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.
President Obama's second day in Israel concluded with a State Dinner in Israeli President Shimon Peres' residence. Israel's Presidential Medal of Distinction was conferred on President Obama, and singers Rita and David D'or performed. Below are the remarks of the two Presidents:
Peres: President Barack Obama, my dear friend, let me say first, Bravo. Bravo, President. It is my great pleasure to welcome you tonight. I was moved the way in which you spoke to the heart of our young Israelis. Our youngsters, in time of need, are always willing to stand up and defend their country. Today, you have seen how much the same young people long for peace. How enthusiastic they were, how engaged they were, listening to the vision of peace, which you beautifully delivered and moved the heart.
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.
President Obama will visit Israel for the third time next week, becoming only the fifth sitting president to visit Israel. President Obama's visit will emphasize the strong, historic ties of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. Shimon Peres will award him the Israeli Presidential Medal of Distinction, the first time a US president has received such an honor.
Some Republicans, having criticized President Obama for not going to Israel, are now criticizing him for going. No matter what happens, they'll find something wrong.
— 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."
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office held a preparatory meeting ahead of US President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Israel. In addition to personnel from the PMO, representatives from the Israeli President's Residence, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the Israel Police, the Jerusalem Municipality, Ben-Gurion International Airport and other agencies also attended the meeting. National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror said:
It is very important that the visit be marked by three points: One, that it go smoothly from start to finish. It is important for us that the Prime Minister and the President have fruitful and productive talks — this is the basis for the continuation of work over the next four years. It is important to us that the President and all those who watch the visit see the beautiful Land of Israel as much as possible given the short schedule. Cooperation between all elements — among all the Israelis, and between us and the Americans — is also vital for the success of the visit.
The National Jewish Democratic Council could not be prouder that President Barack Obama will be receiving Israel's Medal of Distinction during his upcoming visit to the Jewish state. This President has proven to be Israel's most important advocate on the world stage — from defending Israel's legitimacy and right to defend itself to providing the leadership to fund the Iron Dome defense system and rallying the global community against Iran's nuclear weapons program. We are thrilled that Israeli President Shimon Peres has chosen to honor President Obama with this award.
...when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn't take donors, I didn't attend fundraisers, I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable." He continued, saying, "I went down to the border towns of Sderot ... I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children's bedrooms, and I was reminded of ... what that would mean if those were my kids, which is why, as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.
Now, let me begin by saying that I know Romney visited Yad Vashem in 2007 and traveled to Sderot in 2011. But when the details of the two men's trips to Israel as presidential candidates are contrasted and evaluated for who was more "presidential," only one individual fits the bill.
President Obama visited Israel during his 2008 presidential campaign and met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and - unlike Governor Mitt Romney - with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He traveled to Sderot, where he talked with families who faced the daily fear of Palestinian rocket fire. He visited Yad Vashem, where he laid a wreath on a tomb that contains ashes from Nazi extermination camps. Obama's trip to Israel greatly affected his actions once in office, prompting him to provide record aid to Israel, restore the country's Qualitative Military Edge, fund the Iron Dome missile defense system, and more.
Governor Romney had quite a different trip as a candidate. He did meet with Peres, Netanyahu, and various other Israeli leaders — though he opted to cancel his meeting with the Labor Party's Shelly Yachimovich. He chose to only meet with Fayyad, selecting to return to Jerusalem on the eve of Tisha B'Av to focus on his speech as well as his $50,000-a-plate fundraiser. Standing in front of his supporters, Romney spoke broadly about his stances on the Middle East, all the while dishing out subtle jabs at the President and breaking the "politics stop at the water's edge" protocol. The next day, he managed to stretch U.S.-Palestinian relations even further when he chalked up the difference between Israeli and Palestinian economies to "culture." During Romney's August 2012 trip as a candidate, there was no trip to Sderot, no visit to Yad Vashem, and no conversations with average Israelis about their hopes for the future. Instead, his trip to Israel served a political purpose.
There is only one candidate in the 2012 race whose trip to Israel was presidential and whose actions afterward were presidential-President Barack Obama.
On Wednesday, the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, hosted the Annual Council for a Beautiful Israel "Magshim Israel Yafa" (Achieving a Beautiful Israel) award ceremony. President Peres awarded the KKL-JNF (Keren Kayemet Leisrael-Jewish National Fund) the "Magshim Israel Yafa" award. The award was given to KKL-JNF for its 110 years of Zionist and environmental fulfillment and achievement for the Jewish people and the land of Israel. The KKL-JNF has worked throughout the length and breadth of Israel towards creation and development of the land.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stressed the U.S. "rock solid commitment to the security of Israel and to the security of its citizens" during his visit to the Iron Dome battery in Israel, August 1.
— by Danielle Lehrer
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta landed in Israel to reaffirm the "close defense ties between Israel and the U.S" and to discuss efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Panetta met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. According to the Defense Department, stopping Iran's nuclear program was "square on the agenda."
Israeli and American leaders 'continue to work together in the effort to ensure that Iran does not reach that point of developing a nuclear weapon.'
'What we are discussing is various contingencies and how we would respond,' Panetta said. 'We don't talk about specific military plans. We continue to run a number of options in that area, but the discussions I will have in Israel [will be to determine] the threat we are confronting and to share both information and intelligence on it.'
'The United States,' he said, 'will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Period.'
'I want you and the people of Israel to know a few things that have not and will not change,' he said. 'The United States stands firmly with Israel and we have a rock solid commitment to the security of Israel and to the security of its citizens.'
When we say all the options are on the table, and when the Americans say all the options are on the table, we mean it, and I believe the Americans mean it.
During his trip, Panetta visited one of the U.S.-funded Iron Dome batteries that are protecting Israel from rocket attacks. The American Forces Press Service published an article today about how the Iron Dome missile defense system is an important demonstration of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation. Click here to read it.
More photos from Panetta's trip appear after the jump.
As part of her current overseas diplomatic trip, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently in the State of Israel, her fourth such trip during her time in office. During her visit, Clinton is expected to discuss a wide range of topics with a number of prominent Israeli leaders.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Israel early Monday morning for a two-day visit following a trip to Egypt. She was accompanied by US Middle East envoy David Hale and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represents Washington at the talks between world powers and Iran.
Clinton met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem Monday morning and was set to hold meetings with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day. She will also meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at her hotel in Jerusalem. This is Clinton's fourth visit to Israel since taking office...
During her visit, Clinton is also expected to try to make inroads in restarting direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Clinton will likely ask the Israeli government to release Palestinians imprisoned in Israel since before the Oslo peace process, and will ask President Mahmoud Abbas to refrain from requesting observer state status from the UN.
Upon landing, Clinton paid a visit to the residence of Israel President Shimon Peres, where the two leaders held a joint press conference. Barak Ravid of Haaretz wrote:
Talking to the press, Clinton said, 'It is a time of uncertainty but also of a big opportunity in the region. At times like these friends like us need to work together in a smart, creative and courageous way...'
Following his meeting with Clinton, Peres said that, Egypt is a key state in the region and that Israel wants to uphold the peace treaty with Egypt. 'We respect the results of the elections in Egypt, and hope for another 30 years of peace,' he said.
Peres added that he was convinced that there is international understanding of the danger that the Iranian regime represents to the world, and highlighted that the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran have started to work.
'I hope that Iran will return to its rich legacy and be a country that does not threaten anyone, and no one makes threats against,' he said.
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.
Israeli President Shimon Peres and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta met at the Pentagon yesterday to discuss U.S.-Israel joint security cooperation as well as efforts to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Panetta said:
The United States' commitment to Israel's security is rock-solid and enduring. As always, we look forward to hearing your views on the many challenges we are facing together. Our goal remains the same — for both of our nations - peace, prosperity, and a dream of leaving our children a better world.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Israel this week for a number of strategic talks with high-level Israeli officials.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a press release recapping the first day of her trip:
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano ... traveled to Jerusalem where she met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and other Israeli officials to discuss security-related issues, and signed a Joint Statement on the implementation of the Global Entry trusted traveler program for Israeli citizens with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
'This agreement is part of the United States' strong and enduring partnership with Israel, dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of both our countries,' said Secretary Napolitano. 'Global Entry will expedite the customs and security process for trusted Israeli air travelers arriving in the United States, while maintaining the highest standards of security.'
Recap of the second day of the trip after the jump.
President Barack Obama named thirteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Medal of Freedom is the Nation's highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring. President Obama said,
These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation. They've challenged us, they've inspired us, and they've made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award.
The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:
Today is the final day of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. Defense Sec. Leon Panetta and three of the four top GOP candidates addressed the conference's 13,000 supporters. Presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) (right) appeared in person while Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) appeared via satellite.
On Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres and US President Barack Obama addressed the conference hall. Obama said his policy toward Iran is not one of containment but of preventing the nation from developing a nuclear weapon. He also defended his policies toward Israel and stated the U.S. commitment to preserve Israel's security.
In a side conversation, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu met Monday morning to discuss the status of the U.S.-Israel alliance. The president reiterated that the U.S. did not want the possibility of nuclear weapons "falling into terrorist's hands" and said there is a still a window that allows some negotiation. Pres. Obama also said he continues to reserve all options in dealing with Iran.
(Thanks to Ilan Chaim for helping us obtain a transcript of President Peres' remarks. - promoted by Publisher)
In his speech, Israeli President Shimon Peres thanked US President Barak Obama for his political and diplomatic support on the assistance he has given Israel during the three-and-a-half years of his presidency.
As The President of the State of Israel I came here first and foremost to say on behalf of my people:
Thank you President Obama, for being such a good friend.
One day before he meets with the Israeli Prime Minister, President Obama address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington. He addressed the situation in the Middle East, including the situation in Iran. Other speakers at the conference today include Israeli President Shimon Peres. Tomorrow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be speaking and on Tuesday, Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum will be speaking.
Every time that I come to AIPAC, I'm impressed to see so many young people here - students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging in our democratic debate. You carry with you an extraordinary legacy of more than six decades of friendship between the United States and Israel. And you have the opportunity - and the responsibility - to make your own mark on the world. For inspiration, you can look to the man who is being honored at this conference - my friend, President Shimon Peres.
Shimon was born a world away from here, in a shtetl in what was then Poland, a few years after the end of the first World War. But his heart was always in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and when he was just a boy he made his journey across land and sea - towards home.
Before his meeting with President Barack Obama this Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres took the time to speak with Barbara Walters on ABC's morning talk show The View. When asked about what Israel and the United States are doing in regards to stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program, Peres briefly discussed cooperation between the Obama Administration and Israel and effusively praised the President for his leadership of international sanctions. Peres said:
I think there are three points which are totally agreed between the American administration and the Israeli government. Number one, that the world is in danger if Iran will get a nuclear bomb. It's a very serious problem, not just because of the bomb but very much because of the nature of the present government. They support terror, they are hanging people without trial. They are really trying to take over the Middle East, and it may affect all the world....
Number two, all of us agree that he shouldn't, that the Iranians shouldn't have a nuclear bomb, then all options are on the table-all options are all options. We don't have to specify.
But right now, President Obama started with a very sophisticated attempt to achieve the same thing by putting on sanctions - political and economic - and he put in this policy to get out of the Europeans and others. So the policy's quite clear and well, there are different speculations. But right now the policy is to try to stop the Iranians from having a bomb by economic and political sanctions.
I think the relations with Obama are in a good shape. We have the highest respect for the President. I think there are ongoing talks... but right now we act together and I think in full agreement.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey visited Israel to conduct high level meetings regarding the Iranian threat. The New York Times reported on Dempsey's trip:
The meetings were closed and their contents were not revealed. But General Dempsey, on his first visit to Israel as military chief, was quoted in brief remarks released by the office of Israel's defense minister as saying, 'We have many interests in common in the region in this very dynamic time, and the more we can continue to engage each other, the better off we'll all be.'...
General Dempsey began his visit here with an intimate dinner on Thursday evening at a restaurant in Jaffa with his counterpart, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel's military chief of staff. The men were joined by their wives. Early Friday, General Dempsey was greeted at Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv with an honor guard and held meetings with General Gantz and other senior commanders.
The top generals 'discussed military-to-military relations, the new U.S. defense strategy, budget and economic issues and regional security challenges,' Col. Dave Lapan, the Special Assistant for Public Affairs in the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement.
Other meetings were held with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Barak and Israel's president, Shimon Peres. General Dempsey also visited Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, where he wrote in the visitors' book, 'We are committed to ensuring that such a human tragedy never happens again.' He departed Israel before the onset of the Sabbath at sundown on Friday.
Each of the meetings 'reinforced the deep and special relationship shared by Israel and the U.S.,' Colonel Lapan said, and 'served to advance a common understanding of the regional security environment.'...
Mr. Peres told General Dempsey on Friday that 'Even today in a very complicated situation we can find a common ground. We have profound trust in your democratic system and your armed forces.' General Dempsey assured Mr. Peres that 'America is your partner and we are honored to have you as a partner in that regard.'
Ever since President Barack Obama's inauguration, his right wing critics have devoted countless hours and millions of keystrokes to spinning the President's record of support for Israel so far from reality that it threatens the historical bipartisan foundation of American support for Israel. The vortex of right wing spin was fully on display last week as Republican partisans and right wing pundits pounced on selectively-chosen quotes and inaccurate media reports to continue their baseless attacks on Obama's stellar record of support for Israel.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta delivered-in front of a pro-Israel crowd gathered to substantively and civilly discuss Israel-an entire address that discussed the actual steps taken by the Obama Administration to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. Right wingers took five words from the question and answer section, removed their context, and ran wild with them as if they nullified every pro-Israel action described in Panetta's speech.
A response to ads placed by the so-called "Emergency Committee for Israel" in major American newspapers today.
— by Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris
Why does the "Emergency Committee for Israel" treat the truth like a punching bag? Why do they spread fictions and smears about President Barack Obama and his powerfully pro-Israel record? The answer is simple; because they are far-right Republican partisans. When members of their own party repeatedly suggest that foreign aid should 'start at zero' and then make no mention of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between Israel and the U.S., they're silent as can be. When 100 percent of House Republicans repeatedly side with business over strengthening Iran sanctions, they're nowhere to be found. But they have plenty of cash on hand to spread myths about this President, and to shamefully turn support for Israel into a partisan football.
They have been called out by mass media for their lies and innuendo, and by non-partisan Jewish organizations trying to shame them towards a better path. But the sad truth is that they're more committed to hurting this President than they are to helping the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that's reprehensible.
More information on ECI's false attacks follows the jump.
Ameinu, the leading progressive Zionist membership organization in the United States, is designating funds to buy holy books to replace those destroyed by arsonists in the northern Israel Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye. "Ameinu unequivocally condemns the mosque burning, the latest in a series of attacks by Jewish extremists in the West Bank and Israel proper," said Ameinu's president Kenneth Bob. "This is not Zionism, this is not Judaism and there is no place for this in a civilized society," he added.
Ameimu joins Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres in condemning this attack. "This despicable act, which took place during these Days of Awe, should serve as a wake-up call to Israelis and Palestinians alike that a negotiated peace is the only way to silence extremists on both sides," Bob continued. "It is our hope that Ameinu's small act can bring some measure of comfort to the people of Tuba-Zangariyye," he concluded.
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