Kerry & Israel: A “True Friend” Tells the Truth


John Kerry and Avigdor Liberman

— by Steve Sheffey

Some on the far right are telling us that Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Israel with a boycott if peace talks with the Palestinians were not successful. In fact, Kerry and the U.S. strongly oppose and will oppose any boycotts of Israel.

Kerry was simply pointing out the irrefutable: If Israel is seen as unreasonably blocking peace negotiations, the chance of more boycotts against Israel will increase.

The State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said on February 2 that, “At the Munich Security Conference yesterday, [Kerry] spoke forcefully in defense of Israel’s interests, as he consistently has throughout his public life.”

In response to a question about the peace process, he also described some well-known and previously stated facts about what is at stake for both sides if this process fails, including the consequences for the Palestinians. His only reference to a boycott was a description of actions undertaken by others that he has always opposed.

More after the jump.
A tweet by Ha’aretz writer, Chemi Shalev, brought to mind this analogy:

Suppose that a doctor tells a cancer patient that if he rejects a certain treatment, he will likely get worse. Is the doctor threatening the patient? Is the doctor telling the patient that if he rejects the treatment, the doctor himself will make the patient worse? Or is the doctor on the patient’s side, and simply pointing out that while the patient has a choice, and while the doctor will work with the patient regardless of the patient’s choice, choices have consequences?

Israel does not deserve to be boycotted, and the world should not boycott Israel based on lack of progress with the Palestinians. But justified or not, that is a real possibility. It is a reality that none of us like, and that all of us oppose, but it is reality. You would have to be blind not to see it.

That is just one of many reasons that the status quo is not sustainable.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman, defended Kerry last week, and called him “a true friend of Israel.” Is Liberman an anti-Israel lefty too? I am going to go with Liberman on this one.

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Israeli Consulate to Remain in Philadelphia

Mayor Michael A. Nutter received a letter from Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, informing him that Israel’s Consulate General in Philadelphia will remain open.  

It had been reported previously that a decision to close the Consulate General was under consideration. The letter was personally delivered to Mayor Nutter by Yaron Sideman, Consul General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, at a board meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

More after the jump.
Mayor Nutter said:

Today’s announcement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs is tremendously exciting for the City of Philadelphia, our Jewish community, and the Consulate General. I want to thank Minister Liberman for his decision.

The Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia plays a tremendously important role in supporting our Jewish community and the strong business relationships that exist between Israel and Philadelphia.  

Preserving the consulate in Philadelphia was a true team effort involving the Consulate General, the Jewish Federation, Philadelphia-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, American Jewish Committee and elected officials at all levels of government. I would like to thank everyone involved.  

Congratulations to Consul General Yaron Sideman and the Jewish community in Philadelphia.


Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Tel-Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai.

Last month Mayor Nutter traveled to Israel with a delegation of community and business leaders to strengthen ties between the Philadelphia region and the State of Israel. The delegation stayed in Philadelphia’s Sister City of Tel Aviv-Yafo and was hosted by Mayor Ron Huldai.

The potential closure of the consulate was high on the Mayor’s agenda, and he raised concerns about the possibility with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Peres, U.S. Ambassador Shapiro, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mayor Huldai of Tel Aviv and Mayor Birkat of Jerusalem.  

A wide range of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania elected officials also expressed similar concerns to the Israeli government about the impact of the closure of the consulate.

In his letter to Mayor Nutter, Minister Liberman highlighted the success of the Mayor’s trade mission, the strength of the relationship between Philadelphia and Tel Aviv, and the values shared between the Philadelphia region and the State of Israel.

Consul General Yaron Sideman said:

I laud the tireless efforts made by Mayor Nutter and so many others to keep the Consulate open, efforts that bore fruit in the form of this exciting news.

It is now up to all of us to roll up our sleeves and continue with the task of working together to strengthen the ties between Israel and Philadelphia. The many partnerships that have emerged as a result of the recent the Mayor led trip to Israel are a perfect starting point.

Thanksgivukkah Pie: Don McLean, the Jewish Version

A hilarious and catchy musical tribute to Hanukkah and Thanksgiving by Benji Lovitt. (Follow Benji on Twitter and Facebook.)

Editing: Victor Paru.
Filming and Vocal Recording: Yosef Adest.

Happy holidays!

Lyrics follow the jump — sing along!
Lyrics (including bonus verse which didn’t make the final cut):

A long, long time ago,
I can still remember how that oil used to last a while.
And I knew if it made it eight.
Then Jews would get to celebrate
And then we’d be rejoicing with a smile.

But this year’s just unprecedented.
A holiday that’s so demented.
Chanukkah plus turkey.
It doesn’t get more quirky.

I can’t remember if I cried
From Jewish and American pride.
My apple pie is extra fried.
The day the chags collide.

CHORUS:
So try my new Thanksgivukkah pie.
It’s delicious, not nutritious, and it’s so good you’ll cry.
Like soofganyot, it is super deep-fried.
So don’t eat more than one or you’ll die, don’t eat more than one or you’ll die.

Would you like some pumpkin pie
Topped with chocolate gelt stacked really high
Cause your bubbe baked the dough
Or latkes topped with cranberry
And mashed potatoes with sour cream.
We remember stories from so long ago.

Now I know that you love Maccabees
But save some room for mac and cheese.
The football game’s tonight.
We can watch by candlelight, oooh.

So wontcha sit right back, kick off your shoes
Cause it’s happy times for US Jews.
So tell your friends and spread the news.
The day the chags collide.

CHORUS:
So try my new Thanksgivukkah pie.
It’s delicious, not nutritious, and it’s so good you’ll cry.
Like soofganyot, it is super deep-fried.
So don’t eat more than one or you’ll die, don’t eat more than one or you’ll die.

Now the Pilgrims stood up to the Greeks
And the Maccabees threw such a feast
Or maybe I mixed up my facts.

When we eat the dreidel, it gobbles loud
And we spin the turkey which wobbles proud.
I think I’ve lost my mind, got to relax.

Let’s appreciate this special day
With the Macy’s Hanukkah Parade.
The floats are on the go.
Nes gadol haya po….SHAAAAAM!

So gather round with all your friends.
Sing Maoz Tzur until the end.
And stuff yourself, I recommend.
The day the chags collide.

This Is Real: Lapid Gets 19 Knesset Seats


Election Day in Israel was declared a national holiday and the weather was gorgeous. The public voted and then most of us went to the beach, to cafes, or shopping for the rest of the “day off”. It was a delightful, very Israeli experience. Everyone seemed happy and up about being who and what we are.

In the morning we found that we’ve handed our politicians a classic Israeli post-election dilemma. It feels so very Israeli and nostalgic that I did today’s cartoon in Blue and White.

— by Amir Shoam

Update: after counting all votes, including all IDF soldeirs, Habait Hayehudi got another seat and went up to 12 on the expense of Raam-Taal, that went down to 4. See full table below.

After counting 99.8% of Israel general elections votes, Yesh Atid, former journalist Yair Lapid’s one-year-old party, gets 19 seats in the Knesset. The unification of HaLikud and Israel Beytenu gets 31. HaAvoda gets 15 seats, two less than expected in TV channel samples. Right party HaBait HaYehudi gets 11 seats, like orthodox party Shas. Religious party Yahaduth HaTorah gets 7 seats. Center-left party HaTnuah and left party Meretz get 6 seats each.

Ultra-left party Hadash gets 4 seats, while Arab parties Raam-Taal and Balad get 5 and 3 seats respectively.

Kadima, largest party in current Knesset that was eliminated in TV samples, eventually enters the Knesset with 2.09% of all votes (2% is required to enter), and 2 seats.

HaAvoda had announced that it will not join a coalition headed by HaLikud. Assuming Halikud leader and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will get to build a coalition, his partners are likely to be Yesh Atid, HaBait HaYehudi and Hatnuah (67 of 120 seats total). There is also a risky possibility of having a coalition with Shas, Habait HaYehudi and Yahaduth HaTorah (60 seats). Netanyahu will speak with the leaders of all mentioned parties trying to form a 85-seat coalition, but it is not likely to happen. If Netanyahu fails to form a coalition, Lapid will get the opportunity to do so, but only if he reaches agreements with all HaAvoda, Shas, Yahaduth Hatorah, Hatnuah and Meretz (64 seats total).

Cartoon courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen.

Sensation On The Way: Lapid Expects 19 Seats In Israeli Knesset

Israeli Channel 2 TV news reports elections results
— by Amir Shoam

The big three Israeli TV channels are in agreement: the right-wing and religious parties will hold a bare majority with 61 seats in the 120 member Knesset while the Arab and left-wing parties will hold the remaining 59 seats.

  • Yesh Atid (There is a Future), the one-year-old party of Yair Lapid (shown on the right), former journalist and son of the late Deputy Prime Minister Tommy Lapid, gets 19 of the 120 Knesset seats after the Israel general elections held today.
  • The list-unification of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s HaLikud (The Unity) and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu (Israel Our Home) has weakened both parties, which got together 31 seats: by the pre-agreement of both parties, 21 will go for HaLikud (currently 27) and 10 for Yisrael Beytenu (currently 15).
  • HaAvoda (The Labor), traditionally Israel’s biggest left party, is expected to get 17 seats.
  • Habait Hayehudi (The Jewish Home, currently 3 seats) gets 12 seats having gained voters from the failing Halikud-Beytenu merge.
  • Orthodox party Shas (Shomrey Sfarad, Sfarad Guards) retains it’s 11 seats.
  • HaTnuah (The Movement), former Kadima (Forward) leader Tzipi Livni’s new party, gets 7 seats, like left party Meretz, which currently has only 3.
  • Yahaduth HaTorah (Torah’s Judaism) gets 6 seats.
  • Ultra-left party Hadash gets 4 seats, like Arab party Raam-Taal.
  • Another Arab party, Balad, expects to enter the Knesset with 2 seats (the minimum possible as 2% of all votes is required to enter).

Meanwhile, three parties Otzma LeIsrael, Am Shalem and Kadima, largest party in current Knesset (28 seats) are all expected to be eliminated. Atzmaut (Independence) has not participated in the elections after its leader, current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, had decided to retire from the Knesset after current seat.

66.6% of eligible voters have voted today.  

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.