Pro-Israel News

Date:
Thursday, February 26, 2015


Lawmakers express skepticism on reported concessions to Tehran in framework of nuclear deal

BY DEB RIECHMANN AND MATTHEW LEE February 26, 2015, 1:33 am | The Times of Israel| 
 


WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry played defense Wednesday on Capitol Hill, fielding dozens of questions from lawmakers worried about what Iran could get in a deal being negotiated to block its ability to make an atomic weapon.

California Republican Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Kerry at a hearing that members of the panel have serious concerns about the direction of the more than 1-year-old talks, which are at a critical juncture. Negotiators are rushing to try to meet a March 31 deadline for a framework agreement between Iran and the US and five other world powers.

“I’m hearing less about dismantlement and more about the performance of Iran’s nuclear program,” Royce told Kerry. “That’s particularly disturbing when you consider that international inspectors report that Iran has still not revealed its past bomb work.”

New York Rep. Elliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the committee, expressed skepticism too.

Engel noted news stories claiming that negotiators are willing to ease limits on Iran’s enrichment production during the later years of an accord in order to bridge the differences between the two sides over how long an agreement should last.

“We’re hearing troubling reports on the scale and duration of the program that Iran may be allowed as part of a deal,” Engel said.

The secretary testified in the House two days after returning to Washington from the latest round of talks in Geneva. US and Iranian officials reported progress on getting to a deal that would clamp down on Tehran’s nuclear activities for at least 10 years but would then slowly ease restrictions.

Any comprehensive pact could ease 35 years of US-Iranian enmity — and seems within reach for the first time in more than a decade of negotiations.

Royce said the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency is worried about the scope of Iranian military-related activities, including its work in designing a nuclear payload for a missile.

“The IAEA inspectors have amassed over 1,000 pages which showed research, development and testing activity on technologies needed to develop a nuclear weapon,” the congressman said. “Of the 12 sets of questions that the IAEA has been seeking since 2011, Iran has answered part of one of them,” adding the Iranians are withhold information on the remaining set.

“They are legitimate and the questions have to be answered,” Kerry replied. “And they will be if they (the Iranians) want to have an agreement.”

He said Iran has complied with all the provisions of a first-step agreement, which launched the talks. “They agreed to roll back their program,” Kerry said. “I think that’s cause for hope.”

Wednesday was Kerry’s second appearance before Congress in as many days. As he did on Tuesday in the Senate, Kerry declined to disclose details of the discussions and told members of the House that it’s inappropriate to condemn what is in an agreement before anybody knows what it is — or even if there even will be a deal.

“It’s fair to be skeptical until you see the agreement, and it’s important to be hopeful. And that’s the way I’d put it,” Kerry said. “I’m not sitting here expressing confidence. I’m expressing hope, because I think we are better off with a viable, acceptable, good, diplomatic agreement than with the other choices. But it remains to see whether or not we can get that kind of agreement.”

“There are some big issues yet to be resolved. We are not there yet,” he said.

 

Date:
Wednesday, February 25, 2015


PM says planned speech before Congress next week ‘the final brake’ before an agreement

BY AFP February 24, 2015, 9:42 pm | The Times of Israel | 


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday he would do “everything I can” to prevent what he considers a bad nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, a week ahead of travelling to Washington.

Netanyahu’s government has long opposed the deal taking shape with Tehran over its nuclear program and he is to address the US Congress on March 3 on the subject, in a move that has angered the White House.

“The information which has reached me in recent days greatly strengthens our concerns regarding the agreement being formulated between the major powers and Iran,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“This agreement, if indeed it is signed, will allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state,” he said.

“It is my obligation as prime minister to do everything that I can to prevent this agreement. Therefore, I will go to Washington… because the American Congress is likely to be the final brake before the agreement,” he said.

House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on March 3.

President Barack Obama has refused to meet Netanyahu during his trip, saying diplomatic protocol forbids him from doing so, since the Israeli leader is running for re-election on March 17.

The two leaders have a famously frosty relationship, which has grown even more tense as a result of the disagreement over Netanyahu’s upcoming speech.

Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

Tehran says its nuclear program is purely for civilian use.

There is a heightened sense of urgency as the clock ticks down towards a March 31 deadline to agree on a political framework for the deal.

 

Date:
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Feb. 20, 2015 3:47 PM EST | AP News | 

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — In what is becoming an increasingly nasty grudge match, the White House is mulling ways to undercut Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming trip to Washington and blunt his message that a potential nuclear deal with Iran is bad for Israel and the world.

There are limits. Administration officials have discarded the idea of President Barack Obama himself giving an Iran-related address to rebut the two speeches Netanyahu is to deliver during his early March visit. But other options remain on the table.

Among them: a presidential interview with a prominent journalist known for coverage of the rift between Obama and Netanyahu, multiple Sunday show television appearances by senior national security aides and a pointed snub of America's leading pro-Israel lobby, which is holding its annual meeting while Netanyahu is in Washington, according to the officials.

The administration has already ruled out meetings between Netanyahu and Obama, saying it would be inappropriate for the two to meet so close to Israel's March 17 elections. But the White House is now doubling down on a cold-shoulder strategy, including dispatching Cabinet members out of the country and sending a lower-ranking official than normal to represent the administration at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the officials said.

Vice President Joe Biden will be away, his absence behind Netanyahu conspicuous in coverage of the speech to Congress. Other options were described by officials, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.

Netanyahu's plan for a March 3 address to a joint meeting of Congress has further strained already tense ties between the U.S. and Israel. Congressional Republicans orchestrated Netanyahu's visit without consulting the White House or State Department, a move the Obama administration blasted as a break in diplomatic protocol. Some Democratic lawmakers say they will boycott the speech.

U.S. officials believe Netanyahu's trip to Washington is aimed primarily at derailing a nuclear deal with Iran, Obama's signature foreign policy objective. While Netanyahu has long been skeptical of the negotiations, his opposition has increased over what he sees as Obama's willingness to make concessions that would leave Iran on the brink of being able to build a nuclear weapon. His opposition has intensified as negotiations go into overdrive with an end-of-March deadline for a framework deal.

"I think this is a bad agreement that is dangerous for the state of Israel, and not just for it," Netanyahu said Thursday.

The difference of opinion over the deal has become unusually rancorous.

The White House and State Department have both publicly accused Israeli officials of leaking "cherry-picked" details of the negotiations to try to discredit the administration. And, in extraordinary admissions this week, the administration acknowledged that the U.S. is withholding sensitive details of the talks from Israel, its main Middle East ally, to prevent such leaks.

The rebukes have only emboldened the leader of Israel, whose country Iran has threatened to annihilate. He has a double-barrel attack on the Iran talks ready for when he arrives in Washington. Not only will he address Congress, he will also deliver similar remarks at the AIPAC conference, an event to which administrations past and present have traditionally sent top foreign policy officials.

But maybe not this year.

An AIPAC official said Friday that the group has not yet received any reply to its invitation for senior administration figures to attend the meeting that starts March 1. The official stressed that last-minute RSVPs are not unusual, but the White House has been signaling for some time that a Cabinet-level guest may not coming.

Instead, the administration is toying with the idea of sending newly installed Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken to speak to the conference, according to officials familiar with internal discussions on the matter. But it's possible Treasury Secretary Jack Lew could attend.

Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, who have both previously addressed AIPAC, will be out of the country on foreign travel that appears to have been arranged to make them unavailable to speak. Biden will be visiting Uruguay and Guatemala on a trip that was announced after Netanyahu's speech was scheduled, while the State Department announced abruptly this week that Kerry will be traveling to as-yet-determined destinations for the duration of the AIPAC conference.

Obama spoke to AIPAC in 2012, while he was in the midst of his re-election campaign

Date:
Monday, February 23, 2015

PM pans US­led ongoing negotiations in light of IAEA report that Tehran is hiding military components of nuke program

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF AND AFP February 22, 2015, 1:10 pm | The Times of Israel| 

 

P rime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized the international community for negotiating with Iran while taking no steps to curb its sponsorship

of global terrorism, as top American and Iranian diplomats attempted to hammer out a deal in Geneva. Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, the prime minister s

aid that it was “astonishing that even after the recent IAEA report determined that Iran is continuing to hide the military components of its nuclear program, the nuclear talks are proceeding.”

 

“Not only are they continuing, there is an increased effort to reach a nuclear agreement in the coming days and weeks,” Netanyahu said. The deadline for the six world powers and Iran to reach a political agreement about Tehran’s unsanctioned nuclear program is March 31. His

comments came as US Secretary of State John Kerry was set to arrive in Geneva Sunday for renewed talks with his Iranian counterpart on Tehran’s nuclear program,

after warning “significant gaps” remain ahead of the deadline. On Thursday, an IAEA report stated that Tehran is being evasive and ambiguous in its dealings with the UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, preventing the organization from launching a thorough assessment of the country’s

nuclear program. In the wake of the report, Netanyahu called on world leaders to stop “wooing Iran” over a nuclear deal. Netanyahu also panned the international community

for continuing to negotiate despite Iran’s sponsorship of international terrorism. “The fact that Iran is continuing its murderous terrorism that knows no borders and which embraces the region and the world has, to our regret, not prevented the international community from

continuing to talk with Iran about a nuclear agreement that will allow it to build the industrial capacity to develop nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said Sunday. Israel has accused Iran of carrying out a slew of terrorist attacks in recent years against Israeli targets from Bulgaria to

Bangkok and providing material support for both Hezbollah and Hamas.

 

Netanyahu said the emerging deal was “dangerous for Israel,” and defended his planned speech about the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program in Washington next month. In a jab at the executive branch, he said the US Congress “would appear to be the body that will affect the

fate of the deal.” World powers are trying to strike a deal with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of punishing international economic sanctions. Kerry is set to arrive in the Swiss city Sunday morning for two days of talks with I

ranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country denies its nuclear program has military objectives.

“There are still significant gaps, there is still a distance to travel,” Kerry said in London on Saturday. There is a heightened sense of urgency as the clock ticks down towards the March 31 deadline for a political framework for the deal. “President [Barack] Obama has no inclination

whatsoever to extend these talks beyond the period that has been set out,” Kerry said. US and Iranian diplomats have been meeting in Geneva since Friday, and senior negotiators from the so­called P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany were also

expected to meet on Sunday to help drive the talks forward. 

Date:
Friday, February 20, 2015

As the US talks with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Republic, it fails to bring up the issue of the “genocidal agenda of anti-Semitism” that both bodies have expressed, Asher Small says.

By SAM SOKOL \02/19/2015 18:58| The Times of Israel| 

 

The American failure to highlight Jew hatred when engaging with entities such as Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood may be defined as “institutional anti-Semitism,” an expert on the topic told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

In Israel to address a conference on far right radicalism at IDC Herzliya, Dr. Charles Asher Small, director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy, further expressed the view that American Jews have not engaged with the issue.

“I think that the American Jewish organizational establishment is more willing to speak clearly on European anti-Semitism [than] what is going on in the United States,” he said. “It is easier to look at the anti-Semitism far away than it is to look at the anti-Semitism within American society.”

Small was careful to explain that while he is far from accusing any members of the current administration of harboring anti-Semitic attitudes, he believes that a sort of functional anti-Semitism exists.

As the United States takes part in dialogues with the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic Republic, it fails to bring up the issue of the “genocidal agenda of anti-Semitism” that both bodies have expressed, he said.

“To not deal with anti-Semitism is not only immoral, but I would call it, and this is coining a phrase, institutional anti-Semitism.”

Riffing off the term institutional racism coined by Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton during the 1960s, Small explained that both concepts relate to a system “in which individuals may not be racist, individuals in this case may not be anti-Semitic, but there is an institutional culture which promotes certain types of behavior. And when an administration is engaging those who want to exterminate Jews and [by] not engaging this immoral and horrific form of hatred they give oxygen to it and allow it to fester.”

“Can you imagine dealing with the apartheid regime, negotiating with it, and not not mentioning racism,” he asked.

Small added that he agreed with a recent assessment by thinker David Hazony, who asserted in an article that the “myth of Israeli centrality” to the world’s problems, a common perception in certain policy and academic circles, is functionally anti-Semitic and that those who believe in it are spreading a modern version of the ancient trope of Jewish complicity in all of the world’s problems even if they themselves are not anti-Semitic.

“In the modern reinvention of the idea, however, it is not the Jewish people but the Jewish state that is the core problem in the world, the key obstacle to betterment. The claim takes different forms and has long been fueled by the propaganda juggernaut of the Arab world. By the time it reaches the softer shoals of places like Foggy Bottom, of course, it goes through a filtration system of bureaucratic qualifiers,” Hazony wrote in a recent issue of the online magazine Tower.

“I think that there are still people in the United States and in the [Obama] administration who believe that if it were only for the settlements, jihad would dissipate,” Small commented. “There are people who still hold on to these views and it's irrational thinking.”

 

Date:
Thursday, February 19, 2015


When it comes to Iran nuclear talks and anti-Jewish attacks in Europe, PM does not pull any punches, even if it costs him

BY RON KAMPEAS February 19, 2015, 3:26 am | The Times of Israel| 


WASHINGTON (JTA) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be running for office in Israel, but this week he had plenty of strong messages for Jews in the United States and Europe.

Speaking Monday in Jerusalem to leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Netanyahu said he would press ahead with plans to speak March 3 to the US Congress even though the speech has roiled the US capital.

“I think the real question that should be asked is how could any responsible Israeli prime minister refuse to speak to Congress on a matter so important to Israel’s survival?” Netanyahu said. “How could anyone refuse an invitation to speak on a matter that could affect our very existence when such an invitation is offered?”

Netanyahu also sparked controversy with his comments after the weekend attacks in Copenhagen that killed two people, including a synagogue security guard.

“To the Jews of Europe and to the Jews of the world,” Netanyahu said, “I say that Israel is waiting for you with open arms.”

In both cases, Netanyahu stuck with highly charged messages along with his repeated insistence that his top responsibility — even more than pleasing allies — is to speak out when Israeli security and Jewish safety are at stake.

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the US House of Representatives, added fuel to the controversy over Netanyahu’s speech when he told Fox News over the weekend that he purposely kept President Barack Obama out of the loop regarding the invitation to the Israeli prime minister.

“It is no secret here in Washington about the animosity this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Boehner said. “I simply didn’t want them getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity.”

Boehner issued Netanyahu the invitation without consulting with the White House, notifying it just an hour or so before he issued the announcement on Jan. 21. Boehner also did not notify Democrats, and much of the pro-Israel community was kept out of the loop, too.

Top Obama administration officials have said they will not meet with Netanyahu in part because he is speaking just two weeks before Israel’s election and appearing with him would be inappropriate.

Netanyahu said that the looming March 24 deadline for an outline of an agreement between Iran and the major world powers trumped any other timing issue. That date is what “drives the speech,” he told US Jewish leaders.

“Now is the time for Israel to make its case – now before it’s too late,” Netanyahu said. “Would it be better to complain about a deal that threatens the security of Israel after it’s signed?”

US officials including Obama have said that any likely deal will leave Iran with the capacity to enrich uranium, albeit at a civilian scale. Netanyahu insists that even at minimum levels, an ability to enrich leaves Iran with breakout capacity.

Details of what minimum enrichment would look like have been leaked to the Israeli media, and the Washington Post reported Monday that this has led infuriated US negotiators to limit what they convey to the Israelis after each session with the Iranians.

Netanyahu’s response, again, has been to intimate that the urgency of keeping Iran from going nuclear outweighs the niceties of keeping secret briefings from what both sides have agreed is an extraordinarily close defense and intelligence relationship.

“Just as Iran knows what kind of agreement is being offered, it’s only natural that Israel should know the details of the deal being formulated,” he told Haaretz as he headed into the meeting with the Presidents Conference. “But if there are those who think this is a good agreement, why must it be hidden?”

Officials on both sides have taken pains to assert that the strength of the relationship persists.

After news of US plans to withhold information first made headlines in Israel, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz issued a statement noting that he recently met with the top two US officials consulting on the Iran talks — Wendy Sherman, the under secretary of state leading the U.S. side in the talks, and Phillip Gordon of the National Security Council.

The sides had differences, Steinitz said in his statement, but the meeting Monday with Gordon was in “a good and friendly atmosphere” and another one with Sherman a week earlier included a lengthy one-on-one session – code meant to convey that the United States was still sharing sensitive information.

Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador to Israel, also was at pains to say that the defense and intelligence-sharing relationship persisted at full strength.

“Whether it be in the intelligence sphere, where we have reached new heights of intelligence sharing and cooperation, or with respect to joint training and readiness, our two defense establishments and our two fighting forces have never been closer,” Shapiro said at the annual conference of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

He acknowledged, however, that there were “hot-button issues defining this election season,” but deferred to others at the conference to address them.

After his 2012 reelection, Obama said he would be tougher on Israel, one of his top advisers, David Axelrod, wrote in a book published this month titled “Believer: My Forty Years In Politics.”

Axelrod, who is Jewish, said Obama was a strong supporter of Israel, but he “felt he had pulled his punches with Netanyahu to avoid antagonizing elements of the American Jewish community.” CNN reported on the Israel sections of the book.

At the same time that the debate over Netanyahu’s speech to Congress raged on, the Israeli prime minister also found himself on the receiving end of criticism regarding his call for European Jews to consider making aliyah following the attacks in Copenhagen.

“Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home,” Netanyahu said. “We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe. I would like to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are, Israel is the home of every Jew.”

Netanyahu made the statement on Sunday morning before Israel’s Cabinet approved a $46 million plan to encourage immigration and adapt the absorption process to Jews from France, Belgium and Ukraine.

In response, Denmark Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior said, “Terror is not a reason to move to Israel.”

Israel’s former president, Shimon Peres, sounded a similar note, telling more than 1,000 attendees at the Times of Israel gala in New York on Sunday that Jews should come to Israel “because you want to live in Israel.”

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt visited the synagogue late Sunday morning, laying a bouquet of flowers at its gate and vowing that Denmark “will do everything” it can to protect its Jewish community.

“Jews are a very important part of Danish society,” she said earlier at a news conference. “I say to the Jewish community, you are not alone.”

Netanyahu has pushed forward with such calls for aliyah, even as he works to cultivate close ties with European leaders in his bid to head off what he sees as a bad Iran deal, and also to limit the influence of those in Europe calling for boycotts of Israel because of its policies regarding the Palestinians.

One of Israel’s main allies in both spheres is France, perhaps the most hawkish of the six major powers negotiating with Iran. Still, Netanyahu has irked the French with the immigration plan passed Sunday, budgeting for an expected surge in aliyah from France in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris last month. The attacks included the siege of a kosher supermarket in which a terrorist killed four Jews.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls rejected Netanyahu’s call for European immigration to Israel, saying, “My message to French Jews is the following: France is wounded with you and France does not want you to leave.”

 

Date:
Wednesday, February 18, 2015


US State Department reported to say Israelis would ‘twist details’ to undermine negotiations

BY AVI LEWIS February 18, 2015, 3:08 pm | The Times of Isreal| 
 


European officials have confirmed that the US State Department cautioned them against providing Israel with sensitive information on the current round of negotiations with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons program, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The account came amid vehement denials by the White House and State Department that they had stopped updating Jerusalem on the progress in the talks, even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted Monday that Israel was indeed being kept in the dark.

The report quoted an unnamed European official involved in negotiations who said he was told recently by the State Department’s Wendy Sherman, the lead American negotiator with Iran, not to disclose too much information to the Israelis because “the details could be twisted to undermine a deal.”

Another unnamed State Department official speaking on Sherman’s behalf noted that talk with Israel was encouraged, so long as it remained clear “that the negotiation should take place in the negotiating room,” a reference to the fact that Israel is not directly involved in the talks.

The comments echoed those of an Israeli official interviewed for the report who quipped that he received only “empty” briefings on the looming deal, signalling perhaps a further chill in ties between the Obama administration and the Jewish state that The New York Times compared to “posting notes to each other on a refrigerator door.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that the Iranian nuclear program is an existential threat to Israel and that Tehran is intent on developing nuclear weapons to use against the Jewish state.

To that effect, Netanyahu vowed to go ahead with a speech before the US Congress on March 3 to discuss the looming nuclear deal, raising the ire of the White House, some US congressmen and his political opponents in Israel.

The report quoted another European official who said that US Secretary of State John Kerry was “fuming about [the] Israeli leaks” following a report Sunday on Channel 2 to the effect that the administration has been withholding information from Israel.

According to the TV report, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had cut off contact with Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen, while Sherman was quoted as saying that she will no longer keep Israel informed either.

The report was hurriedly denied by both US and Israeli officials.

Kerry, who has been leading the negotiations along with his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, argued that it was in no one’s interest to negotiate in public.

Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

 

Date:
Tuesday, February 17, 2015


No responsible PM could refuse invitation to speak to Congress on issue that threatens israel’s survival, he tells visiting US Jewish leaders

BY TAMAR PILEGGI February 16, 2015, 11:33 pm Updated: February 17, 2015, 7:34 am | The Times of Israel|
 


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched thinly veiled criticism at the Obama administration Monday for reportedly withholding information from Israel regarding the ongoing US-led nuclear talks with Iran. He also left no doubt whatsoever that he will go ahead with his controversial speech to congress on March 3, saying that no responsible Israeli prime minister could “refuse an invitation to speak on a matter that could affect our very existence” before the world’s most important parliament.

“Just as Iran knows what deal is being outlined in the negotiations, it’s only natural that Israel also know the agreement being drafted,” Netanyahu said in Hebrew at the start of an address to a visiting group from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “But if there is anyone who thinks that this is a good agreement, why should it be hidden?”

On Sunday, Israeli media outlets reported that the Obama administration has decided to keep Israel in the dark regarding the details and progress of the talks, over fears that the Israeli leader is undermining the talks and using the controversy for political gain. Both the White House and State Department categorically denied the reports. But further media reports in the Hebrew press Monday quoted unnamed sources on both sides saying the US is indeed changing the flow of information to Israel over the negotiations.

Netanyahu, who continued his address in English, went on to reiterate the importance of his addressing US lawmakers concerning the threat of a nuclear armed Iran, leaving no doubt whatsoever that he would proceed with the speech despite criticism from the White House; President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will not meet him during the trip because of its proximity to Israel’s March 17 elections, and Vice President Joe Biden will not attend the Congressional speech citing a prior unspecified overseas commitment.

He called his upcoming March 3 speech before Congress an “obligation,” and said he would “do everything in my power to prevent the conclusion of a bad deal that could threaten the survival of the State of Israel.”

Netanyahu warned: “The current proposal to Iran would endanger Israel. It would enable Iran to break out to its first nuclear device within an unacceptably short time. And it would allow Iran to build an industrial capability to enrich uranium that could provide the fuel for many bombs in the coming years. A regime that openly calls for Israel’s destruction would thus have finally the means to realize its genocidal aims.”

He stressed he was “not opposed to any deal with Iran. I’m opposed to a bad deal with Iran. And I believe this is a very bad deal. I’m certainly not opposed to negotiations. On the contrary – no country has a greater interest, a greater stake, in the peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear question than does Israel. But the current proposal will not solve the problem,” he said. “It will perpetuate and aggravate the problem. It would provide a path for Iran to become a nuclear power. And therefore it’s very important that I speak about this in Washington.”

He said he had to speak in Congress “because Israel has been offered the opportunity to make its case on this crucial issue before the world’s most important parliament; because a speech before Congress allows Israel to present its position to the elected representatives of the American people and to a worldwide audience; because Congress has played a critical role in applying pressure to the Iranian regime – the very pressure that has brought the ayatollahs to the negotiating table in the first place; and because Congress may very well have a say on the parameters of any final deal with Iran. That’s why I’m going to Congress.”

He said “the real question,” in fact, was “how could any responsible Israeli prime minister refuse to speak to Congress on a matter so important to Israel’s survival? How could anyone refuse an invitation to speak on a matter that could affect our very existence when such an invitation is offered?”

And the speech had to come right away “because the deadline for reaching an agreement with Iran is March 24th. That’s the date that drives the speech. Now is the time for Israel to make its case – now before it’s too late.”

He asked: “Would it be better to complain about a deal that threatens the security of Israel after it’s signed? I believe it’s more responsible to speak out now to try to influence the negotiations while they’re still ongoing. I think the whole point of Zionism is that the Jewish people would no longer be spectators to the decision-making that determines our fate. Remember, we were once powerless. We were once voiceless. We couldn’t even speak on our own behalf. Well, we can and we do now.”

Responding to criticisms that his invitation and acceptance were a slight to the US president and Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu insisted: “I don’t see this issue in partisan terms. The survival of Israel is not a partisan issue. It concerns everyone, all the supporters of Israel from every political stripe. The fight against militant Islamic terrorism is not a partisan issue. The battle against the Islamic State, which just beheaded 21 Christians, is not a partisan issue. And the effort to prevent the Islamic Republic from building nuclear weapons, that’s not a partisan issue either.”

He went on: “I think the pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran is the most urgent security challenge facing the world. I think the greatest danger facing humanity is the possibility that any movement or any regime of militant Islam will arm itself with the weapons of mass destruction. Everything that we see in our region now will pale by comparison. Everything that we see in Europe will pale by comparison. When a militant Islamic regime that is rampaging through the region right now – that’s what Iran is doing, it’s conducting a rampage through the region – when such a regime has nuclear weapons, the whole world will be in peril.

“Look at what Iran is doing now without nuclear weapons,” he urged. “States are collapsing. And Iran is plunging forward. It’s already controlling four capitals. It’s controlling now through its Houthi proxies the Bab-el-Mandeb Straits. It’s trying to envelope Israel with three terrorist tentacles – Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamas in Gaza and now it’s trying to build with its Hezbollah proxies a third front in the Golan. Such a regime with nuclear weapons would be infinitely more dangerous to everyone, not only to Israel.”

He said he could not “guarantee” that his speech in Congress will prevent a dangerous deal with Iran from being signed. “Honestly, I don’t know. No one knows. But I do know this – it’s my sacred duty as prime minister of Israel to make Israel’s case. On March 3rd, I’ll fulfill that duty, representing all the citizens of Israel before the two houses of Congress. And I will make the best case for Israel that I can, knowing that our case is just, that our case is sound, and that our case offers the best hope to resolve this issue peacefully.”

Congress will vote on March 24 on the Iran sanctions deal, a week ahead of a March 31 deadline for an agreement in principle in the P5+1 talks with Tehran.

Diplomatic relations between the two allies have reached new lows in past weeks over the invitation to address Congress, which bypassed the White House. Netanyahu accepted an invitation last month from Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the US House of Representatives, to speak to Congress, but the White House complained that Boehner had not cleared the invitation in advance with Obama or Democrats in Congress. Boehner later acknowledged this was the case, saying he hadn’t wanted the White House to intervene.

Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — known as the P5+1 — have been seeking a comprehensive accord with Iran that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb, in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

 

Date:
Friday, February 13, 2015


Yuval Steinitz says all options are still on table, blasts proposed nuclear deal as ‘full of loopholes’

BY AFP February 12, 2015, 5:20 pm | The Times of Israel| 

 

Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz warned Thursday that Israel could act unilaterally against Iran over its nuclear drive, saying Tehran has failed to make concessions in talks with world powers.

“I won’t be too specific but all options are still on the table,” Steinitz told reporters.

“We never limited Israel’s right of self-defense because of some diplomatic constraints,” he said.

Significant gaps remain between Iran and the P5+1 world powers on specific measures to end a 12-year standoff on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Two deadlines for a permanent agreement have already been missed, since an interim accord was struck in November 2013.

The P5+1 — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany — have now set a March 31 deadline for a political agreement.

It would be followed by a final deal setting out all the technical points of what would be a complex accord by June 30

Iran denies seeking an atomic bomb and says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.

Steinitz said Iran has so far shown little or no flexibility on key issues such as uranium enrichment, destruction of related infrastructure and the fate of its Arak nuclear reactor and Fordo secret underground enrichment facility.

“Its a gloomy picture,” said Steinitz, adding that he discussed it at last week’s security conference in Munich with International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano.

“The Iranians didn’t move much… therefore we are so disturbed,” he said.

Steinitz said the agreement being thrashed out was “full of loopholes.”

If there is an agreement reached by the end of March, he warned, it will be an agreement that does not include many concessions on the Iranian side.

“If this is the picture, how much can it change in one month?”

US Secretary of State John Kerry met his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif at the Munich conference and stressed Washington’s commitment to seeing the deadline met.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted he has a “profound disagreement” with US President Barack Obama over the Iranian nuclear issue.

Washington and Iran are now seen as the key players of any potential deal

 

Date:
Thursday, February 12, 2015
By Jennifer Rubin February 11 at 1:43 PM  Follow @JRubinBlogger| The Washington Post| 
 

The Times of Israel reports: “Asked whether they trust the US president to ensure Iran not get the bomb, an overwhelming 72% do not, compared to 64% in our January 2014 survey. Israeli voters give Obama a 33% favorable and 59% unfavorable rating.” And this is not the case just in the prime minister’s Likud party: “Across all ideological groups, a majority does not trust Obama to ensure that Iran does not achieve a nuclear weapon. Among undecided voters, the distrust is slightly deeper, with 17% saying they trust Obama and 76% saying they do not. Even among those voters who said they had a favorable opinion of Obama, 45% said they trusted him on Iran and 47% said they did not. Arab-Israelis were split evenly, with 42% saying they trusted Obama and 42% saying they did not.” Incidentally, the poll also confirms that the economy, not Iran, remains the top concern for Israeli voters.

The administration has long suggested that the problem in the U.S.-Israel relationship is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The response of the Israeli people however suggests that the problem is Obama, who is the least pro-Israel president in history. The Israelis don’t have the luxury of self-delusion as Obama’s liberal supporters do. From the vantage point of their very rough neighborhood, they see the administration capitulating at every turn to Iran. Israel, like its Sunni neighbors, notices serial concessions on Iran that will leave Arab neighbors with no choice but enter into a nuclear arms race. And they see Obama’s passivity in the face of aggression by Iran and its proxies and allies.

Democrats here who think this is about their own domestic politics (i.e. defending the president against the speaker and/or an unruly Israel politician) should think again. The Anti-Defamation League condemns liberal group J Street’s role: “At the height of the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress, J Street’s petition campaign that attempts to distance itself and American Jews from Israel’s duly elected prime minister is inflammatory and repugnant and exacerbates an already heated and politicized moment for U.S. Israel relations at a critical juncture in the West’s negotiations with Iran.” The statement continues on: “Let’s remember what is at stake: Preventing extremist Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel’s very existence.  In that goal, Mr. Netanyahu surely does represent not only Israelis but American Jews as well.”

Indeed it is not Israeli voters who will be influenced by events here — they already have made up their minds about Obama. It is rather Israel’s enemies in Tehran, Damascus and elsewhere that will be delighted to see one of the two major political parties turn its back on the elected leader of the Jewish state. In a joint statement, Bill Kristol of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel and Gary Bauer of Christians United for Israel said:

The bottom line is simple: The enemies of Israel benefit most from this campaign against the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech. Whatever their views on Israeli politics or the Iranian nuclear negotiations, members of Congress who are friends of Israel should not play into the hands of Israel’s enemies — and America’s — by boycotting this speech. Boycotting Israel is high on the agenda of the enemies of Israel. Welcoming Israel’s Prime Minister to the halls of Congress is the least that those who claim to be friends of the Jewish state should do.

“As representatives of two proudly pro-Israel organizations, we urge members of Congress to do the right thing for the U.S. and Israel. And for those who would turn their backs on Israel and boycott its leader — they are no friends of Israel, and we pledge to do our best to educate voters about their undermining of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship at this crucial hour.”

Democrats sensitive about their parties’ declining support for Israel (born out in a slew of polls) keep complaining that Israel is being “politicized.” There would be no issue if the Democratic Party and the president returned to the party’s historic role as pro-Israel. But behaving as the president does and as boycotters of the speech intend to, they cannot expect others not to notice. There would be no political advantage for the GOP if Democrats’ were equally supportive of Israel and equally critical of the president’s Iran folly. And if conservatives here and the Israeli electorate notice, you can bet the mullahs do. And by the way, I wonder what Hillary Clinton thinks? She might want to rethink her whole third-term strategy.

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