to Israel as recently as 2006 and 2008.

We complain that the Obama administration criticizes Israel’s settlement policy, forgetting that every administration since 1967 has criticized Israel’s settlement policy. But unlike George H.W. Bush, Obama never threatened to withhold U.S. aid to Israel because of settlement activity; instead, Obama has taken U.S. financial assistance to Israel to record levels.

We complain about imagined slights to Prime Minister Netanyahu, forgetting that when the chips were down, Obama came through for Israel and Netanyahu. When Israel asked for help fighting the Carmel forest fires, President Obama’s response was “get Israel whatever it needs. Now.”

In September 2011, when the late-night call came from Israel to Obama asking for help in rescuing the Israelis trapped in the Egyptian embassy, Netanyahu himself called it a “decisive and fateful moment,” recalling that Obama “said ‘I will do everything I can.’ And he did.”

The list goes on and on. Obama opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, and successfully derailed Palestinian attempts to unilaterally declare statehood at the UN. He’s done more than any president to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Yet despite the facts, despite the historic perspective, it’s almost as if some of us want Obama to be anti-Israel because that would validate our worst fears. Attacking Obama on Israel is like attacking John Kerry on his personal military record. The Swift Boat campaign worked because Kerry and his supporters were too slow to take it seriously and fight fiction with facts. The result was four more years of George W. Bush.

Maybe it’s our nature to complain. But President Obama’s words and deeds prove that he is not only a strong friend of Israel, but that he is willing to stand up for Israel publicly and behind the scenes. That’s what matters, and that’s why most Jews will again vote for Obama in 2012.
Reprinted courtesy of the Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update. Subscribe at http://visitor.constantcontact…

JTA: Obama “Owns U.S. Backing for Iron Dome”

JTA’s Ron Kampeas wrote that President Barack Obama rightfully deserves credit for his leadership in support of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Kampeas wrote:

The following assertion has been up occasionally in the conservative blogosphere: That Iron Dome, the system that successfully defended Israel from a recent spate of Gaza-based rocket attacks, was launched under the aegis of President George W. Bush.

But that turns out not to be correct. In fact, Obama more or less owns U.S. backing for Iron Dome.

Conservatives who make the claim seek to undercut another recurrent meme peddled by pro-Israel Democrats, that President Obama’s decision to underwrite the project is evidence of his pro-Israel bona fides (Obama earmarked $205 million for Iron Dome above and beyond the $3 billion average that Israel gets in defense assistance each year, and Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, is working with lawmakers in Congress who want to appropriate more for additional batteries.)…

A Congressional Research Service report in March (PDF) assessing foreign aid to Israel squarely attributes funding to Obama. (The Iron Dome chapter starts on p. 10 and an illustrative chart is on p. 15.)

In March 2010, the Obama Administration announced that it would support $205 million in defense assistance to Israel for the purchase of up to ten Iron Dome batteries.

Israel began developing Iron Dome in 2005 and it became a priority in 2007, but there’s no evidence that Bush gave funding for the project an advance nod. The Pentagon spokesman in this May 2010 Reuters report pegs the funding decision to the fall of 2009, when Obama was president.

Israelis Thank Obama for Unprecedented Missile Defense Support

— by David A. Harris

Since President Barack Obama entered office back in 2009, the NJDC has been reporting the facts about his extensive pro-Israel record. But even with all of the praise from Israeli leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, what do average Israelis have to say about the President and his commitment to securing Israel — especially when it comes to missile defense programs like the Iron Dome?

Quotes follow the jump.
Sasson from Sderot — which faces daily rocket attacks from Hamas — said:

Sderot is important to him. The Jewish people are important to him. The State of Israel is important to him. .. Obama is sympathetic to our problems and he supports the protection of the citizens of Israel.

Chaim Yosef, another Sderot resident, said:

Before the Iron Dome I was afraid to fall asleep because every time the siren went off, I knew I had to run to safety. Now, with the Iron Dome existing, I am a lot less fearful.

 

Ashkelon Saved By Iron Dome Anti-Missile Batteries

From DEBKAFile:

Palestinian missile fire from the Gaza Strip accelerated Saturday night with five Grads fired at Ashkelon. This was a serious escalation in the weeklong barrage – despite the talk in Israel and by Gaza spokesman of a slowdown in violence. Iron Dome anti-missile batteries intercepted all five Grads. During the day, 45 Qassam missiles were aimed at smaller Israeli locations – 28 exploding harmlessly in Israel, three thwarted by Iron Dome and 14 landing on the Gazan side of the border.

WJW Lauds Obama Administration’s Iron Dome Funding

Washington Jewish Week lauded the Obama Administration for providing supplemental funding to support Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Its editorial board wrote:

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Ehud Barak, his Israeli counterpart, that the Pentagon will seek to provide an additional $70 million for Israel’s Iron Dome short-range rocket shield. The news of the funding couldn’t come at a better time for Israel.

The United States has already infused some $205 million into the Iron Dome system, which uses small, radar-guided missiles to destroy in midair rockets and mortar shells, which have rained down on Israeli towns and cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon in recent years. The Iron Dome has been described as a ‘game changer.’ Indeed, it has intercepted some 80 percent of the rockets fired by Hamas in the month of March alone, when more than 300 armed projectiles were shot into Israel from Gaza.

While the world’s attention is focused upon the fledgling preliminary talks underway between Iran and the West … we cannot lose sight of the fact that Israel continues to be under attack by Iran’s terrorist agents, Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon….

The pounding from Hamas and Hezbollah are a constant threat to innocent Israeli citizens, who have 15 seconds to find cover from an incoming rocket.

That’s why Iron Dome and U.S funding and support for the project is so important. Iron Dome brings a significant measure of security to Israel, even if the system is not 100 percent effective.

But beyond the significant economic assistance which is so essential to the Iron Dome project, there is the very clear message that the U.S. support conveys: A clear message to Iran and its co-conspirators that even while the nuclear issue is being discussed, the United States will not lose focus on the security and well being of Israel and her people. And, it’s not just words. The leader of the Western world has made clear that it is willing to put its money where its counts, under an iron dome.

We commend Secretary Panetta’s decision.

Links:

Obama Admin. to Provide Israel with $70M for Iron Dome

— by David Streeter

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hosted Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon today for bilateral discussions focused on Israel’s security and Iran. Panetta announced during the meeting that the Obama Administration will be providing Israel with an addition $70 million in funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is in addition to the $205 million previously given.

Panetta’s statement and reaction from JTA after the jump.
Panetta said in a statement:

The level of security cooperation between the United States and Israel has never been stronger. One important example of this cooperation is U.S. support for Israel’s Iron Dome short range rocket and mortar defense system.

I was pleased to inform Minister Barak that the President supports Israel’s Iron Dome system and directed me to fill the $70 million in assistance for Iron Dome that Minister Barak indicated to me Israel needs this fiscal year.

My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens. That is why going forward over the next three years, we intend to request additional funding for Iron Dome, based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat. This is part of our rock solid commitment to Israel’s security and comes on top of approximately $3 billion in annual security assistance for Israel.

The U.S. has already provided $205 million in assistance for that system, and operational batteries have already proven effective in defending against rocket attacks on Israel earlier this year. Iron Dome has already saved the lives of Israeli citizens, and it can help prevent escalation in the future.

Minister Barak and I have been discussing additional U.S. support for Iron Dome, and in recent months our departments have been working closely to gauge Israel’s security needs and production capacity for that system.

This is assistance that, provided Congress concurs, we can move quickly, to ensure no shortage in this important system. Meanwhile, we will stay in close consultation in the years ahead to ensure we are making necessary investments in this important system.

JTA reported:

Legislation under consideration in Congress, shaped in consultation with administration officials, would deliver $680 million to Israel for the system, which earlier this year successfully intercepted rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

The system was funded in part by $205 million transferred by the United States to Israel in 2011.

Barak in a statement said he ‘greatly appreciated’ the announcement, adding that ‘This additional funding for the Iron Dome system comes at a crucial time for the Israeli people.’

Barak is in Washington to discuss with Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton efforts to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon….

Israel would likely seek to shore up its defenses against attacks on its borders ahead of any conflict with Iran, as Iran would be likely to pressure surrogates in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to attack.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also praised the Obama administration for its announcement.

‘This funding will enable the Jewish state to better protect its citizens, thus preventing a wider conflict,’ AIPAC said in a statement. ‘Missile defense programs are a cornerstone of U.S.-Israel cooperative programs. The two allies work together to develop innovative technologies that advance the security of both nations.’