Passage of Time Cannot Dim the Memory of the Munich 11

— by Max Samis

At a memorial held in London to honor the memory of the eleven Israeli athletes killed during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, U.S. Ambassador Louis Susman delivered a statement on behalf of President Barack Obama. The statement read:

Today, the United   States is proud to stand in solemn remembrance with the Israeli people to remember the eleven Israeli athletes who were killed forty years ago. The passage of time cannot dim the memory of the hope and promise that those members of the Israeli Olympic team embodied, just as time does not dull the horror at the brutal terrorist attack that took their lives.

The Israeli citizens who were lost stood for what is best about their nation, and the Olympic movement. They excelled at wrestling and weightlifting, fencing and running.  They were citizens of a young democracy in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. And let us always remember that they were fathers and sons, husbands and brothers, and their loss left an empty space in families, communities, and a country that will never forget them.

While the United States supported a moment of silence in their honor, we welcome any effort to recall the terrible loss that was suffered in Munich, and the lives of those who were lost. Let us rededicate ourselves to a world that represents the hopes of those athletes, and not the hate of those who took their lives. Let us support the families who have endured forty years without their loved ones. And let us reaffirm the bonds between the United States, Israel, and all those around the world who strive for a world of peace and justice.

Obama previously offered his support for a moment of silence at the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games currently taking place in London, although no such moment was held.

More after the jump.
JTA reported from the memorial:

British Prime Minister David Cameron at a memorial event said the world should ‘stop and remember’ the 11 Israelis killed 40 years ago at the Munich Olympics.

‘It was a truly shocking act of evil. A crime against the Jewish people. A crime against humanity. A crime the world must never forget,’ Cameron said Monday in London. ‘We remember them today, with you, as fathers, husbands and athletes. As innocent men. As Olympians. And as members of the people of Israel, murdered doing nothing more and nothing less than representing their country in sport.’

The event was organized by the National Olympic Committee of Israel, the Jewish Committee for the London Games and the Embassy of Israel.

Among those attending the memorial were Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, widows of two of the Israelis, and International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, who rejected their request, as well as that of relatives and supporters of the slain athletes and coaches, to hold a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. British government ministers and Israeli officials also attended the memorial.

‘For us, the memory of our athletes slain in Munich by Palestinian terrorists is forever etched in our collective soul,’ Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat said at the ceremony. ‘There is a line to be drawn from Auschwitz to Munich, and from Munich to Burgas, where Israeli tourists were murdered by terrorists just three weeks ago.’

Attacks by Romney and ECI “Hollow” and “Galling”

— by Max Samis

Following another series of deliberately misleading ads from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Emergency Committee for Israel attacking President Barack Obama on his record with Israel, a number of prominent journalists have condemned the attacks as “misleading,” “hollow,” and “galling.”

Beth Reinhard of the National Journal took the Romney campaign to task for refusing to acknowledge “a more nuanced and honest” look at the Obama administration’s achievements and efforts in Israel. Reinhard wrote:

But Romney’s most recent ad is particularly galling because it seeks to suggest the president is anti-Israel or anti-Jewish. ‘Who shares your values?’ the spot demands, chiding Obama for failing to visit Israel during his first term and for ‘refusing’ to recognize Jerusalem as the capital. Romney should have touted his own recent trip to Israel-though it was light on policy details-and stopped there. But instead, he put money behind advertising that implies something sinister behind Obama’s policies, even though plenty of news outlets cried foul when he first started raising these issues.

Former Republican Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan never visited Israel during their presidencies, and George W. Bush didn’t go until the last year of his second term. And like his Democratic and Republican predecessors, Obama has described Jerusalem as the capital but signed waivers putting off moving the U.S. embassy because it would inflame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Romney’s campaign clearly knows these facts but can’t be bothered with a more nuanced and honest criticism of the administration’s failure to broker peace in the Middle East. That’s a shame.

Douglas Bloomfield of The Jewish Week also found himself puzzled by Romney’s attack, noting that by the ad’s standards, the only presidents who had an acceptable record on Israel were Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – both Democrats. Bloomfield wrote:

According to an ad just put out by the Romney campaign, only Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter qualify among the last six presidents over the past 35 years as leaders who ‘recognize the cherished relationship the U.S. has with Israel and stands with our allies.’

How can that be? Why do only these two Democrats make the grade?  Because Romney’s standard is a first term presidential visit to Israel, and that’s something Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Barack Obama (so far) never did.  Reagan didn’t go in his second term, either, and Bush 43 only went late in his second term.

Only Carter and Clinton visited Israel during their ‘first four years as president,’ something Romney has said he would do and castigates Obama for following the example of Reagan and the Bushes.

The 30-second ad also criticizes Obama for ‘refusing to recognize’ that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

All three Republican presidents – like all other Republican and Democratic presidents – also did not officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, which means moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Any number of presidents have said they’d like to be able to do that, but the fact is none ever did it, and none will, as noted in this space earlier, until the Israelis and Palestinians make peace and agree on the location and borders of their capitals.

In checking both Romney and the ECI’s ads for honesty, The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler assigned them two Pinocchios. Kessler went on to note that “the basic frame of the [ECI's] ad is misleading,” and that Romney’s attack echoed a “hollow talking point.” Kessler wrote:

Only four of the last 11 presidents visited Israel during their presidency, and two — Nixon and George W. Bush — waited until their second term to make their first trip. In both cases, they visited in the last year of their presidencies (Nixon resigned because of the Watergate affair shortly after his trip.)

Only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, then, visited Israel in their first term. And of the last four presidents, two never visited Israel, one visited in his second term and one visited in his first term.

Thus Obama’s failure to travel to Israel thus far is not unusual at all.

The Emergency Committee ad also suggests that Obama has visited Arab countries rather than Israel. But the State Department records also demonstrate that every president who traveled to Israel had previously visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The ad also incorrectly says Obama has ‘traveled all over the Middle East.’ Obama visited just Turkey and Iraq in April 2009, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia in June 2009. The stops in Iraq and Saudi Arabia were barely a few hours long – and Obama has not traveled at all to Middle East in the past three years. (Many of the images in the ad of Obama with Arab leaders are from international confabs held outside the Middle East…)

Meanwhile, the Romney ad also knocks Obama for not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital ‘as president.’ As we noted last week, Obama, just like Romney, said Jerusalem was Israel’s capital during a 2008 trip there as a presidential candidate. But Obama, following the path set by previous presidents, has held off official recognition by the U.S. government pending the outcome of peace talks. Romney has never pledged that he would direct the State Department to immediately recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, so thus far this is a hollow talking point.

Pollak is correct that the Emergency Committee ad does not directly say that Obama’s travel record was unusual for a president, but it certainly suggests that. While there may have been good political reasons for Obama to make a trip to Jerusalem, the basic frame of the ad is misleading, especially the claim that he’s traveled all through the Middle East at the expense of a visit to Israel.

The Romney ad also misleadingly suggests Obama’s failure to visit Israel is unusual since it asks, ‘Who shares your values?’

Obama may have failed the Woody Allen test, but his travel record to Israel is par for the course for American presidents.


Martin Indyk Calls ECI’s Misquote “Low and Odious”

— by Max Samis

Time and time again, the Emergency Committee For Israel has launched partisan attacks that range anywhere from disingenuous to blatantly false. Now, their latest advertisement has been attacked by one of the individuals it quoted. Martin Indyk, the former Ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, told Alexander Burns of Politico that ECI took his words “completely out of context” in what he deemed a “low and odious” political ploy.

Burns wrote:

The Emergency Committee for Israel placed ads in Jewish newspapers this week accusing Obama of being a poor friend to Israel. The ad features several critical quotes, including this one from Indyk: ‘From his first day in the White House, he put the Middle East at the top of his political agenda. Unfortunately for him, his personal involvement only made things worse.’

Indyk, now at the Brookings Institution, says the newspaper ad is not an accurate representation of his view of the Obama administration’s Israel policy.

‘First of all, my words are taken completely out of context. I’m voting for Obama, and I hope he gets reelected. It’s outrageous to me that my words would be used in an ad to try and change Jewish voters,’ he said in an interview. ‘I don’t think there’s any chance it’ll work, but it’s a low and odious attempt to twist some words for the purpose of politicizing an analysis I was doing.’

‘The reality,’ he continued, ‘is that George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also got involved and made matters worse. And I too got involved and made matters worse.”

The former diplomat pointed to a number of Obama administration measures supporting Israel – including military aid and cooperation on covert actions against Iran – and concluded: ‘Anybody looking at the facts would judge him to have fulfilled his commitment to support Israel’s security.’

Indyk’s office also released a statement to Teisha Bader of Shalom TV:

I am deeply disappointed that my analysis of President Obama’s Middle East policy, as outlined in my recent book, Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy, has been distorted for partisan political purposes. President Obama has made mistakes, just like others who have tried and failed to make peace in the Middle East. (I include myself in that category.) But the President has been true to his promise of doing everything possible to ensure Israel’s security and he deserves high praise for that.


Affordable Care Act Helps 47 Million Women, Starting August 1

Emanuel: ACA Consistent with Jewish Values

— by Max Samis

In an op-ed published by JTA, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote that President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act — or Obamacare — is in lockstep with Jewish values and traditions. Emanuel wrote:

The duty to heal the sick and provide for the poor are deep moral imperatives in the Jewish tradition. Combined with the biblical command to treat the stranger as yourself because you were once a stranger in a strange land, this duty transforms our obligations beyond the worthy interest in promoting the health and well-being of our own community. Our mothers can’t just want their children to be doctors to Jewish people, they must heal whomever is sick-Jew and non-Jew.

This element of Jewish philosophy makes the Jews’ stake in health care reform enormous. It is not just about providing insurance to millions of uninsured Americans-caring for children who might not get the vaccinations or the checkups they need, or diagnosing cancer or other diseases early, or making sure people don’t have to choose between bankruptcy and having a needed surgical procedure. For Jews it is about more; it is about holding true to our tradition.

After 100 years of trying to achieve comprehensive health care reform-an effort that started with Teddy Roosevelt and continued with FDR, Harry Truman and Bill Clinton-Congress finally passed the Affordable Care Act and President Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010. Once and for all, the Supreme Court affirmed that the law, particularly the individual mandate, is constitutional…

Because of this health care reform, children can no longer be denied care due to pre-existing conditions. Patients can’t lose coverage when they get sick. Insurance companies can’t impose lifetime caps on care or raise premiums without reason. Medical research will proceed faster, as insurers must cover the cost of participation on clinical trials. And all of this reform comes while still allowing preserving the traditional physician-patient relationship…

These changes will save lives. They will perfect our union and help repair our world. Yet Republican leaders want to reverse course…

More after the jump.

Republicans claim they want to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The fact is they have never once offered a coherent ‘replacement’ alternative plan to the ACA that controls costs, provides care to the uninsured and incentivizes better quality care. ‘Repeal and replace’ may be good rhetoric, but unfortunately it is not backed up by any real substance.  As Jews, can we really accept living in a country that denies tens of millions of our citizens access to health care insurance? Can we in good conscience let our children-and our neighbors’ children-go without vaccinations, checkups and care for the simplest of ailments?

President Obama courageously championed health care reform. He understood the moral imperative.

Because he led, millions of families will now be part of the health care system and Jewish doctors will better be able to fulfill their obligations to help save the world. And Jewish mothers can be prouder still that their sons-and daughters-can care for all Americans.

Bronfman: Obama’s Strong Record on Israel is ‘Crystal Clear’

— by Max Samis

Despite repeated smears from Republicans desperate to disparage President Barack Obama, leaders in the American Jewish community know that Obama has consistently stood up for Israel. In an op-ed published by JTA, Edgar M. Bronfman, the former president of the World Jewish Congress, praised Obama for protecting Israel’s security and defending the Jewish state in front of the international community time and time again.

Bronfman wrote:

Throughout a half-century of international diplomatic work, I have learned to tell the politicians from the friends and the charlatans from the statesmen. Charlatans scream. They tell you what you want to hear and call other people names. Friends and leaders need not rely on rhetoric or boisterous bravado. They produce results and act on principle.

President Obama is such a friend and leader. In his 3 1/2 years in office he has deepened and strengthened the relationship between the United States and Israel. And today, Obama continues to implement a comprehensive pro-Israel agenda that has made Israel safer and more secure.

Under Obama, U.S. financial aid to Israel is at its highest levels ever. During the past four years, Israel has avoided becoming engaged in any substantial frontal military engagements, advanced its notable economic development and remains prepared for negotiating a comprehensive peace. Obama as president has led a mutually beneficial resurgence in the exchange of strategic technology, intelligence and cooperation between U.S. armed forces and the Israel Defense Forces.

Standing by Israel, Obama opposed the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state and blocked its recognition at the United Nations. He supported Israel’s right to defend itself and confronted head-on the now-discredited Goldstone Report that condemned Israeli defensive action off its coast. He also ordered the United States to withdraw from the Durban Review Conference, whose namesake conference was supposed to be about racism but instead became an anti-Israel hate-fest. Obama stated unequivocally that ‘The United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum.’

Going even further, Obama has taken the floor of the United Nations to declare that ‘Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate’ and that ‘efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will be met only by the unshakable opposition of the United States.’

When Fatah and Hamas joined political forces and pressured Israel to enter negotiations with them, Obama told the world that ‘No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction,’ concluding that ‘Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist.’

And this is also why Obama has taken such a strong stand against the Iranian nuclear program-the single greatest threat to the State of Israel and the stability of the Middle East. After years of inaction and neglect by the Bush administration, Obama constructed an international coalition to impose the most crippling sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. These sanctions have already choked off Iran’s access to many capital markets and have had a profound effect on the way Tehran finances its nefarious operations. Covert U.S. operations targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure reportedly have also slowed their rate of progress.

While his opponents can talk tough on Iran, the president is doing what is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Nevertheless, despite clear facts and substantial evidence, political partisans and opponents of the president continue a coordinated campaign to distort reality in a brazen attempt to fool the public. The same type of people who called Obama a closet Muslim and claimed he was not born in the United States now exercise linguistic calisthenics to obfuscate the truth and portray the president as hostile to the Jewish state. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Not long ago, while sitting in the Oval Office, Obama looked me in the eye and said, ‘My commitment to Israel’s security is bone deep.’ He did not have to say it. I already knew that President Obama would never forsake the Jewish state, its security and its people. His record of performance is crystal clear and the charlatans cannot change that.


Obama: Support For Israel “Should Transcend Party”

— by Max Samis

Speaking at an event in West Palm Beach, FL, President Barack Obama took an opportunity to reassert the United   States’ steadfast commitment to the State of Israel, emphasizing that support for the Jewish state goes far beyond partisan politics. Obama told the crowd that support for Israel is “not a Republican or a Democratic issue. That is an issue of how we work with one of our closest allies in the world that shares our values and believes in democracy.”

Obama said:

And we’ve strengthened our alliances and stood with countries that shared our values.  I know a lot of people in this community care about the state of Israel-and we are heartbroken-and it’s an important time to talk about this because of these barbaric attacks that happened in Bulgaria-young people being killed because of this ruthless terrorist attack.  And I want everybody here to know, under my administration, we haven’t just preserved the unbreakable bond with Israel; we have strengthened it.

We’ve stood by Israel’s side in the face of criticism.  Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer.  And obviously this is a moment of great uncertainty in the Middle East given what’s happening in Syria and what’s happening in other places.  So now is the time to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect Israel’s security.  And I want you to know that that’s something that should transcend party.  That’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue.  That is an issue of how we work with one of our closest allies in the world that shares our values and believes in democracy.


Sec. Clinton Meets with Peres and Other Leaders in Israel

— by Max Samis

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.

Ilon Ben Zion of The Times of Israel reported:

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.

More after the jump.
Greer Fay Cashman of The Jerusalem Post also reported:

Clinton praised Peres, saying no other individual had done so much to build the alliance between Israel and the US. ‘Few people know the inextricable link between security and peace,’ she stated.

Peres was also complimentary of Clinton, referring to her as ‘a constant friend’ who is “blowing the wind of freedom all over the world.”

Peres told Clinton that he appreciated the fact that she came to Israel immediately after Egypt because Egypt is the key country in the Middle East and it depends on Egypt and Israel to continue the march of freedom for the whole of the region.

Peres reiterated what he has frequently said, that peace between Israel and Egypt has saved the lives of thousands of Egyptians and Israelis.

You can watch the video of Clinton’s remarks here or below. You can also see photos from Clinton’s visit with Peres below. The full transcript of Clinton’s remarks can also be read here.

Clinton also paid a visit to the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, where she spoke with Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Speaking to the staff and families of the embassy and consulate, Clinton said:

But mostly I wanted to say thank you to all of you for the work that you do every single day here in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv supporting the extraordinarily important ties between the United States and Israel, working with the Palestinian Authority on so many of the issues that are critically important, assisting a huge number of Americans who visit this area, and of course, continuing our commitment as we seek to support a lasting peace. You are working at the forefront of one of our most important and challenging diplomatic efforts. Here in the Consulate General you are assisting with development and security, helping to build the infrastructure for a future Palestinian state. In the Embassy you’re sustaining one of our most important alliances, building the people-to-people connections that are so important to our relationship. And over the last year and a half, you’ve all continued to promote American interests amid the turbulence and unpredictable circumstances of the changes sweeping the region.

Looking at all of you is very reassuring. I read cables. I get reports. But I like seeing you in person. And it’s not just because you handle so many complex issues with great poise and professionalism, but it’s also frankly because this group represents the sort of collaboration across ethnicities and faiths that is so essential in the 21st century. It’s essential to move toward the goals of bringing people together, of finding common ground, and of building a future based on mutual respect and mutual interests…

So from President Obama and myself, thank you. Thank you for your exemplary service, your commitment, for representing the United   States so well. We may not always say it, but we know it, and whenever I get a chance to say it, I try to do so because I want you to hear it: We know what you’re doing and we appreciate it very, very much.

Click here to read her full remarks.

Clinton also met with Defense Secretary Ehud Barak, discussing the various security needs facing Israel and the ongoing cooperation between the two countries. Stuart Winer of The Times of Israel, along with the AP, wrote:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday saying the bonds between Israel and America are strong.

‘The Americans consistently and constantly backup Israel’s security needs,’ Barak said in the meeting.

Clinton’s remarks from her meeting with Barak can be read here.

Clinton is also expected to attend a dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later this evening, followed by a press conference in Jerusalem.

Clinton is just the latest official from the Obama administration to visit Israel, following National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and ahead of the just-announced visit by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Romney’s Foreign Policy Views “Downright Dangerous”

— by Max Samis

Over the course of his presidential run, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has made some outlandish comment on foreign policy, including that he would “do the opposite” of President Barack Obama on Israel, and that Russia is the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe.” Romney has earned condemnations from multiple public officials for his statements, including from Vice President Joe Biden and former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell. In addition, the Los Angeles Times found last month that despite his heated rhetoric, Romney has yet to offer any specifics of what he would do differently than Obama-especially on Iran.

Now, Romney’s policies have been examined by Fred Kaplan, a noted foreign policy expert and writer for Slate. Kaplan’s judgment? That “Romney doesn’t seem to understand – nor do some of his advisers – the extent to which the world has changed since the end of the Cold War,” and that his “statements on foreign policy range from vague to ill-informed to downright dangerous.”

Highlights of Kaplan’s article follow the jump.

Conventional wisdom holds that U.S. presidential elections do not hinge on foreign policy. On this point, conventional wisdom is almost certainly correct. But it shouldn’t be, for two reasons. First, foreign policy is the one realm in which presidents can do pretty much what they want. (Congress may rant at some action but rarely halts it.) Second, in this election in particular, Mitt Romney’s statements on foreign policy range from vague to ill-informed to downright dangerous.

Does Romney believe the things that he’s said about arms control, Russia, the Middle East, the defense budget, and the rest? Who can say? He has no experience on any of these issues. But his advisers do; they represent, mainly, the Dick Cheney wing of the Republican Party (some, notably John Bolton, veer well to the right of even that). While not all presidents wind up following their advisers, Romney has placed his byline atop some of his coterie’s most egregious arguments-not least, several op-ed pieces against President Obama’s New START with Russia, pieces that rank as the most ignorant I’ve read in nearly 40 years of following the nuclear debate…

Romney doesn’t seem to understand-nor do some of his advisers-the extent to which the world has changed since the end of the Cold War. International politics were never as cut and dried as that era’s image suggested-two superpowers, each dominating its sphere of the globe and competing for influence at the margins of the other’s domain…

Which leads to Romney’s final complaint: that Obama’s foreign policies ‘have not communicated American strength and resolve.’ It’s not clear what Romney means by this; he cites no examples. The one case in which he had to concede Obama did well-ordering the killing of Bin Laden-certainly communicates more strength and resolve than anything Bush did on that front. To the extent America’s image has been tarnished under Obama’s presidency, the main reason has to do with what some see as an excess of ‘strength and resolve’-the quintupling of drone attacks launched against targets in Pakistan, Sudan, and Somalia under Bush.

Which leads to some questions: What is Romney’s position on drone strikes? What’s his position on Afghanistan? During the Republican debates, he once said that his position was not to negotiate with the Taliban but to defeat them. What does that mean? Does he want to keep tens of thousands of U.S. troops there after NATO’s 2014 deadline? To what end? Doing what? He also once said that military spending should consume at least 4 percent of gross domestic product. Obama’s most recent military budget ($525 billion, not counting the cost of the war in Afghanistan) amounts to 3 percent. So Romney intends to raise the budget by one-third, or by about $175 billion a year-by more than $1 trillion in the next six years. Where is he going to get the money? What’s he going to spend it on? No details. None.

Is Romney an extremist? Or, in keeping with the GOP approach to politics in general these days, has he simply calculated that it’s best not to agree with Obama on anything? Either way, one thing is clear: He is not a serious man.

Click here to read the full article.

Iran Sanctions About to Increase

— by Max Samis

The Los Angeles Times reported that the multilateral sanctions led by President Barack Obama are set to increase this weekend.

Extract from Los Angeles Times follows the jump.
Over the next four days, Western governments will launch their toughest sanctions yet against Iran. The steps are designed to eviscerate the oil-based economy, and to test Tehran’s determination to keep enriching uranium in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

The United States and European Union will impose an oil embargo, as well as a ban on tanker insurance and other measures that analysts say could slash Iran’s foreign sales of oil – its largest source of revenue – by more than half.

That would cost Iran about $4 billion a month, experts say, a substantial amount given the country’s estimated foreign currency reserves of $60 billion to $100 billion.

Western governments hope the added pressure will help break the deadlock in a decade-old struggle to persuade Iran to accept limits on nuclear development – before it completes research that many nations fear is aimed at learning how to build a nuclear weapon.

In three rounds of negotiations this year, Iranian officials showed little inclination to compromise. They insist their nation’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Western officials and analysts say Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may reconsider if the tightening sanctions stir unhappiness among merchants and consumers. Perhaps more important will be the squeeze on businesses and industries controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a key part of the power structure that is influential with Khamenei.

‘As time passes and dollars are lost, inevitably ordinary Iranians are going to ask the question, “Is it worth it?”‘ said Cliff Kupchan, a former State Department official now at the Eurasia Group consulting firm in Washington.

Western governments appear prepared to let the sanctions build through the summer, and even increase the pressure. In Washington, Congress is finishing legislation that would tighten sanctions further on Iran’s oil sector.

Israel Wants More of Obama’s Policies, Not Less

— by Max Samis

Following Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s assertion that he would “do the opposite” of President Barack Obama when it comes to Israel, Steven Grossman wrote in Haaretz that Israelis in fact want more of Obama’s policies — not less. Grossman went through Obama’s policies piece by piece, finding that to reverse them would simply mean “a less secure Israel.”

Grossman wrote:

Romney has taken his outrageous campaign rhetoric to a new level of hyperbole. Romney told religious conservatives he would do ‘the opposite’ of what President Barack Obama has done on Israel. Which raises the question: what has the President done, and what would Romney change?

Let’s start with the facts. Under President Obama, security assistance to Israel has increased to unprecedented levels. The Administration has dramatically increased funding for the Iron Dome system – which has already saved Israeli lives from the terror of Hamas rockets. The President has given Israel access to our most sophisticated military systems, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and initiated the largest joint exercise between the U.S. and Israeli militaries. While working to strengthen Israel’s security, the President has insisted that any future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza be demilitarized.

Following the Romney plan and doing the opposite would mean, simply, a less secure Israel.There’s more. The Obama Administration has fought for Israel’s inclusion in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It has vetoed every UN resolution condemning Israel and defended Israel against the Goldstone Report. It boycotted the anti-Israel Durban II Conference and stood up for Israel in the wake of the Gaza Flotilla incident when no one else would.

The President has demanded that Palestinians negotiate directly with Israel, rather than pursue a misguided and dangerous statehood strategy at the UN. Meanwhile, he has refused to recognize Hamas until it renounces terrorism, accepts Israel’s right to exist, and abides by all prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

Doing the opposite would only serve to weaken Israel’s hand in diplomacy and on the global stage.

Going above and beyond the realms of security aid and diplomatic engagement, President Obama has acted – swiftly and forcefully, in moments of imminent danger – to save individual Israeli lives.

To take one example: when Israelis faced an angry mob at their embassy in Cairo and Prime Minister Netanyahu called the White House in the middle of the night for help, President Obama didn’t hesitate to act. He took the initiative, called the Egyptian military leadership immediately, protected the Israelis from harm, and got them home safely.

And in the face of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the President’s policy has been clear: Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. He worked with Congress to impose some of the toughest sanctions ever enacted on the Iranian regime. He built an international coalition to follow suit, creating a united front to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Today, our sanctions are biting and stronger than they have ever been.

Now, back to Governor Romney’s proposal: if we suspend rational belief for a moment and take him at his word, what would ‘the opposite’ look like? What could we expect from a Romney Administration when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship?

The impact of reversing course is plain: an Israel that’s less secure and weaker on the world stage, facing an Iran closer to a nuclear weapon, without a White House ally willing to protect Israel’s people at a moment’s notice. Is this really what’s in store from a Romney White House? Is this honestly what Mr. Romney believes?

At the end of the day, there are only two things we can believe about Mitt Romney when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Either he is engaged cynical partisan demagoguery or he is woefully ignorant of the state of the U.S.-Israel relationship under President Obama’s leadership.

Doing ‘the opposite’ is a risk the American people can’t afford to take.