Rand Paul to Israel

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a skeptic of assistance to Israel who also is considering a 2016 presidential run, will travel to Israel.

Paul will be accompanied by Christian and Jewish leaders, a report Friday on the Christian Broadcasting Network website, and will also visit Jordan.

He will meet with leaders in both countries, as well as Palestinian leaders.

The trip is organized by David Lane, a “prominent evangelical activist,” according to CBN, and will include Republicans from Iowa, the critical first caucus state in the primaries.

Paul has backed eliminating foreign aid, including to Israel, but unlike his father, rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who has run for the presidency in the past, he has refrained from using Israel-critical rhetoric, instead framing his opposition to aid as bolstering his policy that Israel should act with a hand free of outside influence.

Paul has attracted conservative grassroots attention because of his budget-slashing rhetoric, but his opposition to Israel assistance has been as an impediment to winning over the party base.

Santorum’s Southern sweep mars Romney’s front-runner status

Rick Santorum swept two Southern states in Republican primaries, complicating Mitt Romney’s status as front-runner and all but burying Newt Gingrich’s chance for the nomination.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who emerged from last place in polling as recently as December to become the conservative challenger to Romney, scored 33 percent of the vote in Mississippi and nearly 35 percent in Alabama. Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, finished second in both states, with 31 percent in MIssissippi and 29 percent in Alabama. Romney was third with 30 percent in Mississippi and 29 percent in Alabama.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) came in a distant fourth in both races after barely campaigning in either state.

Romney, who during the campaign has tried to shuck his reputation as a moderate, had campaigned hard in a bid to prove he could win in conservative Southern states. The former Massachusetts governor is leading substantially in delegates, but his path to the nomination has been far from smooth as conservative candidates continue to mount substantive challenges.

Gingrich had suggested that if he failed to win in Mississippi and Alabama, his campaign was in trouble, predicated as it was on winning Southern states.

If Gingrich leaves the race, campaign watchers will look to see who his main backer, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, decides to support. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, twice salvaged Gingrich’s campaign with huge cash infusions; Gingrich and Adelson have been friends since the 1990s, in part because they share hard-line pro-Israel positions.

Romney has the backing of much of the Jewish Republican establishment, having attracted the bulk of Jewish donors and advisers. His appeal to Jews is based partly on his moderation and ability during his governance of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 to appeal to liberals and independents.

Additionally he and his wife, Ann, have referred in talks to Jewish groups to their Mormon faith, likening themselves to Jewish Republicans who have pushed for prominence in a party that still draws much of its support from a Protestant base.

Both Santorum and Romney have battered President Obama for what they depict as his hostility to Israel and his fecklessness on dealing with Iran, and both say that they will repeal much of the heath care reform package passed by Obama.

Some of Santorum’s domestic policies, including statements suggesting that a “Jesus guy” is most suitable for the presidency, have alarmed some Jewish groups.

Mitt Romney narrowly wins Ohio in Super Tuesday split

Super Tuesday Republican primaries were a race between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Republicans selected a Jewish veteran for Ohio’s senate run, and Dennis Kucinich lost his bid for reelection.

Ten states went to the polls Tuesday in what is the biggest election day of primary season.

“Super Tuesday” usually helps determine a frontrunner, but Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, won decisively in important southern states Oklahoma and Tennessee, and also picked up North Dakota.

Romney won his home state of Massachusetts and its neighbor, Vermont and as well as Idaho and Virginia.  Polls revealed Tuesday night that Romney narrowly defeated Santorum in Ohio.

The former Massachusetts governor faced only Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) on the Virgina ballot; Santorum and Newt Gingrich failed to place on the ballot.

Head to head with Romney in the state, Paul, a libertarian who rejects foreign assistance including for Israel, scored one of his most impressive outcomes this season: 40 percent to 60 Romney’s percent.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, won Georgia, the state he represented in Congress, keeping him in the race for now, although Santorum’s decisive wins in southern states Tennessee and Oklahoma seemed to dampen Gingrich’s prospect of a rally. It was too early to call Wyoming and Alaska, the ninth and tenth states voting on Tuesday.

The next primaries are in Alabama and Mississippi on March 13. 

Gingrich, Santorum and Romney each took time out of campaigning on Tuesday to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference on its last day, Santorum in person at the convention center in Washington D.C. and Romney and Gingrich via satellite.

All three took shots at President Obama for not making more clear a military threat against Iran should it not stand down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

AIPAC did not invite Paul, who opposes increased confrontation with Iran.

In Ohio, Dennis Kucinich ended a colorful political career when redistricting in the state forced him into a primaries match with Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio.).

Kucinich, elected mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the age of 31, emerged from obscurity 20 years later when the fiscal policies that had driven him from office in 1979 were vindicated.

Elected to Congress in 1996, he became one of its most liberal voices and one of its most consistent critics of Israel.

At the other end of the state, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) lost her Cincinnati area seat to Brad Wenstrup, a physician and Iraq War vet who had challenged her from the eight—a signal that the GOP is not moderating, considering Schmidt’s own reputation had been one of combative conservatism.

Statewide, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel easily beat off five challengers to secure the GOP’s nomination for U.S. senator.

Mandel, 34, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, and a Marine who did two tours of duty in Iraq, now faces Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Taking the pro-Israel pulse of GOP candidates

The race for the “Who Loves Israel Most” title has been one of the most interesting developments in the Republican presidential election. It’s skewed the contest in a way that turns every vote for a candidate into a vote for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party.

As they fight for the support of the Christian conservatives, who are a powerful force in the Iowa Republican caucuses on Jan. 3, the candidates are furiously trying to outbid each other in supporting Israel and Netanyahu’s hawkish policies toward Iran and the Palestinians. The notable exception has been Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a “non-interventionist” who doesn’t want “us involved in so many messes.”

The competition points up the relationship between conservative Republicans, including pro-Likud Jews, and Evangelical Christians. The relationship is not only shaping the Iowa caucuses, 2012’s first presidential contest, but will continue through the year in the effort to unseat President Barack Obama, whom they wrong-headedly consider anti-Israel.

“President Obama has … chastised Israel,” Mitt Romney told the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Washington earlier this month. “He has been timid and weak in the face of the existential threat of a nuclear Iran.”

Obama, however, got a standing ovation from 6,000 Jews at the Union for Reform Judaism conference this month when he said, “It’s hard to remember a time when the administration gave more support to the security of Israel. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s a fact.”

We’ll have to wait to see how this plays out in the Jewish community in the fall campaign. A Gallup Poll in September found that 54 percent of Jews approve of Obama’s job performance, compared to his 41 percent approval rating among the entire population.

The Iowa Republican caucuses play a unique part in the presidential election process even though they are attended by just a small minority of the state’s voters. These determined Iowans drive through Midwestern winter weather to homes and other places where the meetings are held. Evangelicals are among the most determined, and, in 2008, they gave former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, a victory over Romney. Huckabee was later sidelined by Sen. John McCain, who became the nominee. That showed how poor a predictor the caucuses are and raises the question of why the media gives them so much importance. But journalists love them — and the compact, easy-to-cover state — so caucuses are the big show of every presidential year.

With the caucuses fast approaching, candidates Romney, Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann are hammering one another. John Huntsman is not campaigning in Iowa.

In this year’s many televised debates, in speeches in restaurants and meeting halls, most of the other candidates are ganging up on Gingrich for his three marriages, marital infidelity, a million-dollar payment for working for the federally backed mortgage agencies and for being, as Romney put it, “zany.” All the candidates are indicting Obama on charges of weakness, gutlessness and general incompetence.

If you are interested in both theology and politics, you can’t beat the Israel issue, which nicely combines the two subjects.

Israel and the Jews are of great religious significance to Evangelical Christians. Central to their beliefs is the notion that all of the Holy Land — Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Settlements, everything — should belong to the Jews. The Rev. John Hagee, the fundamentalist minister who founded Christians United for Israel, said any country trying to “divide up Israel will experience the judgment of the Lord.”

According to his belief, and that of other Evangelicals, Israel must be in Jewish hands before the Rapture can occur. In the Rapture, as Hagee explained to NPR’s Terry Gross in 2006, “In the twinkling of an eye, the dead in Christ shall rise, and we who are alive … shall be caught up to be with the Lord. … That means instantaneously every believer will leave this earth.”

Gross noted, “Everyone I’ve heard talking about the Rapture believes Muslims, Jews, other non-believers will be left behind to face the Tribulation on earth,” a miserable time of catastrophe and death.

“You have to believe in Jesus Christ … yes you do, it is part of the Rapture,” Hagee replied.

In other words, as Tom Tugend wrote in this newspaper in 2010, Rapture believers think, “Jews will either see the light and accept Jesus Christ, or die.”

Many Jews value the support of Evangelical Christians, who use their considerable political influence lobbying for Israel. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, two of this nation’s most prominent elected Jewish officials, have appeared at Hagee’s Christians United for Israel meetings in Washington. Obviously, such American Jews believe the advantages of Evangelical support for Israel are worth the theological downside of linking up with people who feel Jews are doomed unless they accept Christ.

There are, of course, other reasons Jews may oppose Obama. Principally, Jews leaning Republican disagree strongly with the administration’s economic policy. They favor a market-based approach also backed by Netanyahu, who once worked with Romney at the Boston Consulting Group.

Citing Israel, Iran and the economy, a number of them will vote for the Republican nominee.

But others should ask themselves this question: If they lived in Israel, would they vote for the conservative Netanyahu? If not, why should they vote for him here?

Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for The Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

Paul McCartney is ‘shocked but not intimidated’ by jihadi threats re Israel concert [VIDEO]

LONDON (JTA)—Suicide bombers will target Paul McCartney unless he cancels his concert in Tel Aviv, a Muslim cleric said.

Omar Bakri said the ex-Beatle’s decision to perform in Israel “is creating more enemies than friends,” London’s Sunday Express reported.

“If he values his life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there,” Bakri said. “The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Bakri made the comments on his weekly Internet broadcast from his home-in-exile in Lebanon after being banned from returning to Britain, according to the Express.

McCartney is scheduled to perform for thousands of Israelis in Hayarkon Park on Sept. 25 as part of a world tour.

Several pro-Palestinian and political groups have asked McCartney to cancel his show, but he has refused.

From The Express . . .

Sunday September 14,2008
Dennis Rice
SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.

Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.

Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.

In an interview with Israeli media yesterday he said: “I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”

Sir Paul, 65, should have gone to Israel with the Beatles in 1965 but they were barred by the Jewish nation’s government over fears they would corrupt young people.

Yesterday a number of websites described him as an infidel and suggested he was going to Israel only because of the reported £2.3m fee for the one-off concert.

A message posted on one website said: “Shame on you Paul McCartney for day trippin’ to apartheid Israel” and vowed never to buy his music again.

Bakri, who made his weekly internet broadcast to fellow extremists from his home in Lebanon, where he has lived in exile since being banned from returning to Britain, said Sir Paul was “making more enemies than friends”.

Syrian-born Bakri, 48, went on: “I heard today that the pop star Paul McCartney is playing as a part of the celebrations.

“If you speak about the holocaust and its authenticity never being proved historically in the way the Jewish community portray it, people will arrest you. People will you say you should not speak like this. Yet they go and celebrate the anniversary of 60 years of what?

“Instead of supporting the people of Palestine in their suffering, McCartney is celebrating the atrocities of the occupiers. The one who is under occupation is supposed to be getting the help.

“And so I believe for Paul McCartney, what he is doing really is creating more enemies than friends.”

Explaining his comments, Bakri told the Sunday Express: “Our enemy’s friend is our enemy.

“Thus Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim. We have what we call ‘sacrifice’ operatives who will not stand by while he joins in a celebration of their oppression.

“If he values his life Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Lawyer Anjem Choudary, who last week chaired a meeting in London at which extremists claimed the next 9/11-style atrocity would be in Britain, said Sir Paul had allowed himself to become a propaganda tool for Israel.

He added: “Muslims have every right to be angry at Paul McCartney. How would the world react if he wanted to have a
concert in occupied Kashmir?

“They would not allow it to happen but because it is Israel he can play. A country which, as the celebration indicates did not exist 60 years ago, only exists thanks to stealing and occupying another country’s lands.” Yesterday the comments drew condemnation from Palestinian sources and outsiders.

Omar Barghouti, of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, described the threat as “deplorable”.

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former Shadow Security Minister, said: “One could dismiss Bakri as a ranting extremist but history has shown that he has an ability to twist minds, so his comments should not be underestimated.

“If Sir Paul McCartney wants to play at the 60th anniversary then it is the worst form of illiberalism for Omar Bakri to restrict the artist’s freedom in this way.”

A spokesman for Sir Paul declined to comment on the threat, saying: “Paul’s Friendship First concert is about his music. Paul’s is a message of peace.”

Tickets for the concert range from £70 to £230.

Last night Sir Paul performed his first concert in the Ukraine, playing to tens of thousands in the capital Kiev.

Fan video welcomes Sir Paul to Israel