US Boycotts Ahmadinejad’s Address Before the UN

— by Erin Pelton, Spokeperson, US Mission to the United Nations

Over the past couple of days, we’ve seen Mr. Ahmadinejad once again use his trip to the UN not to address the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people but to instead spout paranoid theories and repulsive slurs against Israel. It’s particularly unfortunate that Mr. Ahmadinejad will have the platform of the UN General Assembly on Yom Kippur, which is why the United States has decided not to attend.

Obama Calls Out Iran & Islamic Brotherhood At UN

Remarks by US President Barack Obama
United Nations General Assembly
September 25, 2012

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentleman:  I would like to begin today by telling you about an American named Chris Stevens.

Chris was born in a town called Grass Valley, California, the son of a lawyer and a musician.  As a young man, Chris joined the Peace Corps, and taught English in Morocco.  And he came to love and respect the people of North Africa and the Middle East. He would carry that commitment throughout his life.  As a diplomat, he worked from Egypt to Syria, from Saudi Arabia to Libya.  He was known for walking the streets of the cities where he worked — tasting the local food, meeting as many people as he could, speaking Arabic, listening with a broad smile.

Chris went to Benghazi in the early days of the Libyan revolution, arriving on a cargo ship.  As America’s representative, he helped the Libyan people as they coped with violent conflict, cared for the wounded, and crafted a vision for the future in which the rights of all Libyans would be respected. And after the revolution, he supported the birth of a new democracy, as Libyans held elections, and built new institutions, and began to move forward after decades of dictatorship.

Chris Stevens loved his work.  He took pride in the country he served, and he saw dignity in the people that he met.  And two weeks ago, he traveled to Benghazi to review plans to establish a new cultural center and modernize a hospital.  That’s when America’s compound came under attack.  Along with three of his colleagues, Chris was killed in the city that he helped to save. He was 52 years old.

I tell you this story because Chris Stevens embodied the best of America.  Like his fellow Foreign Service officers, he built bridges across oceans and cultures, and was deeply invested in the international cooperation that the United Nations represents.  He acted with humility, but he also stood up for a set of principles — a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.

The attacks on the civilians in Benghazi were attacks on America.  We are grateful for the assistance we received from the Libyan government and from the Libyan people.  There should be no doubt that we will be relentless in tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice.  And I also appreciate that in recent days, the leaders of other countries in the region — including Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen — have taken steps to secure our diplomatic facilities, and called for calm.  And so have religious authorities around the globe.

But understand, the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America.  They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded — the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.

If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an embassy, or to put out statements of regret and wait for the outrage to pass.  If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of the crisis — because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes that we hold in common.

Today, we must reaffirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens — and not by his killers.  Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.

It has been less than two years since a vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest the oppressive corruption in his country, and sparked what became known as the Arab Spring.  And since then, the world has been captivated by the transformation that’s taken place, and the United States has supported the forces of change.

We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspiration of men and women who took to the streets.

We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy ultimately put us on the side of the people.

We supported a transition of leadership in Yemen, because the interests of the people were no longer being served by a corrupt status quo.

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents, and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.

We have taken these positions because we believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture.  These are not simply American values or Western values — they are universal values.  And even as there will be huge challenges to come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people, and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.

So let us remember that this is a season of progress.  For the first time in decades, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans voted for new leaders in elections that were credible, competitive, and fair.  This democratic spirit has not been restricted to the Arab world.  Over the past year, we’ve seen peaceful transitions of power in Malawi and Senegal, and a new President in Somalia.  In Burma, a President has freed political prisoners and opened a closed society, a courageous dissident has been elected to parliament, and people look forward to further reform.  Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity, and the right to determine their future.

And yet the turmoil of recent weeks reminds us that the path to democracy does not end with the casting of a ballot.  Nelson Mandela once said:  “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”  (Applause.)

True democracy demands that citizens cannot be thrown in jail because of what they believe, and that businesses can be opened without paying a bribe.  It depends on the freedom of citizens to speak their minds and assemble without fear, and on the rule of law and due process that guarantees the rights of all people.

In other words, true democracy — real freedom — is hard work.  Those in power have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissidents.  In hard economic times, countries must be tempted — may be tempted to rally the people around perceived enemies, at home and abroad, rather than focusing on the painstaking work of reform.

Moreover, there will always be those that reject human progress — dictators who cling to power, corrupt interests that depend on the status quo, and extremists who fan the flames of hate and division.  From Northern Ireland to South Asia, from Africa to the Americas, from the Balkans to the Pacific Rim, we’ve witnessed convulsions that can accompany transitions to a new political order.

At time, the conflicts arise along the fault lines of race or tribe.  And often they arise from the difficulties of reconciling tradition and faith with the diversity and interdependence of the modern world.  In every country, there are those who find different religious beliefs threatening; in every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask themselves how much they’re willing to tolerate freedom for others.

That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world.  Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity.
It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well — for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and every faith.  We are home to Muslims who worship across our country.  We not only respect the freedom of religion, we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe.  We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video.  And the answer is enshrined in our laws:  Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.

Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense.  Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.  As President of our country and Commander-in-Chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day — (laughter) — and I will always defend their right to do so.  (Applause.)

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with.  We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.  We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities.

We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

Now, I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech.  We recognize that.  But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.  The question, then, is how do we respond?

And on this we must agree:  There is no speech that justifies mindless violence.  (Applause.)  There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents.  There’s no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.  There’s no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

In this modern world with modern technologies, for us to respond in that way to hateful speech empowers any individual who engages in such speech to create chaos around the world.  We empower the worst of us if that’s how we respond.

More broadly, the events of the last two weeks also speak to the need for all of us to honestly address the tensions between the West and the Arab world that is moving towards democracy.

Now, let me be clear:  Just as we cannot solve every problem in the world, the United States has not and will not seek to dictate the outcome of democratic transitions abroad.  We do not expect other nations to agree with us on every issue, nor do we assume that the violence of the past weeks or the hateful speech by some individuals represent the views of the overwhelming majority of Muslims, any more than the views of the people who produced this video represents those of Americans.  However, I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders in all countries to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism.  (Applause.)

It is time to marginalize those who — even when not directly resorting to violence — use hatred of America, or the West, or Israel, as the central organizing principle of politics. For that only gives cover, and sometimes makes an excuse, for those who do resort to violence.

That brand of politics — one that pits East against West, and South against North, Muslims against Christians and Hindu and Jews — can’t deliver on the promise of freedom.  To the youth, it offers only false hope.  Burning an American flag does nothing to provide a child an education.  Smashing apart a restaurant does not fill an empty stomach.  Attacking an embassy won’t create a single job.  That brand of politics only makes it harder to achieve what we must do together:  educating our children, and creating the opportunities that they deserve; protecting human rights, and extending democracy’s promise.

Understand America will never retreat from the world.  We will bring justice to those who harm our citizens and our friends, and we will stand with our allies.  We are willing to partner with countries around the world to deepen ties of trade and investment, and science and technology, energy and development — all efforts that can spark economic growth for all our people and stabilize democratic change.

But such efforts depend on a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect.  No government or company, no school or NGO will be confident working in a country where its people are endangered.  For partnerships to be effective our citizens must be secure and our efforts must be welcomed.

A politics based only on anger — one based on dividing the world between “us” and “them” — not only sets back international cooperation, it ultimately undermines those who tolerate it.  All of us have an interest in standing up to these forces.

Let us remember that Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of extremism.  On the same day our civilians were killed in Benghazi, a Turkish police officer was murdered in Istanbul only days before his wedding; more than 10 Yemenis were killed in a car bomb in Sana’a; several Afghan children were mourned by their parents just days after they were killed by a suicide bomber in Kabul.

The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained.  The same impulses toward extremism are used to justify war between Sunni and Shia, between tribes and clans.  It leads not to strength and prosperity but to chaos.  In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence.  And extremists understand this.  Because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant.  They don’t build; they only destroy.

It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind.  On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future, or the prisons of the past.  And we cannot afford to get it wrong.  We must seize this moment.  And America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt — it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.”  The future must not belong to those who bully women — it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.  (Applause.)

The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources — it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs, the workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people.  Those are the women and men that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.  But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.  (Applause.)

Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims and Shiite pilgrims.  It’s time to heed the words of Gandhi:  “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”  (Applause.)  Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them.  That is what America embodies, that’s the vision we will support.

Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace.  Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist.  The road is hard, but the destination is clear — a secure, Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine.  (Applause.)  Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.

In Syria, the future must not belong to a dictator who massacres his people.  If there is a cause that cries out for protest in the world today, peaceful protest, it is a regime that tortures children and shoots rockets at apartment buildings.  And we must remain engaged to assure that what began with citizens demanding their rights does not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.

Together, we must stand with those Syrians who believe in a different vision — a Syria that is united and inclusive, where children don’t need to fear their own government, and all Syrians have a say in how they are governed — Sunnis and Alawites, Kurds and Christians.  That’s what America stands for.  That is the outcome that we will work for — with sanctions and consequences for those who persecute, and assistance and support for those who work for this common good.  Because we believe that the Syrians who embrace this vision will have the strength and the legitimacy to lead.

In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads.  The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors.  But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government continues to prop up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad.  Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.

So let me be clear.  America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so.  But that time is not unlimited.  We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace.  

And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.  It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy.  It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty.  That’s why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable.  And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

We know from painful experience that the path to security and prosperity does not lie outside the boundaries of international law and respect for human rights.  That’s why this institution was established from the rubble of conflict.  That is why liberty triumphed over tyranny in the Cold War.  And that is the lesson of the last two decades as well.

History shows that peace and progress come to those who make the right choices.  Nations in every part of the world have traveled this difficult path.  Europe, the bloodiest battlefield of the 20th century, is united, free and at peace.  From Brazil to South Africa, from Turkey to South Korea, from India to Indonesia, people of different races, religions, and traditions have lifted millions out of poverty, while respecting the rights of their citizens and meeting their responsibilities as nations.

And it is because of the progress that I’ve witnessed in my own lifetime, the progress that I’ve witnessed after nearly four years as President, that I remain ever hopeful about the world that we live in.  The war in Iraq is over.  American troops have come home.  We’ve begun a transition in Afghanistan, and America and our allies will end our war on schedule in 2014.  Al Qaeda has been weakened, and Osama bin Laden is no more.  Nations have come together to lock down nuclear materials, and America and Russia are reducing our arsenals.  We have seen hard choices made — from Naypyidaw to Cairo to Abidjan — to put more power in the hands of citizens.

At a time of economic challenge, the world has come together to broaden prosperity.  Through the G20, we have partnered with emerging countries to keep the world on the path of recovery.  America has pursued a development agenda that fuels growth and breaks dependency, and worked with African leaders to help them feed their nations.  New partnerships have been forged to combat corruption and promote government that is open and transparent, and new commitments have been made through the Equal Futures Partnership to ensure that women and girls can fully participate in politics and pursue opportunity.  And later today, I will discuss our efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

All these things give me hope.  But what gives me the most hope is not the actions of us, not the actions of leaders — it is the people that I’ve seen.  The American troops who have risked their lives and sacrificed their limbs for strangers half a world away; the students in Jakarta or Seoul who are eager to use their knowledge to benefit mankind; the faces in a square in Prague or a parliament in Ghana who see democracy giving voice to their aspirations; the young people in the favelas of Rio and the schools of Mumbai whose eyes shine with promise.  These men, women, and children of every race and every faith remind me that for every angry mob that gets shown on television, there are billions around the world who share similar hopes and dreams.  They tell us that there is a common heartbeat to humanity.

So much attention in our world turns to what divides us.  That’s what we see on the news.  That’s what consumes our political debates.  But when you strip it all away, people everywhere long for the freedom to determine their destiny; the dignity that comes with work; the comfort that comes with faith; and the justice that exists when governments serve their people  — and not the other way around.

The United States of America will always stand up for these aspirations, for our own people and for people all across the world.  That was our founding purpose.  That is what our history shows.  That is what Chris Stevens worked for throughout his life.

And I promise you this:  Long after the killers are brought to justice, Chris Stevens’s legacy will live on in the lives that he touched — in the tens of thousands who marched against violence through the streets of Benghazi; in the Libyans who changed their Facebook photo to one of Chris; in the signs that read, simply, “Chris Stevens was a friend to all Libyans.”

They should give us hope.  They should remind us that so long as we work for it, justice will be done, that history is on our side, and that a rising tide of liberty will never be reversed.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries Deserve Recognition

B’nai B’rith Plays Key Role in Bipartisan Congressional Action

(B’nai B’rith International) Shortly before the recess a bipartisan bill  was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would recognize the nearly 1 million Jews displaced from their homes in Arab nations due to the Middle East conflict. Under the bill, the president and other government officials would be urged to note Jewish refugees each time a reference to Palestinian refugees is made at international events.

This new bill takes a 2008 House resolution on the matter a step further, requiring the president to report on how the original resolution is being implemented. The State Department would be required to issue a report every two years explaining what the administration has done to advance the issue and offering recommendations for future action.

The plight of Jewish refugees is often overlooked.  Jews living in Arab countries have had their human rights violated, their property and businesses confiscated and have been displaced from their homes.  By most estimates, fewer than 5,000 Jews remain in Arab countries. Not one of the more than 100 United Nations resolutions that refer to Palestinian refugees mentions Jewish refugees.

More after the jump.
“We want to ensure that the United States makes the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab nations a priority in multilateral discussions about the Middle East conflict. Any time refugee issues are discussed in the context of the peace negotiations, the rights of Jewish refugees need to be given their proper place,” B’nai B’rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield said.

B’nai B’rith wishes to thank the sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and the co-sponsors:  Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.),  Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-Fla.) and Rep. Bob Turner (D-N.Y.).  

Romney Lies to Israeli Press on Obama’s UN Record

Gov. Mitt Romney lies to Amos Regev and Boaz Bismuth of Israel Hayom about Obama’s UN record.

(NJDC) When Mitt Romney speaks these days, it’s fair to question how much of what he says is actually the truth. So when Romney told Amos Regev and Boaz Bismuth of Israel Hayom that:

I cannot imagine going to the United Nations, as Obama did, and criticizing Israel in front of the world. I believe that he should have mentioned instead the thousands of rockets that are being fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

We have to wonder which speech he was referring to.

Was it President Barack Obama’s speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2011, where he said:

America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses.  Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.

That was, after all, the speech that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised by saying, “I think that standing your ground, taking this position of principle… I think this is a badge of honor and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor.”

This is, of course, not the first time Romney has willfully lied on the issue. After spreading the same mistruths during a Republican presidential debate in January, Romney was immediately rebutted by both The New York Times and PolitiFact.

If this was the speech Romney was referring to, then he lied again-this time to the Israeli press about the powerful pro-Israel address Obama gave before a hostile crowd at the UN.

If Romney can’t seem to tell the truth when it comes to the current state of the U.S.-Israel relationship, how exactly are American Jews supposed to believe him when he makes other statements on the issue?

Diary of Global Networking in Action

— by Hannah Lee

As Part 4 of a sporadic series on Creating Community, I write about an effort that spans the Atlantic Ocean and connects us with Eretz Yisrael.

In May, a friend, Ari, contacted me to find an organization that could use three dental chairs and two x-ray machines, donated by a dentist who was retiring from his practice in New York.  (We’re foodie buddies and he knows about my networking instincts.)  His father, Bob Schwell, coordinates donations for Yad Sarah in New York (while shuttling between Israel and the United States) and these items were deemed not suitable for shipping to Israel.  By the end of the day, I was able to identify two organizations interested in the equipment: Columbia’s dental school which runs a clinic in New York and Partners in Health which would like to send them to Haiti.  

More after the jump.
However, neither one of them was able to mobilize in time for the date when the shipping container would be packed in the warehouse in Newark.  Meanwhile, my inquiries led to a phone call from a young dentist who was starting up her own practice and wanted the equipment.  Fine, but my stipulation was that she give a donation to Yad Sarah.

In early June, Bob went to Newark to supervise the packing of the shipping container and they set aside the dental equipment.  I asked him what does it take to start a chapter in Philly?  He said that the major issue is finding local storage.  The heavy items — hospital beds, etc. — that require professionals are picked up by Moishe’s Movers (which volunteers the time of its employees who are all veterans of the Israeli Army) and brought to the shipper’s warehouse in Newark.  The smaller, portable items are the things that need local storage until the next date for packing a shipping container.

So, I made contact with the coordinators of the local Bikur Cholim and they will accept the items Yad Sarah cannot send to Israel, such as manual wheelchairs.   Mati Sved, whose family owns a warehouse in Philly, agreed to house items, as long as they fit on a 40″ x 48″ pallet for transport to the upstairs storage floor.  I was making steady progress!  

Early this month, Bob reported that he’d spoken with someone at Moishe’s Movers but that individual was not interested in picking up from Philly.  However, this was not the boss!  Undeterred, I asked if we could separate the project in two: portable items that can be transported by volunteers and heavy items like hospital beds that require professional movers.  Then I got official permission from the American headquarters in New York and on July 11th, I announced the launching of a local chapter for Yad Sarah.  

I posted a notice on the LowerMerionShuls community list-serve (subject of Part 1 of this “Creating Community” series and now with 1,414 members) and I’ve gotten offers already.  Alas, they’re not items I can send overseas, so I’m busy finding other beneficiaries for them.  Still, it’s a good way to build community networks.  The next step is to line up volunteer drivers and additional storage space.

Founded in 1976 by Uri Lupolianski, now the mayor of Jerusalem, Yad Sarah offers a wide range of medical and legal services in Israel.  A recent survey by the Dahaf Institute found that every second family in Israel has been helped by one of Yad Sarah’s services.  In 2004, The United Nations granted Yad Sarah advisory status to its Economic and Social Council.  In 2011, Yad Sarah served 420,000 people, lent out 270,000 pieces of medical equipment from its 104 sites, staffed by over 6,000 volunteers.   For more information about Yad Sarah Philly, contact me at [email protected]  

Romney in Quakertown: Says he’ll do ‘opposite’ of Obama on Israel

— by Ira Forman

Mitt Romney in Quakertown (Bucks County, Pennsylvania) claimed Saturday that he would “look at the things the President has done and do the opposite” in our relationship with Israel.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

He responded with ridicule when asked what he would do, if elected, to strengthen U.S. relations with the Jewish state.

‘I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite,’ Romney said, to laughter and applause from members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, an evangelical Christian political organization.

But Romney is, once again, trying to score cheap political points by distorting President Obama’s strong record of support for the state of Israel.

Does Mitt Romney want people to believe he would reverse President Obama’s commitment — in both words and actions — to Israel’s security and the unshakable bond between our two countries?

If Romney was to actually do the opposite of what the President Obama has done, he would jeopardize Israel’s security and international standing:

  • Would Romney actually reverse President Obama’s policy of increasing security assistance to Israel every year, including unprecedented support for Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system? President Obama has increased his request for security assistance to Israel every year of his administration, and his budget includes a record-high $3.1 billion in military assistance to Israel in addition to missile defense spending. President Obama has also directed the Pentagon to expand U.S.-Israel security cooperation, committing $205 million dollars to assist in shielding Israelis from mortars and rockets as part of an ongoing effort to “deepen and expand the quantity and intensity of cooperation to the fullest extent”
  • Would Romney actually let Israel stand alone at the United Nations? President Obama prevented Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations with Israel and unilaterally seek statehood recognition through the United Nations. He used the first Security Council veto of his presidency to stop condemnation of Israel settlements and stood by Israel in pushing back against the one-sided Goldstone Report. Prime Minister Netanyahu called President Obama’s support for Israel at the United Nations “a badge of honor.”
  • Would Romney actually refuse to come to Israel’s aid when they ask for help? When Israel’s embassy in Cairo was attacked by protestors in September 2011, President Obama called on Egypt to protect the embassy and offered his support to Prime Minister Netanyahu; the next day, Netanyahu publicly thanked the President for his help and called it a “decisive and fateful moment.” When Israel’s Carmel Forest caught fire in 2010, the worst natural disaster in Israel’s history, Prime Minister Netanyahu turned to President Obama for help, and the President directed his administration to “get Israel whatever it needs. Now.

Israeli leaders have highlighted President Obama’s steadfast support for the Jewish state. In an address to the Union for Reform Judaism, Ehud Barak said that the bonds between Israel and the United States are “stronger and deeper than ever” under President Obama. President Peres said that you should judge a President on his record and that under President Obama, Israel and the United States have “the best relationship on the issue of security…. this is a fact.”

It’s time for Romney to stop distorting President Obama’s record on Israel to score political points. Our relationship with Israel is far too important.

 

Barry Rubin’s Fuzzy Thinking

Barry Rubin— by Steve Sheffey

A recent article by Barry Rubin provides a preview of the misleading arguments and half-truths we can expect from now until November. Rubin compresses so much nonsense into so little space that I’ll only cover some of his article today, and the rest later.

Rubin begins his article with a strawman argument, that we claim President Obama is good simply because he speaks warmly about Israel. It is true that President Obama speaks warmly about Israel, but his record is the basis for the claim that he is strong on Israel.

President Obama’s record on Israel is outstanding.

President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program, restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, taken US-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

Not all presidents say “nice” things about Israel.

Rubin gets it wrong even on his own terms. Words do matter, and not all presidents say nice things about Israel. Gerald Ford threatened to reassess America’s strategic relations with Israel, Ronald Reagan condemned Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor, Bush I decried lobbyists for Israel (he actually attacked citizen lobbyists like you and me), and in 2003 Bush II rebuked then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by rescinding $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. In 2004, the Bush administration abstained rather than veto a UN resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons smuggling. If President Obama had done anything like what Ford, Reagan, Bush I or Bush II had done to Israel, then maybe Rubin would have something to write about.

It is true that President Obama speaks warmly of Israel, but Rubin leaves out to whom President Obama speaks warmly about Israel.

It’s easy to tell AIPAC how important the US-Israel relationship is. AIPAC already knows. The difference between President Obama and previous presidents is that President Obama eloquently delivers the case for Israel and a strong US-Israel relationship to those who need to hear it most.

During the 2008 campaign, I participated in a conference call with Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), one of Israel’s best friends in Congress in either party. Rothman asked us to imagine the impact of a president named Barack Hussein Obama telling the entire world, including the Arab world, that America stands with Israel.

That’s exactly what President Obama did when he went to Cairo in 2009 and told the Arab and Muslim world that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable.”

He told the Arab and Muslim world, a world rife with Holocaust denial, that to deny the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”  He told them that threatening Israel with destruction is “deeply wrong.” He said that “Palestinians must abandon violence” and that “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” And he said that “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Who knows where we’d be today if previous Presidents had had the courage to personally deliver this message on Arab soil.

In 2011, President Obama went to the UN, another forum not known for its love for Israel, and told the world that

America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.

These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

The Israeli newspaper Yehidot Aharonot said that “An American President has never given such a pro-Israel speech at the UN.”

Isn’t that what we want from our President?

Under President Obama, the US-Israel relationship is warmer than ever.

Yet Rubin says that President Obama is “cold” toward Israel. Former Congressman Robert Wexler explained just last month that this “coldness” argument is

the argument Republican surrogates make. They say he’s cold. I hear that he doesn’t feel Israel in his kishkes. I think that’s something you say when you don’t have any factual arguments to make. What does it mean that he’s cold? Does being cold mean articulating the strongest pro-Israel argument ever at the UN – a forum not warm to Israel? Is it cold that America has engaged in the largest joint military operation between the US and Israel in Israel’s history during the Obama administration? Is it cold that more than 200 high-level Pentagon officials visited Israel during the last calendar year? Is it cold that America and Israel will likely engage in an even larger joint military exercise this year? And I’ll tell you one group who doesn’t believe the relationship is cold – that’s the current leadership in Tehran.

No wonder the vast majority of Jews vote Democratic and will continue to vote Democratic.

Aside from exceptions like Congressmen Joe Walsh and Ron Paul, the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans support pro-Israel positions. But only the Democratic party is good on Israel and the other values we cherish.

Republicans At Your Seder? Four More Questions!

At many seders, the topic of politics will more than likely come up-often because one of the guests received one of the many false and malicious emails floating around the internet. That dinner guest should be replied to with these four questions:

  1. Why has President Obama provided record amounts of military aid to Israel — including double the amount of supplemental funding for missile defense programs, like the Iron Dome, that are saving Israeli lives today?
  2. Why has President Obama worked so hard and succeeded at uniting the world against Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program, while voting with Israel 100% of the time at the United Nations — earning the plaudits of Israel’s leaders?
  3. Why has President Obama achieved the historic passage of “Obamacare,” which has already permitted 2.5 million young adults to remain on their parents’ health care plans — and will end discrimination for those with pre-existing conditions, ultimately providing coverage to 34 million more Americans?
  4. Why has President Obama fought to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid, keeping our commitment to our seniors — and our collective commitment to help those in need through shared responsibility?

The answer to all of these questions is:

President Obama cares deeply about the safety and security of the Jewish state. He has been Israel’s leading advocate from day one and has done more than any other President to meaningfully bolster its defenses and provide for its future. He also cares deeply about the welfare of all Americans, including our seniors and the needy — and our commitment to them.

For these reasons, President Obama deserves our thanks.

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Bolton & RJC Pushed False Story from “Veteran Anti-Israel Warrior”

The National Jewish Democratic Council today demanded that former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, the Republican Jewish Coalition, and their conservative allies apologize for pushing a debunked story from Mark Perry-a former unofficial advisor to Yasir Arafat (Jewish Ideas Daily) and someone who widely-respected Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari refers to as a “veteran anti-Israel warrior”-regarding America’s supposed role in the Israeli-Azeri strategic relationship. (The Times of Israel)

National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris said:

It is pathetic that in their zeal to score political points, John Bolton, the Republican Jewish Coalition and their allies in the conservative blogosphere would go so far as to amplify this ridiculous, debunked story by standing with Mark Perry-a former Arafat Advisor and a ‘veteran anti-Israel warrior,’ to coin vaunted Israeli journalist Ehud Yaari’s phrase. They should be ashamed of themselves for pushing this dangerous and offensive smear of the Obama Administration, for purely partisan purposes-damn the cost. Now that it has been debunked both in Washington and by Israeli military sources, those advancing this false story should apologize-especially the RJC, which issued a press release touting Perry’s words as holy writ. Not that we think they will, but the time has come once and for all to put Israel’s and America’s security above partisan politics. Enough is enough.

Background on Perry’s false report follows the jump.
This is not the first time that the Republican Jewish Coalition has circulated false stories that have made it into the right wing’s smear arsenal. Notable examples include:

  • RJC was busted by the Associated Press for deliberately and dramatically misrepresenting joint U.S.-Israel missile defense assistance spending under the Obama Administration. (AP)
  • RJC contradicted the Israeli government’s reported statements regarding a postponed missile defense exercise in January 2012. (The Atlantic, RJC, Jerusalem Post, NJDC)
  • RJC labeled the directly sourced and approved words of Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren as “BS” via Twitter in May 2010. (NJDC) They continued to contradict Oren’s words well into 2011. (Politico)
  • In April 2010, RJC pushed a story that was debunked by the Israeli embassy regarding the status of visas for Israeli nuclear scientists. NJDC)

RJC did not issue retractions after the stories were debunked.

Israeli Analysts Debunk Azerbaijan Myth

Last week, a noted “veteran anti-Israel warrior” and former unofficial advisor to Yasir Arafat perpetuated a myth regarding Israel’s strategic relationship with Azerbaijan. Over the weekend, Israel’s Ynet reported that the White House flatly denied any role in the story and threatened to prosecute the source:

A top White House official denied Saturday that the US Administration was responsible for leaking information, alleging that Israel has secured access to airfields in Azerbaijan ahead of a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, to the press….

The sources said that the White House had ‘no interest’ in leaks of this kind, adding that the administration would ‘gladly prosecute’ the people behind it – if they knew who they were….

Jerusalem and Washington, he added, are making ‘tremendous efforts’ on Iran and are working more closely than ever.

Israeli military analysts also debunked the substance of the story. According to the Times of Israel:

Israeli military and intelligence analysts on Sunday categorically dismissed the notion that Israel is considering using airbases in Azerbaijan to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities….

… Israeli analysts lined up Sunday to deride the idea as everything illogical, baseless, and impossible.

‘It doesn’t make any sense,’ said Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies and a former officer in the research division of the IDF’s Military Intelligence branch. ‘Azerbaijan has no interest in picking a fight with its neighbor Iran,’ he added. ‘It’s a relatively new country and I don’t see how it could possibly be in their interest to grant any assistance to Israel in an attack on Iran.’

Kam added: ‘If the Azeri were really to help Israel carry out attack on Iran, they would pick a huge fight with Iran, and if Iran decided to strike Azerbaijan, nobody would come to their help. In my eyes this scenario seems absolutely impossible.’…

Unfortunately, lamented Ehud Yaari, Channel 2’s chief political analyst and Times of Israel columnist, nobody made the effort to check whether the theories put forward by Perry’s article held water.

‘No one seems to have raised the real questions before rushing to publish or quote the Perry-tale,’ Yaari wrote on Sunday in The Times of Israel. ‘Elementary, Mr. Perry: How would the Israeli Air Force reach those airbases in Azerbaijan? Are the Israelis going to get a permit from Mr. Erdogan to fly over Turkey on their way to hit Iran? Does it make any sense? Or, alternatively, does Perry want us to believe that the Israelis will choose to bypass Turkey on their secret mission via the longer route over Greece and Bulgaria, thus becoming fully exposed to Russian radar in the Black Sea? Take a look at the map, Mr. Perry – there is no other way for the Israelis to get to Azerbaijan!’

Yaari also dismissed the idea that Israeli jets could use Azeri airfields on their way back to Israel after a strike. ‘How can Azerbaijan possibly afford to cooperate in an attack on Iran when it depends on Iran entirely for maintaining control over that significant part of this country, the Nakhichevan region, an exclave and autonomous republic of Azerbaijan that is totally separated from the main Azeri territory by its archenemy, Armenia?’

Shlomo Brom, a former chief of the IDF’s strategic planning division, agrees that the theory put forward by Perry’s article doesn’t seem logical.

‘This is utterly baseless. Azerbaijan is a small country that borders on Iran. It just doesn’t make sense they would help Israel attack them. It would be suicidal,’ Brom told The Times of Israel.

Brom added: ‘It is known that Mark Perry is not a huge fan of Israel. What probably happened is that he took a kernel of truth – that Israel and Azerbaijan have good bilateral cooperation, just like Israel has many other strategic alliances in the world, for example with India – and turned it into something that is it not, which is military cooperation on a strike on Iran.’

In his full piece picking apart the story, Yaari noted:

The truth is that Perry’s piece did not deserve the attention. The veteran anti-Israel warrior has simply taken advantage of the negligent naivety of Foreign Policy’s editors in order to plant one more of his cloak-and-dagger patchwork stories aimed at undermining the state he intensely detests….

The fact that Azerbaijan maintains close relations with Israel – including big arms and oil deals – does not justify flights of fantasy. Serious debate requires down-to-earth discussion based on facts and then a grain of common sense. The discourse about the way to tackle Iran’s nuclear challenge is far too fateful to allow it to be hijacked by the likes of ‘author and historian’ Mark Perry.

In addition, Nargiz Gurbanova, a counselor at the Azeri embassy, wrote in a letter to Foreign Policy:

I was most surprised to read a very provocative and unsubstantiated article by Mark Perry in your publication…

The author arrives at wide ranging allegations based on unnamed sources and rather convoluted commentary. Clearly upset about Azerbaijan’s friendly relations with Israel, Perry, for some reason, equates a historic friendship between the Azerbaijani and Jewish people into preparing for a war against Iran.

This unreasonable accusation makes no sense in terms of geography-Azerbaijan doesn’t border Israel and contradicts the clearly stated policy of Azerbaijan not to allow use of its territory against any neighbor….

Perry’s article is an interesting piece of fiction. Whether it was driven by a special political agenda or vivid imagination, your publication seems as an odd choice for such speculative writing.

  • Click here to read Yaari’s full piece.
  • Click here to read The Times of Israel’s roundup of experts.

Obama: I don’t bluff. We’ve got Israel’s back.

President Barack Obama recently spoke with The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg about the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program as well as his upcoming meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During the interview, Obama told Goldberg that his primary message to Israel is that “we’ve got Israel’s back” when it comes to Iran.

Excerpts from the interview after the jump. Click here to read the full interview.
Obama said regarding his approach to the Iranian threat:

… Both the United States and Israel have been in constant consultation about a very difficult issue, and that is the prospect of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is something that has been one of my top five foreign-policy concerns since I came into office.

We, immediately upon taking over, mapped out a strategy that said we are going to mobilize the international community around this issue and isolate Iran to send a clear message to them that there is a path they can follow that allows them to rejoin the community of nations, but if they refused to follow that path, that there would be an escalating series of consequences.

Three years later, we can look back and say we have been successful beyond most people’s expectations. When we came in, Iran was united and on the move, and the world was divided about how to address this issue. Today, the world is as united as we’ve ever seen it around the need for Iran to take a different path on its nuclear program, and Iran is isolated and feeling the severe effects of the multiple sanctions that have been placed on it….

And in the conversations I’ve had over the course of three years, and over the course of the last three months and three weeks, what I’ve emphasized is that preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon isn’t just in the interest of Israel, it is profoundly in the security interests of the United States, and that when I say we’re not taking any option off the table, we mean it. We are going to continue to apply pressure until Iran takes a different course.

He made it clear that the Iranian nuclear-program must be stopped:

The potential for escalation … is profoundly dangerous, and in addition to just the potential human costs of a nuclear escalation like that in the Middle East, just imagine what would happen in terms of the world economy. The possibilities of the sort of energy disruptions that we’ve never seen before occurring, and the world economy basically coming to a halt, would be pretty profound. So when I say this is in the U.S. interest, I’m not saying this is something we’d like to solve. I’m saying this is something we have to solve.

Obama explained what he means when he says that all options are on the table for stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program:

It means a political component that involves isolating Iran; it means an economic component that involves unprecedented and crippling sanctions; it means a diplomatic component in which we have been able to strengthen the coalition that presents Iran with various options through the P-5 plus 1 and ensures that the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] is robust in evaluating Iran’s military program; and it includes a military component. And I think people understand that.

I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff. I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.

Addressing his critics, he said regarding the potential use of military force to stop Iran:

Look, if people want to say about me that I have a profound preference for peace over war, that every time I order young men and women into a combat theater and then see the consequences on some of them, if they’re lucky enough to come back, that this weighs on me-I make no apologies for that. Because anybody who is sitting in my chair who isn’t mindful of the costs of war shouldn’t be here, because it’s serious business. These aren’t video games that we’re playing here.

Now, having said that, I think it’s fair to say that the last three years, I’ve shown myself pretty clearly willing, when I believe it is in the core national interest of the United States, to direct military actions, even when they entail enormous risks. And obviously, the bin Laden operation is the most dramatic, but al-Qaeda was on its [knees] well before we took out bin Laden because of our activities and my direction.

In Afghanistan, we’ve made very tough decisions because we felt it was very important, in order for an effective transition out of Afghanistan to take place, for us to be pushing back against the Taliban’s momentum.

So aside from the usual politics, I don’t think this is an argument that has a lot of legs. And by the way, it’s not an argument that the American people buy. They may have complaints about high unemployment still, and that the recovery needs to move faster, but you don’t hear a lot of them arguing somehow that I hesitate to make decisions as commander in chief when necessary.

Obama flatly dismissed the notion of containing a nuclear-armed Iran:

GOLDBERG: Let me flip this entirely around and ask: Why is containment not your policy? In the sense that we contained the Soviet Union, North   Korea-

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It’s for the reason I described-because you’re talking about the most volatile region in the world. It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe….

And so the dangers of an Iran getting nuclear weapons that then leads to a free-for-all in the Middle East is something that I think would be very dangerous for the world.

GOLDBERG: Do you see accidental nuclear escalation as an issue?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely. Look, the fact is, I don’t think any of it would be accidental. I think it would be very intentional. If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, I won’t name the countries, but there are probably four or five countries in the Middle East who say, ‘We are going to start a program, and we will have nuclear weapons.’ And at that point, the prospect for miscalculation in a region that has that many tensions and fissures is profound. You essentially then duplicate the challenges of India and Pakistan fivefold or tenfold.

GOLDBERG: With everybody pointing at everybody else.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: With everybody pointing at everybody else.

Obama and Goldberg discussed Israel’s outlook on Iran:

GOLDBERG: Is it possible that the prime minister of Israel has over-learned the lessons of the Holocaust?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think the prime minister has a profound responsibility to protect the Israeli people in a hostile neighborhood, and I am certain that the history of the Holocaust and of anti-Semitism and brutality directed against the Jewish people for more than a millennium weighs on him when he thinks about these questions.

I think it’s important to recognize, though, that the prime minister is also head of a modern state that is mindful of the profound costs of any military action, and in our consultations with the Israeli government, I think they take those costs, and potential unintended consequences, very seriously.

GOLDBERG: Do you think Israel could cause damage to itself in America by preempting the Iranian nuclear program militarily?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I don’t know how it plays in America. I think we in the United States instinctively sympathize with Israel, and I think political support for Israel is bipartisan and powerful.

In my discussions with Israel, the key question that I ask is: How does this impact their own security environment? I’ve said it publicly and I say it privately: ultimately, the Israeli prime minister and the defense minister and others in the government have to make their decisions about what they think is best for Israel’s security, and I don’t presume to tell them what is best for them.

But as Israel’s closest friend and ally, and as one that has devoted the last three years to making sure that Israel has additional security capabilities, and has worked to manage a series of difficult problems and questions over the past three years, I do point out to them that we have a sanctions architecture that is far more effective than anybody anticipated; that we have a world that is about as united as you get behind the sanctions; that our assessment, which is shared by the Israelis, is that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon and is not yet in a position to obtain a nuclear weapon without us having a pretty long lead time in which we will know that they are making that attempt.

In that context, our argument is going to be that it is important for us to see if we can solve this thing permanently, as opposed to temporarily. And the only way, historically, that a country has ultimately decided not to get nuclear weapons without constant military intervention has been when they themselves take [nuclear weapons] off the table. That’s what happened in Libya, that’s what happened in South Africa. And we think that, without in any way being under an illusion about Iranian intentions, without in any way being naive about the nature of that regime, they are self-interested. They recognize that they are in a bad, bad place right now. It is possible for them to make a strategic calculation that, at minimum, pushes much further to the right whatever potential breakout capacity they may have, and that may turn out to be the best decision for Israel’s security.

These are difficult questions, and again, if I were the prime minister of Israel, I’d be wrestling with them. As president of the United States, I wrestle with them as well….

I think that in the end, Israel’s leaders will make determinations based on what they believe is best for the security of Israel, and that is entirely appropriate.

When we present our views and our strategy approach, we try to put all our cards on the table, to describe how we are thinking about these issues. We try to back those up with facts and evidence. We compare their assessments with ours, and where there are gaps, we try to narrow those gaps. And what I also try to do is to underscore the seriousness with which the United States takes this issue. And I think that Ehud Barak understands it. I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu, hopefully when he sees me next week, will understand it.

Obama said regarding his relationship with Netanyahu:

I actually think the relationship is very functional, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The fact of the matter is, we’ve gotten a lot of business done with Israel over the last three years. I think the prime minister-and certainly the defense minister-would acknowledge that we’ve never had closer military and intelligence cooperation. When you look at what I’ve done with respect to security for Israel, from joint training and joint exercises that outstrip anything that’s been done in the past, to helping finance and construct the Iron Dome program to make sure that Israeli families are less vulnerable to missile strikes, to ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge, to fighting back against delegitimization of Israel, whether at the [UN] Human Rights Council, or in front of the UN General Assembly, or during the Goldstone Report, or after the flare-up involving the flotilla-the truth of the matter is that the relationship has functioned very well….

[O]ne thing that I have found in working with Prime Minister Netanyahu is that we can be very frank with each other, very blunt with each other, very honest with each other. For the most part, when we have differences, they are tactical and not strategic. Our objectives are a secure United States, a secure Israel, peace, the capacity for our kids to grow up in safety and security and not have to worry about bombs going off, and being able to promote business and economic growth and commerce. We have a common vision about where we want to go. At any given moment-as is true, frankly, with my relationship with every other foreign leader-there’s not going to be perfect alignment of how we achieve these objectives.

 

He said regarding his support for Israel:

… [E]very single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept…. there is no good reason to doubt me on these issues….

[W]hen you look at the record, there’s no ‘there’ there. And my job is to try to make sure that those political factors are washed away on an issue that is of such great strategic and security importance to our two countries. And so when I’m talking to the prime minister, or my team is talking to the Israeli government, what I want is a hardheaded, clear-eyed assessment of how do we achieve our goals.

And our goals are in sync. And historically, one of the reasons that the U.S.-Israeli relationship has survived so well and thrived is shared values, shared history, the links between our peoples. But it’s also been because it has been a profoundly bipartisan commitment to the state of Israel. And the flip side of it is that, in terms of Israeli politics, there’s been a view that regardless of whether it’s a Democratic or Republican administration, the working assumption is: we’ve got Israel’s back. And that’s something that I constantly try to reinforce and remind people of.

GOLDBERG: Wait, in four words, is that your message to the prime minister-we’ve got Israel’s back?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That is not just my message to the prime minister, that’s been my message to the Israeli people, and to the pro-Israel community in this country, since I came into office. It’s hard for me to be clearer than I was in front of the UN General Assembly, when I made a more full-throated defense of Israel and its legitimate security concerns than any president in history-not, by the way, in front of an audience that was particularly warm to the message. So that actually won’t be my message. My message will be much more specific, about how do we solve this problem.