From the Pews: The Presbyterian divestment votes doesn't look like harmless nonviolent protest from Israel.
This article originally appeared in the Forward, June 25, 2014. Reproduced from there by permission of the Forward.
— by Jane Eisner
In a hotel ballroom in Jerusalem jammed with journalists from all over the Jewish world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a rambling speech that covered everything from Iran's nuclear ambitions to an Israeli cow that he claims produces more milk than any other cow in the world. Really.
But I want to focus on his riff about the Presbyterians.
— by Alex Lipton, Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region
Following extensive searches led by the Israel Defense Forces, the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police, the bodies of Eyal Yifrach (19), Gilad Sha'er (16) and Naftali Frenkel (16), who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on June 12, 2014, were discovered today in the area northwest of Hebron.
A community memorial service will be held today, July 1st at 6:30 p.m. at Congregation Mikveh Israel, 44 North 4th Street, Philadelphia.
All of us, who for the past 18 days have been hoping and praying for the boys' safe return home, grieve today along with their families.
PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, left, and leader of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Mashal.
— by Steve Sheffey
Israel suspended peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) last week following reports that the PLO intended to form a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel.
The Obama administration, AIPAC and many lawmakers highlighted the dangers of the PLO's path. And yet, others noted that a unity government could present new opportunities for reaching a two-state solution.
But it has not happened yet, and we do not know if it will. Similar attempts have failed before. Also, we do not know what the terms will be if it does happen, and whether Hamas will change any of its positions.
Israel's former deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, explains the historical facts relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The positions of the Palestinian Arabs in the latest round of peace talks, being pushed by Obama Administration and Secretary of State John Kerry, and the concessions being expected of Israel by the U.S. and media, will most certainly lead to a failure.
In the parallel universe in which Israeli-Palestinian Arab peace negotiations take place, the Palestinian Authority's outright abrogation of prior agreements (Oslo Accords) and rejections of prior proposals (Camp David 2000 and 2008, which were pretexts for engaging in a terrorism war, the intifadah) must be placed back on the table as the starting point for the next round.
In his AIPAC keynote speech last Tuesday, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, emphasized that Iran is an "outlaw terrorist state" that should not be permitted to enrich uranium:
Pressure is what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and only more pressure will get [them] to abandon their nuclear weapons program. Greater pressure on Iran will not make war more likely; it will make war less likely — because the greater the pressure on Iran and more credible the threat of force on Iran, the smaller chance that force will ever have to be used.
Netanyahu made a case for the peace process, noting that peace with the Palestinians would open up the possibility of establishing formal ties between Israel and the Arab world, leading to great economic and other gains in the region.
Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, is urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia open. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced it is considering closing the consulate.
In a letter dated November 26, 2013, Shapiro wrote that the consulate "is critical to the continuance of the longstanding relationship between the people of Israel and our region." Shapiro went on to say that the consulate "is of vital importance to our respective nations' common interests and its continued operation will serve to enhance the mutually beneficial economic and business connection between Israel and our region in Southeastern Pennsylvania."
In the letter, Shapiro references Netanyahu's upbringing in Montgomery County during which the future Prime Minister graduated from Cheltenham High School. "The Greater Philadelphia region is an economic hub for Israel, processing 25 percent of Israel's nearly $20 billion in exports to the United States each year," Shapiro wrote, adding that the presence of the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia is integral in that process.
Shapiro is active is many Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in the area. He has traveled to Israel six times, and has met Netanyahu twice.
Among the wonderful aspects of our Jewish community in Philadelphia is the close relationship we have with the State of Israel. We do not take that relationship for granted. It comes as the product of hard work, constant communication and, perhaps most importantly, personal contact. The close personal contact we have with Israel in Philadelphia comes from the warm relationship which we have with the Israel Consulate and, specifically, the Consul General.
I was saddened to receive the news that the government in Israel is considering closing our Consulate. Understanding the financial burdens which weigh on the State of Israel, I am sympathetic to the need to cut costs in many programs. At the same time, the work of the Consul General and the Consulate creates the close and warm bond which we feel toward Israel, ultimately impacting positively on Israel's economy through our support. We benefit from the Consul and his office through his personal presence at so many of our synagogues and Jewish Institutions. He provides a friendly and knowledgeable voice for the State when he speaks, contributing strong support for Israel when she is attacked, a voice of reason, warmth and encouragement for those of us who work to support Israel.
Yesterday, at the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged vigilance in protecting the world from Iran's nuclear ambitions:
The Jewish people's odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope. Always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it. Today, our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction.
In the wake of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's recent campaign to present a moderate face, Netanyahu reminded the world body that the new Iranian president has a long history in his country's nuclear weapons program.
Yesterday, a Senior State Department official issued the following statement about Secretary of State John Kerry's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
Following-on President Obama's and Vice President Biden's meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Secretary Kerry met with the Prime Minister at the State Department this afternoon. Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed a range of issues, focusing primarily on the ongoing final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and how the United States, in its facilitating role, can continue to help these talks succeed. They also discussed Iran and Syria. Secretary Kerry underscored our unshakable commitment to Israel's security and noted that we will continue to work closely with Israel on our shared interests, especially to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Transcript of Kerry and Netanyahu's remarks follow the jump.
President Barack Obama met today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. The two discussed the situations in Syria, Egypt and Iran. After their meeting, Obama and Netanyahu carried short remarks.
About Syria, Obama said:
We are both pleased that there is the possibility of finally getting chemical weapons stockpiles out of Syria. But I think we both share a deep concern that we have to be able to verify and enforce what has now been agreed to at the United Nations. Chemical weapons inside of Syria obviously have threatened Syrian civilians, but over the long term also pose a threat to Israel. And we want to make sure that we get those indiscriminate, horrible weapons out of there.
About Egypt, he said:
We continue to have concerns about what has happened in Egypt, but we also are committed to a constructive relationship with Egypt, in part because of the important role that the Camp David Accords and the Egypt-Israeli peace serve not only for the stability and security of both those countries, but also for security in the region and U.S. security.
About Iran, the President said:
It is imperative that Iran not possess a nuclear weapon. That is important for American security; it is important for Israeli security; it's important for world security, because we do not want to trigger a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world. And given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past — the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel — it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that, in fact, they are meeting their international obligations fully, and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon.
I believe that it's the combination of a credible military threat and the pressure of those sanctions that has brought Iran to the negotiating table. I also believe that if diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place. And I think that they should not be lessened until there is verifiable success. And, in fact, it is Israel's firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during negotiations, the sanctions should be strengthened.
Netanyahu also referred to the peace process with the Palestinian Arabs:
We know that for peace to endure, it must be based on Israel's capacity to defend itself, by itself. And I hope that we can achieve an historic transformation that will give a better future for us and our Palestinian neighbors, and, who knows, one day with our other neighbors as well.
After the remarks, Obama was asked about the expected government shutdown at midnight, and replied:
The Senate has passed a bill that keeps the government open, does not have a lot of extraneous issues to it, that allows us then to negotiate a longer-term budget and address a range of other issues, but that ensures that we're not shutting down the government and we're not shutting down the economy at a time when a lot of families out there are just getting some traction and digging themselves out of the hole that we've had as a consequence of the financial crisis.
Yesterday, the world witnessed one of the most cynical and hypocritical displays ever made at the U.N. General Assembly, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took the stage. Here are some of the reasons why, clearly articulated in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response to the Iranian President's speech:
Rouhani spoke of human rights even as Iranian forces are participating in the large-scale slaughter of innocent civilians in Syria.
He condemned terrorism even as the Iranian regime is using terrorism in dozens of countries around the world.
He spoke of a nuclear program for civilian purposes, even as an IAEA report determines that the program had military dimensions, and while any rational person understands that Iran, one of the most oil-rich nations, is not investing capital in ballistic missiles and underground nuclear facilities in order to produce electricity.
It is no coincidence that the speech lacked both any practical proposal to stop Iran's military nuclear program, and any commitment to fulfill U.N. Security Council decisions. This is exactly Iran's strategy — to talk and play for time in order to advance its ability to achieve nuclear weapons. Rouhani knows this well.
He bragged that a decade ago, he succeeded in misleading the West, so that while Iran was holding talks, it simultaneously advanced its nuclear program.
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel today, and spoke about Syria and the Israeli-Arab Peace talks in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu.
About the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Kerry said: "These are crimes against humanity, and they cannot be tolerated, and they are a threat to the capacity of the global community to be able to live by standards of rules of law and the highest standards of human behavior."
Kerry added that last week, the United States and Russia agreed to "strip all of the chemical weapons from Syria."
The Russians have agreed, they state, that the Assad regime has agreed to make its declaration within one week of the location and the amount of those weapons... President Obama has made it clear that to accomplish that, the threat of force remains... We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs.
The Syrian regime must be stripped all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer. The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don't have weapons of mass destruction, because as we've learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime's patron, Iran.
About the peace talks, Kerry said that "the best way to try to work through the difficult choices that have to be made is to do so privately with confidence that everybody will respect that process. And since I have asked for that from all the parties, I'm not going to break it now or at any other time. We will not discuss the substance of what we are working on."
Netanyahu said to Kerry, "we've embarked on this effort with you in order to succeed, to bring about a historic reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians that ends the conflict once and for all."
Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Jerusalem tomorrow, Sept. 15, to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The purpose of the visit it to have an in-depth discussion with the Prime Minister on the final-status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, following on the Secretary's meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in London last Monday. They will also focus on developments in Syria.
Secretary Kerry will then travel to Paris, France. He will meet with French Foreign Minister Fabius and UK Foreign Secretary Hague on Monday, Sept. 16. While in Paris, Kerry will also meet with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. Kerry will return to Washington on the same day.
"There are realities within life in Israel that also have to be taken into account here."
— by Steve Sheffey
Israel's announcement of new construction, in settlements beyond the 1967 cease-fire line with Jordan, is not an obstacle to peace. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas knew about it in advance, and it did not scuttle the peace talks. Significantly, and in contrast to previous administrations, the Obama administration has taken no action to force Israel to reverse this announcement, even though the Obama administration's position on settlements is the same as previous administrations.
Every administration since the Six Day War has opposed and condemned Israeli settlement construction. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week, "The policy of the United States of America with respect to all settlements is that they are illegitimate, and we oppose settlements taking place at any time, not just the time of the peace process."
There is no evidence that the U.S. pressured Israel to release Palestinian prisoners in order to renew the peace talks. Prime Minister Netanyahu made this painful decision because he believes it is in Israel's best interests to negotiate a two-state solution, even at an unfairly high price.
So why did Israel release them? Blogger Matan Lurey summed it up perfectly: The Israel/Palestinian negotiations are about "peace, not justice; pragmatism, not revenge." The prisoner release was unfair, unjust, and — in the opinion of Prime Minister Netanyahu — in the best interests of Israel.
Perhaps Netanyahu could have brought the Palestinians back to the table with a settlement freeze (which he tried to do before, but it did not work), or an explicit agreement to negotiate based on the 1967 lines, but instead he decided to release the prisoners, which he said was "an incomparably difficult decision, it is painful for the bereaved families and it is painful for me."
(CAMERA) On August 1, an Arab member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, Jamal Zahalka, stood at the podium and declared, "We [Arabs] were here before you and we'll be here after you." In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that he wanted to speak, went to the podium and answered, "The first part is not correct and the second part will not happen."
It is clear that this could not happen if Israel were an "apartheid" state, because there would be no Arab members of Knesset. And, if Israel were not a free state, certainly no member of the Knesset could openly declare a desire for the end of the state without fear of prison or even censure.
Imagine even the most radical member of Congress, from anywhere across the political spectrum, standing on the floor of the House or Senate and envisioning the end of the United States. It would cause an uproar. But in Israel, it only elicits a brief remark from the Prime Minister.
Secretary of State John Kerry And Ambassador Martin Indyk
July 29, 2013, Press Briefing Room, Washington, D.C.
SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. Well, as you all know, it's taken many hours and many trips to make possible the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. And the negotiators are now en route to Washington, even as we speak here. And I will have more to say about the journey to this moment and what our hopes are after our initial meetings conclude tomorrow.
This effort began with President Obama's historic trip to Israel and Ramallah in March of this year. And without his commitment, without his conversations there, and without his engagement in this initiative, we would not be here today. The President charged me directly with the responsibility to explore fully the possibility of resuming talks. And in our meetings with President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, he conveyed his expectations for this process.
Ron Dermer, a U.S. born advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has been confirmed to replace Michael Oren as Israel's Ambassador to the United States. "Ron Dermer has all the qualities necessary to successfully fill this important post," Netanyahu said.
I have known him for many years and I know that Ron will faithfully represent the State of Israel in the capital of our greatest ally — the U.S. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I wish him great success.
In Israel, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro hosted 2,000 guests at his residence to celebrate the Fourth of July. The State Department posted video of the party and concert here. Israel's political leaders attended, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that "July 4 is more than an American holiday — it is cherished by all those who cherish freedom around the world" while also describing Israel as an island of democracy in a sea of instability. President Peres delivered remarks and said that the United States is a "beacon of hope for the values of freedom, peace and justice around the globe."
A congratulatory statement by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren follows the jump.
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.
Now that Chuck Hagel has completed his first trip to Israel as US defense secretary, it's time for the pro-Israel community to acknowledge the obvious: Secretary Hagel has demonstrated that he is following the president's lead when it comes to supporting Israel. Like his predecessors, Hagel has personally committed himself to strengthening the US-Israel defense relationship and working to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
In Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and many others enthusiastically welcomed Secretary Hagel for a series of top-level meetings. The secretary's trip was an unqualified success for the Obama administration.
Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Israel to meet with Israeli officials this week. Secretary Kerry met with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.
Before meeting with President Peres, Secretary Kerry spent Yom Hashoah — Holocaust Memorial Day — laying a wreath at Yad Vashem.
Before Secretary Kerry's meeting with President Peres he delivered remarks:
Well, Mr. President, thank you very, very much for an extraordinarily generous and warm welcome. It's really such an honor to be here today to share in Yom HaShoah and to be there at Yad Vashem to lay a wreath on behalf of the American people, but most importantly to simply share in the uniqueness of that expression of sorrow and honor for this remarkable moment in history that we marked.
Turkish and Israeli Prime Ministers Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Binyamin Netanyahu.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder today warmly welcomed the thaw in relations between Israel and Turkey. Lauder said the news has been met by "a sigh of relief" in many Jewish communities around the world. He praised Prime Minister Netanyahu's call to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and said it had been "the right thing to do in this situation", despite the "very justified reservations" Netanyahu and others in Israel had had against such a step. Lauder expressed hope that the gesture by Israel would effectively end the diplomatic crisis between the two countries:
Turkey and Israel must work together. There are so many issues in the region where these two countries can make a difference. One of them is military cooperation in order to secure geopolitical stability in the Middle East.
B'nai B'rith International's response after the jump.
Two senior administration officials addressed the issue of the phone call held today between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish PM Erdogan.
Netanyahu apologized for the Mavi Mamara flotilla incident and acknowledged "operational mistakes," said one official. Erdogan accepted the apology, according to this official.
The other SAO called this a "first step" toward normalization of relations between the two countries. They said this had been the subject of talks between Obama and Netanyahu in Jerusalem this week.
The call took place in the trailer at the airport just before Obama took off. The leaders talked for about 30 minutes. At some point, Obama got on the phone.
I welcome the call today between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Erdogan. The United States deeply values our close partnerships with both Turkey and Israel, and we attach great importance to the restoration of positive relations between them in order to advance regional peace and security. I am hopeful that today's exchange between the two leaders will enable them to engage in deeper cooperation on this and a range of other challenges and opportunities.
Obama and Netanyahu tease NBC's Chuck Todd for asking so many questions on the eve of Passover.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: Mr. President, Barack, it's a great pleasure for me to host you here in Jerusalem. You've graciously hosted me many times in Washington, so I'm very pleased to have this opportunity to reciprocate. I hope that the good will and warmth of the people of Israel has already made you feel at home.
US President Barack Obama: Very much so.
Transcript continues after the jump along with full video.
Following his landing in Israel, President Obama arrived in a black SUV to inspect Iron Dome and other air-defense systems lined up outside an hangar on the tarmac. They are a mix of rockets and mobile anti-missile batteries.
"I'm a young man. I'm always looking for any chance to walk," Obama said to Israeli military officials after hopping out of the SUV.
Obama listened as an officer explained the functions of an Iron Dome battery, a squat, desert-grey weapon pointed skyward. He then entered what appeared to be a control room.
Back outside, Obama shook hands with a line of Israeli officials in front of Iron Dome. He paused again in front of the battery, gesturing with his hands, as an officer spoke to him.
Video and remarks after meeting with Peres after the jump.
Update: The Government was sworn on Monday. See photo below.
As speculated after the elections in Israel last January, one-year-old center party Yesh Atid (19 Knesset seats) and rising right-wing party HaBait HaYehudi (12 seats) signed today coalitional agreements with HaLikud (31 seats in a list shared with the Israel Beytenu party), that had also reached an agreement with new center party HaTnuah (6 seats) earlier.
HaLikud leader Benjamin Netanyahu will remain Prime minister — for the third time — and will also be Foreign Minister until the end of Israel Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman's ongoing court hearing. Yesh atid Leader Yair Lapid will be Finance Minister, while Habait Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett will be "Economy and Trade" Minister. Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni will be Justice Minister and will also be responsibe for the negotiations with the Palestinians.
With 68 of the 120 Knesset seats, it will be one of the only Israeli governments to have not contained religious parties (although Bennett himself is an Orthodox), due to differences with Yesh Atid about recuiting yeshiva students to the IDF. Also due to Yair Lapid's pressure, it will be one of the smallest governments in Israel's history, with 20 Ministers, in contrast to the current one, which started out with 30.
Left to right. Sitting: Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres Standing in front row: Minister of Health Yael German, Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat, Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, Minister of Communications and Home Front Defense Gilad Erdan, Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, Energy and Water Resources and Regional Cooperation Silvan Shalom, Minister of Economy and Trade and Religious Affairs Naftali Bennett, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Yair Shamir, Minister of Public Security Yitzhak Aharonovich, Minister of Finance Yair Lapid, Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz, Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz, Minister of Welfare and Social Services Meir Cohen, Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni, Minister of Science and Technology Yaakov Peri, Minister of Education Shai Piron Standing back row: Minister of Tourism Uzi Landau, Minister of Environmental Protection Amir Peretz, Minister of Pensioner Affairs Uri Orbakh, Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon, Minister of Internal Affairs Gideon Sa'ar, and Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel
— by Marc R. Stanley — Originally Published on JNS.org
Later this month, President Barack Obama will take his first presidential trip to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Obama's trip "will give me and the people of Israel the opportunity to express our appreciation for what he has done for Israel." To show Israel's gratitude for Obama's support, Israeli President Shimon Peres announced that he would present Obama with Israel's Medal of Distinction during a special ceremony in Israel.
Since taking office in 2009, Obama has made supporting Israel one of his highest priorities. From championing sanctions against Iran to providing Israel with expedited supplemental assistance for the Iron Dome, Obama has been Israel's most important ally. Peres said when he announced the award that Obama "is a true friend of the State of Israel, and has been since the beginning of his public life" and that he has "has stood with Israel in times of crisis."
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