World Record: US-Israel to conduct largest-ever joint military drill

— by David Streeter

U.S. and Israeli forces will be conducting their largest joint military exercise in the coming weeks, according to The Jerusalem Post. The exercise — known as Austere Challenge 12 — will start on October 21 and focus on strengthening Israel’s air and missile defense capabilities. Notably, the exercise will include further testing of Israel’s Iron Dome missile interception system, a project which was championed and funded by the Obama administration.

The Jerusalem Post reported:

The US and Israel will commence the largest-ever joint air defense drill of its kind in Israel on October 21, an army source said on Tuesday….

[L]arge numbers of American soldiers are expected to begin arriving in Israel, where they will set up aerial defense positions on Israeli territory and on US Navy vessels off the Israeli coastline.

The three-week drill will simulate various missile defense scenarios, and is expected to end with a live-fire interception of a decoy incoming Patriot missile.

One of the objectives of the drill is to facilitate the rapid deployment of US missile defense systems to Israel and test their ability to operate in conjunction with Israeli defense systems during a conflict….

In 2009, the IDF and US European Command held the Juniper Cobra 10 air defense exercise, which involved 1,400 US soldiers and the same number of IDF soldiers.

The exercise was hailed as a success by Israeli and American military commanders.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said of the U.S.-Israel military relationship, “the US and Israel hold regular joint exercises between the militaries” and that the upcoming drill represents “another milestone in the common strategic relations between the US and Israel.”

Smears, Lies and Videotape: RJC and the Day after Yom Kippur

— by David A. Harris

It’s very said that on the day after Yom Kippur, Jewish Republicans have decided to jump right back into shamefully smearing the President’s record — on the same day in which the Israeli Prime Minister praised President Obama’s leadership and cooperation with Israel in front of the United Nations. Some of the experts featured in the video come from a small segment of the right wing, and are not reflective of Israel’s broad public opinion — let alone the leaders who have heaped praise upon the President. Worse, some of the key points in the video are factually misrepresented, including statements regarding President Obama’s support for Israel’s security, the scenes of Democrats, and statements regarding the so-called snub that never happened. This video offers nothing more than the same innuendo and smears that Jewish Republicans have tried to peddle for the last four years, and their smear campaign has not worked — and will not work.”

The video features many instances of distorted — if not factually incorrect — information.

  • The Israeli government has repeatedly debunked the snub myth from 2010. In fact, when NJDC issued a fact sheet authorized by the Israeli embassy debunking the myth, the Republican Jewish Coalition called the embassy-approved statements “BS.”
  • The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman, who is quoted in the video, has criticized prior instances of his quotes being cherry-picked for the sole purpose of making Israel a political football.
  • At 3:41, right wing pundit Barry Rubin contradicts statements by Israeli leaders who have effusively praised the President’s security cooperation with Israel, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak who said, “I should tell you honestly that this Administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”
  • The Democratic legislators featured in the video have all praised the President’s leadership when it comes to Israel and Iran — and are supporting his reelection.
  • The video repeats the right wing’s baseless attack on this Administration for upholding the same position on Jerusalem as his predecessors.

If I Forget Thee O Jerusalem: Both Parties Weaken Platform

GOP Weakens Israel Language in 2012 Party Platform

— by David A. Harris

Today we’re learning that the Republican Party removed strong language pertaining to Israel and Jerusalem from their party platform between 2008 and 2012, yet they have the temerity to point fingers at Democrats and President Barack Obama — the leader who has built a stellar pro-Israel record of accomplishment. Their hypocrisy is stunning, but not surprising.

In 2008, the GOP platform noted, ‘We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.’ In 2012, that language was gone. No reference to an undivided capital, no reference to America’s embassy — gone. Does this mean the Republican Party is suddenly anti-Israel? Of course not. But it does mean that GOP leaders pointing fingers are wildly hypocritical — given this change and others.

The original media report, according to Buzzfeed, appears below:

Republicans Also Dialed Back Platform’s Israel Language
The missing language: “Undivided” Jerusalem and an embassy move.
Democrats under fire for a similar move.

With Democrats trying to put out a fire around the party platform’s lack of specific language backing Israel that appeared in the 2008 version, a Democratic source points out that Republicans also toned down elements of their stance on Israel in the document.

A close ally of Mitt Romney, Jim Talent, beat back an attempt at the platform committee to remove a reference to the two-state solution last month.

There are also elements of the 2008 Republican platform absent from the 2012 version.

The key sentence present in 2008 and missing in 2012 is:

“We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.”

In both parties’ cases, the revisions don’t seem to reflect a dramatic policy shift, but rather attempts by party leadership to avoid foreign policy commitments in the non-binding political document.

In the first order of business today at the Democratic National Convention, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland moved to amend the 2012 Democratic platform to add the sentence: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” A voice vote was called by DNC Chairman and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The delegates approved by more than the required two-thirds majority, so the amendment was adopted.

Romney Chose to be Nominated by anti-Israel Sununu

— by David Streeter

Earlier in the campaign, it was pointed out that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had struck an alliance with Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu. This week at the Republican National Convention, Sununu was one of the people who officially nominated him for the GOP’s presidential ticket, per Romney’s request.

Some highlight of Sununu’s record, some highlights follow the jump.

  • He was the only governor of a U.S. state who refused to sign a 1987 proclamation saluting the 90th anniversary of Zionism and calling on the UN to rescind its Zionism-racism resolution.  
  • Though his reasoning for the above action was that governors should not be involved in foreign policy, he issued a 1988 proclamation honoring the veterans of U.S.S. Liberty, an American naval vessel mistakenly attacked by Israeli jets in June 1967, calling the attack, “vicious and unprovoked.”
  • According to a William Safire article in 1991, the former governor pushed out a story to journalists that he was being attacked by the press due to his ties to Arab-American groups.

    “Two sources said Sununu had listed ‘those who don’t like my call for even handedness [in U.S. policy in the Mideast], the Jewish groups’ as among those either work against him or egging on those working against him.”

    His Remarks were so bad that the executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations wrote Sununu, protesting that his views were “offensive and without foundation.”

  • Sununu stated on 7/17/2012 during Romney conference call that “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.” He later clarified his comments, stating that they were regarding the economy: “The President has to learn the American formula for creating business.”

Perhaps forging political alliances with Israel-challenged Republicans — like Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) — was what Romney meant by his pledge to “do the opposite” on Israel?

Is Tikkun Olam Relevant in this Election Season?

— by Gayle Donsky

The guiding principle of Tikkun Olam obligates Jews to work toward justice and to help repair the condition of the world.  Likewise, the goals of America’s founding fathers are based on principles of equality and justice.  Yet does anyone believe Republicans are working to achieve these goals?  Can we as voters examine what is happening in politics today and use the principles of Tikkun Olam to guide us in our action?

As a news and political junkie, I have been observing this political season with dismay.  In their book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann-two of the nation’s most respected political scholars-state:   extremism in the current political system has reached an intensity that has not existed since the time of the Civil War.  They lay most of the blame on the current Republican Party that has been hijacked by extremists, effectively removing the moderate Republicans from the political process.  They believe the two-party system is essential, but think it is imperative that moderates regain the voice of the party. Though both parties have become ideologically polarized, they state:

… the Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier-ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Partisanship has grown so extreme that the Republican Party has stopped working to solve the country’s and the people’s problems and has instead chosen as its primary goal to defeat the President.  The primary agenda of the party has been to prevent the passage of any meaningful legislation and to obstruct executive and judicial appointments. In sum, it has worked toward preventing the executive branch from fulfilling its constitutional duties. “Republicans greeted the new president with a unified strategy of opposing, obstructing, discrediting, and nullifying every one of his important initiatives,” write Ornstein and Mann.

One example of the detrimental impact of this extremist action was the obstruction of legislation that would have raised the national debt ceiling.  This resulted in the country’s credit rating being lowered for the first time in its history.   Another is the unprecedented use of filibusters to block legislation and presidential executive and judicial nominations.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated this goal after Obama was elected:  “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

I ask, do these efforts promote Tikkun Olam and work toward social justice?

Other issues that contribute to my dismay with the leaders of the Republican Party follow the jump.

  • There is no denial that the Republican Party is significantly more responsible for increasing the power of money in the political process. Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in their book, Winner-Take-All Politics, chronicle how, over the last three decades, money has become increasingly influential in politics. Groups representing Wall Street, big business, and the wealthy have organized to become ever more powerful instruments in the political system. Groups representing the middle class-such as unions and civic organizations-have become less powerful. The Republican time-honored line “no new taxes” has morphed into not raising taxes on the extremely rich. They oppose the estate tax and support keeping the capital gains tax low. In fact, Grover Norquist, founder of America for Tax Reform, created a pledge which opposes any increase in taxes under any circumstance. This pledge has been signed by nearly every Republican legislator.

    While they claim tax fairness for all, the Republican solution to reduce the debt opposes domestic programs that benefit both the middle class and the poor.  For example, the GOP leadership has been uncompromisingly opposed to comprehensive healthcare reform, increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance, strengthening public education, and lowering the rate of interest on college tuition loans. How are these policies supposed to help those less fortunate?

  • Though one of the main causes of the 2008 financial crisis was the lack of financial regulation, the Republican Party promotes further deregulation of banks, big business and the financial market. Can further deregulation, which, in part, caused the financial crisis, advance social justice?
  • Republicans seem to be working against equality in voter representation. Twenty Republican dominated states have passed voter identification laws that will create obstacles to voting that target the poor, minorities, and elders. While Republicans claim that these laws were passed to correct voter fraud, such fraud hardly exists. Clearly, these laws are being passed to influence elections in favor of Republican candidates. Does this position promote equality of voter representation?
  • Republican candidates are supportive of promoting government interference into women’s personal healthcare choices such as contraception. In addition they have tried to restrict low-income women from access to healthcare by opposing Planned Parenthood. Is this policy consistent with social justice?
  • Republican candidates are opposed to marriage equality. Does this position enhance social justice?
  • The Republican candidates oppose scientific evidence-based issues such as of global warming and the necessity to protect the environment. They want to reduce funding for health research, food safety, etc. Does this position support the repair of our world?

What is the relevance of Tikkun Olam in this political environment?  Should this principle come into play beyond consideration for charity and volunteering?   I believe Tikkun Olam is pertinent to our involvement in the political arena, whether with our political activity or with our vote.  In my opinion, the price of our choosing non-involvement abrogates our obligation to work for justice and the repair of the condition of the world.

GOP Convention, Night Two: Repelling the American Jewish Vote

— by David Streeter

Despite all claims to the contrary, meeting on the second night of its shortened convention in Tampa, the GOP appeared tonight to be doing everything possible to drive away every last American Jewish voter who might be watching. National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris noted:

Tonight, American Jews saw an over-the-top tribute to one of the greatest opponents of the U.S.-Israel relationship on Capitol Hill — Rep. Ron Paul — with Republican official after Republican official, up to and including Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), singing his praises. Then Jewish voters, whom the GOP claims to prize, got the privilege of hearing from his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who shares so many of his father’s policy positions albeit with less baggage. If they can stay tuned long enough, they’ll have the pleasure of seeing vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, whose social safety net-gutting budget was so widely scored in the Jewish community &jmdash; and who holds so many positions at odds with the values of so many American Jews.

If this is the Republican Party’s idea of Jewish outreach, I can only hope they keep trying.

Video of Rand Paul at the Republican National Convention follows the jump.

Hardly Surprised by Tribute to Ron Paul at GOP Convention

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today expressed deep disappointment — but not surprise — at the announcement that the Republican Party will be honoring anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) at the Republican National Convention. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

It is extremely disturbing for so many Americans — especially American Jews — to see that the Republican Party will be honoring anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) at its convention next week, but it is not the least bit surprising. Throughout the campaign, every alarm bell possible has sounded signaling that Paul is a legitimate factor within the GOP — whether it was his strategic partnership with Mitt Romney, his delegates winning multiple state party conventions, his former spokesman receiving a senior position at the RNC, or the legions of followers who turned out the cheer him on during debates. As these alarms were sounding, Jewish Republicans and other pro-Israel Republicans utterly failed to counter Paul’s influence. Now they will be sitting respectfully — or perhaps even applauding — while their Party honors one of the greatest opponents of the U.S.-Israel relationship on Capitol Hill.

Paying tribute to this man who disparaged the U.S.-Israel relationship on Iranian television and empathized with Iran’s nuclear weapons program — on top of the history of his hate-filled newsletters — is a national disgrace. Romney and the RNC should cancel the tribute and end this dangerous strategic partnership once and for all.

More after the jump.
TPM reported:

Ron Paul and his supporters will have a lot to look forward to at Mitt Romney’s Republican National Convention, the Romney campaign told reporters Friday. Paul will be the subject of a ‘short film’ played to the crowd in Tampa and the national TV audience Tuesday night.

‘Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul, while they certainly disagree on many issues … they’ve always had — if you watched part of the debates this year, you’ve have seen there’s a lot of mutual respect between the two of them,’ Romney strategist Russ Schriefer said. ‘And so Rep. Paul’s people came to us and said they’d like to do a short tribute to him, and we said absolutely, it would be a good time to do that.’

Schriefer noted that the next generation of the Paul Nation is getting a prominent role in Tampa as well. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is speaking at the podium Monday night. ‘We look forward to his speech,’ Schriefer said.

GOP Platform Mistakenly Attributes Rabbi Hillel Quote to Reagan

Republicans have long idolized former President Ronald Reagan but now, according to Buzzfeed, they seem to be confusing him with one of Judaism’s important sages – Rabbi Hillel. According to Buzzfeed:

— by David Streeter

Republicans have long idolized former President Ronald Reagan but now, according to Buzzfeed, they seem to be confusing him with one of Judaism’s important sages – Rabbi Hillel. According to Buzzfeed:

The Republican Party’s 2012 platform misattributes a quote from Hillel the Elder, the Mishnaic sage, to former President Ronald Reagan.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell read the platform’s preamble after the conclusion of the platform committee’s business on Tuesday:

We must answer Ronald Reagan’s question: “If not us who? And if not now, when?”

But Reagan was loosely quoting Hillel the Elder’s guidance in the Jewish text of Pirkei Avoth (Ethics of the Fathers).

If I am not for myself, who will be?
And when I am for myself, what am I?
And if not now, when?

Texas Judge Stokes Anti-Obama Paranoia

— by David Streeter

CNN reported that a judge in Texas has stoked anti-Obama paranoia by warning of violence if the President is reelected. According to CNN:

An elected county judge in Texas is warning that the nation could descend into civil war if President Barack Obama is re-elected, and is calling for a trained, well-equipped force to battle the United Nations troops he says Obama would bring in.

The comments by Lubbock County Judge Tom Head, who oversees emergency planning efforts, were broadcast by CNN affiliate KJTV. He made similar remarks on radio station FOX Talk 950….

Referring to unexplained ‘executive orders’ and other documents that Obama and ‘his minions have filed,’ Head said, ‘regardless of whether the Republicans take over the Senate, which I hope they do, he is going to make the United States Congress and he’s going to make the Constitution irrelevant. He’s got his czars in place that don’t answer to anybody.’

Obama, Head said, will ‘try to give the sovereignty of the United   States away to the United Nations. What do you think the public’s going to do when that happens? We are talking civil unrest, civil disobedience, possibly, possibly civil war … I’m not talking just talking riots here and there. I’m talking Lexington, Concord, take up arms, get rid of the dictator. OK, what do you think he is going to do when that happens? He is going to call in the U.N. troops, personnel carriers, tanks and whatever.’

Head vowed to personally stand ‘in front of their personnel carriers and say, “You’re not coming in here.” And I’ve asked the sheriff. I said, “Are you going to back me on this?” And he said, “Yeah, I’m going to back you.” Well, I don’t want a bunch of rookies back there who have no training and little equipment. I want seasoned veteran people who are trained that have got equipment. And even then, you know we may have two or three hundred deputies facing maybe a thousand U.N. troops. We may have to call out the militia.’

JTA: Obama “Owns U.S. Backing for Iron Dome”

JTA’s Ron Kampeas wrote that President Barack Obama rightfully deserves credit for his leadership in support of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Kampeas wrote:

The following assertion has been up occasionally in the conservative blogosphere: That Iron Dome, the system that successfully defended Israel from a recent spate of Gaza-based rocket attacks, was launched under the aegis of President George W. Bush.

But that turns out not to be correct. In fact, Obama more or less owns U.S. backing for Iron Dome.

Conservatives who make the claim seek to undercut another recurrent meme peddled by pro-Israel Democrats, that President Obama’s decision to underwrite the project is evidence of his pro-Israel bona fides (Obama earmarked $205 million for Iron Dome above and beyond the $3 billion average that Israel gets in defense assistance each year, and Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, is working with lawmakers in Congress who want to appropriate more for additional batteries.)…

A Congressional Research Service report in March (PDF) assessing foreign aid to Israel squarely attributes funding to Obama. (The Iron Dome chapter starts on p. 10 and an illustrative chart is on p. 15.)

In March 2010, the Obama Administration announced that it would support $205 million in defense assistance to Israel for the purchase of up to ten Iron Dome batteries.

Israel began developing Iron Dome in 2005 and it became a priority in 2007, but there’s no evidence that Bush gave funding for the project an advance nod. The Pentagon spokesman in this May 2010 Reuters report pegs the funding decision to the fall of 2009, when Obama was president.