President Donald Trump addressing a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives chamber, Feb. 28. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

4 Jewish takeaways from Trump’s big speech to Congress


President Donald Trump’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress is getting rave reviews for the subdued, “presidential” style of his delivery, and positive feedback from the Jewish community for opening remarks denouncing anti-Semitic acts as examples of “hate and evil.”

But there ensues the inevitable Trumpian conundrum: What did he actually mean?

Here are four takeaways from the speech and what it says about bias and the Jews:

1. What did he condemn exactly?

From the very first paragraph:

“Tonight, as we mark the conclusion of our celebration of Black History Month, we are reminded of our Nation’s path toward civil rights and the work that still remains. Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a Nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

That second sentence – the one that’s been getting the plaudits – gets thorny once it’s held up to the light. According to the logic of the sentence, it is the “recent acts” that “remind us that … we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

But what actually reminds us that we are united are the responses to such acts, like the thousands of dollars raised by Muslim activists to rebuild a vandalized Jewish cemetery, a labor union’s pledge to pitch in to fix damaged gravesites, a strongly worded statement from the White House.

It was the lack of the last item that had riled Jewish groups in the weeks after the first spate of JCC bomb threats and the first cemetery attack. In both instances, combined with Trump’s failure to comment for six days on what appears to be the bias killing last week of an Indian worker in Kansas, it was Trump’s failure to respond at first – indeed, his hostility to reporters who asked him to respond to the spike in anti-Semitic incidents – that raised hackles.

2. What’s not in the passage

A mosque near Tampa, Florida, was set ablaze last week. Another in Texas was burned down in January and one in Florida, where the killer in the Orlando massacre had occasionally worshipped, suffered a similar fate in September.

Why not include a reference to bias crimes against Muslims? It would be especially apropos given Trump’s overarching theme of unity because Muslims have indeed raised funds to refurbish vandalized Jewish cemeteries and Jews are contributing to the rebuilding of the Tampa mosque.

(Speaking of the Orlando massacre, why not a reference to the LGBTQ community? Trump at the time held up the massacre as emblematic of the protections that gay Americans needed and he would bring as president.)

A reference to the mosques may have allayed concerns that his travel ban is aimed at Muslims, although it targets seven (or, as of this week, six) Muslim-majority countries, as well as refugees.

Further along in the speech, Trump mentions Muslims in a positive way, as allies against radical Islamic terrorism. But he was talking about moderate Muslims in the Middle East — an alliance that is far afield from the highways and byways traversed by American Muslims.

3. What’s the plan?

Jewish community statements praising the president for his remarks condemning anti-Semitism were almost uniform in asking for a specific government and law enforcement response to anti-Semitic and other hate incidents.

“I was very pleased, that was an important message,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said at a meeting Wednesday morning of the Helsinki Commission, the body that monitors human rights overseas and in the United States. “But we need to do more.”

“Powerful for @POTUS to note anti-Semitism at top of speech,” tweeted Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. “Key now is to investigate and end terror campaign.”

Calls for a plan came as Bloomberg News reported that the Trump State Department was considering doing away with the post of anti-Semitism monitor. Granted, the position studies developments overseas, but Jewish groups worry that its elimination would suggest that the administration is not taking the issue seriously. The American Jewish Committee on Monday asked its activists to write the president and urge him to preserve the office.

Cardin told JTA, walking out of the commission meeting, that if anything the office of the anti-Semitism monitor needed bolstering.

“Strengthen it, elevate it, give it more resources,” he said.

4. The other stuff

* Trump mentioned Iran and Israel: “I have also imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the State of Israel.” He did not mention the Iran nuclear deal he once reviled, nor did he speak of the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal he has said he would like to achieve.

* He did go into some detail on his plans to expand school choice: ”I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them.”

That’s a proposal he campaigned on, and it has raised concerns among Jewish precincts that favor church-state separations, but also has garnered praise among Orthodox groups and other supporters of Jewish day school education.

On Wednesday, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America welcomed Trump’s call for federal policy to support school choice.

“We believe there are several ways in which parental empowerment should be pursued to achieve educational opportunity, in the tax code and elsewhere, and we look forward to working with the administration on this priority issue for our community and American society at large,” the O.U.’s Washington director, Nathan Diament, said in a statement.

An undated handout picture shows the Iranian supersonic ballistic missile launching during a war-game in an unknown location in Iran. Photo by Fars News/Reuters

Iran says missile can reach Tel Aviv in 7 minutes


A senior Iranian official threatened immediate retaliation against Israel if it is attacked, warning that Iranian missiles can reach Tel Aviv in seven minutes.

Mojtaba Zonour, a senior member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and a former Revolutionary Guards official, made the remarks over the weekend to Iran’s Fars news agency. Zonour also threatened to destroy the American military base in nearby Bahrain if Iran is attacked.

“The U.S. Army’s 5th Fleet has occupied a part of Bahrain, and the enemy’s farthest military base is in the Indian Ocean, but these points are all within the range of Iran’s missile systems and they will be razed to the ground if the enemy makes a mistake,” Zonour said Saturday. He added: “And only seven minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”

The comments came in the wake of Iran’s testing last week of a ballistic missile, a move that prompted President Donald Trump to impose a new round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The test also set off a flurry of tweets from Trump, included one on Feb. 2 saying that “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.” The following day, Trump tweeted that Iran is “playing with fire.”

On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new round of sanctions targeting individuals or entities it said had assisted Iran’s missile program.

Thank you, Obama


Thank you, President Barack Obama, for serving the country for the past eight years.

Thank you, Obama, for not moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. You were wise enough to follow the lead of your Democratic and Republican predecessors and realize the chaos such a move could cause would not be worth the cost. There is no doubt the embassy should be in Jerusalem. There is no question that Jerusalem is the eternal and contemporary capital of Israel. But thank you for knowing that not every right must be claimed at any cost.

Thank you for protecting Israel when and where it mattered most: with off-budget millions for Iron Dome, for standing up for Israel’s right to defend itself in the Gaza war, for a record-setting $38 billion in aid. 

Thank you for declaring as eloquently as any president ever has, and in as many international forums as possible, the value and justice of a Jewish state. Thank you for trying to protect that state from pursuing policies that will endanger its own existence.

Thank you for the Iran deal. Before the deal, Iran was weeks from attaining nuclear bomb capability. Now the world has a decade before the mullahs have the capability of developing a bomb. You tackled a problem that only had gotten worse under previous American and Israeli leaders. Despite fierce opposition, you found a solution that even those Israelis who hated it have grown to see as beneficial. 

Thank you for killing Osama bin Laden. And for taking out al-Qaida’s senior leadership. And for stopping and reversing gains by ISIS. You know who’s really happy to see you go? Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. 

Thank you for standing up to Vladimir Putin. You saw the expansionist, anti-democratic nature of Putin’s actions in Ukraine and quickly confronted him. Perhaps that opposition slowed what may have been an inevitable march through the Baltics. There is nothing wrong with having positive relations with Russia, but “positive” cannot mean giving the Putin regime a pass. 

Thank you for recognizing our Cuba embargo was a failed policy and that the time for change had come. 

Thank you for steering the country through the recession. Thank you for cutting unemployment in half. And for doing so in the face of Republican obstructionism on the kind of infrastructure bill that your successor now likely will get through. 

Thank you for doubling clean energy production. For recognizing that our dependence on fossil fuels can’t help but degrade our environment and hold us back from being competitive in the green energy future, and embolden corrupt and backward regimes from Venezuela to the Middle East to Russia. 

Thank you for saving the American auto industry. You revived General Motors with $50 billion in loans, saving 1.2 million jobs and creating $35 billion in tax revenue so far. Have you checked out GM’s Chevy Bolt? All electric, 240 miles per charge, drives like a rocket and made in Detroit. They should call it the “Obamacar.”

Thank you for the Paris Agreement to address climate change. Thank you for throwing America’s lot in with the rest of the planet.

Thank you for the Affordable Care Act. It has brought the security of health care to millions. It has saved lives. It has kept the rate of cost increases in premiums lower in the past eight years than they were in the previous eight years. It needs to be fixed — what doesn’t? — but only with better ideas, not worse ones.

Thank you for Merrick Garland. It was a great idea while it lasted.

Thank you for trying to get immigration reform through Congress, and for pursuing the policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which let 5 million people already living and working here come out of the shadows. 

Thanks for Michelle. Not just her brains and biceps, but her choice of causes. Your wife saw all the good the food movement had accomplished from the grass roots up and planted it squarely in the front yard of the White House, where it would grow even more from the top down.

Thank you for trying. You grappled with one great chaos after another, and sometimes you fell short. In Syria, you needed a smarter course of action. In Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, you underestimated the need, early on, to deal with Israeli fears and Palestinian obstructionism. As for ending the Sudan embargo, the jury is out. Stateside, your administration should have put some of the bad guys of the recession behind bars and found fixes that better addressed the wealth gap. 

Time will reveal more blemishes — and heal some of the scars. But in the meantime:

Thank you. Thank you for not embarrassing us, your family or yourself. Though your opponents and their friends at “Fox and Friends” tried to pin scandals to you, none could stick. In my lifetime, there has never been an administration so free from personal and professional moral stain. 

Thank you for the seriousness, dignity, grace, humor and cool you brought to the Oval Office. Thank you for being my president.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Poll: Israeli Jews favor Hillary, but say Trump is better for Israel ‘policy’


Most Israeli Jews would prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump as the next president of the United States — even though more of them think Trump would be better for the “Israeli government’s policy.”

According to a poll released Wednesday, 43 percent of Israeli Jews prefer Clinton as president, compared to 34 percent who want Trump, when asked to choose between the two candidates. But 38 percent say Trump would be better for Israel, compared to 33 percent who say Clinton would be.

On both questions, a large number of people don’t pick a candidate.

The Israel Democracy Institute think tank and Tel Aviv University released its latest Peace Index monthly survey after polling 600 Israelis at the end of August. The margin of error is 4.1 percent.

Some respondents support Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state, even though they don’t think the Democratic candidate “will be better from the standpoint of the Israeli government’s policy,” as the survey puts it. Thirteen percent of the Jews who say Trump, the Republican nominee, would be better for Israel want Clinton to be president. Only 2 percent of Jews who said Clinton would be better for Israel want Trump to be president.

“There seem to be people who support Clinton even though they think she will put more pressure on Israel or be less easy for Israel to deal with in terms of all the support we need from the United States,” Chanan Cohen, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute who helped lead the survey, told JTA.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein were not included in the survey .

In April, Jewish opinion on the subject was nearly reversed. The Peace Index that month found 40 percent thought Clinton would be better for Israel’s interest and 31 percent thought Trump would be.

Since the primary season, when Trump pledged to be a “neutral” broker of Israeli-Palestinian peace, he and the Republican Party have tried to boost their pro-Israel bona fides. On Monday, Republican Trump supporters opened their fifth campaign office in Israel, the first in the West Bank. They predict 85 percent of Americans living in Israel, who they say number 300,000, will vote for the developer and reality TV star.

Still, Trump does not have a plurality of Israeli Jewish support. Even on the political right, only 49 percent support him, with 23 percent preferring Clinton, according to the survey. The left (86 percent) and center (57 percent) have an “overwhelming preference” for Clinton, according to the Israel Democracy Institute.

“I expected the right-wing voters to support Trump in bigger numbers, but we can see less than half did,” said Cohen. “I know that in the United States, the right has concerns about Trump’s personality, and we can see this also on the Israel right.”

Among Israeli Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population, 58 percent prefer the Democratic nominee and 11 percent the Republican.

Donald Trump speaking at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The poll also probed other issues. Asked about Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier who is standing trial in a military court for shooting dead a downed Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, most Jewish Israelis “justify” what he did (42 percent strongly and 23 percent moderately). Just a quarter of Israelis “do not justify” the shooting (14 percent strongly and 11 percent moderately).

Jewish Israelis are almost evenly divided on executing captured Palestinian terrorists. Forty-seven percent lean toward killing such a terrorist on the spot, “even if he has been captured and clearly does not pose a threat.” Forty-five percent say he should be handed over to legal authorities.

Support for killing terrorists is highest among right-wingers (62 percent), young people (69 percent ages 18-24) and observant Jews (63 percent of haredi Orthodox and 72 percent of religious or traditional Jews). In April, the Peace Index found that 67 percent of Israelis agreed with the Sephardi chief rabbi’s assertion weeks earlier, which he later took back, that it is a religious imperative to kill Palestinian terrorists.

“We phrased the question differently this time, so you can’t say support has gone down,” Cohen said. “It’s more or less the same I think. It is a really high amount actually to be supporting an illegal action that every soldier is taught is against the army’s rules.”

Though many Israelis disagree with the army’s prosecution of Azaria, the Israel Defense Forces remains by far the most trusted official body in the country. Eighty-seven percent of Israeli Jews put “a lot” or “quite a lot” of trust in the army. Forty-seven percent of Israeli Arabs feel the same way. But Arabs put the most trust in the Supreme Court (64 percent “a lot” or “quite a lot”) — even more than Jews (54 percent).

Amid the controversy over dozens of French towns banning Muslim women from wearing the burkini, a full-body swimsuit, 62 percent of Israelis are against regulating what people wear in public, “including in the case of traditional and conservative clothing,” the survey found. Just 26 percent support the French bans.

Support for freedom of attire is consistent across the Jewish political spectrum — left (73 percent), right (59 percent) and center (61 percent) — and among Arabs (71 percent).

In honor of the start of the school year on Sept. 1, the survey asked Israelis to grade the education system, and both Jews and Arabs gave it a failing grade. Jews gave the system a 5.5 and Arabs a 5.9 out of 10.

In another poll released Wednesday, a CNN/ORC survey of likely American voters showed Trump with a 45-43 percent advantage over Clinton.

Iranian commander: Missiles ready for the ‘annihilation’ of Israel


The deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said the country has over 100,000 missiles in Lebanon alone readied for the “annihilation” of Israel.

Speaking before Friday prayers on Iran’s state-run IRIB TV, Hossein Salami also said that Iran has “tens of thousands” of additional missiles that are ready to wipe the “accursed black dot” of Israel off the map, according to a translation from the Farsi by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Salami is deputy head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is under the command of the country’s Supreme Leader.

“Today, more than ever, there is fertile ground — with the grace of God — for the annihilation, the wiping out and the collapse of the Zionist regime,” Salami said, according to the MEMRI translation. “In Lebanon alone, over 100,000 missiles are ready to be launched. If there is a will, if it serves [our] interests, and if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes due to its miscalculations, these missiles will pierce through space, and will strike at the heart of the Zionist regime. They will prepare the ground for its great collapse in the new era.”

He also boasted that “tens of thousands of other high-precision, long-range missiles, with the necessary destructive capabilities, have been placed in various places throughout the Islamic world. “

“They are just waiting for the command, so that when the trigger is pulled, the accursed black dot will be wiped off the geopolitical map of the world, once and for all,” he said, referring to Israel.

Salami’s remarks came as Germany’s foreign ministry said it is closely watching Iran’s attempts to procure nuclear and missile technology, the Associated Press reported.

German intelligence agencies reported dozens of such attempts last year, according to the A.P. A separate report by a German domestic intelligence agency said that counter-espionage officials had spotted 141 procurements attempts in one German state in the last year.

Martin Schaefer, a spokesman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry, said that Germany and its partners would work to enforce the agreement signed in Vienna last July meant to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

“We are already talking to our partners in New York and elsewhere, and we won’t hesitate to discuss this with Tehran,” he said.

Jewish dems pleased with Israel language on dem platform


The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday released a draft of the party’s 2016 platform as “> promised by the Clinton campaign – reflects the Democratic Party’s longstanding support of Israel and Hillary Clinton’s vision for peace and security in the Middle East.

“We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity,” the draft reads. “While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

“Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

The language is reflective of Clinton’s stance as expressed in a speech she “>praised the Democratic Party for affirming America’s “longstanding commitment to Israel’s security” and the pursuit of the two-state solution, and urged the Republican Party to approve “similarly strong and unifying language” in its platform “so that both platforms reflect America’s strong bipartisan support for Israel.”

Below is the language in the platform draft re: Israel and the Iran deal: 

Iran: “We support the nuclear agreement with Iran because, if vigorously enforced and implemented, it verifiably cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb without resorting to war. We reject Donald Trump’s view that we should have walked away from a deal that peacefully dismantles Iran’s nuclear program. We will continue the work of this administration to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon and will not hesitate to take military action if Iran violates the agreement.

“Democrats will also address the detrimental role Iran plays in the region and will robustly enforce and, if necessary, strengthen non-nuclear sanctions. Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism. It violates the human rights of its population, denies the Holocaust, vows to eliminate Israel, and has its fingerprints on almost every conflict in the Middle East. Democrats will push back against Iran’s destabilizing activities including its support for terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, counter Iran’s ballistic missile program, bolster the capabilities of our Gulf partners, and ensure that Israel always has the ability to defend itself.”

Israel: “We will continue to work toward a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated directly by the parties that guarantees Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity. While Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations, it should remain the capital of Israel, an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. Israelis deserve security, recognition, and a normal life free from terror and incitement. Palestinians should be free to govern themselves in their own viable state, in peace and dignity.”

Iran touts successful test-fire of missile that can reach Israel


Iran said it successfully test-fired a high-precision ballistic missile that can reach Israel.

The missile has a range of 2,000 kilometers, or more than 1,200 miles, and a high degree of accuracy, the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s military said Monday in announcing the launch, according to the state-run Tasnim News Agency reported.

The test took place two weeks ago, Brig. Gen. Ali Abdollahi announced Monday at a scientific conference in Tehran, Tasnim reported. Abdollahi reportedly gave no further details, nor did he provide the name of the rocket.

Abdollahi also reportedly said the headquarters of the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces has allocated 10 percent of the defense budget to research projects aimed at strengthening defense power.

Iranian officials have repeatedly underscored that the country will continue to strengthen its military capabilities such as missiles, and that Iran’s defense capabilities will be never subject to negotiations, according to Tasnim.

In March, the Revolutionary Guard in Iran conducted tests of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which it said were not capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

In October, Iran tested a new guided long-range ballistic missile, which may have violated the nuclear deal agreed upon in July with the world powers, as well as a United Nations Security Council resolution that bars Iran from developing missiles “designed to carry nuclear warheads.”

Istanbul bomber targeted Israeli tour group, Turkish media report


The suspected suicide bomber who killed three Israelis and one Iranian in Istanbul followed an Israeli tour group to a restaurant and detonated himself there, according to Turkish media reports.

The reports published Monday run counter to those of intelligence assessments that said the Israelis were not deliberately targeted.

On Monday, journalist Abdullah Bozkury of Today’s Zaman posted on Twitter that the bomber followed the Israeli tourists from their hotel and lurked outside a restaurant until they finished their breakfast and began to exit, then he detonated the bomb.


He identified the bomber as being affiliated with the Islamic State terrorist group.

The Turkish reports,which also include Hurriyet and T24, do not name sources.

On Sunday, the suicide bomber was identified as a Turkish citizen, Mehmet Ozturk, by Turkey’s interior minister.

“The findings obtained show that the terrorist is linked to the Daesh terror organization,” said the minister, Efkan Ala, according to The Associated Press. Daesh is an acronym for the Islamic State.

He reportedly spent two years in Syria before returning to Turkey illegally.

In televised comments Saturday following the blast and an emergency meeting of Israel’s Security Cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said officials were investigating whether Israelis had been targeted in the bombing and said intelligence pointed to it being an Islamic State attack.

The three Israeli victims killed in the bombing are Avraham Goldman, 69, of Herzliya; Yonatan Suher, 40, of Tel Aviv, and Simcha Damri, 60, of Dimona. Suher and Goldman also were U.S. citizens.

Eleven Israelis were wounded in the blast, including Damri’s husband, Avi.

The fourth victim of the attack was an Iranian national identified as Ali Reza Razmhah.

Also Sunday, Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau issued a travel warning calling on Israelis not to travel to Turkey. The warning cites the significant rise over the past two months in terror threats in Turkey, especially suicide bombings and particularly in Istanbul and Ankara, the capital.

 

The warning was raised to Level 2, defined as a basic concrete threat, from Level 4, meaning an ongoing potential threat.

Hillary vows to stand with Israel against Iran


Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pledged to confront Iran and defend Israel from threats leveled against her, following new reports of Iranian missile tests.

“I am deeply concerned by reports that Iran has tested multiple missiles, which it claimed were stamped with words declaring that “Israel should be wiped from the pages of history.” This rhetoric is repulsive and has no place in the community of nations,” Hillary said in a statement released by her campaign. “As president, I will continue to stand with Israel against such threats.”

According to reports, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) test-fired two ballistic missiles on Wednesday that it said were designed to be able to hit Israel. “The reason we designed our missiles with a range of 2,000 km is to be able to hit our enemy the Zionist regime from a safe distance,” Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by the ISNA agency.

In her statement, the former Secretary of State said the missiles test “demonstrates once again why we need to address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the region, while vigorously enforcing the nuclear deal. These missile launches constitute a blatant violation of Iran’s UN Security Council obligations, and such violations must have consequences. Iran should face sanctions for these activities, and the international community must demonstrate that Iran’s threats toward Israel will not be tolerated.”

Kerry: Iran getting less than $50 billion in cash after nuclear deal


Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that the amount of cash Iran will receive due to the implementation of the nuclear agreement is below the $50 billion level.

“It's below the $50 billion (level),” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when he was asked about varying reports about how much money Iran would receive.

Iran gained access to about $100 billion in frozen assets when an international nuclear agreement was implemented last month, but much of it already was tied up because of debts and other commitments. Earlier reports had said Tehran would receive as much as $150 billion.

Revolution – Implications for Israel, for the Arab World, and the West


Since Iran became a radical Islamic Shiite state some 46 years ago, it has been recognized as a perpetrator of both regional and global terrorism. The proxy organizations that it has established have turned into terrorist armies. Hezbollah in Lebanon has, for all intents and purposes, taken control of the state.  Hamas in Gaza has been in control there for nearly nine years. The third proxy, the Houthis in Yemen, took control over all of Yemen, but last year lost half of the area under their control to the Saudis and other Arab countries. Up until a year ago, Iran was classified as the country that posed the biggest threat to the Arab world and the West alike, and, of course, to Israel.

The year 2015 will go down in history as the year when Iran's leadership managed to instigate a revolution. No, not in Iran, but in the world in general, and, in particular, among the major global powers.

The US and the EU countries, which had regarded Iran as a problem, began to regard it as a solution.

Iran is now seen as the country that will bring stability to Syria and Iraq and enable the U.S administration to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, and stabilize Yemen.

Russia and China also became swept up in this political excitement, together with the aforementioned countries, as well as with others who see Iran as a land of business opportunities for many years to come. China's president, who recently visited Iran, signed contracts to the tune of $600 billion over 10 years (2.5 trillion NIS). The European company Airbus receivied an order for 150 passenger jets for starters, out of 600 aircraft which will be ordered in the coming years. Russia has begun selling advanced model Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft to Iran along with advanced weaponry and equipment, as have other European countries.

The Iranian arms and missile industry, which is already fairly well developed, will become a source of weapon sales to other countries in the coming years, competing with Israeli industry.

There is no sight of any sort of deal which would cause Iran to stop, or at least limit its support of the terrorist organizations it has established. Iran will continue to engage Israel with threats and terror attacks carried out by Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia. All this is happening without any sign of intervention from the United States, England, France or Germany, because in their eyes, Iran is the solution to their problems in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

For those who believe this is a good opportunity for Israel to strengthen its ties with those Arab states which are also under threat from Iran, especially Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it is important to clarify that the phrase “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, does not fly in Arabic. They have a phrase of their own: “My brother and I against my cousin, and my cousin and I against foreigners.”

Israel and Western countries will always be seen as foreign to them.

The relationship between Israel and the United States now has more importance than ever. The Iranians will now seek to exploit the situation. They have already increased their influence over countries adjacent to Israel, starting with the Palestinian Authority and then Jordan and even Egypt. Syria and Lebanon are already in very deep. Khomeini’s Islamic revolution was only Phase One of the Iranian missile. The second stage is penetration into Sunni Arab Muslim nations. And they will seek to direct the nuclear warhead which will be produced at some point, at Israel. They will want to use the Shiite warhead under construction since 1979 to strike a few countries. thus completing the revolution which Khomeini launched.

Israel's various new defense systems– the barrier wall and its components, the Arrow missiles, David's Sling and Iron Dome– are just part of the response Israel is preparing to deal with the “solution” that Iran has suddenly become.  The professional intelligence gathering performed by Israel and other countries will reveal the true face of Iran.

Hamas, which continues to build tunnels in Gaza, will eventually realize that it is digging the world’s largest terrorist  cemetery– for themselves. The Shiite Hezbollah will learn firsthand that Syria, which is predominantly populated by Sunnis, will not tolerate Assad, an Alawite, even if that will take many years. It will become clear that during a raging storm, the best place to be is in the eye of the storm. Israel will remain there safely until the countries surrounding us calm down.

Member of Knesset Avi Dichter is an Israel politican from the Likud Party. He is the former head of Shin Bet, Minister of Internal Security and Minister of Home Front Defense.

Iran successfully hacked former IDF chief’s files


The computer database of a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff reportedly was compromised in an Iranian cyber attack late last year.

Yaser Balaghi, a hacker working for Iran, gained access to the full contents of the unidentified army leader’s computer, the Times of Israel reported Tuesday, citing Israel’s Channel 10.

The operation was halted midstream when the hacker’s identity was compromised. It targeted nearly 2,000 people all over the world, including scientists, Israeli army generals and Persian Gulf-area human rights activists.

The victims were hacked when they opened an email message that downloaded spyware onto their computer.

It is not clear exactly what or how much information Iran obtained from the operation.

Sanders, Clinton in sharp exchange over his Iran policy


Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders snapped at one another over Sanders’ Iran policy in their final debate before the New Hampshire primary contest, with Clinton twice suggesting it would endanger Israel.

The NBC moderators of the debate in Durham, New Hampshire on Thursday night pressed Sanders on what they said were gaps in his foreign policy; Sanders has not named a foreign policy team of advisers and generally focuses on the economy in his campaigning.

Clinton stepped in with her own broadside, naming Israel as facing increased dangers under Sander’s policies.

“A group of national security experts, military intelligence experts, issued a very concerning statement about Sen. Sanders’s views on foreign policy and national security, pointing out some of the comments he has made on these issues, such as inviting Iranian troops into Syria to try to resolve the conflict there; putting them right at the doorstep of Israel,” she said.

Sanders has not quite advocated inviting Iran to add troops to its contingent already in Syria, where it is allied with the Assad regime and is combating rebel forces, including the Islamic State terrorist group. Instead, in a November debate, he lumped Iran in with other Muslim states he said would be more appropriate than the United States to directly battle the Islamic State.

“The Muslim nations in the region — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, all of these nations — they’re going to just have to get their hands dirty, their boots on the ground,” he said in the November debate.

Sanders, an independent senator from neighboring Vermont, is leading Clinton substantially in New Hampshire, the first primary state, which votes on Tuesday. He tied with Clinton in Iowa, the first caucus state, on Monday, and a win in new Hampshire could lend him momentum as he challenges Clinton nationally, where she is ahead in polling.

He has pushed back against Clinton’s resume, which includes a stint as President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state, by noting that he opposed the Iraq War in 2002, while Clinton, then a senator from New York, supported it. She now says she regrets voting for the war.

He returned to that theme on Thursday night. “Once again, back in 2002, when we both looked at the same evidence about the wisdom of the war in Iraq, one of us voted the right way and one of us didn’t,” he said.

Sanders and Clinton also tussled over whether he said he would “normalize” ties with Iran in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal with the country, which both candidates support. In a debate last month, Sanders said, “What we’ve got to do is move as aggressively as we can to normalize relations with Iran,” although he quickly added that he was not advocating for full ties, and noted Iran’s backing for terrorism.

“They are destabilizing governments in the region, they continue to support Hezbollah and Hamas in Lebanon against Israel,” Clinton said at Thursday’s debate. “If we were to normalize relations right now, we would remove one of the biggest pieces of leverage we have to try to influence and change Iranian behavior.”

Sanders said he never advocated immediately normalizing relations. “Who said that I think we should normalize relations with Iran tomorrow?” he said. “I never said that. I think we should move forward as quickly as we can.”

Unusually for Sanders, who has been reticent about his Jewish upbringing, he closed Thursday’s debate by relating a memory of his father.

“My dad came to this country at the age of 17 from Poland,” he said.

“Didn’t have any money, couldn’t speak English, he died pretty young, and I think it would have been beyond his wildest dreams to see his son up here on this stage today running for president,” Sanders said. “I love this country, and my dad loved this country, and he was the most proud American because of what it gave him in terms of raising his family, even though we never had much money.”

Trump: Iran has violated the nuclear deal


Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Saturday called on the U.S. to impose sanctions on Iran for violating the nuclear deal.

Trump started off his speech at a campaign rally in Biloxi, Miss., Saturday evening by blasting the Obama administration over the nuclear deal. “Iran has already violated the deal,” said Trump. “I mean, it is a few days already, after all. They violated one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen negotiated at any level.”

“They violated the deal. We should be putting on sanctions,” he declared.

The violation Trump referred to was Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests which are a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, but outside the scope of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, under the nuclear agreement, Iran’s non-nuclear violations of the UN’s Security Council resolutions are supposed to merit punitive action. Several top Democrats have already called on the administration to impose new sanctions on Iran since it raises serious concerns about whether Iran will adhere to its commitments under the nuclear accord.

On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the White House has postponed a net of financial sanctions introduced recently by the US Treasury Department against Tehran in the wake of the country’s recent ballistic missile tests.

“Can you imagine that? They are embarrassed to put on the sanctions because how do you put on sanctions so soon,” Trump said. Adding, “It’s very, very sad. What’s going on with our country – the incompetence of our leadership is beyond belief, beyond belief.” 

Trump went on to refer to the deal, at least, two times during his speech. “By the way, I have to be honest, we gave them so much money they don’t have to do too much research. The can buy the damn things, okay,” he said before offering a verbal and facial description of the Iran nuclear talks, mocking Sec. of State John Kerry’s negotiating skills. “I would never, ever have given them the $150 billion back. I would never have done it. And I would’ve told them up front, ‘We are not giving you the $150 billion back.’” 

The Republican presidential hopeful further raised a theory that he first brought up at a campaign rally last week: “A lot of people think there is something else going on. It is almost like there has to be something else going on. The deal with Iran – there has to be something else going on. Who would make that deal?”

Israel says Arrow 3 missile shield aces test, hitting target in space


Israel's upgraded Arrow ballistic missile shield passed a full interception test on Thursday, hitting a target in space meant to simulate the trajectory of the long-range weapons held by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, the Defense Ministry said.

The success was a boost for “Arrow 3,” among Israeli missile defense systems that get extensive U.S. funding. Its first attempt at a full trial, held a year ago, was aborted due to what designers said was a faulty deployment of the target.

“The success of the Arrow 3 system today … is an important step towards one of the most important projects for Israel and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) becoming operational,” said Joseph Weiss, IAI's chief executive officer.

Arrow 3 interceptors are designed to fly beyond the earth's atmosphere, where their warheads detach to become 'kamikaze' satellites, or “kill vehicles”, that track and slam into the targets. Such high-altitude shoot-downs are meant to safely destroy incoming nuclear, biological or chemical missiles.

The Arrow system is jointly developed by state-owned IAI and U.S. firm Boeing Co. <BA.N> and U.S. officials were present for the test. The earlier Arrow 2 was deployed more than a decade ago and officials put its success rate in trials at around 90 percent.

The United States has its own system for intercepting ballistic missiles in space, Aegis, but a senior Israeli official played down any comparison with Arrow 3.

While it “might be true” that the allies were alone in having such proven capabilities, “Israel is not on the level of the U.S.,” Yair Ramati, head of anti-missile systems at the Defense Ministry, told reporters.

Arrow serves as the top tier of an integrated Israeli shield built up to withstand various potential missile or rocket salvoes. The bottom tier is the already deployed short-range Iron Dome interceptor, while a system called David's Sling, due to be fielded next year, will shoot down mid-range missiles. 

Israel's strategic outlook has shifted in recent months, given the international deal in July curbing Iran's nuclear program, the depletion of the Syrian army's arsenal in that country's civil war and Hezbollah's reinforcement of Damascus against the rebels. Israel and Hamas fought a Gaza war in 2014 but the Palestinian enclave has been relatively quiet since.

Nonethless, a senior Israeli official said there was no sign of waning government support or weakening U.S. backing for the various missile defense programs.

“Everyone knows that you have to prepare with an eye well beyond the horizon, especially as the enemy's capabilities improve all the time,” the senior official told Reuters.

In the coming months the Defense Ministry and Israeli military will discuss a possible schedule for deployment of Arrow 3, Ramati said, adding that further tests of the system were expected.

Iran’s Khameinei calls Paris attacks ‘blind terrorism,’ says Palestinians face ‘worst’ terrorism


Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, called the recent Paris attacks that left at least 130 people dead “blind terrorism.”

Khameini’s comments, released in a statement to “the youth in the Western countries,” were published Sunday by IRNA, the Iranian government’s official news agency. They reportedly were the ayatollah’s first public comments on the coordinated Nov. 13 attacks on at least seven sites in Paris. The Iranian government had condemned the attacks immediately after they occurred.

Khameini said the pain of any human being is concerning, whether  it occurs “in France or in Palestine or Iraq or Lebanon or Syria.”

He called terrorism “our common worry” and added “the Islamic world has been the victim of terror and brutality to a larger extent territorially, to greater amount quantitatively and for a longer period in terms of time.”

Khameini said America had a role in “creating, nurturing and arming al-Qaida, the Taliban and their inauspicious successors,” such as the Islamic State.

He singled out “(t)he oppressed people of Palestine,” who he said “have experienced the worst kind of terrorism for the last 60 years.” Iran’s supreme leader also called the Islamic State the “spawn” of Western culture.

“If the people of Europe have now taken refuge in their homes for a few days and refrain from being present in busy places — it is decades that a Palestinian family is not secure even in its own home from the Zionist regime’s death and destruction machinery,” Khameini said. “What kind of atrocious violence today is comparable to that of the settlement constructions of the Zionists regime?”

He called the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, a “vile group” that is “the spawn of such ill-fated pairings with imported cultures.”

Jeb Bush: Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in signal to Iran


Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said on Tuesday that the U.S. should move the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as a signal to Iran in the face of their continued threats.

During a campaign stop in Greenville, South Carolina, Bush said that his second act on day one as president would be to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

“I believe our friends – and Israel is our closest ally – should know that we have their back. And this is not just symbolism when you move the Embassy to the nation’s capital. It is a clear signal that that you’re serious about the existential threat that Iran brings to Israel and to the United States,” Bush asserted. “It would be the most powerful thing you do to say, ‘We are back in business. We’re no longer going to do what the Obama administration did,’ which was turn the cheek left and right all the time – bam, bam, bam, bam.”

The Republican presidential hopeful went to lambaste the administration over the Iran nuclear deal, pointing out to a new report that the Iranian have increased dramatically their cyber-security attacks on the United States. “[This is] after the agreement was signed,” Bush stressed. “They now say they are ready for the agreement to take place in January when no one else believes that’s the case. They’ve made it clear that there’s not going to be any opening in their continuous oppressing of their people.”

“So, we should take them at their word when they say ‘Death to Israel. Death to America. And sending a signal like [moving the Embassy to Jerusalem] is important,” he added.

Bush first expressed support for moving the Embassy to Jerusalem in May. “I support that, absolutely,” Bush, who was at the time an undeclared candidate for president in 2016, said responding to a question about whether the city should be Israel’s capital. “I also support moving the embassy to Jerusalem as well — our embassy. Not just as a symbol but a show of solidarity,” he said.

This article originally appeared at Jewish Insider.

Iran to back Palestinians ‘in any way we can’: Khamenei


Iran's supreme leader said on Wednesday that Iran would support the Palestinian uprising against Israel “in any way we can”, and rejected U.S. accusations that a recent wave of Palestinian knife and car-ramming attacks amounted to “terrorism”.

Khamenei was speaking a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, during a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, described the spate of attacks as “terrorism” that should be condemned.

Israel and the United States have long accused Iran of supplying arms to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, considered by Washington as a terrorist organization. Tehran says it gives only moral, financial and humanitarian support.

“Despite all the efforts of the Arrogance (the United States) … and even with cooperation from Arab countries, the Palestinian intifada (uprising) has started in the West Bank,” state television quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying.

“We will defend the movement of the Palestinian people with all of our existence, and in any way and as long as we can,” Khamenei reportedly told a gathering of the Basij, Iran's volunteer militia.

Khamenei criticized those who call Palestinians “terrorists” saying they were people protesting the occupation of their land.

Since Oct. 1, at least 86 Palestinians have been killed, some while carrying out lethal attacks on Israelis and others in clashes with Israeli forces. At least 19 Israelis and an American have been killed in Palestinian attacks.

The bloodshed has been fueled by Muslim agitation over increased Jewish visits to East Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound – Islam's third holiest place which is also revered by Jews as the site of two biblical-era temples.

The Palestinians are also frustrated by the failure of decades of peace talks to deliver them an independent state.

McDonough: Support for Israel’s security – our values in action


Addressing a mixed Jewish audience in the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal debate, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Tuesday peppered his remarks with Yiddish and Hebrew phrases in an attempt to present a reset in the U.S.-Israel relationship following the meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

In a speech at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly Tuesday afternoon, McDonough said that President Obama remains “grateful” for the strong support he’s always received from the Jewish community, “including so many of you.”

Mentioning the White House tradition of conducting a seder on the first night of Passover, which has led some to call him America’s first Jewish President. McDonough quipped, “I guess that makes me his shamas (a caretaker, servant).”

“I’ll admit, some of the policy debates I’ve been a part of are Talmudic. In the words of an old Irish saying, it can make me feel a little meshuganah,” he added.

Obama’s Chief of Staff also attempted to set the record straight on the president’s record on Israel as he enters the last year of his presidency. “I know that President Obama’s approach to Israel—more specifically, his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu—has been the source of endless commentary. It’s practically a cottage industry. It helps sell books,” he said. “So allow me to offer my own perspective… For President Obama, ensuring Israel’s security is not just another element of his foreign policy. It’s not a political issue. It’s a solemn commitment made by all those who sit in the Oval Office—Democrats and Republicans—going back to Harry Truman. It’s sacrosanct.”

“Under President Obama, we’ve provided more than $20 billion in foreign military financing to Israel. We’ve invested billions in missile defense systems that have saved countless Israeli lives. Next year, we’ll deliver the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making Israel the first country in the Middle East with this advanced aircraft. And as a result of the major resupply package that the President authorized this year, Israel will be guaranteed some of the most advanced military equipment in the world for years to come,” he added in an extensive line of defense.

Seizing on Netanyahu’s remarks earlier Tuesday that he’s moved on over the Iran deal, McDonough thanked the JFNA for their role “as a neutral forum where people from all sides could come together and express their views.” Like any family, “Americans and Israelis may at times disagree on some things, but our bonds are unbreakable because we always remember our core values—including our shared commitment to Israel’s security and vitality,” he stressed. Adding that Iran “has begun to meet its commitments. Iran has started putting in place the necessary measures so that the International Atomic Energy Agency will get the access and inspections it needs when it needs. Iran has begun preparations to remove two-thirds of its centrifuges. And it is moving ahead with plans to redesign its heavy reactor at Arak so it can never produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon.”

He further pointed out that “Iran has not yet received any additional sanctions relief under this comprehensive deal—and it won’t until the IAEA verifies that Iran has completed every single one of the key nuclear steps required. And if Iran violates the deal over the next decade, we will snap sanctions back into place.”

U.S. officials: Israel wants up to $5 billion in annual military aid


Israel has made an initial request for its annual U.S. defense aid to increase to as much as $5 billion when its current aid package, worth an average $3 billion a year, expires in 2017, U.S. congressional sources said on Wednesday.

Israel wants $5 billion per year in military aid for 10 years, for a total of $50 billion, the congressional aides said. It has been signaling that it wants more money to counter threats it says will arise as a result of the international agreement on Iran's nuclear program, which Israel's government has staunchly opposed.

Congressional and other U.S. officials cautioned that negotiations on the new aid deal were still in the early stages and the proposal is not yet at the stage where it has been formally brought to Congress, which must approve the funds.

“First they have to negotiate with the White House,” one senior congressional aide said ofIsrael.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to visit Washington for talks with President Barack Obama next week, when the package is likely to be discussed and its broad outlines may be agreed.

Israeli government spokesmen declined to provide details on the defense aid talks.

One U.S. official said the Obama administration was unlikely to fully meet the Israeli request, and predicted the sides would settle for an annual sum of between $4 billion and $5 billion.

Israel has also secured hundreds of millions of dollars in additional U.S. funding for missile defense in recent years.

Netanyahu put the brakes on aid talks with Washington in the run-up to the Iran deal that was reached in July, signaling his displeasure with the negotiations. Before he did so, Israeli and U.S. officials said they were looking at a new aid package worth $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion annually.

Both sides have said that figure could rise after the Iran deal, which will place curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions against Tehran.

Israel argues that Tehran's financial windfall from sanctions relief will allow it to increase backing for proxies that are hostile to Israel in Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere – a fear Washington says is exaggerated.

Israel faces threats ranging from rockets to nuclear, defense minister says


Israel faces a wide variety of threats ranging from Islamic militants wielding missiles and rockets to nuclear attack, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday during a visit to the United States.

Yaalon was speaking with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter at the National Defense University in Washington. Carter emphasized the importance of the U.S.-Israeli security relationship and the United States' commitment to maintaining close ties.

Carter and Yaalon are due to visit the Naval Air Station in Maryland on Wednesday for a demonstration of the F-35 joint strike fighter. The United States has said it will deliver the F-35 to Israel next year, making it the only country in the Middle East to have the top-flight aircraft.

Yaalon ticked off a number of threats that he said Israel has faced, including from Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad's Syria, and Iran.

“The threat has been changed dramatically from conventional type warfare to what might be called super-conventional…weapons of mass destruction, or sub-conventional like terror, rockets, and missiles,” Yaalon said.

Close U.S.-Israeli ties have come under strain in recent months over a nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran and the United States and other world powers, which Israeli officials have denounced as empowering Iran and endangering Israel.

Yaalon said the deal, which was agreed in July and imposes curbs on Iran's nuclear program in return for the removal of some economic sanctions, could delay an Iranian nuclear threat againstIsrael.

“Yes, for the time being, for about a decade or so, it (Iran's nuclear program) might be postponed as a threat against us,” Yaalon said, adding that the Iranian government had not given up its “vision of having a military nuclear capability.”

Iran denies ever pursuing a nuclear weapons program, and said that it wanted nuclear capability only for civilian purposes.

Yaalon also addressed ongoing strife between Israelis and Palestinians. Violence has flared in Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, in part triggered by Palestinians' anger over what they see as Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound.

Yaalon said claims that Israel had violated agreements related to the holy site were false.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced cautious hope that there may be a way to defuse the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Bush: Give Israel bunker busters to deter Iran


The U.S. administration should increase its military assistance to Israel, not only for defense shields but also provide them with weapons that would create a deterrence against Iran in light of the nuclear deal, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said on Saturday.

Participating in a presidential forum hosted by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott on Charleston’s Daniel Island in South Carolina, Bush said he would push to give Israel “access to the most sophisticated military equipment” for offensive security measures, upping their capability of destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Iran right now does not think we’re serious,” he said. “If we gave [Israel] the capacity to strike – I’m not suggesting that that happen – it would create a deterrent.”

The idea of providing Israel with bunker busters was recently raised by Dennis Ross, the former peace envoy in the Obama administration, and David Petraeus, former Army general and CIA director. “While some may question whether we would act militarily if the Iranians were to dash to a bomb, no one questions whether the Israelis would do so,” the two wrote in a joint Op-Ed for The Washington Post in August.

During the hourlong forum, Bush also spoke about the need of restoring the warm relationship with Israel.

“I’ve been to Israel five times. I’m inspired by its people,” Bush told Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who joined Scott on stage as co-moderator. “The spirit of the place is incredible. That shared values of the State of Israel with this incredibly diverse group; their commitment to entrepreneurial capitalism and innovation. It’s an inspiring place.”

“You know, everybody talks about the rowdiness of our political process. Wow. Go to Israel. That’s a contact sport plus. I mean, it’s like gladiators,” he joked.

Bush claimed that the deterioration in the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is because President Barack Obama has gotten his “feelings hurt or something,” which has “destroyed the relationship with Israel.”

Referring to the WSJ report on Saturday, the Republican presidential hopeful said the next president is going to have to restore the trust between the U.S. and its middle East ally. “When we have gaps between Israel and the United States; when there are doubts about our capabilities and our commitment to them, the rest of the Arab world looks and says, ‘Well, the United States can’t be a serious partner with us. They are not even going to support Israel. We’re going to have to take actions ourselves.’ And what we are going to see is the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Arab world as well, because the U.S. is no longer a trusted ally,” Bush asserted. “We have to restore this [trust]. If we want to create a more peaceful world, America has to lead.”

This post originally appeared at Jewish Insider.

Letters to the editor: BDS and David Myers, Israel’s future, Ben Carson and guns


BDS: Anti-Semitic or Strategic?

David Myers’ article acknowledges a number of important points about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, but misses the big picture (“Another Way to Think about BDS,” Oct. 16).

Myers correctly states that while some BDS activists are openly anti-Semitic, others are well-meaning people who think they are simply protesting Israeli policy. But BDS should be judged primarily by its political goals, not the intentions of its supporters. BDS is racist at its core because it denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland — Israel. This is true whether its activists realize it or not.

Myers blames the rise of BDS on — what else? — the occupation. But boycotts existed before 1967, and BDS’s current focus on Israel’s presence in the West Bank is purely strategic. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti himself said, “Would ending the occupation mean the end of BDS? No, it wouldn’t.”

BDS leaders plan to continue until the Jewish people are returned to statelessness because this is their definition of “justice in Palestine.” The anti-Semitic incidents we see on campuses and elsewhere are an inevitable byproduct of this racist agenda.

Lastly, the strategy Myers prescribes is misguided. One-sided condemnations of Israel without equal or greater pressure on Palestinian leaders will only bolster BDS and undermine efforts to achieve a just peace. There’s no need for the Jewish community to heap blame on Israel while shielding Palestinian leaders from accountability. BDS is already doing that quite effectively.

Roz Rothstein

CEO, StandWithUs 

David Myers responds: I oppose the global BDS movement. Moreover, I think we should hold Palestinian leaders accountable for their corrupt and misguided management of their people’s legitimate aspirations for national self-determination. Where I disagree with Roz Rothstein is in the belief that Israel is right in occupying the West Bank of the Jordan river. We do ourselves no benefit with the head-in-the-sand approach that she favors. The occupation is a political disaster, morally corrosive and a huge weight around Israel’s neck that must be lifted.

Two-State Solutions, Three Opinions

Rob Eshman’s editorial left me ambivalent. While I agree that playing the blame game is trivial and that it is time we stop contemplating the past and start focusing on the future, I do not agree with his opinion on a two-state solution. If a two-state solution meant ending this ubiquitous belligerence between Israel and the countries surrounding it, I believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would jump at the opportunity and wouldn’t “put off big decisions.” However, the Camp David Summit in 2000, where Ehud Barak offered concessions and Yasser Arafat walked out, is a prime example as to why a two-state solution could never work. No matter how much Israel gives in concessions, it will never be enough. While Eshman might be correct that Israel “can’t survive the death of the two-state solution,” Israel won’t be able to survive the life of a two-state solution until the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. 

Amira Felsenthal , Los Angeles

I thought “Sticks, Stones and Centrifuges” (Oct. 16) was brilliant. So well written and meaningful. Thank you. 

Might I offer something that may be of interest? It’s about the statements: “So, can Israel make a bold move here? Given the turmoil surrounding it, given the increasing radicalization and despair of the Palestinians, dare Israel dare?” and “I believe Israel has more to lose by clinging to the status quo than by shaking it up.”

Doesn’t almost every Jew want the same thing? It is the question of what comes next that divides us. Hasn’t Israel always taken bold chances, time and again since its creation, to advance peace with the Arabs? 

Has Israel made huge mistakes? Absolutely. We all know it. Yet Israel must continue to take steps for peace. We are in total agreement on this.

Rob Cherniak, Vancouver 

The Second Amendment and the Second World War

Well, Jewish Journal published yet another rant against conservatives, this time Ben Carson was on the leftist chopping block for stating a belief that, had the Jewish people not been unarmed, Hitler could not have achieved the near-total annihilation of European Judaism (“The Nutty Neurosurgeon,” Oct. 16).

I cannot believe a Jewish publication could not be aware of the anti-Nazi uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, when a handful of Jewish heroes and heroines held off a huge array of Nazi military forces for several weeks with nothing more than a few handguns.

It is highly unlikely that hordes of Nazi soldiers would have entered Jewish homes to haul away our defenseless people had they known each home could have a rifle, perhaps a handgun or two and substantial amounts of ammunition — ready to kill those Nazis on the spot?

Leonard Melman, Nanoose Bay, Canada

Sticks and stones and centrifuges


A month ago, we Jews were frantic over Iranian centrifuges. This month, we’re vexed by Palestinian knives.

In no time at all, we went from the 21st century to the second. Space-age threats have been swept aside in a rash of Bronze Age bloodshed. 

On Fareed Zakaria’s Sunday morning CNN program, Wall Street Journal foreign-affairs columnist Bret Stephens placed the blame for the latest terror attacks inside Israel solely on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who, Stephens said, pretends to want peace but really foments violence. The Atlantic columnist and contributing editor Peter Beinart blames Israel’s policies in the West Bank.

In fact, I don’t think blame matters much at all. Blame is past tense — who did what to whom and when. There’s a perfect place for people who want to argue endlessly over what really happened in 1948 or 1967 or, for that matter, 1948 B.C.E. It’s called the Internet comments section. But leaders who care about their people have to focus on what will happen, not what already has. You either want to settle past scores or find future solutions. You can’t do both. 

The Middle East is an absolute mess right now. Last week’s bombing in Turkey shows just how fragile even the most stable governments are. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many Israelis watch the news — hell, all they have to do is look down from the Golan Heights — and find all the reasons they need to hold fast to the status quo and resist any change in a violently changing region.

But one can look at the same turmoil and make the opposite case. Nothing in the Middle East is stable. The status quo is an illusion. Even as Bibi clings to stability, reality refuses to cooperate. What we are seeing now is a new generation of Palestinians who are unwilling to go along with what was. Can they be suppressed? Yes. For a year? For three years?  Maybe. But then what?

Some Israeli leader is going to have to sit down and make some very difficult decisions. Ideally, he or she will make them across the table from a Palestinian partner. But, as former Ambassador Michael Oren has said, that leader might have to make those choices even without a partner.  Either way, there is no avoiding the demographic, political, diplomatic and, not least of all, ethical challenges that Israeli control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem pose.

I could have written these same words a year ago, five years ago, 20 years ago or more. In the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War, former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion recognized that Israel’s miraculous, life-saving victory also contained the seeds of a potential demographic disaster. The old man was right.

Israel has advanced beyond his wildest imaginings. But there is something unsustainable about a country that has pioneered in nanotechnology, medicine, artificial intelligence, water conservation, defense and computers — and yet is stuck defending itself against kitchen knives.

In a world driven by images and sound bytes, a news photo of a kid throwing a rock or being thrown to the ground by a soldier is always, always going to make a bigger impression than a picture of two Israelis in lab coats staring at a test tube, or even of Bar Rafaeli in a bikini. Those are about advancing Israel’s image. I’m talking about ensuring Israel’s survival. There is going to be a one-state solution or a two-state solution. The two-state solution can be as creative as you want to make it — confederation with Jordan, a unilateral process, a four-state solution with Gaza, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. But, bottom line, Palestinians are going to be enfranchised — either inside Israel or outside. They won’t remain voteless for much longer, which raises the question: In what country will their vote count?

“If there will not be two states here, and fast, there will be one state here,” Amos Oz said earlier this year. “If there will be one state here, it will be an Arab state, from the sea to the Jordan River. If there will be an Arab state here, I don’t envy my children and my grandchildren.”

If you think a binational state means a place where Arabs and Jews will sit down together and wipe hummus and sing Hatikvah, it’s time to give up your medical marijuana card. Think Lebanon. Think Yugoslavia. Now imagine something much worse.

One day, maybe Israel and the Palestinians can have a binational lovefest. But for now, what they need is exactly what Gwyneth Paltrow and her ex-husband said they had — a “conscious uncoupling.”

And have no illusions that a two- or three- or four-state solution will bring total peace and end hatred.  As Jeffrey Goldberg points out in The Atlantic, Arab attacks against Jews in the Holy Land predate Israel.  But separation will, as it does in any divorce, allow the parties to cool off and get on with their lives.  It is the first, necessary step to peace, not the final.

So, can Israel make a bold move here? Given the turmoil surrounding it, given the increasing radicalization and despair of the Palestinians, dare Israel dare?

I believe Israel has more to lose by clinging to the status quo than by shaking it up — and that Netanyahu is the man who should make the move. He can go down in history as the prime minister who steered the ship of state straight into the iceberg that Ben-Gurion saw coming, or the man who brought it safely through.

If you put off big decisions long enough, they either get made for you or your window of opportunity slams completely shut. That’s where Bibi and Israel are when it comes to the Palestinians. This week, it’s knives and screwdrivers. Next month, bombs. Next year — who knows? Medium-range missiles? Israel can survive all of these — it can even find an answer to those Shiite centrifuges. 

What it can’t survive is the death of the two-state solution.  

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

Gulf states looking to buy Israel’s Iron Dome system for protection against Iran


Bahrain and several other Gulf states are in negotiations to buy the Israeli-developed Iron Dome defense system for protection from “a growing arsenal of Iranian missiles.”

Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid bin Mohammed, told Sky News that the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, are interested in purchasing the Israeli weapon for the entire council.

“The Israelis have their small Iron Dome. We’ll have a much bigger one in the GCC,” Mohammed said.

The Iron Dome system has intercepted approximately 85 percent of missiles fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip since it became operational in 2011, according to the Times of Israel. It was produced through American contractors and the Israeli arms firm Rafael.

Mohammed said that interest in the Iron Dome has increased as a result of the Iran nuclear deal, which will loosen sanctions on Iran. The Bahraini foreign minister said the agreement will allow Iran to “stockpile enough missiles to overwhelm any defense system we build in the Gulf.”

“Iran has been trying to undermine and topple government in our region for years,” he said.

A deal involving several Gulf states could potentially cost hundreds of billions of dollars, Sky News reported.

In UN speech, Netanyahu keeps focus on Iran


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, urged the international community to “check your enthusiasm at the door” regarding the recently finalized agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

On Thursday, Netanyahu also criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for saying in his General Assembly speech the previous day that Israel is not complying with accords. The Israeli leader repeated his willingness to enter negotiations with the Palestinian Authority without preconditions.

Netanyahu used most of his 40-minute speech to again warn the world of what he called the dangers of the nuclear deal reached in July between Iran and six world powers, including the United States. As he has throughout the negotiations leading to the deal and afterward, Netanyahu decried the agreement for giving Iran a flow of cash to fund terrorist groups. He also protested the 10- and 15-year expiration dates for some of the deal’s key provisions.

He called Iran a “rapacious tiger,” and at one point brandished a book by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which he called a “400-page screed,” about Iran’s plans to destroy Israel.

“Does anyone seriously believe that flooding a radical theocracy with weapons and cash will curb its appetite for aggression?” Netanyahu asked. “Do any of you really believe that a theocratic Iran with sharp claws and sharp fangs will be more likely to change its stripes?”

Netanyahu castigated world leaders for not condemning Iranian statements threatening to destroy Israel. After admonishing the audience for this “deafening silence,” Netanyahu remained silent for a prolonged period, glaring at the crowd.

“Perhaps you can now understand why Israel is not joining in celebrating this deal,” he said. “If Iran were working to destroy your countries, perhaps you would be less enthusiastic about this deal.”

Netanyahu pushed supporters of the accord to remain vigilant about inspecting Iran’s nuclear facilities and to punish Iran should it violate its commitments. He also said that Israel would use any means necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and would defend itself if threatened.

“Israel will not allow Iran to break in, sneak in or to walk into the nuclear weapons club,” he said. “I know preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons remains the official policy of the international community, but no one should question Israel’s determination to defend itself against those who seek our destruction.”

Netanyahu spent the beginning and end of the speech criticizing the United Nations for its criticisms of Israel. But Netanyahu praised the United States, and President Barack Obama, for supporting Israel. Netanyahu and Obama have had an often acrimonious relationship due to differences on Iran and the peace process, and sparred earlier this year over a speech that Netanyahu gave before Congress criticizing the impending nuclear deal. But Netanyahu called the U.S.-Israel relationship “unshakable.”

Near the end of the address, Netanyahu addressed Abbas, who blamed Israel for undermining the two-state solution through settlement expansion and thus the P.A. is therefore no longer bound by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Abbas also accused Israel of changing the status quo on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and preventing Muslims from praying there.

Netanyahu, in turn, blamed Abbas for rejecting Israeli peace offers and again called on him to enter negotiations without preconditions. Netanyahu also said that Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and protecting freedom of religion.

“Israel stands out as a towering beacon of enlightenment and tolerance,” he said. “Far from endangering the holy sites, it is Israel that ensures their safety.”

A year of danger for Israel


The beginning of a new year is a good time to assess where Israel stands. Based on my conversations over the past year with experts, journalists and highly placed officials, it is possible to identify several trends of concern:

1. Iran

The nuclear deal with Iran, which will cause a dangerous shift of power in the Middle East, was the center of political life in the past year. Israel’s interests have been ruthlessly ignored through the nuclear free pass Iran received, and Shiite Iran gained tremendous power. How was that possible?

“You cannot achieve compromises through naïve concessions,” Iran expert Daniel W. Szpilman told me, “but through a willful determination not to compromise. The mullahs understood. The West did not.” 

Seventy-eight percent of Israelis believe that the Iran deal threatens the security of their country. A senior associate editor of The Washington Post, Lally Weymouth, had the opportunity to talk with main members of the Israeli government about potential consequences of the Iran deal. She emphasized that, in particular, Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon has concerns and fears about the consequences: “We consider the deal a very bad one,” Ya’alon told Weymouth. A breach of the agreement through Iran is, in Ya’alon’s opinion, very possible. At the end of his long interview, Yaalon emphasized that the nuclear program consists of “lies and deception.”

“Iran came weak to the negotiation table and turned out as the winner — a real tragedy for everybody because the major exporter of terror now gets the power to maliciously interfere into the conflicts in the Middle East.”

After numerous additional concessions to Iran, there was a final push for a quicker lifting of sanctions. The foreign minister from Switzerland, Didier Burkhalter, interfered unilaterally, although the Swiss were not part of the negotiations in Lausanne. That didn’t keep Burkhalter from publicly claiming that the Iran deal was also a success for the Swiss. “The lifting of sanctions should happen as fast as possible, in my opinion,” Burkhalter emphasized. “We have close relations with Iran at all levels,” he added.

Even before the deal with the Islamic Republic was signed, European companies already had begun to get in touch with Iran, and it became obvious that the wish for substantial business with Iran was incomparably bigger than the concern about Israel. The co-founder of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran, Rafigh Doust, explained in a press conference: “The countdown to destroy Israel has begun.”

President Barack Obama is leading us to a “point of no return,” a nuclear Iran and, therefore, an atomized Middle East, Bret Stephens, opinion editor of The Wall Street Journal, told me. 

Netanyahu proved to be an impressive statesman, with his speech in front of a joint meeting of Congress. Would it have been wiser for him to abandon Israel’s confrontation with Obama? My answer to that is clear and precise: It is absurd to propose that  the Israeli prime minister should behave carefully while the existence of his country is threatened through the American support of a nuclear Iran. Not to resist such politics would be a violation for Netanyahu of his responsibility as a political leader of Israel.

“It is my expectation that Netanyahu will brilliantly succeed to put the successor to Obama, whether Democrat or Republican, under pressure to act against the Iranian hegemony and to prevent the development of Iran as a nuclear state. I am convinced that the post-Obama government will improve the relations to Israel considerably,” journalist Isi Leibler told me.

2. 11 years of Mahmoud Abbas

In the 11th year of his initial four-year term, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), operates without legitimacy and without a parliament. He would receive only 30 percent of votes in re-elections — Hamas would be the clear winner. Abbas maintains security cooperation with Israel, but at the same time celebrates mass murderers as freedom fighters and eliminates any potential political opponent. In the 10 years of his presidency, the lives of the Palestinians haven’t noticeably improved. Israel recognizes Abbas because every alternative would be even less beneficial. 

Abbas, for strategic reasons, has temporarily put the “armed conflict” aside and replaced it with “diplomacy,” but it is a fact that Abbas has so far rejected any specific peace proposals.

Why do so many in Israel believe peace negotiations should involve the people who were conquered in 1967? The reality is that for most of the Palestinians, it is not about the control of the areas conquered in 1967; it is about the whole existence of the State of Israel. The Palestinians would rather establish no state if they have to accept Israel as a Jewish state. “Zionism started as foreign business and will end as foreign business,” Abbas said. 

Anti-Israeli propaganda is not just limited to the Middle East, but nowadays has spread through the whole world — especially in Europe, with calls to boycott Israeli products, divest from Israeli companies and levy political sanctions. At the same time, primitive calls of hate by the PA are ignored and their calls for ethnic cleansing tolerated, such as the explanation by Abbas that there is no room for Jews in a future Palestinian state.

3. Israel an “apartheid state”

The disparagement of Israel as an “apartheid state” is particularly ridiculous, as Arabs in the Jewish state can enjoy more privileges than in any other [Middle Eastern] country. There is a huge increase, especially of Arab women, in the Israeli job market. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development praised Israel for its efforts to expand job opportunities among the Arab population. The Israeli government also funded 85 percent of research to Arabic high- tech startups, unlike 50 percent of Jewish startups. All of those facts, however, are kept as a kind of secret in most media reports of Israel. Positive media coverage about Israel rarely gets attention and has to make way for one-dimensional and distorted facts. 

“The automatism with which Israel again and again is assigned the worst intentions is breathtaking and at times malicious,” emphasizes Clemens Wergin in the German daily newspaper Die Welt. The demonization and delegitimization of Israel represents a difficult challenge for the Jewish state and has since its founding.

4. Jewish and Islamic terrorism 

Not too long ago, there was scandalous news from Israel. Shira Banki, a 16-year-old girl, was fatally injured at the Jerusalem gay pride parade in a knife attack by a fanatic Orthodox man. At approximately the same time, an 18-month-old boy and his father died from an arson attack on the home of a Palestinian family. Israel’s Secret Service assumes that the perpetrators were fanatic Jewish terrorists. It is not a secret anymore that there are certain fringe/marginal groups of Israel’s radical terrorists, which neither follow rabbis nor politicians but call themselves “anarchistic anti-Zionists,” who try to pull down the whole region into a destructive territory with provocation and violent actions.

A society isn’t characterized by its fringe groups, but by how the mainstream of the society reacts to them, and it appears that the overwhelming majority of Israelis are united in a tremendous wave of protest against such acts of political or racist violence. The crimes of the Jewish perpetrators are condemned in all circles of Israeli society. The late philosopher and editor Frank A. Meyer asked exactly that question: “Do Muslims go by ten thousands on the streets because they won’t accept that Israelis are getting murdered by Muslims?” The question sadly answers itself.

Arthur Cohn is an international film producer whose films include “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” “Central Station” and “One Day in September.”

Iran’s Rouhani at U.N.: Israel ‘only impediment’ to nuclear-free Mideast


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Israel the “only impediment” to a nuclear-free Middle East and said that the United States’ support for Israel was the cause of terrorism in the region.

Rouhani also praised the he sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers during his speech Monday at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly.

“The nuclear deal, which is a brilliant example of “victory over war”, has managed to disburse the clouds of hostility and perhaps even the specter of another war and extensive tensions from the Middle East. The deal can and should herald a new era and lead to positive outcomes regarding the establishment of sustainable peace and stability in the region,” Rouhani said.

“Today, a new chapter has started in Iran’s relations with the world,” Rouhani also declared.

Still, he had harsh words for the United States, blaming it for the problems in the region.

“If not for the U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and its unwarranted support for the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime against the oppressed nation of Palestine, today the terrorists would not have an excuse for the justification of their crimes,” he said.

Rouhani called for a nuclear-free Middle East, saying that the world cannot “allow the Zionist regime to remain the only impediment in the way of realizing this important initiative.”

Rouhani addressed the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.  “The gravest and most important threat to the world today is for terrorist organizations to become terrorist states. We consider it unfortunate for national uprisings in our region to be deviated by terrorists and for the destiny of nations to be determined by arms and terror rather than ballot boxes,” he said.

“We propose that the fight against terrorism be incorporated into a binding international document and no country be allowed to use terrorism for the purpose of intervention in the affairs of other countries. We are prepared to assist in the eradication of terrorism and in paving the way for democracy, and ensuring that arms do not dictate the course of event in the region,” he added.

Hundreds of Iranian-American protesters demonstrated in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York during Rouhani’s speech.

Also on Monday in an address to the General Assembly, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sissi said that resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would eliminate one of the main “pretexts” for religious radicalism and terrorism.

He called for the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 borders, with its capital in eastern Jerusalem.

“Resolving this conflict and empowering the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and to an independent state within the border of 4th June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, will effectively eliminate one of the most important factors contributing to the region’s instability and one of the most dangerous pretexts used to justify extremism and terrorism,” Sissi said.

U.S. President Barack Obama did not address the Palestinian issue at all during his speech to the General Assembly on Monday, angering the Palestinians.

“Does President Obama think that he can fight terror and defeat ISIS and achieve peace and stability in the Middle East by continually ignoring the occupation and Israeli settlements in the West Bank and continued aggression against the al-Aqsa Mosque?” said  Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the PLO executive committee, following the speech.

Obama-Netanyahu meeting in DC to discuss post-deal environment


President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss post-Iran nuclear deal strategies when they meet Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C.

“The president looks forward to discussing with the prime minister regional security issues, including implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to peacefully and verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and countering Tehran’s destabilizing activities,” the White House said Wednesday in a statement.

The JCPOA is the sanctions relief for nuclear restrictions deal reached in July between Iran and six major powers.

Netanyahu adamantly opposes the deal and cut off security talks with the United States until he was certain Congress would not kill it. The Israeli leader feared that such talks would imply his approval of the agreement.

This week, Democrats for the second time blocked a filibuster a bid by Senate Republicans to stop the deal. Republicans may attempt to get another vote through before Congress’ window to kill the deal expires Thursday, but in any case, Obama has pledged to veto any law should it pass.

Obama has said that the United States will enhance its security cooperation with Israel and other allies in the wake of the deal as a means of containing Iranian ambitions.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel as well as the unprecedented security cooperation, including our close consultations to further enhance Israel’s security,” the White House statement said.

The statement also said that Obama at the White House meeting hoped to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and “the need for the genuine advancement of a two-state solution.” Netanyahu has said that he is ready to resume such talks, which collapsed in 2014, without preconditions.

Why we lost the debate to kill the Iran deal, and how we could ultimately win


Early on in February of this year, as the President and his Secretary of State were starting to leak information on the  negotiations around the proposed deal with Iran, the world looked on and assumed like so many attempts before it, the prospects of success where slim – they would fail.  But the Israeli government took them seriously, they went into high gear, sending out messages through government operatives, generals and eventually the Prime Minister. This culminated in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s grand performance before congress. 

Mistake number #1.  No sitting president wants to be upstaged, nor embarrassed.   And no Democratic member of congress wanted to be part of a political maneuver that was staged not just by the Republican majority, but was blatantly used to manipulate the elections in Israel.  With that move, so began the slippery slope of alienating the key members of congress, the key democratic constituencies that could have turned the tide and killed what is arguably a “poor deal with Iran”.   

Then after the Netanyahu grandstanding, negotiations began to heat up as deadlines approached.  And Israel turned up the heat with its propaganda machine.  Leaking information on the Iranian nuclear program, placing editorials in newspapers, sending operatives from the Israeli lobby in the U.S. to media and events like congressional hearings. 

Mistake number #2 – Its not all about Israel — Its about the spread of terrorism and the importance of keeping sanctions.   As the elements of the deal leaked out in earnest in late April early May, the Israeli lobby began to attack the deal without any substance.  “We know this will be a bad deal for Israel.” stated a email from AIPAC.  “We cannot trust the Iranian's to keep their word” stated another one.  

Mistake number #3  While the Israeli lobby did the inside the beltway dance and shuffle, all the while the President and his people were out working the world stage putting pressure on our strongest allies to support a deal that they themselves had concerns about.  And setting in place U.S. based support with key Democratic constituencies.

Next up, the deal is getting done, the Iranians were close to walking away according to sources in the talks.  They did not want an extension.  We could have killed the deal right then and there.  But instead pro-Israel forces and members of the Israeli government chose a different path.  They focused their efforts on stirring up their base, sending out fundraising letters and attacking the wrong folks – the important Democrats that they were going to need in the coming months. 

Mistake number #4.  While the pro-Israel forces focused on attacking Democrats and let their Republican allies carry the message, the President and Secretary of State John Kerry were traveling the world, further pushing our allies into supporting the deal, and meeting regularly with the Democratic leadership to prepare for the eventual rollout of a flawed deal.  They knew it was flawed, yet they continued to think as they do today that this is the best deal we can get. 

Mistake number #5.  Already behind the eight-ball only weeks before the final announcement of the deal, finally the pro-Israel lobby meets in secret meetings in DC to plan what to do about a deal.    What do they do – they hire a Republican PR firm and Republican operatives to oversee the campaign, while leaking their strategy to the conservative media.   Not a great strategy, when you have to convince 30+ Democratic House members and a dozen or more Democratic Senators to oppose a flawed deal.   And in a typical inside baseball strategy they start running ads in national publications and doing TV advertising to an audience that has not been contacted in months as to their position, and has little connection to what is now become a partisan battle. 

Mistake number #6.  Panicked and playing catch up, they put into place a last minute attempt to lobby members of congress during the recess.  The big problem —  they have no base of support, the constituents that would make the most impact to members are already either neutral or are not going to go up against the President.  Having been worked for months by the administration, the supporters have convincingly framed the debate, and the Israeli government having counted the votes now knows they need to be careful for fear of a increased Obama backlash. 

Is it too late?

So where are we today, the pro-Israel groups for the last 40 days have been desperately trying to work constituencies that have no skin in the game, and are more concerned about the last two years of an Obama presidency and important members of Congress that will be critical to their issues in the coming years.  Throw on top of this members being lobbied by the leadership to tow the line or else they may end up in the smallest office, working on the subcommittee on Post Office operations. 

And so we have a misguided plan, late execution, a lost moral high ground, and many pro-Israel supporters like myself left confused and disappointed.

So can we win this? Probably not.  But we could inflict enough damage and pain that the administration and the world will listen- – implementation is still yet to be determined.    How can we achieve this.  We need to enlist the Obama coalition – go grassroots, and capture the debate by shifting the narrative away from Israel and back to terrorism and protecting the Homeland. 

We cannot re-write the history of the last 6 months.  We cannot undo the Netanyahu speech, or even bring together members of the Democratic caucus to rally behind their most trusted allies – the Jewish community.  Nor can you take back the millions wasted on national media campaigns and robo calls to staff members who have more to loose in bucking the leadership.  

Opportunity number #1.  What we could do and what we should have done is to reach out to the traditional Democratic base, the coalitions of minorities, women and seniors, labor and others that have stood side by side with the American Jewish community for decades.  Fighting for human rights, civil rights and personal freedoms.   We should have utilized this most powerful of coalitions to push back on our friends in the Democratic establishment to support what is right and what is important.   There is nothing more persuasive than a local constituent or large contributor calling or writing a member of congress to say.  “Please think before you cast this vote….”   Staff members catch on when calls come in from individuals that don't even know whom they are talking to – pushed through by eager political operatives that are making big bucks, while the President and his team count favorable votes.

Over and over again, our community falls into the same trap.  We take for granted that the communities we have been so closely aligned with, will be there when we need them. 

Opportunity number #2. So moving forward as a community, lets cast off the traditional playbook, put energy into local third-party Democratic and independent groups and focus on the importance of protecting the USA.    We as a Jewish community need to dig deep into our strong alliances with groups that have for decades relied on our support to achieve personal justice – we need them now, and they should be with us.  We need to ask them to reach key Democratic leaders and tell them its important that this deal not be implemented without the support of the community it will impact.  

That is where we should be, that is where we need to be – unfortunately, we are weeks away from approval of this deal, while continuing to  watch ads that point fingers and talk down to the same people that we need to support us.