Jewish Women Leaders Endorse Barack Obama

— by Max Samis

Three prominent leaders in the Jewish community wrote an op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel endorsing President Barack Obama for reelection. Nancy Ratzan, past president of the National Council of Jewish Women, Millie Sernovitz, past president of Jewish Women International, and Barbara Dobkin, founding chair of the Hadassah Foundation, made it clear that for both women and the Jewish community, Obama has proven to be the right choice.

Op/ed follows the jump.
Ratzan, Sernovitz, and Dobkin wrote:

No one doubts that the 2012 election will define the path forward for this nation and for each of us. The next president of the United   States will nominate one or two Supreme Court justices, thereby defining the balance of the Court and our fundamental rights for decades to come. He will lead us to either secure health care access as a universal right or throw those who can’t afford care under the bus. He will determine whether middle and lower-income Americans will have opportunity or whether that will be the privilege of only the exceedingly wealthy. He will lead our foreign policy agenda, including the intensity of our response to Iran and the depth of our alliance with Israel. And he will advance, or not, the fundamental rights of women to economic security, equality and reproductive rights.

The good news is that all the cards are already on the table…

President Obama’s cards are on the table too – best reflected in his record. With respect to Israel, our security assistance has increased every year, we’ve quelled attempts to isolate Israel, and Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. With respect to domestic achievements, his historic health care reform has created access to better and more affordable health care for millions of Americans. Now, being a woman is no longer a pre-exiting condition. And despite pressure, President Obama maintained his commitment to women’s health, ensuring women can have access to preventive care, regardless of where they work or if they worship.

He nominated two extraordinarily wise, judicious and universally respected women to the Supreme Court. He has devoted his presidency to restoring economic security for all, acknowledging both the need for spending cuts and new revenue.

And women’s cards are face-up too. We won’t tolerate turning back the clocks. We won’t retreat on our rights to contraception, determining for ourselves when and whether to bear children, or on non-discriminatory access to health care, including no co-pay for preventive care like mammograms and contraception. We won’t abide by a policy that cuts taxes for the rich and guts spending on student financial aid, Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start and environmental protection. We won’t accept packing the Supreme Court with those who would rubber-stamp partisan policy. And we will not be persuaded by misleading sound bites from candidates about Israel, for we know this country’s and this president’s unwavering allegiance to our Jewish homeland.

We will vote for the candidate whose words and deeds reflect our values and our interests. This year, we will stand up for ourselves and vote in record numbers that will determine the outcome of this election.

McDonough: US Always “Stalwart Friend & Ally of Israel”

Watch live streaming video from washingtoninstitute at livestream.com

— by Max Samis

Over the weekend, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough spoke in front of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Weinberg Founders Conference. McDonough covered a wide range of topics regarding the Middle East, but spent a significant amount of time discussing the United States’ special relationship with Israel.

Highlights of speech follow the jump.

Links:

McDonough said:

No president since Harry Truman has done as much for Israel’s security as Barack Obama. Record levels of security assistance; the Iron Dome rocket system, which as recently as several weeks ago intercepted 80 to 85% of rockets aimed from Gaza at Israeli homes, hospitals, and schools; the largest ever joint military exercises and most comprehensive consultations between our political and military intelligence leaders; and in the President himself, a president who has stood up repeatedly – sadly, often alone – against attempts to delegitimize Israel in international organizations…

All the while, the United States will be a stalwart friend and ally of Israel. I can assure you, that will never waver in our pursuit of peace.

McDonough also discussed the threat posed by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and how the sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama have had a strong impact on the Iranian economy. He said:

When [President Obama] took office, the Iranian regime thought itself ascendant. Externally, Iran’s reach seemed to be longer than ever, and the international community was divided on how to deal with its illicit nuclear program. Multilateral diplomacy had stalled, and around the world, many had begun to give Iran the benefit of the doubt, somehow blaming the United States for the tensions over Iran’s nuclear program…

President Obama was determined to reverse this dangerous dynamic, to highlight the danger of Iran’s illicit program – one, incidentally, that it is pursuing at great cost to its own people – and to isolate Iran, rather than the United States. That determination is beginning to pay off. He has repeatedly stressed his determination to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and has consistently given Tehran a choice: Fulfill your international obligations, or face increasing pressure. To date, Iran has refused.

And so, together with our partners, we have put in place the strongest sanctions that the Iranian government has ever faced. As a result, Iran finds itself isolated from the international community; finds it harder than ever to acquire materials for its nuclear and weapons program; and to conduct transactions in dollars and Euros. It’s struggled to buy refined petroleum and the goods it needs to maintain and modernize its oil and gas sector; it’s unable to access over half its foreign currency reserves; and its currency has lost over half its value since this time last year. Throughout that country, Iranians are turning to gold to secure their assets, and the Iranian government has introduced strict controls on the sales and purchase of foreign currencies.

This is the pain and misery that the regime itself has imposed on the Iranian people. Leading global companies have stopped doing business there, and more recently, we, working with Congress and our international partners, have increased pressure on Iran by targeting its central bank and its oil exports – the main source of its revenue. The results have been significant – in fact, far greater than we would have anticipated, with countries throughout the world acting to reduce their purchase of Iranian oil and to reduce their exposure to Iran’s financial system. I should note that 11 countries so far have significantly reduced their imports of Iranian oil. Others have indicated their intent to do so, including countries as diverse as South Korea and Turkey, and we expect still others to indicate a similar intent in the coming days and weeks.

The purpose of this pressure is not punishment. It is to convince Iran that the price of pursuing nuclear weapons is too high, and that the time is now to make good on its commitments to the international community. And it’s time for Iran’s leaders to answer why it refuses to prove its peaceful intentions, instead further isolating its own people, choosing to pay the price of intransigence, rather than choosing to join the international community of nations…

And so, it’s clear that the change we are witnessing in the region is not opening the door to a greater Iranian influence. Today, a dynamic region is moving away from, and frankly beyond, Iran. Not towards it. We know that, and importantly, we know and have seen that Iran’s leaders know, and are fearful, of exactly that trend…

ADL Honors Napolitano for Leadership in Fight against Terrorism

— by Max Samis

At its National Leadership Conference this past weekend, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano with the ADL William and Naomi Gorowitz Institute Service Award. The award commemorates Napolitano’s “leadership in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.”

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman presented the award saying:

At this time of great challenge and evolving threats, our nation is fortunate to have Secretary Napolitano at the helm of the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Napolitano knows that countering radicalization and violence is frequently best achieved by engaging and empowering individuals and groups at the local level to build resilience against violent extremism-a mantra the League also advocates. Her actions show that while law enforcement plays an essential role in keeping us safe, so too does engagement and partnership with communities.

Napolitano’s remarks follow the jump.
The ADL noted that:

Under Secretary Napolitano’s guidance, DHS has led efforts to protect critical infrastructure and cyber networks from attack, built partnerships with local and state law enforcement, identified foreign and domestic threat, coordinated with U.S. allies on issues such as arms trafficking, and enforced immigration standards.

In her remarks to the conference, Napolitano said she was “humbled” to receive the recognition from an organization such as the ADL. She said:

Receiving an award from an organization like the ADL, with its history of fighting inequality, bigotry and hatred is moving for me personally.

But I accept it tonight on behalf of the more than 240,000 men and women of DHS. This is truly a recognition of their collective efforts, day in and day out, to ensure the security of our country, while protecting fundamental human rights and civil liberties.

DHS does not do this work alone; we succeed through partnerships with organizations like yours. For nearly a century, Americans have known the ADL as a strong voice, standing against anti-Semitism, bigotry, and violent extremism, and for human rights and dignity.

I’m pleased that our partnership has expanded over the last few years, because at DHS, we believe that local authorities and organizations are best able to identify those individuals or groups exhibiting dangerous behaviors, and to intervene before they commit acts of violence…

As we know too well, hatred can inspire violence anywhere in the world, as we remind ourselves every year on Yom Ha’shoah.

On Monday, at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama reminded the nation of our duty, not only to remember the Holocaust, but to prevent and respond to atrocities today, because, as he said, “…remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing.”…

The President has identified the prevention of mass atrocities as a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United   States, and our actions have sent a message to war criminals and would-be war-criminals that they will face justice.

President Obama also spoke of what we must do, and will do going forward, to meet the challenge of “never again” – to, as he said, “defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security.”

This is not an issue that can or should be addressed by our military alone, and DHS is proud of its part….

I’m pleased to note that DHS has a particularly strong partnership with our friend and steadfast ally Israel. I need not remind anyone here of the special bond shared between the United States and Israel. Not only do our two nation’s share strategic interests and face common dangers, but we share common values. And that’s why we’ve have increased cooperation between our two countries to unprecedented levels…

We have learned that an engaged, vigilant public is essential to efforts to prevent acts of terrorism, and all of our work to collaborate with the public and non-profits is clear in DHS’ relationship with the American Jewish community.

It’s a partnership that didn’t necessarily begin with this Administration, but I’m proud that we have built upon and expanded it under President Obama’s leadership. We have depended on this partnership recently as we’ve witnessed a number of high profile domestic and international events that have directly impacted the Jewish community, both here and abroad….

As people of conscience, you’re engaged on issues like immigration, all the areas we’ve discussed tonight, and many more – both as members of the ADL and in your every day lives. In the spirit of “tikkun olam,” you stand for civil rights and civil liberties for all. And we strive for that every day at DHS, as we tackle many complex and difficult issues facing our nation today.

National security and civil rights and liberties are not at odds – to the contrary, they bolster and support each other. A free society that engages all its people is inherently more secure than one that does not provide opportunity for all.

The ADL understands that intuitively, and I look forward to continuing our work together.

Past recipients of the ADL Gorowitz award include:

  • NYPD Assistant Chief and Commanding Officer of its Intelligence Division Thomas P. Galati;
  • former Boston, New York and Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton;
  • former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff;
  • former CIA Director George Tenet; former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh;
  • NYPD Commissioner and former Commissioner of U.S. Customs Service Raymond W. Kelly; and
  • U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.

Biden on Romney’s “Profound Misunderstanding” of Foreign Policy

Biden: “No president since Truman has done more for Israel than Obama.”

— by Max Samis

Speaking at New York University, Vice President Joe Biden gave an address on President Barack Obama’s foreign policy successes that directly refuted many of the claims made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. According to Biden, Romney has a “profound misunderstanding” of the role of Commander-in-Chief and a clear record of “distorting” the President’s record. Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press wrote:

In a campaign speech delivered at New York University Law School, Biden laid out a robust defense of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record while eviscerating Romney for lacking vision and for ‘distorting’ Obama’s record in a way that has been counterproductive to U.S. interests.

‘If you’re looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it’s pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,’ Biden said, saying Obama’s decisions on both foreign and domestic policy had made the U.S. safer.

Biden cast the former Massachusetts governor as an inexperienced foreign policy thinker who would delegate decisions to staff and advisers. He also hit Romney on his reputation for flip-flopping on issues.

‘We know when the governor does venture a position it’s a safe bet that he previously took or will take an exactly opposite position,’ Biden said, noting that Romney had originally supported setting a time frame for pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan only to later criticize Obama’s plan to do so by the end of 2014.

Biden repeatedly used Romney’s own words against him, such as when Romney downplayed the significance of capturing Osama bin Laden during Romney’s 2008 presidential bid and, more recently, when Romney said Russia was the United States’ gravest geopolitical foe.

‘As my brother would say, “Go figure,”‘ Biden said to laughs.

Biden made special note of Obama’s commitment to Israel’s safety and security, accusing Romney of twisting the president’s positions. Fouhy wrote:

On Israel, Biden said Obama has stood firm in support of the Jewish state – often alone and facing criticism from other allies. He noted that Romney had accused Obama of ‘throwing Israel under the bus.’

‘The governor is falling back on one of his party’s favorite tricks of late – distort and mischaracterize your opponent’s position. Keep repeating the distortions and mischaracterizations over and over again,’ Biden said.

Biden also criticized Romney’s positions on Iran, firmly stating that the governor continues to attack the president without offering any difference in opinion or strategy. Fouhy wrote:

On Iran, Biden said Romney’s call for crippling sanctions and a U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon simply mirrored Obama’s approach.

‘The only step we could take that we aren’t already taking is to launch a war against Iran. If that’s what Gov. Romney means by a “very different policy,” he should tell the American people,’ Biden said.

Links:

Jewish Organizations Push To Protect Women

— by Max Samis

As Congress debates the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act — which has been passed and reauthorized with bipartisan support several times since it’s inception in 1994 — prominent Democrats marked April 17 as “Equal Pay Day,” recognizing the importance of continuing to fight for gender equality in the workplace. Several leading Democrats issued statements and penned op-eds in order to raise awareness of the issue, as well as the larger fight for women’s rights.

Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said:

President Obama and Democrats understand that equal pay is so important for women and their families that one of the first pieces of legislation Democrats passed in 2009 and the first bill the President signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ensures that women can fight for equal pay for equal work, and on National Equal Pay Day we celebrate our continued fight for economic equality, regardless of gender.

The President’s commitment to women is in stark contrast to Mitt Romney and the GOP’s attitude toward equal pay for women. While Democrats and the President were making equal pay for equal work a priority, nearly every Republican in the House and Senate voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who Mitt Romney has called a ‘hero,’ recently repealed that state’s fair pay law; and Mitt Romney refuses to say if he would have signed Lilly Ledbetter had he been president at the time. His campaign on a conference call last week couldn’t even articulate a response when asked his position on the law….

On Equal Pay Day women can rest assured that Democrats and President Obama will continue the fight for equal pay for equal work and will fight for their right to make health care choices for themselves and their families. It’s a shame that Mitt Romney and Republicans can’t say the same thing.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) — the first female speaker in American history — also said:

I’m proud of the accomplishments of the Democratic-led Congress on behalf of equal pay and fairness. The Lilly Ledbetter Act-the first bill President Obama signed into law-restored the right of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay in court. Further, under the Affordable Care Act, soon women will no longer be charged higher premiums than men for the same coverage and no longer will being a woman be treated as a pre-existing condition.  

On Equal Pay Day, we honor all of our nation’s women, who through their labor – at home and in the workplace – have made our country strong. And we recommit to opening the doors of opportunity for the next generation of women.

Graph of pay gap by profession, a map of pay gap by state, and op/eds by Senators Gillibrand and Boxer follow the jump.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote an op-ed in The Huffington Post, discussing the importance of pay equity not just to women, but to the national economy as a whole. Gillibrand wrote:

…[T]he issue of pay equity is not merely one of fairness. Equal pay for equal work is vital for our economic growth and middle class financial security. With more and more women contributing to household incomes, the lack of equal pay for women hurts all middle class working families-men and children included. In New York alone, women head more than 1,000,000 households. It’s estimated that because of the wage gap, New York families are deprived of $8600 a year. Nationwide, it’s been estimated that if women were paid a dollar on the dollar for equal work, the U.S. GDP could grow up to 9 percent.

Gillibrand also discussed pay equity in regards to women’s health. She wrote:

In addition to being an economic security issue, the failure to pay women a salary that’s equal to men for equal work is also a women’s health issue. The fact is that the salary women are paid directly impacts the type of health care services they are able to access for both themselves and their families. For example, if we closed the wage gap, a working woman in New York would be able to afford more than 2 years worth of additional family health insurance premiums. At a time when women’s health services are increasingly vulnerable to budget cuts, it’s more important than ever that women have financial security to maintain access to basic care for them and their families.

In Politico, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wrote an op-ed asserting that contrary to what Republicans may have you believe, the “war on women” is very real:

Suppose it’s the championship basketball game and one player is committing foul after foul. Each time, he denies he’s committed any offense.

Eventually, he fouls out. But even as he heads to the bench, he’s protesting that he did nothing wrong.

That’s what we’re seeing today from Republicans who claim there is no ‘war on women.’ The Republican National Committee chairman likened it to a ‘war on caterpillars.’ The Senate Republican leader claims it’s all manufactured – even as female members of his caucus warn about the growing backlash against the GOP from women.

House Republicans have introduced more than 30 bills that would restrict a woman’s reproductive health care. Those same Republicans, who decry an all-too-powerful government, have no problem deciding what health care is right for our daughters, or sisters or mothers….

Here in Congress, 116 Republicans in the House and 19 Republicans in the Senate are co-sponsors of ‘personhood’ legislation, which would criminalize abortion with no exceptions for the mother’s life or health. … It could even bar doctors from providing life-saving care to women with dangerous ectopic pregnancies.

It doesn’t end there. Republicans in Congress blocked an international treaty – the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – even though the only other nations refusing to ratify it are Iran, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Palau and Tonga.

They also oppose increasing the minimum wage – when women make up about two-thirds of all workers now earning minimum wage or less. Not one Republican is a cosponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Republicans voted against the Violence Against Women Act, which helps protect women from domestic violence, when the bill was in the Senate Judiciary Committee. They voted to repeal the health care law – including the part that says no more gender discrimination in the pricing of health insurance policies and the part that offers free preventive services like mammograms, STD screening, well-woman visits and birth control.

The facts are the facts. The Republicans have launched a war on women. Despite all the denials, women get it – and so do the men who care about them.

In addition to the fight for pay equality, Democrats have pushed for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Led by Vice President Joe Biden – who originally wrote and sponsored the bill as a Senator from Delaware in 1994 – a group of lawmakers and private citizens spoke today about the importance of passing the bill with bipartisan support. Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown wrote:

‘The idea we’re still fighting about this in Congress, that this is even a debatable issue, is truly sad,’ Biden said during remarks at the Eisenhower Office Building. ‘It’s not a reflection on the law. It is a reflection on our inability in this town to deal with something that by now should just be over in terms of debate about it.’

‘No one should question whether this is needed,’ Biden said at the end of his remarks. ‘It would have been bad if the law had never been passed. But imagine now, the message it sends if it is not reauthorized. Just ask what message it would send to every one of our daughters, every woman imprisoned in their home.’

Several prominent Jewish organizations have also spoken out in favor of VAWA’s reauthorization. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Hadassah have all urged their supporters to contact their local Congressional delegations and urge that they vote to pass the reauthorization of VAWA immediately. This is too important to wait.

  • Click here to read Senator Gillibrand’s entire op-ed.
  • Click here to read Senator Boxer’s entire op-ed.
  • Click here to read about how President Barack Obama’s actions have reflected Jewish values, including his accomplishments on women’s rights.

US Gender Pay Gap By State

Celebrate Passover with Recipes from the White House!

— by Max Samis

In preparation for the upcoming Passover holiday, President Barack Obama invited members of the Jewish community to the White House for a special cooking demonstration and discussion. Sponsored by the White House Office of Public Engagement and the National Endowment for the Humanities, White House chef Bill Yosses worked with Jewish chef Joan Nathan to demonstrate how to make, among other dishes, apple and pear charoset and matzo chremsel.

Haaretz writer Vered Guttman was one of the guests invited to the event. Guttman wrote:

Before the seder each year, guests are asked to send Bill and White House executive chef Cris Comerford their own family’s Passover recipes. The chefs then design a menu for the seder and prepare the dishes according to the guests’ recipes.

In previous years they served the classics: haroset and brisket. When we met Wednesday. Bill said they were still working on this year’s menu. He did know, however, which desserts would be served: A flourless chocolate cake (which he promises will be on the White House website before the holiday) and a delicious sounding apricot roll cake, that he was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Bill gets extra points for a dessert that is not only fabulous, but also inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine. Does the president eat Jewish or Israeli food during the year? I asked.

‘The president LOVES Israeli couscous!’ Bill didn’t have to think much before he answered. Since Israeli couscous is one of the most popular foods imported from Israel, it is often the target of boycott threats by anti-Israeli groups.

More after the jump.


Joan Nathan and Bill Yosses preparing haroset together at the White House. Photo by Vered Guttman

In addition to the President’s love of Israeli couscous, Guttman spoke with Yosses about other Israeli foods used in the White House. Guttman wrote:

Obama keeps a very open mind about food and likes to try new dishes, Bill told me. He added that the Israeli produce imported to the U.S. is known at the White House kitchen to be of highest quality and the chefs like to use Israeli vegetables and fruit. He could not tell me where they get their produce, as the White House chefs are instructed not to reveal their suppliers for security reasons.

As Joan began her demonstration, she told us that the Passover seder is the holiday most-observed by American Jews. Joan herself will host 44 guests at her house in Washington next week. ‘Nowhere in the world, except for Israel and the U.S., do Jews feel that comfortable,’ Joan said as she started her cooking demonstration.

It has been a tradition since the 2008 presidential campaign for the Obama family to host a private seder for their Jewish staffers. In a 2010 article in the New York Times, Jodi Kantor wrote about the seder’s roots in Pennsylvania and how it has grown. Kantor wrote:

One evening in April 2008, three low-level staff members from the Obama presidential campaign — a baggage handler, a videographer and an advance man — gathered in the windowless basement of a Pennsylvania hotel for an improvised Passover Seder.

Suddenly they heard a familiar voice. ‘Hey, is this the Seder?’ Barack Obama  asked, entering the room.

So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize.

As the White House seder grows in scope and tradition, American Jews can be proud that the President of the United States will once again be observing Passover in the White House.

Rep. Deutch: Don’t Make Defense of Israel a Partisan Issue

— by Max Samis

In today’s Sun-Sentinel, Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) wrote an op-ed discussing the importance of keeping support for Israel a bipartisan issue. Deutch wrote about President Barack Obama’s steadfast support of the Jewish state, and implored Republicans to stop trying to turn the Iranian threat of nuclear weapons into a wedge issue for the upcoming election.

Extracts after the jump.
Deutch wrote:

For over six decades, the United States has made clear that Israel will never face these dangers alone. This commitment has been upheld by U.S. presidents of both political parties who understand the unique threats facing Israel every day. The existential threat facing Israel from Iran today is profoundly serious, yet recently, Republican presidential candidates have attempted to exploit the Iranian threat for political gain, launching unfounded partisan attacks on President Obama’s record….

While most of the Jewish community has always put partisanship aside when it comes to protecting Israel from existential threats, the president’s opponents have repeatedly made clear that their quest to defeat him in November overrides every other priority, including upholding a bipartisan consensus on Israel’s security. The existential threats facing Israel are far too serious to fall victim to partisan warfare. President Obama’s forceful efforts to tighten the squeeze on the Iranian regime are working.

The Ayatollahs currently face a crumbling economy, an international blacklist, a restive population and, if they continue their weapons program, the hammer of U.S. military might. Support for Israel has always been, and must continue to be, above partisan politics as usual, especially when Israel’s future is at stake.

Deutch also defended the sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime by Obama, stressing that they are having the desired effect. Deutch wrote:

President Obama has confronted Iran with, as he explained to AIPAC, ‘all elements of American power: political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.’

The president’s strategic efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program have resulted in the most powerful international coalition that Iran’s mullahs have ever faced. The Obama administration has sought out the toughest sanctions ever on companies that support Iran’s illicit weapons program. Iran’s economy has been devastated by the sanctions imposed by the United States, Europe, and even Russia and China. The world is uniting with America in offering Iran one choice: abandon its quest for nuclear weapons and thrive; or continue that quest and be crushed.

In addition, Deutch reiterated that Obama has placed all options on the table for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. He wrote:

Understanding how a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten the security of both Israel and America, President Obama rejects the folly of containment and appeasement. ‘Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,’ he proclaimed in his visit to the AIPAC Policy Conference. ‘And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary.’

No nation will benefit more than Israel if measures short of war end the Iranian nuclear weapons program. But if other steps fail, Iran knows that it will face the powerful U.S. military. As President Obama has said, ‘When it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.’

President Obama also defended Israel’s ability to ‘defend itself by itself against any threat.’ To that end, military and intelligence cooperation between America and Israel has reached unprecedented levels. And as the threats to Israel in the region increase, so, too has the Obama administration’s level of security funding for the sole democracy in the Middle East.

Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Speaks To Hadassah

— by Max Samis

Last month, Democratic National Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) gave an interview to Charley J. Levine of Hadassah Magazine. Wasserman Schultz discussed a number of issues pertaining to the Jewish community including Israel, President Barack Obama’s record, and the Jewish vote.

Wasserman Schultz said regarding Obama and Israel

:[Obama] proposed more than $3 billion in aid to Israel in a very difficult economy because he recognizes how important Israel’s security is. He authorized and supported $205 million for the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is effective against rocket attacks that have been occurring mercilessly against Israel. He authorized the sale of the bunker buster bombs, where President Bush had declined. I would argue he has been a better, more consistent friend to Israel than previous administrations.

More after the jump.
She explained regarding Jewish support of the Democratic Party:

Polling continues to show overwhelming support for Democrats and President Obama in the Jewish community. There appears to be no danger that we are going to lose the Jewish vote. Republicans are doing their best to cut into this, saying anything-regardless of the facts-because in battleground states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio there are sizable Jewish populations…

We have 20 Jewish members in the House; 19 are Democrats and 1 is a Republican. I am the first Jewish woman to represent Florida in Congress. There are zero Jewish Republicans yet several Democrats in the Senate. The natural political home for Jewish voters in America is my party, due both to our traditional, strong support for Israel and all the other issues that matter to Jews.

Wasserman Schultz criticized Republican attempts to politicize support for Israel:

There is just no daylight between both parties’ support for Israel. The Republicans…are unfortunately working overtime to create the perception that they are the more pro-Israel body…

What the Republicans are doing is dangerous. They are using Israel as a political football…. Israel’s ambassador [to the United   States], Michael Oren, has said this. If there is any perception of daylight between the parties on support for Israel, that strengthens Israel’s enemies. The president rejects what some Republican candidates have been saying, that America should review all its foreign aid commitments from zero, making each country justify the support it receives.

She spoke about one of her most memorable Israel visits:

I went with the American Jewish Committee in a young leadership program. I have always been a part of a large Jewish community, but you are always still aware that you are a minority. I was always aware I was different, and did experience some anti-Semitic incidents. So when I was walking down the street in Jerusalem it suddenly occurred to me that the bus driver is Jewish, the clerk at the supermarket is Jewish and the taxi driver is Jewish…. This helped me fully appreciate how important it is that we have the Jewish State of Israel-which is our homeland and our rightful place. We belong there and, God forbid, I remember thinking, if history repeated itself, there has to be a place for us to go.

Sen. Al Franken Reflect On His Israel Trip

— by Max Samis

In late February, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) visited Israel for the first time since taking office in 2009. Franken traveled across the country and held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, multiple Knesset members, influential business leaders, and journalists.

Mordecai Specktor of The American Jewish World spoke with Franken about the peace process, among other topics:

Franken said that Israeli officials, and knowledgeable political observers who he met, said that Israelis — about ’80 percent’ of the citizenry — support the two-state formula for a negotiated peace deal.

‘While things are stalled for now, there does seem to be, with all the complexities and all the problems, some hope there,’ he concluded….

Bringing Hamas into a unified Palestinian political entity is ‘certainly unacceptable,’ said Franken, ‘unless Hamas accepts the basic conditions of Oslo… recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and renunciation of terrorism.’

Following his trip, Franken spoke with Leora Itman of TCJewfolk.com about his visit. Franken stressed the importance of the ‘unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States,’ pointing to gains the U.S. has made as well as the Jewish state. Itman wrote:

Senator Franken discussed with me some of the ways that he believes that the United States benefits from its strong relationship with Israel, including in the area of emergency medicine. ‘We’ve already learned a tremendous amount from Israel. In fact, in Afghanistan and in Iraq we’ve had fewer fatalities from wounds than in any conflict we’ve been in and its in no small part because of what Israel has learned about treating trauma and treating it immediately.’

Franken also told Itman that while they did not go in depth on the issue, he spoke with Netanyahu about the ongoing effort to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. Itman wrote:

Although he said he did not spend much time discussing the danger of a nuclear Iran with Benjamin Netanyahu, he did tell the Israeli Prime Minister that he understood the ‘existential’ nature of the situation. ‘You can’t be in Israel without understanding that.’ Senator Franken also told me that with respect to the crisis with respect to Iran, he was seeing a real togetherness among his colleagues and the administration in their concern about the many dangers of Iran having a nuclear weapon. ‘This seems to be something that everyone’s united on. Not necessarily in how to do it. But this is a real, real existential threat.’

‘There is this unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States and we cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon. We cannot let them because that is unacceptable. This is, there’s a certain point at which you cannot risk them having that capability to annihilate Israel, which is something [Iran] has said they want to do.’

Peres’ View: We Have the Highest Respect for the President

— by Max Samis

Before his meeting with President Barack Obama this Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres took the time to speak with Barbara Walters on ABC’s morning talk show The View. When asked about what Israel and the United States are doing in regards to stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Peres briefly discussed cooperation between the Obama Administration and Israel and effusively praised the President for his leadership of international sanctions. Peres said:

I think there are three points which are totally agreed between the American administration and the Israeli government. Number one, that the world is in danger if Iran will get a nuclear bomb. It’s a very serious problem, not just because of the bomb but very much because of the nature of the present government. They support terror, they are hanging people without trial. They are really trying to take over the Middle East, and it may affect all the world….

Number two, all of us agree that he shouldn’t, that the Iranians shouldn’t have a nuclear bomb, then all options are on the table-all options are all options. We don’t have to specify.

But right now, President Obama started with a very sophisticated attempt to achieve the same thing by putting on sanctions – political and economic – and he put in this policy to get out of the Europeans and others. So the policy’s quite clear and well, there are different speculations. But right now the policy is to try to stop the Iranians from having a bomb by economic and political sanctions.

I think the relations with Obama are in a good shape. We have the highest respect for the President. I think there are ongoing talks… but right now we act together and I think in full agreement.