New Leadership at American Technion Society

(Left to right) Zahava Bar-Nir,  Steve Berger and his wife Ilene Berger.

American Technion Society leadership: (Left to right) Zahava Bar-Nir, Steve Berger and his wife Ilene Berger. Photo: Bonnie Squires

Israeli-born Philadelphia-area resident Zahava Bar-Nir was recently named national president of the American Technion Society (ATS), which provides support for the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel. She is the first Israeli woman in the organization’s history to assume the role.

Bar-Nir has held many local, national and international leadership positions at the ATS and the Technion, including President of the Philadelphia Chapter. For her dedication, she has received both a Technion Honorary Fellowship and an Honorary Doctorate.

At the Philadelphia chapter’s recent awards brunch at the Rittenhouse Hotel, Bar-Nir presented a piece of sculpture to outgoing Philadelphia-region president Steve Berger, while welcoming his wife, Ilene Berger, as the new chapter president. Berger has been promoted to the national board and the international board.

Bar-Nir was happy to point out that ATS has recognized and elevated women to important posts in the organization. The keynote speaker was Israeli entrepreneur Yael Vizel, another outstanding woman who is a graduate of Technion who had created a highly successful on-line application which allows shoppers to “try on” fashions before purchasing them. The virtual dressing-room from thousands of stores and fashion manufacturers has earned Vizel the title, “The google fashionista.”

One Mensch, One Heart, Two Rediscovered Legs

When my husband told me about the ReWalk demonstration in Ventnor, New Jersey, I immediately booked a hotel to spend Shabbat there, and be part of the event. The American Technion Society Philadelphia Chapter was hosting its annual “Down the Shore” program at Steve and Ilene Berger’s home. As the many guests enjoyed a copious summer buffet, anticipation grew about the event that was going to take place.

After a few words about various innovation projects at the Technion, Linda Richman, ATS Eastern Seabord Associate Regional Director, introduced Dan Webb, from Warminster, Pennsylvania, and his physical therapist John from MossRehab. Together, Dan and John are on a very unique path — the path to “ReWalk.”

[Read more…]

Happy 90th Birthday President Peres!

— by Jason Berger

Yesterday, Israeli President Shimon Peres started his 90th birthday celebration in the only way he knows: in style. The list of celebrities and politicians joining President Peres is long, and it includes President Bill Clinton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barbara Streisand and Robert De Niro.

Haaretz wrote about what President Clinton had to say to President Peres:

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton delivered his much awaited speech, telling Peres, “You are the world’s social Einstein.”

“You have tried to put together a unified theory of meaning to unite politics and philosophy and psychology and history and science and technology,” he said. ” Every one of us who has been blessed enough to know you… has been made a little bigger, a little stronger, and a little more optimistic that one day your theory will be real.”

“On your 90th birthday, what we really celebrate, is your great gift to all of us. God bless you.”

Following the jump are a excerpts from the interviews the press has been conducting with President Peres.
Washington Post:

Q: How do you see Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to get the peace process going again?

A: I’m impressed by his seriousness, his devotion, but I don’t underrate the difficulties that he’s facing. I think we have to stand by his side and help him to fulfill his mission, which is our hope…

Q: You’ve been outspoken in saying Israel should not bomb the Iranian nuclear program unilaterally. Do you still feel that way?

A: I won’t talk about it. I want to say that I think President Obama proposed a policy which is reasonable and, in my eyes, acceptable. He committed himself that he will not permit a nuclear Iran, and he says the way to achieve it is to start by nonmilitary means without excluding such a [military] possibility. Now, what America can do, we cannot do. But if America and we can act together, it is for us the right thing to do. I don’t think we have to monopolize the danger of Iran, because I think Iran is a danger to all of us.


A: For me, what is important is tomorrow, the next day. What happened until now is over, unchangeable. I’m not going to spend time on it. So I am really living in the future. I really think that one should devote his energies to make the world better and not to make the past remembered better…

I am not running for anything and I am not running away from anything. I am trying where I can to be a unifier, to unite. When I have to voice my view I do, and I shall continue to do it.

Foreign Policy:

Q: How important is the United States to the survival of Israel?

A: Very. I believe vision precedes strategy; not only for Israel, but for the entirety of humanity. Many nations became great or attempted to achieve greatness by taking from the other. The United States became great by giving, not by taking. The one that contributes generates friendship, which is always wiser and cheaper than creating animosity…

Q: What impact did President Obama’s visit have?

A: A tremendous impact. He was wise, sincere, and friendly. He brought a fresh breeze to the Middle East, which reinvigorated public opinion in the region and encouraged everyone to believe that we can achieve a better tomorrow. The people of Israel want peace and are willing to pay the price for peace. President Obama’s visit encouraged them to believe that it can happen and made clear to the people of Israel, once again, that the United States is a true, dedicated, and loyal friend of the state of Israel. It was a historic visit and a hopeful moment for us all.

Time: Israel and U.S. Coordinating How to Target Assad’s Arsenal

— by Jason Berger

On Friday, Time reported that the United States and Israel are coordinating closely on how best to target President Bashar al Assad’s chemical weapons arsenals. Earlier this month, the U.S. placed F-16s and Patriot missile batteries in Jordan. In regards to the weapons placement, an Israeli official noted, “It’s a clear, purposeful presence of a strike force near the border of Syria. I think it’s a message, a clear message.” The U.S. also installed Patriot batteries in Turkey last year.

Most importantly, though, Israeli officials told Time that the U.S. and Israel were planning for assorted scenarios where they could conceivably search and destroy all of Assad’s 18 chemical weapons arsenals.

More after the jump.
According to Time:

One scenario would be the sudden removal of Assad from the scene, be it by flight, death or if he simply disappears. That would prompt the allies to launch operations on the estimated 18 depots and other sites where WMDs are stored, the officials said. Search and destroy operations would also be launched if the weapons appeared to be about to fall into the hands of the rebels, which include Islamist extremists aligned with al-Qaeda.

Israeli officials also emphasized that it had not been decided who would do what or if the U.S. would deploy troops on the ground. They said it is vital that all chemical and biological weapons are neutralized. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu mentioned his resolve to BBC in April:

The main arms of concern to us are the arms that are already in Syria — these are anti-aircraft weapons, these are chemical weapons and other very, very dangerous weapons that could be game changers. They will change the conditions, the balance of power in the Middle East. They could present a terrorist threat on a worldwide scale. It is definitely our interest to defend ourselves, but we also think it is in the interest of other countries.

Cartoons reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen

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

— by Jason Berger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menendez: Security Cooperation With Israel Has Never Been Better

— by Jason Berger

Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) arrived in Israel. Upon his arrival, he published an op-ed in Ha’aretz, detailing his views and opinions on issues most prevalent to the Jewish state.

On the US-Israel Relationship, he wrote:

Some in Washington look at the challenges in the new Middle East and advocate disengagement. I strongly disagree. We cannot stand up for America’s interests — or Israel’s — from the sidelines. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and engage in support of our ideals, values and interests.

More after the jump.

Courtsey of Yaakov “Dry Bones” Kirschen

The U.S.-Israel relationship is stronger than it has ever been. And our support is growing with investments in the Iron Dome missile defense system, training and joint military exercises, intelligence cooperation, and partnerships in research and development for military equipment.

Senior U.S. and Israeli defense officials will tell you our security cooperation has never been better — and for good reason. Today, America and Israel face a region in turmoil and increasingly complex and pressing threats.

On Iran:

Its provocative actions threaten not only U.S. national security and regional stability, but pose an existential threat to Israel. Iran continues to export terrorist activity directly and through proxies, like Hezbollah. It actively supports the Assad regime in Syria with fighters, arms and petroleum. And its drive for nuclear weapons is accelerating.

We cannot allow the Iranians to continue to stall through talks while simultaneously bringing hundreds of new centrifuges online, which is why I have led the efforts in the U.S. Senate to impose crippling sanctions that have cut Iran’s oil exports in half. We need to toughen those sanctions to further reduce purchases of Iranian oil. We need to prevent Iran from buying dual use items on the international market that benefit its nuclear program and we need to explore options for increasing military pressure on Iran to make clear that we will take all necessary steps to prevent a nuclear capable Iran, including the military option if all others fail.

On Egypt:

Egypt also presents a dynamic set of challenges. We must encourage Egypt to work with the IMF to stabilize its economy and pursue longer-term institutional reforms that will allow democracy to gain a foothold. At the same time, we will make clear that U.S. aid to Egypt is not a blank check, which is why Congress has made our assistance to Egypt contingent on upholding the 1979 Peace Treaty.

On the peace process:

As for the peace process, it has always been my position that we must move toward an acceptable two-state solution. We have seen new momentum with Secretary Kerry’s personal diplomacy. The rekindling of the Arab Peace Initiative and new investments in the Palestinian economy are positive steps. I am hopeful that we can resume negotiations and avoid distractions and grandstanding at inappropriate venues like the United Nations.

President Obama Is Right to Emphasize Foreign Aid

— by Jason Berger

During his speech at the National Defense University, President Obama spoke candidly about his support for foreign aid. He stated:

I know that foreign aid is one of the least popular expenditures — even though it amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget. But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security, and any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism. Moreover, foreign assistance is a tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might ultimately prevent.

More after the jump.
In a world that is becoming increasingly globalized, it is great to see that President Obama understands foreign aid’s importance. As he indicated, foreign aid is a “tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars,” and yet surprisingly, it serves as our country’s first line of defense. Because of the aid our country provides, we are able to safely and securely promote American interests abroad without putting any troops on the ground.

Our assistance helps developing nations build stronger economies, and plays a part in securing a robust global market. Equally as important, our aid programs fight diseases, provide natural disaster relief, and promote stability to previously unstable governments.

All too often, American citizens — including our elected officials — seemingly forget these truths. There are countless of in-plain-sight instances where foreign aid has been mutually beneficial to the U.S. and a recipient. Take Israel for example. Because of increased U.S. security assistance to Israel under the Obama administration, our two countries have been able to fund some of the most advanced weapons defense systems in the world, including the Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome. This was on full display last fall, during operation Pillar of Defense, when the Iron Dome allowed the time to properly negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas.

Foreign aid is a seriously important tool, and President Obama made that evident in his speech. Hopefully, the message was also clear to both policymakers and the American public. Foreign aid needs to continue to be a centerpiece of our national security.

Dept. of Treasury Announces New Sanctions Against Iran

— by Jacob Miller, Jason Berger

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced new sanctions against Iran, as instructed in President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13382, which targets those that assist with the proliferation of or support in the development of weapons of mass destruction. Those targeted are part of a global network that are responsible for acquiring important components for Iran’s nuclear program. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen said:

As long as Iran continues to pursue a nuclear and ballistic missile program in defiance of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, the U.S. will target and disrupt those involved in Iran’s illicit activities.

After the jump: Senate Passes Resolution 65 by Unanimous Consent

We will continue to work with our international partners to intensify this pressure and tighten sanctions on Iran’s energy sector as it provides much needed financial support for the Iranian regime’s proliferation activity.

Treasury’s announcement further detailed those being targeted:

The designations focus on entities and individuals supporting previously designated entities within Iran’s proliferation network as well as Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), and Iran’s Ministry of Defense for Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL).  These organizations are at the center of Iran’s continued proliferation activities.  

Last Wednesday, by a vote of 99 to 0, the Senate passed a resolution condemning Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. The resolution also supports Israel’s right to exist and reaffirms our country’s close relationship with the Jewish state. After the votes were cast, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez said in a press release:

Iran’s provocative actions threaten not just regional stability, but pose an existential threat to our ally Israel, and clearly are a very real threat to U.S. national security. Iran’s leaders must understand, that unless they change course their situation will only get worse. Their economic struggles and international isolation will only grow. While this resolution makes absolutely clear that we are not authorizing the use of force, it does make clear that we have Israel’s back. If Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense against Iran’s nuclear program, we should stand with Israel — using all the tools of our national power — to assist Israel in defense of its territory, people and existence.

Secretary Kerry Meets With Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu

— by Jason Berger

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Here are the highlights from their public address:

Netanyahu: Well, John, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Jerusalem. You’re an old, personal friend and a longstanding friend of Israel. And that friendship was demonstrated in President Obama’s historic visit here in March … We’ll discuss Iran. We’ll discuss the terrible harm to stability in Syria. But above all, what we want to do is to restart the peace talks with the Palestinians.

More after the jump.

You’ve been working at it a great deal. We’ve been working at it together. It’s something I want. It’s something you want. It’s something I hope the Palestinians want as well. And we ought to be successful for a simple reason: When there’s a will, we’ll find a way.

Kerry: My pleasure. We were just saying what a pleasure it is; it’s always wonderful to come back to Israel, and particularly to Jerusalem. It’s a pleasure for me to visit with my friend of many years now — longer than we can count — Bibi Netanyahu. And I’m really grateful to him for the seriousness with which he is working and undertaking the homework that President Obama asked all of us to engage in when he came here on his visit.

There have been some very serious meetings, a lot of very serious discussions. We’re working with the Prime Minister, with Minister Tzipi Livni, with military — General John Allen was here on the ground, working with his counterparts on the issues of security. I would reiterate that the United States of America is committed now, as it always has been and will be, to the security of Israel. The security of Israel is paramount in our discussions with respect to the peace process.

On Syria, I just came from a meeting in Amman with 10 other ministers. They all agreed and are committed to try to move towards a negotiated solution. Nobody has any illusions about how difficult, complicated, what a steep climb that is. But we also understand that the killing that is taking place, the massacres that are taking place, the incredible destabilization of Syria, is spilling over into Lebanon, into Jordan, and has an impact, obviously, on Israel. So we have an obligation to try to see if we can implement Geneva One. Again, we’re aware of the pitfalls, but I think the Prime Minister knows better than anybody what the implications of these security threats are.

And S-300 missiles coming from Russia or other countries — from Iran, missiles — are destabilizing to the region. The United States is committed not only in its defense of Israel, but in its concerns for the region, to try to address this issue.

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

— by Jason Berger

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

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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