Now that the 113th Congress has been sworn-in, we thought you would be interested in learning a little bit about the newest members from our community who are bringing their Jewish values to Capitol Hill.
Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu presents Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) with a replica of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jerusalem
(September 2, 2012). Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) expressed outrage over Senator Rand Paul's (R-KY) new membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee given his deeply disturbing record when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:
Senator Rand Paul's membership in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should be raising red flags and provoking severe concern across the pro-Israel community. The decision by Republican Senate leaders to give a bigger microphone and a prominent platform to someone who has repeatedly called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and used his leadership PAC to push an anti-foreign aid agenda is simply outrageous. As we've said for months, Senator Paul and his father's acolytes are becoming legitimate forces in today's Republican Party — and pro-Israel Republicans have repeatedly and epically failed to address this growing issue within the GOP ranks. Now this failure has very real consequences. The overwhelmingly pro-Israel American public deserves much better than a radical ideologue on the Senate's primary diplomatic committee who has demonstrated a singular obsession with slashing aid to the Jewish state.
The National Jewish Democratic Council is pleased to see that Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz has been selected to serve in the United States Senate. The late Senator Inouye left behind a tremendous record of partnership with the Jewish and pro-Israel communities — and we are fully confident that Brian Schatz will continue that robust partnership. The entire NJDC family wishes Schatz the best of luck and we look forward to working with him in the future.
President pro tempore of the United States Senate.
Represented the State of Hawaii in Congress since statehood.
First Japanese-American in Congress and in the Senate.
Served during World War II earning a Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star Medal, 2 Purple Hearts.
— by Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris
On behalf of NJDC, we extend our condolences to Senator Inouye's family and the people of Hawaii. The Senator leaves behind a distinguished record of heroism and service to our country that has inspired members of younger generations to enter public service. Senator Inouye was one of the strongest pro-Israel voices on Capitol Hill, and his leadership within the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittees resulted in significant increases in aid for Israel. He was a true mensch in every sense of the word, and we are deeply saddened that he is no longer with us.
The pro-Israel community must work to expand and broaden itself so that we can continue the tradition of broad bipartisan support for Israel.
This past election, we heard many scurrilous claims - if not outright lies - from some partisan Republicans and political conservatives both here and in Israel, individuals committed to putting Mitt Romney in the White House at almost any cost. After four years of President Barack Obama's pro-Israel presidency, one of the most odious claims was that if given a second term, the president would somehow "throw Israel under the bus" and reveal a sinister version of himself that he'd kept under wraps during his first term.
Today, the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) released a microsite, titled Mitt Romney and Iran, showing the troublesome economic ties Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has to Iran. While Romney tries to talk tough on Iran, he allowed his personal investments and Massachusetts's pension fund to directly benefit from business with Iran.
Jewish voters deserve to know the numerous financial ties Mitt Romney has with Iran. Governor Romney often talks a good game when speaking about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but when he had the opportunity to act-both as governor and with his personal investment-he came up far short. Former Congressman Mel Levine summed it up best:
If Romney has seemingly gotten away with this ... in the name of gaining even more personal wealth, imagine what he would do as president when he actually has the responsibility to make tough decisions to stop Iran.
Obama schools Romney on the fact that we have "fewer horses and bayonets."
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN in July 2012 that he thought Obama Administration was "doing more than anything he could remember in the past" for Israel's security. Sarah Silverman's sister Rabbi Susan Silverman asked some Israelis what they thought Barak meant...
— by David A. Harris
President Obama's statements of unequivocal support for Israel tonight — including his commitment to stand by Israel if it is attacked by Iran — is just the latest demonstration of this President's rock-solid commitment to the Jewish state and its security. His words speak for themselves, and indeed they speak so powerfully that all Governor Mitt Romney could do was chime in with a quiet 'me too' reply. In fact, Governor Romney tonight just continued to mislead the American people about President Obama's record — especially concerning Israel and Iran. For pro-Israel voters, only one candidate in this race has a proven record when it comes to standing up for Israel's security, and those voters were reminded of that tonight. President Obama showed — in this exchange, and throughout the evening — why and how he has stewarded the U.S.-Israel relationship and the effort to halt Iran so powerfully and with maturity, seriousness and confidence over the past four years.
Rush transcript of Obama's remarks (emphasis added):
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, Israel is a true friend, it is our greatest ally in the region, and if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I have made that clear throughout my presidency.
MODERATOR BOB SCHIEFFER: So you are saying-you have already made that declaration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked, and this is the reason why, working with Israel we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in history.
In fact, this week we will be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history, this very week, but to the issue of Iran, as long as I'm President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office. We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy. Their currency has dropped 80 percent. Their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago. So their economy is in a shambles. And the reason we did this is because a nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security and it's a threat to Israel's national security.
We cannot afford to have a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, and for them to be able to provide nuclear technology to non-state actors, that's unacceptable. And they have said that they want to see Israel wiped off the map. So the work that we've done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice. They can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States President, me, who said we're not going to take any options off the table.
The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that during the course of this campaign he has often talked as if we should take premature military action. I think that would be a mistake because when I sent young men and women into harm's way, I always understand that that is the last resort, not the first resort.
Arlen Specter was always a fighter. From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent - never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve. He brought that same toughness and determination to his personal struggles, using his own story to inspire others. When he announced that his cancer had returned in 2005, Arlen said, "I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents and I'm going to beat this, too." Arlen fought that battle for seven more years with the same resolve he used to fight for stem-cell research funding, veterans health, and countless other issues that will continue to change lives for years to come. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the rest of the Specter family.
— Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris
We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of former Senator Arlen Specter. Senator Specter sat in the Republican Party for most of his career, and he was a consummate public servant whom we respected greatly as he advocated for Pennsylvanians — and a crucial voice of moderation. When he joined the Democratic Party later in his career, we were proud to welcome him as a Jewish Democrat — and his votes were crucial to helping President Obama during the first year of his presidency. Senator Specter has left behind a proud legacy of public service that will hopefully guide future generations of public servants, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
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.
The National Jewish Democratic Coalition welcomed delegates to the Democratic National Convention at their mobile headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA13) stopped by NJDC's mobile headquarters and explained why she supports Obama/Biden 2012.
PA State Representative Brian Sims.
Equality Pennsylvania's President Adrian Shanker.
— by David A. Harris, President of NJDC
The Democratic and Republican conventions held over the last two weeks will continue to make it clear to the vast majority of Jewish voters that the Democratic Party is the one party that champions their values. If the stark contrast between the Democratic Party's platform-which commits to expanding civil rights, pursuing social justice, and working toward peace and security for Israel-and the "antisocial, anti-science, anti-reason" Republican platform is not enough to remind Jews of the immense stakes ahead in this election, the sights and speeches of the two conventions certainly will.
The Republican Party kicked off its convention by allowing its speakers to trash the President, Vice President, and fellow Democrats-often with language and jokes ranging from corny to disrespectful-on a variety of domestic issues that put the policy gaps between the GOP and most Jews on full display. Pledges to repeal Obamacare, pursue anti-choice and anti-marriage equality policies, and to support dangerous cuts to essential social services advocated in the Romney-Ryan budget-like ending Medicare as we know it-were the standard talking points from the seemingly endless stream of negative and divisive speeches delivered from the podium. When the "severely conservative" Mitt Romney and GOP "young gun" Paul Ryan took the stage for their headlining speeches, they kept up with the flow established by the previous speakers and delivered mendacious (per repeated objective analyses) speeches full of policy positions out of step with most Jews. Romney even belittled the idea of healing the world - the very heart of tikkun olam.
But if the policy differences between most Jews and the GOP weren't enough, Romney and his Republican Party allowed two very Israel-challenged individuals to play significant roles in the convention. Romney personally selected Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sununu to officially nominate him for president. And after NJDC and others sounded every alarm bell imaginable that anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) was becoming a legitimate force within the GOP, the Republican Party honored him with a video tribute that completely ignored his dreadful foreign policy positions. The GOP then gave his son Senator Rand Paul (R-KY)-who shares many of the same extreme foreign and domestic positions-a prime speaking slot.
(See late breaking update below: DNC platform amended to include Jerusalem language. - promoted by Publisher)
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.
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.
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.
Update 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.
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.
In the last two weeks, the Republican Party has demonstrated that it is simply out of touch with the majority of American Jews. First, its standard bearer selected a running mate who has been criticized by the Jewish community for his plans to end Medicare as we know it and gut the social safety net. Then, its 2012 official party platform took policy stands that are the opposite of those held by most Jews. When you add on RNC Platform Chair Gov. Bob McDonnell mixing up former President Ronald Reagan with Rabbi Hillel — well, the GOP has proven that there isn't much room in their tent for most Jews.
But if that weren't enough proof of the wide chasm separating the Republican Party from most American Jews, two of their representatives emerged in recent days as poster children for why Jewish voters do not trust or support the GOP. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) made his outrageously offensive statements on rape — the policies of which are now enshrined in the GOP's official platform. Akin then bucked party leadership — including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — to remain a candidate for the Missouri Senate seat. And, according to a news report broken by POLITICO, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and several of his colleagues took a less-than-kosher nighttime dip in the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) during their Israel trip last summer — behavior that reportedly enraged House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in Congress.
As Americans begin to tune back in to politics in the coming weeks, they're going to see a Republican Party that is more extreme than the one they last saw two and four years ago. To put it plainly, the GOP of 2012 will help reinforce why most American Jews will be backing President Obama.
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.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's trip overseas was designed to show that he is ready to be our nation's commander in chief. It was supposed to show that he has the capability to steward key alliances and honorably represent our citizens.
Since President Barack Obama entered office back in 2009, the NJDC has been reporting the facts about his extensive pro-Israel record. But even with all of the praise from Israeli leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, what do average Israelis have to say about the President and his commitment to securing Israel — especially when it comes to missile defense programs like the Iron Dome?
Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan to serve as his vice presidential candidate is the clearest indication yet that Romney does not reflect the values of most American Jews. Ryan's signature budget plan drew the profound concern and even ire of many in the American Jewish community because of its plans to end Medicare as we know it, slash vital social safety net programs, and increase the burden on seniors, the middle class, and the poor-yet Romney today proudly hitched his horse to Ryan's dangerous plan. This alarming partnership between Romney and Ryan will further reinforce the reasons why such a significant majority of American Jews will be voting to reelect President Barack Obama this November.
During these perilous times, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is more important than ever. Mitt Romney's admiration for the Reagan and Bush administrations, which consistently gave Israel slaps in the face, is a warning sign of his potential policies towards Israel if elected.
We hear it from Republican candidates all the time - the pledge to be the next Ronald Reagan, to return to the conservative principles and policies of Republican presidents of the past.
The motivation behind the so-called Emergency Committee for Israel's newest ad can be summed up by its last line's inclusion of 'President Mitt Romney.' If their previous behavior — including one of their founders appearing at a Romney fundraising retreat — wasn't enough to show that their focus is only about electing a Republican president, then their cover is certainly blown today. ECI is not concerned with supporting Israel or adhering to the long-standing norms of the pro-Israel community. The Emergency Committee for Israel is a fraud — plain and simple.
What's more, ECI's top leader William Kristol publicly said recently, 'I'm happy to sit here and agree with President Obama to a considerable degree' about Israel — further evidence of the cynicism of their campaign to elect a Republican. And when it comes to Jerusalem, the position they're criticizing is one carried out of course by the Bush Administration, and administrations before it as well. Given their long history of lying, ECI's ads should be rejected by networks and ignored by voters.
We are thrilled that Mitt Romney will be following the lead set by President Obama and visiting Israel as a presidential candidate. Romney's visit to Israel will provide him with the perfect opportunity to clarify a number of broad and unclear foreign policy statements that he's made on the campaign trail. Our hope is that Romney will be inspired by his surroundings and give the thorough and detailed answers to the questions on which many have been seeking answers.
Governor Romney, when you say that you will "do the opposite" of President Obama on Israel, to what are you referring? Are you planning to reverse the unprecedented amount of military assistance that has come from this Administration? Are you planning to stop voting with Israel 100% of the time in the United Nations Security Council? Are you planning on driving a wedge between the U.S. and Israeli militaries, which are cooperating closer than ever before?
Governor Romney, what is your Iran policy? Several media outlets — including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times — have noted that when it comes to a specific Iran policy, the steps you mention are not much different from those of the current Administration. What will you actually do differently? Sound bites like "If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon... If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not" are unacceptable answers.
Governor Romney, if Russia is indeed the United States' "number one geopolitical foe," what do you make of the growing closeness between Israel and Russia — particularly vis-à-vis stopping Iran? Perhaps you could provide your answer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, who recently hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Governor Romney, in addition to your campaign forming a "strategic partnership" with Ron Paul, one of the U.S.-Israel relationship's staunchest opponents on the Hill to win your nomination, your campaign advisors include:
Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sonunu as an attack dog;
Surrogate John Bolton who passed off a false story authored by an "anti-Israel warrior" and former Yasser Arafat adviser as fact.
How will these individuals shape your Israel policies? Are these individuals with checkered pasts on Israel part of your "do the opposite" plan?
Governor Romney, are you actually vetting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for vice president? How do you account for Rice's much-criticized record on Israel? Are you comfortable with her comparison of Palestinians to African Americans fighting for civil rights in the 1960s? Do you agree with the way she pressured Israel to accept a peace treaty with Hezbollah before the Israeli military had a chance to complete its military operations?
Governor Romney, do you intend to start all foreign aid at zero, including to Israel? You went on record as agreeing with Texas Governor Rick Perry during the primary debates, without clarifying whether or not this promise included any memorandums of understanding in regards to Israel. Furthermore, you failed to clarify your stance during an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition. You may want to make your position clearer when meeting with Israeli citizens who have benefitted from President Obama's unprecedented foreign aid record.
Governor Romney, does your admiration for President Ronald Reagan extend to his mixed Israel record? As a reminder, Reagan — who never visited Israel throughout his lifetime — sold weaponry to Israel's enemies while refusing sales to the Jewish state, supported anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, condemned Israel's attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, and suspended key cooperation agreements between the United States and Israel. Are these the actions that inspire your "do the opposite" plan?
Governor Romney, with so many of President George W. Bush's advisors — including Dan Senor, Tevi Troy, Mary Beth Long, and John Lehman — on your staff, how similar will your foreign policies be? After serving in an Administration that allowed Israel's Qualitative Military Edge to collapse, revoked hundreds of millions of dollars in loan guarantees, endorsed participation by Hamas in Palestinian elections, and refused to sell bunker-busting bombs for potential use to halt the Iranian nuclear efforts, isn't it fair to wonder whether these advisors will push you in a similar direction as their previous boss?
Governor Romney, do you still believe that politics ends at the water's edge? You strongly criticized members of the Democratic Party during President George W. Bush's time in office, arguing that "we need to not have people running their own separate foreign policies." During your travels overseas, will you keep your own words in mind, as well as the pledge you made this week in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, and refrain from criticizing a sitting president's foreign policies?
Governor Romney, you repeatedly have failed to offer any of your own original ideas for how you would conduct foreign policy in your own administration. Rather than offer criticisms of President Obama — what would you do?
It's great to see that Mitt Romney has traveled to Israel, following in then-Senator Barack Obama's footsteps. But when it comes to who pro-Israel voters will choose, one candidate — Mitt Romney — has a record of rhetoric, whereas the other, the president has an unprecedented record of achievement.
Some say talk is cheap, but this president has gone before the audiences most hostile to Israel — including the United Nations — and proudly defended his support for Israel, and Israel's legitimacy, on the world stage. In fact his last UN speech was so powerful that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Obama's support for Israel "a badge of honor, and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor."
But actions speak louder than words. This president has sent more financial support to Israel than any other, including unprecedented additional support for missile defense; he has taken security cooperation to new heights; and he's stood strongly against a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN. In fact this is the only president since Israel's founding with a 100% pro-Israel voting record at the UN. From unparalleled diplomatic support for the Jewish State to unrivaled support for her qualitative military edge, the facts speak volumes. And on Iran, no president has ever done more, levying crushing sanctions, gathering a global coalition and repeatedly making clear that all options are on the table.
But what I say is less important than what Israel's leaders say. Whether it's President Shimon Peres noting that "we have a friend in the White House," or Prime Minister Netanyahu saying "I trust Barack Obama" and "We owe him a special measure of gratitude," these leaders' praise speaks volumes. This is not the usual diplomatic-speak; these comments speak to the truth of the current situation. Today, the U.S.-Israel relationship is closer than ever thanks to this president. That's a fact.
Friday's action by the President is an important step forward for the U.S.-Israel relationship — and only the latest demonstration of President Obama's commitment to Israel's security. Once again, this President has taken a firm stand in support of Israel and we applaud him for signing the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Act of 2012 — as all members of the pro-Israel community should. With today's signing, there should be no doubt that this pro-Israel President stands squarely behind Israel.
In addition to reaffirming the U.S.'s commitment to Israel, the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 resolves to provide Israel with military support, veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, expand cooperation with Israel across many facets of society, and assist with ongoing peace efforts with the Palestinians — all as President Obama has done. The bill also states that the U.S. will support all efforts to strengthen Israel's missile defense, including the Iron Dome system — which is one of the President's signature pro-Israel accomplishments.
Transcript of Obama's remarks at the signing follows the jump.
Once again, for the fifth time, every House Republican but one chose to stand with big business instead of America's and Israel's security by voting against measures that penalize mining companies that do business with Iran. We're proud of House Democrats for their introduction and near-unanimous support for these crucial measures. But it is surprising and profoundly discouraging that so many pro-Israel Republican members of Congress — members who repeatedly and rightly discuss the importance of stopping Iran's nuclear program — continue to vote against these measures that tighten sanctions. The time is long overdue for House Republicans to quit playing politics, and to start working with Democrats to jointly get serious about stopping Iran.
The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today slammed the House Republican Caucus for continuing their quixotic campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the same bill supported by the vast majority of American Jews and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:
This effort — the 31st such vote by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — proves once again that Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) care significantly more about politics than policy, as this effort will simply not succeed. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been found constitutional by the Supreme Court and will provide life-saving health insurance to millions of Americans. Sadly, House Republicans would rather waste time with one more unnecessary vote than focus on working to further improve on health care reform or focusing on job creation. Most Jewish Americans — along with countless others — supported Obamacare and millions of Americans will benefit from the legislation as it is implemented. It is way past time for Republicans to cease tilting at windmills and quit playing politics with Americans' health insurance.
Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher (R-OH) campaign video offensively blames Holocaust on gun control.
— by David A. Harris
Using the memories of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust to make a political point is never appropriate, under any circumstances. For Ohio Republican House candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher to imply that these innocent lives were taken because of gun control laws is simply beyond the pale. Wurzelbacher — who is just the latest in a long line of Republicans who seem to think it is acceptable to use the Holocaust for political gain-must apologize and remove this offensive video immediately."
Samuel 'Joe The Plumber' Wurzelbacher, the 2008 campaign microcelebrity and Ohio congressional candidate, has an interesting theory about the Holocaust. Yesterday, Mr. Wurzelbacher released a campaign web video in which he blamed the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide on gun control laws.
'In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917 one-point-five million Armenians, unable to defend themselves were exterminated,' Mr. Wurzelbacher says in the clip. 'In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others unable to defend themselves were exterminated.'
Mr. Wurzelbacher's video features footage of him on a shooting rage blasting fruits and vegetables with a shotgun. As the clip draws to a close, Mr. Wurzelbacher, gun in hand, proclaims, 'I love America.'
The description of the video describes gun ownership as 'our last line of defense' from tyranny and poses a rather existential question about Mr. Wurzelbacher's produce shooting hobby.
'If you hunt or just like shooting guns, the 2nd Amendment will always be a good thing. History also tells us it's our last line of defense in the face of an out-of-control government,' the description says. 'And killing fruits and vegetables is... what?'
Republicans are spending a great deal of cash this election cycle attacking President Barack Obama in the Jewish community by fibbing about his powerful support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and smearing his unprecedented efforts to stop Iran's drive towards a nuclear weapon.
Why? Because they know that venturing into domestic issues is a non-starter for the vast majority of Jews, even if what they're saying regarding the Middle East isn't true. Republican Jewish groups and the so-called "Emergency Committee for Israel" (ECI) have been at the vanguard of this effort, with ECI even forming a Super PAC related to their non-profit organization.
All along, observers might have assumed that the leaders of these efforts at least believed what they were selling, facts be damned. But now we know better. Now we know that they're just trying to get their guy elected, and they don't even believe their own arguments; we know this based on their own public statements.
A co-leader of ECI, the well-known conservative William Kristol, recently spoke in New York at a debate in front of a Jewish crowd. Given ECI's history up to the present day of unfairly lambasting the president's strong Israel policy, Kristol surely came out swinging at the president, right? Hardly. The Israeli paper Haaretz reported that Kristol said Obama's "policies today resemble those of his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush." What? "I am happy to agree with Obama to a considerable degree," Kristol added. And his take on the Israel policy differences between Obama and Romney? "Not that great."
Did Kristol try to walk-back his hour-long moment of truth? Of course. But I don't know how you unring that bell. My question is, given his confession, will ECI stop viciously and falsely attacking the president as being somehow virulently anti-Israel — attacks which have been condemned by the nonpartisan mainstream of the American Jewish community?
At long last, we can see that this emperor — Bill Kristol, and ECI — have no clothes.
Reactions to the Department of Homeland Security's new policy directive halting deportations of immigrants who have met the standards of achievement and responsibility that would have qualified them for residency status under the as yet unpassed DREAM Act. There new policies remove the threat of deportation from those who were brought to the United States as children.
Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs:
Finally, reason and decency have come to the table in the immigration debate. The JCPA has advocated for passage of the DREAM Act to reward children who, despite their circumstances, have worked hard and remained in school. But in the face of legislative stagnation, we applaud President Obama and Secretary Napolitano for issuing this policy directive on behalf of young and committed immigrants to permit them to stay and be a part of our nation. This step will assuage their fears that they could be deported at a moment's notice.
The biblical mandate to treat the stranger as our own holds particularly true to American Jews. Just as we were strangers in Egypt, many Jews began as strangers in America. In light of many of our own experiences, we have an obligation to see that today's immigrants, looking for a share in the freedom and prosperity of America, are met with the same opportunities we have had.
Larry Gold, JCPA Chair:
Our immigration laws have increasingly been used as a means of turning people away, not welcoming them, betraying the promise of America as a nation that has benefited from the contributions of immigrants from all corners of the world. Today's directive by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a welcome step. Finally, those who were brought to the United States as children and worked every day since then to graduate from our schools or serve our country in the military, do not need to fear that their success and effort will be destroyed with deportation."
Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris:
I want to express our strong support for President Obama's crucial effort to help reform America's immigration system. These new measures will remove the threat of deportation from those who were too young to have any say over their legal status, and this effort represents a fair and just policy for those who have known deep uncertainty and fear throughout their lives. The beneficiaries of this decision have worked hard to find a place in the country that they call home. Many of these young people have even risked their lives as members of the armed forces; these young people deserve the opportunity to reach for the American dream without it being denied.
American Jews — as descendants of immigrants, if not immigrants ourselves — understand profoundly what it means to have a shot at success in America. The provisions announced by the President today provide that opportunity. Once again, President Obama has implemented a policy that reflects the values of the vast majority of American Jews -- and indeed most Americans -- and we thank him for his bold leadership.
Remarks by US President Barack Obama at Presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Israeli President Shimon Peres
Good evening, everybody. Please have a seat. On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House on this beautiful summer evening.
The United States is fortunate to have many allies and partners around the world. Of course, one of our strongest allies, and one of our closest friends, is the State of Israel. And no individual has done so much over so many years to build our alliance and to bring our two nations closer as the leader that we honor tonight — our friend, Shimon Peres. (Applause.)
Remainder of the President's remarks follow the jump.
Thursday, nearly all House Republicans voted against a measure that would have increased funding for joint U.S.-Israeli energy cooperation. Among the "no" votes was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Pennsylvania Congressmen Mike Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach, Tim Murphy, and Pat Meehan. . National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris said:
"Yesterday's vote by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Republican caucus against an initiative to increase funding for joint U.S.-Israel energy cooperation is just the latest instance in which Republicans have let partisan politics stand in the way of advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship. Israel is a shining example of a country seeking energy independence through research in clean technologies and the United States has everything to gain by forging a deeper partnership in this area with our strongest ally in the Middle East. It is very disheartening that so many pro-Israel Republicans who believe in American energy independence voted the way they did yesterday."
Leave it to Mitt Romney to bring me together in agreement with George Will, who yesterday called Donald Trump a "bloviating ignoramus."
It is disturbing in the extreme that too many Americans already harbor any thought that our president is not an American — particularly after the release of the long-form birth certificate, which one might think would have shut down the birther cottage industry. That this lunacy would actually be advanced by Mitt Romney's surrogate and fundraising headliner du jour — the nutty Trump, who offensively doubled-down on his crazy birther questions even this morning — is just astonishing given that we're talking about the GOP standard-bearer.
The most important thing here is what this says about Mitt Romney: when confronted by press with the inevitable questions, does he separate from Trump? Does he even appropriately challenge these outlandish claims, as John McCain did in 2008? No — he takes some variation of the "I don't agree with every supporter" line. It's an utter moral failure, plain and simple. What will hurt Romney most in the eyes of some independent voters is his refusal to stand up and say the right thing — to do anything, really — out of an apparent fear of offending the most extreme radical fringe of his party.
Originally published in Politico. David A. Harris is the President and CEO of the NJDC
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