Squash Filled With Fragrant Rice

I have finally cooked my dream recipe of baked squash stuffed with rice that is sweetened with chestnut honey and roses.

Chestnut honey has a deep, complex flavor. The dry roses infuse the rice with an exotic scent from the East.

Squash Filled With Fragrant Rice141120082781

  • 4 squashes, cut in half.
  • 2 cups of Basmati rice
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chestnut honey
  • 1 tablespoon dried edible roses
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  1. Cook the rice in boiling salted water for 5 minutes.
  2. Drain the rice, and place in a large bowl.
  3. Mix in the butter, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, cardamom, chestnut honey, and dry roses.
  4. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Arrange the squash halves in a heavy pot. Stuff each half with the rice mixture.
  6. Pour the vegetable broth into the pot. Bring the broth to a boil.
  7. Cover the pot tightly, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  8. To serve, garnish each stuffed squash with a dry rose.

Rice: Eliminating Iran’s Nuclear Program “Neither Realistic nor Achievable”

National Security Adviser Susan Rice outlined the U.S. demands in its negotiations with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. (Video and transcript below.)

Rice said that “a good deal is one that would verifiably cut off every pathway for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.”

Any deal must prevent Iran from developing weapons-grade plutonium at Arak, or anywhere else.

Any deal must prevent Iran from enriching uranium at its nuclear facility at Fordow — a site we uncovered buried deep underground and revealed to the world in 2009.

Any deal must increase the time it takes Iran to reach breakout capacity — the time it would take to produce a single bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium. Today, experts suggest Iran’s breakout window is just two to three months. We seek to extend that to at least one year.

Any deal must ensure frequent and intrusive inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites — including the uranium mills that produce the material fed into Iran’s enrichment and conversion facilities — to create a multi-layered transparency regime that provides the international community with the confidence it demands. That’s the best way to prevent Iran from pursuing a covert path to a nuclear weapon — to stop Iran from working toward a bomb in secret.

Any deal must address the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. And, going forward, we will not accept a deal that fails to provide the access we need to ensure that Iran’s program is peaceful.

And, any deal must last more than a decade — with additional provisions ensuring greater transparency into Iran’s program for an even longer period of time.

Rice added that “we cannot let a totally unachievable ideal stand in the way of a good deal.”

I know that some of you will be urging Congress to insist that Iran forego its domestic enrichment capacity entirely. But, as desirable as that would be, it is neither realistic nor achievable.

Even our closest international partners in the P5+1 do not support denying Iran the ability ever to pursue peaceful nuclear energy.  If that is our goal, our partners will abandon us, undermining the sanctions we have imposed so effectively together. Simply put, that is not a viable negotiating position. Nor is it even attainable. The plain fact is, no one can make Iran unlearn the scientific and nuclear expertise it already possesses.

Susan Rice: I want to thank Bob Cohen, Michael Kassen, Lillian Pinkus, my old friend Lee Rosenberg, and all of AIPAC’s board and members for welcoming me tonight. I want to thank all the Members of Congress who represent America’s strong bipartisan support for the State of Israel; and all the young people here today, some 3,000, who represent the bright future of the U.S.-Israel special relationship.

I brought one of those young people with me, my seventeen year-old son Jake, who insisted he had to come to AIPAC. But, I want to take a moment before I begin, to remember three young men who aren’t with us today. I want to call us back to those terrible days last summer, when we were united in grief over the horrifying kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah. As a mother, my heart breaks for such unspeakable loss. Those boys were our boys, and we all continue to mourn their tragic loss.

The last time I spoke at AIPAC, it was to the synagogue initiative lunch. This group tonight is… a little larger. But, when I finished that speech, more than 400 rabbis sang to me. In Hebrew. Now, that is something I will never forget. And the words of their song reflect the spirit that brings me here tonight. Hinei ma’tov uma-nayim, shevet achim gam yachad. “How good it is and how pleasant when we sit together in brotherhood.” It’s a great psalm—though I will admit that where I first encountered it – in church – it was not in the original Hebrew. That psalm always reminds me how much we can do together when we unite in common purpose. And, it goes to the heart of what AIPAC is all about—what the relationship between Israel and the United States is all about. Brotherhood. Togetherness. Unity.

That’s because the U.S.-Israel alliance is not just rooted in our mutual interests, vital as they are. It’s also rooted in the values of freedom and democracy that we share. It’s in the friendship and fellowship between ordinary Israelis and Americans. And, for me personally, it’s a warmth that’s rooted in my very first visit to Israel. I was just 14, traveling with my younger brother and my beloved late father. My Dad was on the Board of TWA – some of you are old enough to remember that once-great airline. We arrived on one of the first-ever flights from Egypt to Israel, just after the Camp David Accords were signed. We had an unforgettable visit, the power of which has stayed with me all my life. We bowed our heads in sorrow at Yad Vashem. We walked the lanes of the Old City, climbed Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, and picked fruit at a kibbutz. I learned by heart the words of the sh’ma. My first memories of Israel remain etched in my soul.

Put simply, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is not just one between states. It is between two peoples and the millions of intimate, personal connections that bind us. Our relationship has deepened and grown through different presidents and prime ministers for nearly 70 years.

It was President Truman, a Democrat, who—just 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence—made the United States the first country to recognize the State of Israel.

It was President Nixon, a Republican, who made sure America stood with Israel as it fought for survival one terrible Yom Kippur, so that its people could declare am Yisrael Chai –“the people of Israel live.”

It was President Carter who helped Israel forge an historic peace with Egypt that endures to this day. And, it was President Clinton and President George W. Bush who backed Israel as it took more brave steps for peace, and as it endured terrorist attacks from Hezbollah and Hamas.

The relationship between the United States and the State of Israel is not a partnership between individual leaders, or political parties. It’s an alliance between two nations, rooted in the unbreakable friendship between our two peoples. It is not negotiable. And it never will be.

Our alliance grows l’dor va’dor, from generation to generation. That’s what counts. That’s what we have to protect. As John F. Kennedy said, back in 1960, “friendship for Israel is not a partisan matter. It is a national commitment.”

No one knows this better than all of you. For decades, AIPAC has built bipartisan support for America’s special relationship with Israel. That’s why every President—from Harry Truman to Barack Obama—has begun from a fundamental, unshakable premise: strengthening the security of Israel is in the national interest of the United States of America.

President Obama’s commitment to Israel is deep and personal. I know, because I see it every day. I first saw it when I accompanied then-Senator Obama to Israel in 2008. I saw it when he surveyed with horror the stacks of charred rockets that Hamas had fired on Israel, and when he walked through the hollowed out homes of Sderot.

That same year, President Obama came to this conference, still a senator, and he made a promise. He said, “Israel’s security is sacrosanct.” And, each day, over the past six years, President Obama has kept that promise. The President is profoundly committed to ensuring that Israel is never alone. That’s why, today, security cooperation between our countries is not just strong. It’s stronger than it has ever been. Both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have called it “unprecedented.” And that’s the way it’s going to stay.

President Obama has met with Prime Minister Netanyahu more times than with almost any other world leader. As national security advisor, I am in nearly constant communication with Yossi Cohen, my friend and my Israeli counterpart, who I am so pleased is here tonight. Thank you, Yossi. Together, we host the U.S.-Israel consultative group to ensure we’re working closely across the highest levels of our governments. Our armed forces conduct extensive exercises together, and our military and intelligence leaders consult continually.

Under this Administration, in times of tight budgets, our security assistance to Israel has increased. Since President Obama took office, the United States has provided Israel with more than $20 billion in foreign military financing. Last year, we provided Israel with the largest package of security assistance ever. That’s money well spent, because it goes directly to bolstering Israel’s ability to defend itself in a very tough neighborhood, to protecting Israeli citizens, and to strengthening a vital American ally.

We are maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge with new defense technologies and access to the most advanced military equipment in the world. President Obama is determined to ensure that Israel can defend itself, by itself. So, when Israel receives the F-35 joint strike fighter next year, it will be the only nation in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft.

Since 2009, we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in developing and producing the David’s Sling missile defense program and the Arrow anti-missile system. We’ve invested more than $1 billion dollars in the Iron Dome system. When I visited Israel last May, I saw this technology first-hand at Palmachim air force base. And, last summer, as Hamas’ terrorist rockets rained down on Israeli cities, the world saw how Iron Dome saved lives, literally, every day.

During the height of that conflict—with sirens wailing and Israeli civilians huddling in bomb shelters—the United States stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks, even as we worked with the Israeli government to find a diplomatic resolution to the conflict. And, when the Israeli government made an urgent request for an additional $225 million to support Iron Dome’s batteries, President Obama’s response was immediate and clear: “Let’s do it.” Within days, legislation was drafted, passed through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, and President Obama signed it into law. At that critical moment, we replenished Israel’s arsenal of Iron Dome interceptor missiles. That’s what it means to be an ally.

Our unwavering commitment to Israel’s lasting security is why we will also never give up on a just and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It will require hard decisions, but the United States will remain a steadfast partner. Like past administrations, Republican and Democratic, we believe that a truly lasting peace can only be forged by direct talks between the two parties. Like past administrations, we are concerned by unilateral actions that erode trust or assault Israel’s legitimacy. Like every administration, Republican and Democratic, since the Six Day War, we oppose Israeli settlement activity—and we oppose Palestinian steps that throw up further obstacles to peace, including actions against Israel at the International Criminal Court. The only path to ensure Israel’s long-term security is to bring about a viable, sovereign Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with a democratic, Jewish State of Israel.

Israel’s security—our mutual security—is also at the heart of one of President Obama’s most important foreign policy objectives: ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. As President Obama has repeated many times: we are keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. As he said in Jerusalem: “Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained.” And he added, “America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”

President Obama said it. He meant it. And those are his orders to us all.

That is still the way we see the danger of a nuclear Iran today. Given Iran’s support for terrorism, the risk of a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the danger to the entire global non-proliferation regime, an Iran with a nuclear weapon would not just be a threat to Israel – it’s an unacceptable threat to the United States of America.

We understand the unique concerns of our Israeli friends and partners. In Jerusalem, President Obama made plain: “when I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction. It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat. But this is not simply a challenge for Israel; it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States.”

I want to be very clear: a bad deal is worse than no deal. And, if that is the choice, there will be no deal.

Negotiations continue. And, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. As of today, significant gaps remain between the international community and Iran. I’m not going to get into details about ongoing negotiations – nor should sensitive details of an ongoing negotiation be discussed in public. But, I do want to make five key points about our approach to the negotiation.

First, with the Joint Plan of Action, we have already succeeded in halting Iran’s nuclear program and rolling it back in key areas. Let’s recall what has been achieved over the last year. Iran is doing away with its existing stockpile of its most highly enriched uranium. Iran has capped its stockpile of low enriched uranium. Iran has not constructed additional enrichment facilities. Iran has not installed or operated new centrifuges, including its next-generation models. Iran has stopped construction at its potential plutonium reactor at Arak. In short, Iran is further away from a nuclear weapon than it was a year ago—and that makes the world safer, including Israel.

Moreover, we’re not taking anything on trust. What matters are Iran’s actions, not its words. That’s why, as part of the Joint Plan of Action, we’ve insisted upon—and achieved—unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear program. Before the Joint Plan, inspections happened only every few weeks, sometimes every few months. Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency has daily access at Iran’s key nuclear sites at Natanz and Fordow, verifying that Iran is meeting its commitments. If I can paraphrase, President Reagan, with a twist, our approach is “distrust and verify.”

Second, we’ve kept the pressure on Iran. I know this firsthand because, when I was U.N. ambassador, President Obama personally directed me to make sure that the Security Council’s sanctions had bite—and they do. Today, even with limited sanctions relief, Iran’s economy remains isolated from the international finance system and cut off from the vast majority of its foreign currency reserves. Iran’s oil exports have dropped almost 60 percent since 2012. The rial has depreciated by more than 50 percent. And, Iran’s overall GDP has shrunk by almost 10 percent. All told, sanctions have deprived Iran of more than $200 billion in lost oil revenues.

But sanctions are a tool, not an end in themselves. The question now, after the pressure that we and our partners have brought to bear, is whether we can verify that Iran cannot pursue a nuclear weapon. The question now is whether we can achieve a comprehensive deal. A good deal.

This is my third point—a good deal is one that would verifiably cut off every pathway for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Every single one.

Any deal must prevent Iran from developing weapons-grade plutonium at Arak, or anywhere else.

Any deal must prevent Iran from enriching uranium at its nuclear facility at Fordow—a site we uncovered buried deep underground and revealed to the world in 2009.

Any deal must increase the time it takes Iran to reach breakout capacity—the time it would take to produce a single bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium. Today, experts suggest Iran’s breakout window is just two to three months. We seek to extend that to at least one year.

Any deal must ensure frequent and intrusive inspections at Iran’s nuclear sites—including the uranium mills that produce the material fed into Iran’s enrichment and conversion facilities—to create a multi-layered transparency regime that provides the international community with the confidence it demands. That’s the best way to prevent Iran from pursuing a covert path to a nuclear weapon—to stop Iran from working toward a bomb in secret.

Any deal must address the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. And, going forward, we will not accept a deal that fails to provide the access we need to ensure that Iran’s program is peaceful.

And, any deal must last more than a decade—with additional provisions ensuring greater transparency into Iran’s program for an even longer period of time.

That’s what we’re working toward—a good, long-term, comprehensive deal that verifiably prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

This brings me to my fourth point —we cannot let a totally unachievable ideal stand in the way of a good deal. I know that some of you will be urging Congress to insist that Iran forego its domestic enrichment capacity entirely. But, as desirable as that would be, it is neither realistic nor achievable. Even our closest international partners in the P5+1 do not support denying Iran the ability ever to pursue peaceful nuclear energy. If that is our goal, our partners will abandon us, undermining the sanctions we have imposed so effectively together. Simply put, that is not a viable negotiating position. Nor is it even attainable. The plain fact is, no one can make Iran unlearn the scientific and nuclear expertise it already possesses.

We must also understand what will happen if these negotiations collapse. I know that some argue we should just impose sanctions and walk away. But let’s remember that sanctions have never stopped Iran from advancing its program. So here’s what’s likely to happen without a deal. Iran will install and operate advanced centrifuges. Iran will seek to fuel its reactor in Arak. Iran will rebuild its uranium stockpile. And, we’ll lose the unprecedented inspections and transparency we have today.

Congress has played a hugely important role in helping to build our sanctions on Iran, but they shouldn’t play the spoiler now. Additional sanctions or restrictive legislation enacted during the negotiation would blow up the talks, divide the international community, and cause the United States to be blamed for the failure to reach a deal—putting us in a much weaker position and endangering the sanctions regime itself. Meanwhile, the Iranians are well aware that if they walk away from a deal, Congress will pass new sanctions immediately—and President Obama will support them.

So, if Iran refuses to resolve this matter diplomatically—and is clearly to blame for that failure—its isolation will only increase. The costs will continue to grow.

Finally, I know that some question a deal of any duration. But, it has always been clear that the pursuit of an agreement of indefinite duration would result in no agreement at all. The question is, what is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon? A deal that extends for a decade or more would accomplish this goal better than any other course of action – longer, by far, than military strikes, which would only set back Iran’s program for a fraction of the time. And, at the end of any deal, Iran would still be required to offer comprehensive access to its nuclear facilities and to provide the international community the assurance that it was not pursuing nuclear weapons. And, if it failed to do so, we would have the ability to make our own decisions about how to move forward, just as we do today. There’s simply no alternative that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon better—or longer—than the type of deal we seek.

We can always bring consequences to bear for the sake of our shared security—harsh consequences. But, precisely because this is such a serious issue, we must weigh the different options before us and choose the best one. Sound bites won’t stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Strong diplomacy – backed by pressure – can. And, if diplomacy fails, let’s make it clear to the world that it is Iran’s responsibility.

One final word on Iran: even if we succeed in neutralizing the nuclear threat from Iran, we will still face other threats—Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, its gross violations of human rights, its efforts to destabilize neighboring states, its support for Assad and Hamas and Hezbollah, its intolerable threats against Israel. Our sanctions against Iran on these issues will remain in place. We will continue to counter Iran and the full range of threats it poses. Tehran must understand—the United States will never, ever waver in the defense of our security or the security of our allies and partners, including Israel.

The bottom line is simple: we have Israel’s back, come hell or high water—and I’ve been right there with you all through some pretty high waters. I was proud to fight again and again for Israel’s security and its basic legitimacy at the United Nations – from leading the charge against the deeply flawed Goldstone report to casting this administration’s only veto in the Security Council to block a counter-productive resolution.

As Ambassador Power described to you this morning, when it comes to combating the shameful bias against Israel at the U.N., Israel has no better friend than the United States. Last March, we were the only ‘no’ vote in the Human Rights Council against anti-Israel measures five separate times. Earlier today, Secretary Kerry told the Human Rights Council in Geneva, point blank, that its obsession with Israel risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization. And last month, with Israel and the European Union, the U.S. organized the first U.N. General Assembly meeting to combat anti-Semitism.

No country is immune from criticism—take it from a former U.N. Ambassador. But when criticism singles out one country unfairly, bitterly, viciously, over and over—that’s just wrong, and we all know it. When one democracy’s legitimacy is attacked, over and over, uniquely among the U.N.’s member states, that’s ugly, and we all know it. And, when anti-Semitism rears its head around the world, when Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris are singled out and murdered by terrorists, when synagogues are attacked and cemeteries defaced, we have to call it by name. It’s hate. It’s anti-Semitism. It reminds us of the most terrible chapters of human history. It has no place in a civilized world, and we have to fight it.

These are big challenges. But the United States and Israel have mastered plenty of big challenges before. Israel and the United States are sister democracies built on the bedrock value that we are all created b’tzelem elokim—in the image of God. And, like the Psalm says, how good it is when we sit in brotherhood together. But God calls us to do more than sit. God calls us to stand up. To act.

This weekend, President Obama will travel to Selma, Alabama, to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic marches there. He’ll pay tribute to those brave souls who took enormous risks for civil rights, including Jews and rabbis from across the country—from St. Louis and San Francisco; the Northeast and the Deep South. They faced tear gas and billy clubs, Torahs in hand. They were jailed. They conducted Shabbat services behind bars, and they sang “Adon Olam” to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” They broke the fast of Esther in prison. They even started a trend. Some black marchers, moved by the solidarity of their Jewish brethren, started wearing yarmulkes—they called them “freedom caps.”

As you recalled last night, one of those on the front lines in Selma was the great teacher, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. After marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Dr. King, he reflected, “our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship.” Our march was our worship.

The Jewish community amplified the rightness and the urgency of the civil rights movement with its own unassailable moral compass—guided by the basic principle that people should be free in their own land. And, I stand before you knowing that I and many others would not be where we are today without all those who fought for equal rights – African Americans and white Americans, including so many Jewish Americans. As we mark that Selma anniversary, as we gather here to celebrate an improbable dream that grew into the great State of Israel, we remember what we can accomplish together, when we’re at our best.

In a spirit of brotherhood, we have overcome so many trials to reach where we are—as nations, as peoples. In a spirit of brotherhood, inspired by all those who marched and struggled and sacrificed before us, let us continue the work. Let us never succumb to hopelessness or cynicism, to division or despair. Let our legs utter songs, and let our hands reach out together. That is how we fulfill our common commitment to mend our imperfect world, to do the holy work of tikkun olam. And, as we do, at home and around the world, the United States will always stand with our Israeli friends and allies.

That’s our enduring commitment. That’s our sacred duty. That’s the hope and the future for our children. So, let us keep marching arm in arm together.

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:

Nine Vegetarian Days

— by Ronit Treatman

The verse, “Out of the depths have I called Thee, O Lord,” (Psalms 130:1) perfectly captures the essence of Tisha B’Av. The fast day, which begins at sundown on Monday, July 15 this year, is one of the most solemn days in the Jewish calendar. It memorializes the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. The Sephardic community also mourns the issuing of the Alhambra Decree, or Edict of Expulsion. This dictum, ordering the banishment of the Jews from the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, was announced on Tisha B’Av in 1492.

The three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av are known as Bein HaMetzarim (“between the straits”). They begin on the 17th day of Tammuz (June 25 this year) and end on Tisha B’Av. This is a time of mourning the destruction of the Temples and the exiles of the Jews from the land of Israel. Historically, these three weeks have been a time of danger for the Jewish community. It is customary to avoid hazardous situations during those three weeks. Many Jews eschew lawsuits, surgical procedures, or travels during this time. The Shulhan Arukh (Orah Hayyim 551:9-11) mentions a Jewish tradition to refrain from eating meat and drinking wine during the week of Tisha b’Av or even (for some at that time) the entire three weeks.

Out of these days of despair have emerged some of the most creative vegetarian recipes of the Jewish kitchen. Mejedra, a crown jewel of the Syrian Jewish kitchen, is such a dish.

Recipe for Mejedra follows the jump.
Mejedra is a rice, lentil, and onion pilaf.  It is a very ancient recipe, first recorded in 1226 in Kitab al-Tabikh (“The Cook’s Book”). Mejedra is a traditional dish of mourning, based on the stew that Jacob prepared when Abraham died (Genesis 25: 29-34). Traditionally, “Esau’s favorite” was cooked with rice and green or brown lentils. Here is a recipe adapted from Gilda Angel’s Sephardic Holiday Cooking:

Mejedra

  • 2 cups brown lentils
  • 2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 large Spanish onion
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Pour the lentils into a bowl, and cover them with cold water.
  2. Allow the lentils to soak for two hours.
  3. Thinly slice the onion.
  4. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pot.
  5. Add the onion, and fry until caramelized to a golden-brown color.
  6. Drain the lentils.
  7. Sautee the rice and lentils with the onion.
  8. Pour in the water, and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Cover the pot, and bring its contents to a boil.
  10. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  11. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan.
  12. Brown the pine nuts in the pan.
  13. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the mejedra.

You may serve the mejedra with warm pita bread, an Israeli salad, and some plain yogurt on the side.  

For Samantha Power, Support for Israel Is Deeply Personal & Proven

— by Jason Berger

On Saturday, The Jewish Daily Forward‘s Nathan Guttman published an article on Samantha Power, President Obama’s nominee for U.N. Ambassador, and her commitment to Israel. Guttman’s piece opened with a story from 2009 in which Power is meeting with Israeli officials. In the middle of their discussion, she pulled out a picture of her son and described how her husband Cass Sustein is a descendent of the, “Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, the 18th-century Jewish sage who is considered the greatest talmudic scholar of his time.”

Guttman concluded that while this might partially explain Power’s commitment to Israel, it is not the only reason. Former Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. Dan Arbel explains that for as long as he has known Power, her strong sentiment towards Israel has always been second nature. He states, “Her starting point has always been, ‘How do we work together to overcome obstacles and to ensure that both the United States and Israel get out of these U.N. situations with the least damage?”

Guttman also discussed how Power dealt with almost every Israel-related issue at the U.N. during Ambassador Susan Rice’s tenure. According to an Administration official, “She was involved in any brush fire at the United Nations. After [U.N. Ambassador] Susan Rice, she was the most influential person on U.N. issues.”

More after the jump.
Most impressively, though, are the Israelis who are praising the Power selection. Guttman noted:

Israeli officials noted Power’s leadership role in getting the administration to pull out of the 2009 Durban II anti-racism conference because of its anti-Israel bias. They also applauded her work in defeating the P.A.’s 2011 drive to achieve recognition for Palestine as an independent state through the United Nations Security Council. Power’s strong profile on these two issues, said Jarrod Bernstein, who served until recently as liaison to the Jewish community at the White House, shows “two instances in which she distinguished herself as being on the right side of the community.”

Power also participated in discussions that sought to dissipate the difficulties that Israel faced as a result of the 2009 Goldstone Report, which alleged that Israel had committed war crimes during its military campaign in Gaza the previous year.

Power was instrumental, too, in protecting Israel following the widespread condemnation it faced in 2010 for its attack on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that sought to deliver a shipment of humanitarian goods to Gaza in violation of the blockade that Israel had imposed on the territory. Before leaving her NSC post, Power, according to an official involved in those talks, worked on strategies for preventing Israel’s adversaries in this episode from pursuing their case at the International Criminal Court in Hague.

Rice and Power Picked for Top Foreign Policy Jobs

Yesterday, President Obama announced that after more than four years overseeing the work of the National Security Council, Tom Donilon will depart in July as National Security Advisor and will be succeeded by Susan Rice. Ambassador Rice will be succeeded by Samantha Power as the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, pending Senate confirmation.

Reactions from BBI, NJDC and JCPA follow the the jump.


Susan Rice and Samantha Power

B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement, welcoming Rice’s appointment:

Rice was previously the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and served as a positive force within the world body. She often defended Israel against malicious one-sided resolutions intended to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. Rice spoke at the United Nations about the importance of direct negotiation between the parties to the Middle East conflict and urged the world body to resist unilateral measures aimed at circumventing the peace process.

Rice also expressed U.S. support for strong international sanctions against Iran and made clear America’s determination to prevent the regime in Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

B’nai B’rith looks forward to working with Rice in her new position. We hope that in her new role she will be a force for advancing the same principles she fought for at the U.N.

National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) Chair Marc R. Stanley said:

On behalf of the NJDC Board, I want to thank Tom Donilon for his service to the Obama Administration. Donilon has been a part of President Obama’s most significant defense policy decisions, including the Administration’s work to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Without question, Susan Rice has served the Obama Administration well in the United Nations and has made combatting anti-Israel bias a top priority for the U.S. delegation. NJDC commends her for her work at the U.N. and we know that she will serve the President effectively as his new National Security Advisor. We also congratulate Samantha Power on her selection and have full confidence that she will continue Rice’s work on behalf of the United States and Israel in U.N. bodies.

JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow said:

Both Susan Rice and Samantha Power have been dedicated public servants and important partners in our work. As Ambassador to the U.N., Rice has played a crucial role in strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and has been a steadfast ally for the Jewish state through many pressing challenges. Just a few weeks ago, leaders from the JCPA, The Jewish Federations of North America, UJA-Federation of New York, and the JCRC of New York visited Amb. Rice and gave her a mezuzah for her New York office in honor of her staunch support for Israel and as a symbol of her friendship with the American Jewish community.  We look forward to continuing our work together when she returns to Washington and assumes her new role.

We have also worked closely with Samantha Power over the years in her roles as journalist, activist, and government official.  Power has been a critical voice on human rights issues and we are very proud of our joint work to confront atrocities, including that in Darfur and the ongoing crisis in Sudan.

Jewish Leaders Praise Amb. Rice for Pro-Israel Leadership at UN

— by Jason Berger

JTA’s Ron Kampeas provided a roundup of what Jewish leaders are saying about Ambassador Susan Rice, who could be nominated as Hillary Clinton’s successor for Secretary of State.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman stated:

She has proven herself as an ardent defender of major Israeli positions in an unfriendly forum… And I’m more comfortable with the person I know than the person I don’t know. She is close to the president and that’s important in that position if you have someone you can relate to and understands us.

Foxman was also “furious” at the recent attacks on Rice’s record:

People may differ about the effectiveness of certain tactics or, as we have often done, even seriously question whether bodies like the U.N. Human Rights Council will ever give Israel a fair hearing… But no one should use the U.N.’s anti-Israel record to cast aspersions on Ambassador Rice. She has earned her reputation as a fighter for Israel’s equality in a hostile forum where an automatic majority reflexively expresses its bias against Israel.

JTA quoted B’nai Brith International Executive Vice President Daniel Mariaschin:

‘One thing important to point out is that the votes have reflected administration policy.’ More specifically, in regards to Rice’s ‘no’ vote last week when the General Assembly elevated the Palestinians to non-member state status, Mariaschin exclaimed his approval. He stated, ‘There are ways of explaining your vote and ways of explaining your vote … She made kind of a good end to an otherwise disappointing day.’

In her vote explanation, Rice said, ‘Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade, and the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.’

Veteran pro-Israel activist Steve Sheffey recounted Rice’s many pro-Israel accomplishments in his most recent piece for the Times of Israel. Last January, Rice said that defending Israel’s legitimacy at the UN is a “daily concern” for herself and America’s delegation. Rice’s work at the United Nations earned her the National Service Award from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in December 2011.  

The UN, Susan Rice & Stevie Wonder

— by Steve Sheffey

The UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine to the status of non-member observer state. As a result of the 138-9 vote (with 41 abstentions), “Palestine” now has the same status as the Vatican at the UN. Click here for the text of the resolution.  

Abba Eban said many years ago that “If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.” Sadly, he wasn’t that far off.

  • The UN vote to upgrade Palestine’s status dealt a blow to the peace process. Abbas must negotiate with Israel, not the UN. No viable solution can be imposed by outside parties. The question now is how to move forward toward a two-state solution given this unfortunate and counterproductive action.
  • President Obama again stood firmly with Israel, and the US was one of the few countries to vote with Israel.
  • UN Ambassador Susan Rice is pro-Israel and is qualified to be Secretary of State.
  • Stevie Wonder bowed to anti-Israel pressure and backed out of a commitment to perform at a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces event. It’s his right to make a statement. It’s our right to make a statement by not supporting artists who don’t support Israel.

Details follow the jump.  
UN Ambassador Susan Rice is pro-Israel. Rice would, in Jeffrey Goldberg’s words, stand “a decent chance of being very good in the job” of Secretary of State. On Thursday, Anne Bayefsky and Michael Mukasey wrote an error-ridden screed against Rice in the Wall Street Journal. You can read my response to Bayefsky and Mukasey in Friday’s Times of Israel.

The Republicans are also criticizing Rice for having modest stakes in companies that did business in Iran. Turns out that John McCain invests in some of those same companies.

The problem with the resolution is that it does not require the Palestinians to protect Israel’s security, recognize Israel, and end the conflict with Israel once and for all. As Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor said in his address:

None of these vital interests, these vital interests of peace, none of them appear in the resolution that will be put forward before the General Assembly today and that is why Israel cannot accept it.  The only way to achieve peace is through agreements that are reached by the parties and not through UN resolutions that completely ignore Israel’s vital security and national interests.  And because this resolution is so one-sided, it doesn’t advance peace, it pushes it backwards…

The People of Israel wait for a Palestinian leader that is willing to follow in the path of President Sadat. The world waits for President Abbas to speak the truth that peace can only be achieved through negotiations by recognizing Israel as a Jewish State. It waits for him to tell them that peace must also address Israel’s security needs and end the conflict once and for all.

For as long as President Abbas prefers symbolism over reality, as long as he prefers to travel to New York for UN resolutions, rather than travel to Jerusalem for genuine dialogue, any hope of peace will be out of reach.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted the vote as “unfortunate and counterproductive.”

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice explained why the US voted against the resolution:

Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it.

The backers of today’s resolution say they seek a functioning, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel. So do we.

But we have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties. This is not just a bedrock commitment of the United States. Israel and the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their own obligations under existing agreements to resolve all issues through direct negotiations, which have been endorsed frequently by the international community. The United States agrees–strongly.

Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded…

We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.

Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.

For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for UN membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.

The National Jewish Democratic Council

“shares the Obama Administration’s and Israeli government’s views that actions through the Israel-obsessed UN are no substitute for direct negotiations and are ultimately counterproductive to the peace process. While the result of today’s vote proved inevitable, tremendous credit is due to the Obama Administration for making a clear case against the resolution and reiterating that the path to peace runs through direct negotiations.”

AIPAC called for a “full review” of the US relationship with the PLO. Congress probably will consider legislation that could cut aid to the Palestinian Authority or close their office in Washington depending on what happens next.

The Palestinians proved that they are more interested in theatrics than a state. Abbas should have been talking to Israel, not the UN. Only Israel and the Palestinians can resolve the differences that divide them. But the temptation to penalize the Palestinians must be tempered with the realization that a strong Palestinian Authority remains Israel’s best (albeit far from perfect) partner for peace. Now is not the time for the US to make hasty decisions.

The pro-Israel case for a two-state solution is not based on justice for the Palestinians, whatever that means. It is based on Israel’s need to separate from the Palestinian majority on the West Bank so that Israel can remain Jewish and democratic. Any proposed action or legislation should be judged on whether it will move us closer to a two-state solution, not on whether it satisfies our legitimate anger about Palestinian intransigence. It’s too bad the UN resolution passed, but it did. We cannot let it derail our efforts to end the conflict. Instead, American and Israeli leadership must find a way to capitalize on it and move forward toward a two-state solution.

Ha’aretz argues that “a recognized Palestinian state will give Israel a responsible partner with international backing — one that will represent the entire Palestinian people and be able to make decisions in its name.” But the Jerusalem Post says that “The PLO’s UN bid is misguided and wrongheaded and will do nothing but add to the long list of historic mistakes made by Palestinian leadership which date back at least to November 29, 1947 when Palestinians failed to grab their chance for nationhood and self-determination.” I urge you to read both editorials.

More on Gaza. Michael Oren’s “Falling for Hamas’s media manipulation” is a must-read.  

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik writes that

I hope that those who have spent the past few months using Israel as a wedge issue between Jews and Democrats and vilifying the President as, to put it benignly, “no friend of Israel,” took note of the clear and unconditional support that all members of the Obama administration offered for Israel throughout the [Gaza] campaign. There was no evidence of Mr. Obama acting in any way other than we would want a steadfast ally to act. The President did and said exactly what Israel needed and wanted him to. In light of his having had to endure the most egregious and gratuitous lashon harah as regards his Middle East policy, I would suggest that not only did the President pass this test, but he passed it graciously and courageously, and with flying colors. Thank you for that support, Mr. President.

It was certainly gratifying as well to have such solid support within the halls of Congress. Given how many new members of Congress there are these days, and how much turnover of seats and of elected representatives who have been among Israel’s staunchest supporters, Congress also responded magnificently. We would all be remiss were we to fail to acknowledge the incredibly effective work of AIPAC in this regard.

Stevie Wonder backed out of a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces fundraiser. Wonder pulled out of a major FIDF benefit. He joins Elvis Costello and Carlos Santana among artists who have bowed to anti-Israel pressure. It’s their right to make a statement. But it’s our right to make a statement too, by not supporting artists who do not support Israel.

Ambassador Rice Rejects PA Status At UN

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Following UN General Assembly Vote on Palestinian Observer State Status Resolution

For decades, the United States has worked to help achieve a comprehensive end to the long and tragic Arab-Israeli conflict. We have always been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.

That remains our goal, and we therefore measure any proposed action against that clear yardstick: will it bring the parties closer to peace or push them further apart? Will it help Israelis and Palestinians return to negotiations or hinder their efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement? Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it.

More after the jump.
The backers of today’s resolution say they seek a functioning, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel. So do we.

But we have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties. This is not just a bedrock commitment of the United States. Israel and the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their own obligations under existing agreements to resolve all issues through direct negotiations, which have been endorsed frequently by the international community. The United States agrees-strongly.

Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.

The United States therefore calls upon both the parties to resume direct talks without preconditions on all the issues that divide them. And we pledge that the United States will be there to support the parties vigorously in such efforts.

The United States will continue to urge all parties to avoid any further provocative actions-in the region, in New York, or elsewhere.

We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.

Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.

For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for U.N. membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.

The United States believes the current resolution should not and cannot be read as establishing terms of reference. In many respects, the resolution prejudges the very issues it says are to be resolved through negotiation, particularly with respect to territory. At the same time, it virtually ignores other core questions such as security, which must be solved for any viable agreement to be achieved.

President Obama has been clear in stating what the United States believes is a realistic basis for successful negotiations, and we will continue to base our efforts on that approach.

The recent conflict in Gaza is just the latest reminder that the absence of peace risks the presence of war. We urge those who share our hopes for peace between a sovereign Palestine and a secure Israel to join us in supporting negotiations, not encouraging further distractions. There simply are no short cuts.

Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other-and listen to each other-and find a way to live side by side in the land they share.

Ten Israel Questions Mitt Romney Must Answer

— by David A. Harris

We are thrilled that Mitt Romney will be following the lead set by President Obama and visiting Israel as a presidential candidate. Romney’s visit to Israel will provide him with the perfect opportunity to clarify a number of broad and unclear foreign policy statements that he’s made on the campaign trail. Our hope is that Romney will be inspired by his surroundings and give the thorough and detailed answers to the questions on which many have been seeking answers.

  1. Governor Romney, when you say that you will “do the opposite” of President Obama on Israel, to what are you referring? Are you planning to reverse the unprecedented amount of military assistance that has come from this Administration? Are you planning to stop voting with Israel 100% of the time in the United Nations Security Council? Are you planning on driving a wedge between the U.S. and Israeli militaries, which are cooperating closer than ever before?
  2. Governor Romney, what is your Iran policy? Several media outlets — including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times — have noted that when it comes to a specific Iran policy, the steps you mention are not much different from those of the current Administration. What will you actually do differently? Sound bites like “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon… If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not” are unacceptable answers.
  3. Governor Romney, if Russia is indeed the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe,” what do you make of the growing closeness between Israel and Russia — particularly vis-à-vis stopping Iran? Perhaps you could provide your answer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, who recently hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  4. Governor Romney, in addition to your campaign forming a “strategic partnership” with Ron Paul, one of the U.S.-Israel relationship’s staunchest opponents on the Hill to win your nomination, your campaign advisors include:
    • Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sonunu as an attack dog;
    • “Special Adviser” Vin Weber who lobbied for companies that did business with Iran;
    • “Special Adviser” Norm Coleman who dog whistled about the U.S. embassy while belittling Jewish voters; and
    • Surrogate John Bolton who passed off a false story authored by an “anti-Israel warrior” and former Yasser Arafat adviser as fact.

    How will these individuals shape your Israel policies? Are these individuals with checkered pasts on Israel part of your “do the opposite” plan?

  5. Governor Romney, are you actually vetting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for vice president? How do you account for Rice’s much-criticized record on Israel? Are you comfortable with her comparison of Palestinians to African Americans fighting for civil rights in the 1960s? Do you agree with the way she pressured Israel to accept a peace treaty with Hezbollah before the Israeli military had a chance to complete its military operations?
  6. Governor Romney, do you intend to start all foreign aid at zero, including to Israel? You went on record as agreeing with Texas Governor Rick Perry during the primary debates, without clarifying whether or not this promise included any memorandums of understanding in regards to Israel. Furthermore, you failed to clarify your stance during an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition. You may want to make your position clearer when meeting with Israeli citizens who have benefitted from President Obama’s unprecedented foreign aid record.
  7. Governor Romney, does your admiration for President Ronald Reagan extend to his mixed Israel record? As a reminder, Reagan — who never visited Israel throughout his lifetime — sold weaponry to Israel’s enemies while refusing sales to the Jewish state, supported anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, condemned Israel’s attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, and suspended key cooperation agreements between the United States and Israel. Are these the actions that inspire your “do the opposite” plan?
  8. Governor Romney, with so many of President George W. Bush‘s advisors — including Dan Senor, Tevi Troy, Mary Beth Long, and John Lehman — on your staff, how similar will your foreign policies be? After serving in an Administration that allowed Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge to collapse, revoked hundreds of millions of dollars in loan guarantees, endorsed participation by Hamas in Palestinian elections, and refused to sell bunker-busting bombs for potential use to halt the Iranian nuclear efforts, isn’t it fair to wonder whether these advisors will push you in a similar direction as their previous boss?
  9. Governor Romney, do you still believe that politics ends at the water’s edge? You strongly criticized members of the Democratic Party during President George W. Bush’s time in office, arguing that “we need to not have people running their own separate foreign policies.” During your travels overseas, will you keep your own words in mind, as well as the pledge you made this week in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, and refrain from criticizing a sitting president’s foreign policies?
  10. Governor Romney, you repeatedly have failed to offer any of your own original ideas for how you would conduct foreign policy in your own administration. Rather than offer criticisms of President Obama — what would you do?