Donald Trump Addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition

— by Richard Chaitt and Scott Schley

Real estate mogul Donald Trump was among the thirteen Republican candidates speaking at the RJC Presidential Presidential Forum.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

He was introduced as “a mensch with chutzpah.” Trump mentioned that his daughter and grandchildren are Jewish joking that the RJC only likes him because his daughter was Jewish and that made him mishpacha. He said having a Jewish daughter was great, except he can’t get her on the phone on Saturday.

While he asked for the Republican Jewish Council’s support, he did not ask for money as he is self-funding his campaign. The audience found Trump and the many jokes he told very humorous, but he did not say much of substance.

Trump said “Obama was the worst thing ever for Israel. Our negotiations with Iran was horrible and we did not bargain from strength.” He criticized Obama for being unwilling to use the term ‘radical Islam’. He argued that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should not be allowed to run, claiming that what she did with her emails was criminal.

Donald Trump has been a strong supporter of Israel. He told the story of how he was asked by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu to do an election commercial for him. He said the commercial must have worked, since Bibi won. Trump called himself a great deal maker and thinks he can make a deal for peace. He would not commit to having a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This caused “boos” from the audience. However, Trump countered that “To do a deal, you do not reveal your cards up front.”

In conclusion, Trump was very charismatic, sharp and funny, but there was no there there. He only spoke in generalities without being specific.

Speeches by the other Republican presidential candidates is available in our full coverage of the RJC presidential forum.

Lindsey Graham Addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition

— by Richard Chaitt and Scott Schley

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was among the 13 Republican candidates speaking at the RJC Presidential Presidential Forum.

Senator Lindsay Graham

Senator Lindsay Graham

Senator Lindsey Graham

Senator Graham’s presentation was “folksy”. He took off against unserious candidates; zeroing in on those who never held office. Objected to what Cruz said. Graham believes that by emphasizing a nationalist, pro-life agenda Republicans are alienating Hispanic and young women voter; the party needs to be more inclusive if they are to prevail in the general election. If the Republican candidate takes the position that a woman who is raped or is a victim of incest can’t get an abortion or that all illegal immigrants must be deported, the Republicans will lose.

Graham was strong on foreign policy and against Iran. He promised to stop the Iranian nuclear program. He would defund the UN unless they stop taking discriminatory positions against Israel. He also said the Palestinians should lose US funding unless they get serious about peace.

Speeches by the other Republican presidential candidates is available in our full coverage of the RJC presidential forum.

Thirteen Candidates at Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum

ajcPollThe Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum was held on December 3, 2015 in Washington DC. Attended by over 700 members of the RJC from all over the country. Of the 14 Republican presidential candidates, 13 attended (Senator Rand Paul backed out due to Senate business). Each candidate had 30 minutes for a prepared speech and questions. A fundamental concern of the RJC is Israel. So it was not surprising that most of the comments related to foreign policy and the relationship between the United States and Israel.

Click on the links below for video of each speaker along with a brief review of their comments.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush
Johns Hopkins Neurosurgeon Ben Carson
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina
Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
Ohio Governor John Kasich
New York Governor George Pataki
Florida Senator Marco Rubio
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum
Real estate mogul Donald Trump

According to Steve Sheffey despite their efforts at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s forum, the Republican presidential candidates continue to turn off Jewish voters:

All of the GOP candidates hold views that most Jewish voters strongly disagree with. The day after the mass shooting in California, the Republican presidential candidates were utterly unapologetic about their opposition to new gun control laws.

On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) voted against an amendment that would have prevented people on the terrorism watch list from purchasing firearms. So did the other Republican senators running for president. We need to place the sanctity of life above the sanctity of misguided interpretations of the Second Amendment.

Photos courtesy of Richard Chaitt. Video courtesy of CSPAN.

Ted Cruz Addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition

— by Richard Chaitt and Scott Schley

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was among the 13 Republican candidates speaking at the RJC Presidential Presidential Forum.

Senator Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz mentioned his bi-partisan outreach to Democrats in foreign affairs. We urges us to speak the truth about Radical Islam, since “the truth has power.” To borrow a page from Ronald Reagan’s strategy in the cold war, he says “our strategy should be very simply: we win, they lose.” He emphasized we are at war with Islamic Terror and the United States has to stand with Israel. Accordingly, Cruz wants to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and take steps to combat the boycott Israel (BDS) movement.

Cruz made it clear that the United States must go after terrorists. He also wants to rip up the Iran nuclear deal and force an end to the Iranian nuclear program.

During the question and answer period, Cruz was asked about abortion. He replied that to win the Republicans must run as fiscal, foreign policy and social conservatives and that if Republicans nominate a moderate, the coalition necessary to win won’t exist.

Speeches by the other Republican presidential candidates is available in our full coverage of the RJC presidential forum.

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:

Does Obama Really Doubt Kosher Market Attackers’ Anti-Semitism?

paris62047[1]President Obama and other members of his administration have repeatedly condemned the January 9 Paris kosher market attack as anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic attacks like the recent terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris pose a threat that extends beyond the Jewish community. (Barack Obama, January 22)

The violent assault on the Jewish community in France that took place on Friday afternoon – as the Jewish community in Paris was in the final hours of preparing for the restfulness and peace of the Sabbath – was the latest in a series of troubling incidents in Europe and around the world that reflect a rising tide of anti-Semitism. (Denis McDonough, White House Chief of Staff, January 13)

All four [victims] were casualties of violent anti-Semitism–targets because they were Jews. All were killed playing some role in preparation for the celebration of Shabbat – a core practice of their faith. (Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, January 22,

But in a Feb. 9 interview with Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, the President was not as clear as he could have been, and his critics ignored all of his previous statements and leapt to the most implausible interpretation, as if this was the first time the President spoke about it.

Yglesis: Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?

Obama: Absolutely. And I don’t blame the media for that. What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that’s the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs. There’s just not going to be a lot of interest in a headline story that we have cut infant mortality by really significant amounts over the last 20 years or that extreme poverty has been slashed or that there’s been enormous progress with a program we set up when I first came into office to help poor farmers increase productivity and yields. 7 It’s not a sexy story. And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.

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Cartoon courtesy of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen: http://drybonesblog.blogspot.co.il/

Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that

Compounding matters, two White House spokespeople did a terrible job responding to questions, although they did get it right later that same day.

Our view has not changed. Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism. POTUS didn’t intend to suggest otherwise. (John Earnest, White House Press Secretary, February 10)

We have always been clear that the attack on the kosher grocery store was an anti-semitic attack that took the lives of innocent people. (Jen Psaki, Department of State Press Secretary, February 10)

Yair Rosenberg spells it all out:

One of the downsides of Obama’s carefully cultivated intellectual persona is that onlookers often mistake his errors for intended actions, not realizing that this president makes miscues like any other. What critics would’ve written off as a gaffe if it came from George W. Bush, they instead see as part of deliberate plan when it comes from Obama. But those who would read a malevolent worldview–rather than mere mangled messaging–into this episode should remember that the Obama administration has in fact been a stalwart critic of rising European anti-Semitism. The president even dispatched his confidant Samantha Power to Berlin to hector European nations about not doing enough to fight it. It is exceedingly unlikely that the administration has suddenly decided that Jew hatred on the continent is no longer a problem.

Hopefully, the next time the president errs, his team will simply correct the record the first time, rather than awkwardly attempt to spin his mistake into something more sensible.

Obama on Alan Gross: ‘Freedom Is Possible’

President Obama dedicated a large part of his speech at this year’s Hanukkah party to Alan Gross, who was released from Cuban prison after five years as part of the country’s renewal of diplomatic relations with the U.S.:

He’s back where he belongs — in America, with his family, home for Hanukkah. And I can’t think of a better way to mark this holiday, with its message that freedom is possible, than with the historic changes that I announced today in our Cuba policy. These are changes that are rooted in America’s commitment to freedom and democracy for all the Cuban people, including its small but proud Jewish community.

Gross was arrested in 2009 while working to set up Internet access for the Cuban-Jewish community as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gross’s sister-in-law, Gwen Zuares, thanked Obama personally for her brother-in-law’s release at the party.

B’nai B’rith International said that it “warmly welcomes, and is relieved by the news”:

B’nai B’rith is grateful for the efforts of the Administration and all those who assisted in facilitating the high-level discussions leading to Gross’ release. We are thinking of Gross, his family and his friends

The Republican Jewish Coalition, which called the normalization of relations with Cuba “unwise”, welcomed Gross’s release:

On the first day of Hanukkah, Alan Gross was granted light, freedom, and the long-awaited reunion with his family. The RJC joins the entire Jewish community in celebrating his redemption.

Agudath Israel of America issued a statement on the subject:

The release and return of Alan Gross from Cuban incarceration is truly a modern day Chanukah miracle, and it fills us with deep gratitude to, in the words of the Amidah, “He Who frees captives.” Mr. Gross’ expedited liberation seemed a distant dream, and now it is a dream come true.

We express our heartfelt thanks to President Obama, whose dedicated and determined efforts led to Mr. Gross’ release. And we pray that Mr. Gross will adjust to his return to freedom enveloped in the love and support of his family and friends.

Ron Dermer to Replace Oren as Israeli Ambassador to the U.S.‏


Dermer on the U.S.-Israel relationship

Ron Dermer, a U.S. born advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been confirmed to replace Michael Oren as Israel’s Ambassador to the United States. “Ron Dermer has all the qualities necessary to successfully fill this important post,” Netanyahu said.

I have known him for many years and I know that Ron will faithfully represent the State of Israel in the capital of our greatest ally — the U.S. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I wish him great success.

Bipartisan praise for Dermer after the jump.
National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) Chair Marc R. Stanley:

On behalf of the National Jewish Democratic Council, I extend my warmest thanks to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for his exemplary service on behalf of the State of Israel. The U.S.-Israel relationship has grown even stronger throughout Ambassador Oren’s tenure, and we salute him and his wife Sally for their dedication to the unique partnership between our two countries.

NJDC also congratulates Ron Dermer on his appointment as the next Israeli Ambassador to the United States. We very much look forward to working with Mr. Dermer in his new role as he builds upon Ambassador Oren’s legacy. Together, we will continue promoting a secure, democratic Jewish State of Israel. We wish Mr. Dermer and his family a hearty mazal tov on this historic accomplishment.

Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matt Brooks:

The RJC extends warm congratulations to our friend Ron Dermer on this well-deserved honor. Ron is known for being a trusted and effective aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Responsibility for maintaining the Jewish state’s most vital international alliance is heavy one, but knowing Ron as we do, we are confident that he is up to the job.

A visit with Ron has been a highlight on the itinerary of recent RJC delegations to Israel. We look forward to reciprocating his hospitality during his posting in Washington, DC. Mazel tov, Ron.

This is also a moment to thank Ambassador Michael Oren for four years of exemplary service during which he advanced the cause of U.S.-Israeli friendship in countless ways. We wish Ambassador Oren well in his future endeavors.

Alienating Chosen People With Extremely Anti-Choice Bill

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council expressed concern over today’s vote by House Republicans in support of its latest extreme anti-choice bill.

“With all the talk of broadening the GOP base, Republicans seem unable to resist taking extreme action on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives,” said NJDC Executive Director Aaron Keyak. “By forcing a vote on a doomed and radically anti-choice bill, Republicans are once again alienating the vast majority of American Jews — including Jewish Republicans who have specifically urged the GOP to ease up on social issues.”

More after the jump.
Polls show that the Jewish community is one of the most pro-choice demographics in America. The Public Religion Research Institute found in 2012 that 93% of the Jewish community as a whole supports a woman’s right to choose, including 77% of Jewish Republicans.

In addition, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) specifically urged the Republican Party to focus less on social issues. The RJC said in its “Blueprint for Victory” video that there are “real concerns over the Republican Party’s views on social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage,” and that the GOP “must earn the trust and votes of non-traditional Republicans” — which includes Jews and women.

RJC Mischaracterizes UN Ambassador Nominee Samantha Power

Author and former Congressional Candidate Rabbi Shmulay Beteach (R-NJ) has debunked the Republican Jewish Coalition’s over the top claim that UN Ambassador nominee Samantha Power “suggested that the U.S. should invade Israel militarily.”

In our conversation, she rejected utterly the notion that she had any animus toward Israel. She acknowledged that she had erred significantly in offering hypothetical comments that did not reflect how she felt. She said that opponents of President Obama had unfairly taken her disorganized comments further and characterized them as ‘invade Israel’ talk. She said that if she really believed that Israel could even be remotely accused of practicing genocide against the Palestinians, then the correct forum for her to express that view would have been somewhere in the 664 pages of her book, A Problem From Hell, wherein she details all the genocides of the twentieth century. She never even hints that Israel is guilty of such atrocity. She explained that the only time she has written about Israel was in a later book, Chasing the Flame, on slain UN Diplomat Sérgio Vieira de Mello. There she described his time in UNIFIL, and included a discussion of the Government of Israel’s own findings on Sabra and Shatila.

To bolster her argument, she mentioned that her former Professor at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz, whom I consider to be Israel’s most eloquent global champion, called her after A Problem from Hell was published, to applaud her for not remotely associating Israel with genocide, the way so many academic enemies had. I checked with my old friend, Professor Dershowitz, and he confirmed that he has warm feelings toward his former student, and considers her a moderate on Israel.

Listening to Power face-to-face and hearing her clarification set, amidst the visible hurt of being grouped together with Israel’s detractors, I found her argument convincing. Power, the world’s leading chronicler of genocide, is being dismissed as an enemy of the Jewish state based almost entirely on a fragment of a single interview lasting about two-and-a-half minutes. Most significantly, however we understand the meaning of her words in the unfortunate interview, they are utterly belied by her actions. She would later indeed become a senior adviser to the president of the United States, and not only would she never even remotely identify Israel as a genocidal power that needed to be stopped, but to the contrary, she would utilize her influence to advocate for military action against a genocidal Arab dictator, who is not only killing innocent Arab protestors, but is, along with Iran, one of Israel’s most outspoken enemies.

More after the jump.

In addition, some leading members of the American Jewish establishment shared with me that Power was instrumental in having America decline attendance in Durban II in April 2009, otherwise known as the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, which promised to be, like Durban I in 2001, a UN-sponsored Israel hate-fest.

There have been other, more minor comments by Power that have been interpreted as hostile to Israel, but those interpretations rely on the assumption, generated in 2002, that she is an Israel-hater. Based on Ms. Power’s clarification, and much more importantly, her actions, I believe this perception to be without merit and justice. We should now move on from her comments and judge her instead by her actions.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my personal stake in the rehabilitation of Samantha Power’s reputation in the Jewish community. Firstly, it seems incongruous that a woman that has done more in modern times to highlight the atrocity of genocide than anyone else should be ostracized from a community that has most experienced its tragic effects. Indeed, in our meeting, Power told me that the Jewish community is by far the most vocal against genocide, and that at the Save Darfur rally of May 1, 2006 there was “an endless sea of yarmulkes.” Likewise, in A Problem from Hell she writes of the Jewish community’s role in mobilizing military intervention in Bosnia.

Second, Muammar Gaddafi owned the home right next door to me in Englewood, New Jersey. I have been sickened over the past two years to awaken every morning to the site of the Libyan flag flying fifty feet from my home. I have done everything in my power to fight and oppose this brutal dictator ever since he announced plans to personally occupy the home and pitch a tent next-door to me. I have lobbied mayors, Governors, Congressmen, and Senators. Amid my deep respect for President Bush and his efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East, I was disappointed that his administration chose to normalize relations with Gaddafi. But one of the few American officials with the president’s ear who advocated punishing Gaddafi for his wickedness was Samantha Power.

Third — and to me most importantly — I have spent a large portion of my life fighting Israel’s enemies in public forums. Whether it was my eleven years at the University of Oxford, where I brought five Israeli Prime Ministers and endless cabinet ministers to respond to false accusations against the Jewish state; or the past eleven years, where I have been a defender of Israel on the American airwaves, championing the truth about Israel as a benevolent and liberal democracy; it has been one of my life’s highest callings. But as important as it is to expose our enemies, it is equally important to exonerate those who are not. A person’s reputation is all they have, and I know what it is like to feel unjustly maligned. Samantha Power has done the Jewish people service by highlighting the crime of genocide, and we welcome her repudiation of earlier comments on Israel. They were said over a decade ago, and she has expressed her regret for comments that lent themselves to misinterpretation. Judaism teaches that a person is judged primarily by their actions.

Power has lectured all over the world about the holocaust. She has used her influence to prevent a dictator from killing more of G-d’s children. She has highlighted the central role of world Jewry in preventing genocide. These are heroic actions, that should be applauded rather than criticized.