Trump Is Unreliable for Israel, GOP National Security Officials Say

Continuing in the trend of widespread condemnation of Donald Trump from longtime GOP foreign policy and defense officials, a group of several current and former senior Republican officials on Thursday expressed significant concern over their party’s presumptive nominee and his positions regarding Israel. In a letter from GOP national security experts published earlier this week, signatories declared Trump would be “the most reckless president in history.”

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Jewish Roundtable at the DNC

— by Frances Novack

At the Democratic National Convention, the Jewish caucus held a couple of “round-tables.” On Tuesday of Convention Week, Democrats highlighted their strengths and also this year’s election needs. Congressman Jerry Nadler (NY-10), who represents the nation’s most Jewish district, pointed to the social, educational, and health programs that Jews had helped enact into law. Other speakers, including retiring Representative Steve Israel, urged attendees to give active support to Hillary Clinton to stave off the dangers of a Donald Trump presidency.

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State Department Special Envoy Fights Global Anti-Semitism

Ira Forman with ADL Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer and ADL board members Judith Meyer and Doug Stanger

Ira Forman with ADL Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer and ADL board members Judith Meyer and Doug Stanger

Ira Forman’s job is to identify and pursue anti-Semitism around the world. As a result, he knows where the trends are particularly disturbing and where there is reason to have hope. Recently, he brought this knowledge and experience to Philadelphia when he served as the keynote speaker for the closing board meeting of the local Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Forman works in the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs in the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. He was appointed to this position three years ago by Secretary of State John Kerry. Forman has an extensive resume, which, among other things, includes his work as Jewish outreach director for the Obama campaign, CEO and executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), and — very early in his career — political director and legislative liaison for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

At the meeting in Philadelphia, Forman gave a run-down of the Jewish communities he has visited and discussed what the future may hold for Jews in those countries. For example, he pointed to a particularly disturbing survey of French Jews — which even pre-dated the Paris attacks — in which 47% said they were considering leaving France. Forman was then asked about the heartening response of thousands of French citizens who marched in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Kacher attacks. He said it was believed that if the Charlie Hebdo journalists had not also been killed, the response by non-Jews on behalf of the Jewish community would not have been as strong.

However, Forman did express hope for some smaller Jewish communities. He also emphasized that outside the United States, England seems to be the most secure place for Jews to live.

In order to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Forman and his staff travel the world. They often work in cooperation with agencies like the ADL, as well as with other nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Photo by Bonnie Squires

Ann Coulter Shows Why Jews Vote Democratic

Question tweeted by conservative pundit Ann Coulter to her over 600,000 Twitter followers during the CNN Republican Presidential Debate.

Question tweeted by conservative pundit Ann Coulter to her over 600,000 Twitter followers during the CNN Republican Presidential Debate.

— by Greg Rosenbaum

Ms. Coulter, since you asked so nicely, there are approximately 6.5 million Jews living in the United States. Furthermore, the vast majority of that population voted for President Obama in 2012, and we will continue to vote for Democratic candidates in 2016 and beyond.

After hearing 15 conservative Republican candidates:

  • praise failed foreign policies that, among other horrendous consequences, damaged Israel and the vital alliance between the US and Israel;
  • attack those seeking to marry the people they love while defending the right to discriminate against them;
  • demonize an organization that provides crucial health care to women in need;
  • deny the existence of climate change exactly when scientists found 2015 to be the warmest year in our planet’s recorded history; and
  • dangerously spread the lie that vaccinations are tied to autism,

we have no doubt that the American Jewish community will remain overwhelmingly with the Democratic party.

Perhaps, Ann, you did not get the memo from GOP headquarters that Israel is supposed to be a partisan wedge issue, designed to peel off Jewish voters from the Democratic Party. After all, putting partisan politics over good policy, your party’s legislators unanimously opposed the world’s agreement with Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

But don’t worry, Ann. Disgusting anti-Semitic comments like yours will help maintain the traditional bonds between American Jewish voters and their home in the Democratic Party, where they are actually welcome.

Greg Rosenbaum is chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Where Are Republican Jews on Offensive Susan Rice Ad?

Ambassador_Rice_Meets_With_Israeli_Prime_Minister_Netanyahu_(14126775661)

Susan Rice with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

(NJDC) Last night, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was roundly criticized for an advertisement in the New York Times attacking U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice, which the National Jewish Democratic Council denounced as being “disgusting and astonishingly beyond the pale.

Israeli leaders and Jewish organizations from across the spectrum, both politically and denominationally, joined in this criticism. However, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the self-described “unique bridge between the Jewish community and Republican decision-makers,” has yet to speak out against this offensive and over-the-top attack.

Attacks such as Rabbi Boteach’s do nothing but endanger Israel’s security. It is beyond disappointing to see that the RJC has failed to condemn what virtually the entire Jewish community has spoken out against.

B-9ecSYU0AAx5qB[1]We hope that the Republican Jewish Coalition will see it fit to add their names to the list of groups standing against this disgusting attack:

Congress Passes U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act

— by Elanna Cahn

Congress passed the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, introduced by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), which strengthens the relationship between the U.S. and Israel on issues such as defense and energy:

Flickr_-_Israel_Defense_Forces_-_Iron_Dome_Intercepts_Rockets_from_the_Gaza_Strip

An Israel Defense Forces anti-missile “Iron Dome” system.

  • increasing the value of the U.S. forward-deployed weapons stockpile in Israel and authorizes additional defense transfers;
  • requiring the administration to take steps toward allowing Israel to be included in the top-tier category for license-free exports of certain U.S. technologies and products;
  • encouraging government and private sector cooperation between the two countries in several areas such as energy, water, agriculture, cyber-security, and alternative fuel technologies;
  • stating U.S. policy should include Israel in the list of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program, when Israel satisfies the requirements for inclusion;
  • requiring the administration to provide more frequent and more detailed assessments on the status of Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors;
  • strengthening collaboration between the U.S. and Israel on energy development and encourages increased cooperation between the two countries’ academic, business and governmental sectors.

The National Democratic Jewish Council’s chair, Greg A. Rosenbaum, said that the Act “sends a clear, bipartisan message that the U.S.-Israel bond is unbreakable.”

As we have said time and time again, Israel must not become a partisan wedge issue. No party has a claim on being a ‘better’ friend to Israel, and any attempt to claim that is absurd.

You Call That a Crisis?

Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, April 9, 2013. (Photo: Matty Ster.)

Secretary of State John Kerry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, April 9, 2013. (Photo: Matty Ster.)

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) responded Wednesday to Jeff Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic that quoted a senior U.S. official referring to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a “chicken**t”:

There should never be any doubt that the special and strategic bond between the United States and Israel remains strong, steadfast and secure. In such a relationship, cooperation is celebrated and differences should be aired in confidence.

Unsubstantiated reports of inappropriate criticism and unprofessional name-calling are outrageous and unacceptable. And if proven true, the responsible individual should be held to full account. Whether they agree or disagree, friends engage with respect.

Dialog and professional engagement are essential to meeting the growing challenges that both Israel and the United States face. I hope that this moment provides an opportunity to reaffirm the distinct and critical relationship between our two countries.

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) said similar things:

Even in informal conversation, the use of the term was unprofessional and does not meet the standard of civility and deference that has typified the Administration even in disagreement with its long-time ally.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has the right and responsibility as the freely elected leader of a sovereign nation to conduct Israel’s foreign and domestic policies as he determines are in the best interests of his country and its people. Likewise, the United States has a strategic interest in pursuing peace, prosperity and security for Israel. Cooperation between the two countries has never been stronger.

The personal frustration that is reflected in the anonymous source’s ad hominem attack should be channeled to constructive engagement rather than rhetorical flourishes.

As pro-Israel advocates, even as we condemn this unacceptable name-calling, we must understand what was behind it.

We are in a difficult position because the current government in Israel also bears some of the blame for the rift in U.S.-Israel relations. It is not “anti-Israel” to recognize this reality any more than it is “anti-American” to recognize the flaws of the current U.S. government’s policy.

We have heard tales of rifts and snubs almost since the day President Obama was elected. Yet, the Obama administration has taken U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels: He provided Israel with record aid, including enthusiastic support for Iron Dome, which the George W. Bush administration was “frosty” on, and while continuing U.S. policy on settlements and Jerusalem that have been in place since 1967, he has not let this decades-old disagreement affect the U.S. strategic and diplomatic support for Israel.

During the Gaza War, even while calling for a cease-fire, Obama resupplied Israel with munitions. The delay in delivering Hellfire missiles, which have now been delivered, did not adversely affect Israel, which did not use those during the war.

The undeniable reality is that the U.S.-Israel relationship remains strong, and it is almost a testament to the strength of the relationship that the worst that President Obama’s critics can point to is name-calling. I would take name-calling over the tangible damage previous administrations have done to Israel any day.

No one in the Bush administration ever publicly referred to the prime minister of Israel as “chicken**t,” but let us not forget what did happen during the Bush tenure.

Bush rejected requests from Israel for special bombs to attack Iran and violated an agreement with Israel to maintain its qualitative military edge by selling arms to Arab states.

In 2002, Bush demanded that Israel stop its military offensive in the West Bank “now, not tomorrow.”

In 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon, the Bush administration said, “We are urging restraint on both sides, recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself,” almost word for word what the Obama administration said during Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The Bush administration pressured Israel into allowing Hamas to participate in the 2006 Gaza elections, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it could not have otherwise achieved. The Bush administration rescinded $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity.

The Obama administration has never pressured Israel to act contrary to what Israel perceives as its best interests. If the Obama administration is in a crisis with Israel, we should only wish the Bush administration had similar crises.

President Nixon postponed the sale of 25 Phantom jets and 80 Skyhawks to Israel, and complained that “the f**king Jews think they can run the world.” President Ford called for a “total reassessment” of the U.S. policy toward Israel. As Lenny Ben-David wrote in The Jerusalem Post, the Bush 41-James Baker animus toward Yitzak Shamir “was so hot it could melt snow on Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Nothing that is happening now comes close to the animus and venom that Menachem Begin displayed toward Ronald Reagan in 1981.

If you can think of a Republican administration that has been better to Israel than the Obama administration, I am all ears. Anyone who thinks we are at a low point in U.S.-Israel relations either has forgotten history or has conveniently chosen to forget.

So why the hatred of Obama from some of our Republican friends? Even psychoanalyst Richard Kaufman is not sure:

I wish I could understand the blind, irrational, paranoid rage so many people nurture toward Obama.

A lifetime in psychiatry, neuroscience, and psychoanalysis does not help me to figure out where this wrath comes from in otherwise sane, reasonable, loving, compassionate, highly educated, intelligent people.

I dislike, disrespect and disagree with many, if not most, politicians. But I don’t hate them. Perhaps the hypertrophied reaction to Obama is a type of monosymptomatic delusion? I do not know.

I do not know either, but let us keep the current tensions in perspective. We were told before President Obama’s election in 2008 that he would turn on Israel. It never happened. Then we were told that once re-elected in 2012 he would turn on Israel. It never happened either.

Instead, Obama visited Israel, becoming only the fifth sitting president to do so, and continued building the international coalition without which sanctions on Iran would not be effective. And he not only championed Iron Dome from the beginning, but he asked Congress for additional funding during the recent Gaza War, thus saving thousands of Israeli lives.

The U.S.-Israel relationship has always had its ups and downs. By any historical measure, the Obama administration, with all personal tensions, remains among the ups.

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May: Celebrating our Jewish American Heritage

Proclamation on Jewish American Heritage Month 2014
— President of the United States of America Barack Obama

For thousands of years, the Jewish people have sustained their identity and traditions, persevering in the face of persecution. Through generations of enslavement and years of wandering, through forced segregation and the horrors of the Holocaust, they have maintained their holy covenant and lived according to the Torah. Their pursuit of freedom brought multitudes to our shores, and today our country is the proud home to millions of Jewish Americans. This month, let us honor their tremendous contributions-as scientists and artists, as activists and entrepreneurs. And let all of us find inspiration in a story that speaks to the universal human experience, with all of its suffering and all of its salvation.

Proclamation continues after the jump.
This history led many Jewish Americans to find common cause with the Civil Rights Movement. African Americans and Jewish Americans marched side-by-side in Selma and Montgomery. They boarded buses for Freedom Rides together, united in their support of liberty and human dignity. These causes remain just as urgent today. Jewish communities continue to confront Antisemitism — both around the world and, as tragic events mere weeks ago in Kansas reminded us, here in the United States. Following in the footsteps of Jewish civil rights leaders, we must come together across all faiths, reject ignorance and intolerance, and root out hatred wherever it exists.

In celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month, we also renew our unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel. It is a bond that transcends politics, a partnership built on mutual interests and shared ideals. Our two countries are enriched by diversity and faith, fueled by innovation, and ruled not only by men and women, but also by laws. As we continue working in concert to build a safer, more prosperous, more tolerant world, may our friendship only deepen in the years to come.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2014 as Jewish American Heritage Month. I call upon all Americans to visit JewishHeritageMonth.gov to learn more about the heritage and contributions of Jewish Americans and to observe this month, the theme of which is healing the world, with appropriate programs, activities, and ceremonies.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirtieth day of April, in the year two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

Iyar: A Free People In Its Land and The Land of the Free

— by Elanna Cahn

The Jewish month of Iyar is a time of pride for American Jews. We take special satisfaction in the remarkable endeavor that is the State of Israel, this year celebrating its sixty-sixth Independence Day. And we are grateful to be acknowledged by Jewish American Heritage Month, lifting up the role that our community has played in the history and success of the United States.

The United States and Israel are the only two countries that have been democracies without interruption from their inception. It’s not an easy record to maintain given the challenges from without and within that have plagued every nation in the world, particularly in the last half-century. As Jews, we have thrived in genuine democracies. But there are two different kinds of democracies in which we thrive.

More after the jump.
The invitation of the United States to all who embrace it is to become a full participant in the Land of the Free. Both the native-born and the immigrant are guaranteed the self-evident rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as the freedoms in the Constitution. The price of those freedoms is civic engagement — the very reason the National Jewish Democratic Council exists — to ensure a body politic that recognizes that our rights and privileges as Americans are continually refined to be ever more inclusive.

Of course, it is necessary for every group of people — family, ethnic group, people with common cause — to address its own interests. Jewish history reminds us constantly of the hazards of relying entirely on others for our own well-being. After two thousand years of minority status, we experienced the renewal of being a free people in its land, able to shape our own destiny and protect our particular interests and the greater good of a just society.

Our detractors demand that we choose between the two. That demand is as nonsensical as it is narrow-minded. Instead, the ability to hold two complementary ideals in our hearts simultaneously is a hallmark of wisdom. Hillel said it two thousand years ago when he acknowledged that he needed always to be for himself, but that being for himself alone fell short of a greater potential.

As Democrats, we celebrate the ongoing success of the State of Israel and the flourishing of the United States, each on its own terms and each with special resonance for us as Jews. We also understand the contributions these two lights among nations provide to each other as inseparable allies and as laboratories of progressive values.

We are most fortunate to live at a time when the land of the free is complemented by a free people in its own land. May we never lose sight of that blessing.

Department of Defense photo of Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates arriving in Israel on April 18, 2007.

Women’s History Month: The First Female Chair of the Fed

Janet Yellen (center) watching a welding student yesterday as she toured City Colleges of Chicago, College to Careers Program in Advanced Manufacturing. (John Gress/Reuters)

And she is Jewish too!

— by Elanna Cahn

Janet L. Yellen took office as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on February 3, 2014, for a four-year term ending February 3, 2018. Dr. Yellen also serves as Chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, the System’s principal monetary policy-making body. Prior to her appointment as Chair, Dr. Yellen served as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors, taking office in October 2010, when she simultaneously began a 14-year term as a member of the Board that will expire January 31, 2024.

Dr. Yellen is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Berkeley where she was the Eugene E. and Catherine M. Trefethen Professor of Business and Professor of Economics and has been a faculty member since 1980.

More after the jump.

Chair of the Fed Janet Yellin (center) with Women’s Leadership Network Co-Chairs Rep. Jan Schakowsky (left) and Barbara Goldberg Goldman (right).

Dr. Yellen took leave from Berkeley for five years starting August 1994. She served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System through February 1997, and then left the Federal Reserve to become chair of the Council of Economic Advisers through August 1999. She also chaired the Economic Policy Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development from 1997 to 1999. She also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010.

Dr. Yellen is a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has served as President of the Western Economic Association, Vice President of the American Economic Association and a Fellow of the Yale Corporation.

Dr. Yellen graduated summa cum laude from Brown University with a degree in economics in 1967, and received her Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University in 1971. She received the Wilbur Cross Medal from Yale in 1997, an honorary doctor of laws degree from Brown in 1998, and an honorary doctor of humane letters from Bard College in 2000.

An Assistant Professor at Harvard University from 1971 to 1976, Dr. Yellen served as an Economist with the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors in 1977 and 1978, and on the faculty of the London School of Economics and Political Science from 1978 to 1980.

Dr. Yellen has written on a wide variety of macroeconomic issues, while specializing in the causes, mechanisms, and implications of unemployment.

Dr. Yellen is married and has an adult son.