Tuesday, June 18, 2013
June 17, 2013, 11:26 am
Hamas has deployed a 600-man military force in the Gaza Strip that operates 24 hours a day in order to prevent rocket fire at Israel, a senior Arab source told The Times of Israel on Monday.
Since Egypt — with the election a year ago of President Mohammed Morsi – stepped up its involvement in Gaza and began to pressure Hamas to not allow rocket fire, the Islamic organization has diligently worked to keep the peace in Gaza, even when that came at the price of confrontations with smaller Islamic groups such as the extremist Salafists, the source said.
Thus, Hamas has established a special force to “safeguard public order” that numbers around 600 gunmen and operates mostly along the Gaza-Israeli border.
The past few months have seen a dramatic decline in the number of rockets fired at Israel as compared to a year ago, a trend that has been confirmed by Israeli security sources. According to Israeli figures, since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November, some 20 rockets or mortar shells have been fired into Israel, compared to about 150 over the same period last year.
At the same time, there has also been a drop in the number of weapons smuggled into the Gaza Strip, due to Egypt’s efforts in the Sinai Peninsula and the prevention of smuggling from Libya.
The Egyptians have fielded a relatively large force to fight terror cells operating in the Sinai and to prevent the smuggling of “game-changing” long-range missiles. Still, Israel claims that the Egyptian activity is insufficient to dismantle terrorist infrastructure in the peninsula, despite being a significant improvement over the days of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who during his rule did not conduct major operations against terrorists in the Sinai.
Over the last few days, a delegation of senior Hamas officials has been holding consultations in Cairo, sponsored by the Egyptian government. According to Arab media reports, Morsi gave special permission to three Hamas men wanted by Egyptian security to join the proceedings.
Egyptian security forces, including 24 senior officers, have been deployed around the Intercontinental Hotel in Cairo where the Hamas delegation is staying, fearing demonstrations by secular activists who oppose Hamas due to reports that the Islamic group has attempted to intervene in Egyptian politics and has been involved in attacks on Egyptian soil, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
Meanwhile, Cairo has apparently deployed a considerable military force in the Sinai Peninsula, especially around Rafah, el-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, in anticipation of potential demonstrations and riots on June 30,the date chosen by the “National Salvation Front,” the umbrella opposition group, to stage massive nationwide protests.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Applications of pro-Israel groups for tax-exempt status are routinely routed to an antiterrorism unit within the Internal Revenue Service for additional screening, according to the testimony of a Cincinnati-based IRS agent.
Asked whether Jewish or pro-Israel applications are treated differently from other applications, Gary Muthert told House Oversight Committee investigators that they are considered “specialty cases” and that “probably” all are sent to an IRS unit that examines groups for potential terrorist ties.
Muthert, who served as an application screener before transferring to the agency’s antiterrorism unit, was interviewed in connection with the committee’s investigation into the IRS’s discrimination against conservative groups. As a screener, Muthert flagged tea-party applications and passed them along to specialists for further scrutiny.
sked by investigators whether “all pro-Israel applicants went to the terrorism unit,” Muthert responded, “Probably . . . foreign activity, pro-Israel — if it is any type of foreign activity, it will go to the antiterrorism area.” Screeners like Muthert must consult the list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury Department office that enforces economic and trade sanctions, and “the terrorist list . . . because a lot of organizations will create charities to funnel the money to terrorist countries.” In further questioning, Muthert was more categorical, saying that pro-Israel groups get “not so much additional scrutiny, just more procedures.”
“More review?” an investigator asked.
“Clearly, correct,” Muthert responded.
The IRS’s practices as described by Muthert touch on a political debate that has been raging in the United States and Israel since 2009. That’s when Washington Post columnist David Ignatius noted that opponents of Israeli settlements were fighting against tax exemption for groups that raise charitable contributions for organizations that support Israeli settlements. “Critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns,” Ignatius wrote.
On March 27, 2009, the day after Ignatius’s article appeared, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) filed a spate of administrative complaints with the Treasury Department and the IRS, alleging that pro-Israel groups raising funds for settlements in the West Bank were supporting “illegal and terrorist activities abroad.” Later that year, in October, the ADC said that it was waging an ongoing legal campaign against the IRS for what the ADC regarded as violations of the tax code by some pro-Israel groups.
The following year, in 2010, a New York Times report observed that “donations to the settler movement stand out because of the centrality of the settlement issue in the current [American-Israeli] talks and the fact that Washington has consistently refused to allow Israel to spend American government aid in the settlements.” The article quoted State Department officials complaining about the American dollars flowing to Israeli settlers. “It’s a problem,” a senior State Department official told the Times. The implication was that it may be wrong to grant tax-exempt status to groups devoted to causes that undermine administration policy. Relying on information in the Times article, the left-leaning advocacy group J Street called on the Treasury Department to investigate whether pro-Israel organizations collecting tax-deductible gifts for schools, synagogues, and recreation centers in the West Bank had broken the law by supporting certain Israeli settlements.
Throughout this debate, whether pro-Israel groups have been receiving additional scrutiny from the IRS has remained unclear. But in 2010, after the pro-Israel organization Z Street applied for tax-exempt status, the IRS sent it requests for further information. Z Street sued the IRS in October 2010, claiming it was targeted merely for being connected to Israel. According to court documents, an IRS official told the group that its application was delayed because it was assigned to a “special unit” to determine “whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
Certainly, charities based in the United States have funneled money to Israeli charities that are controlled by terrorist groups in Israel. But those charities have not been of a pro-Israel bent. The most-high profile case is that of the Holy Land Foundation, the Texas-based charity whose employees were indicted in 2004 for using the group as a front to provide material support to Hamas.
The policy that the applications of pro-Israel groups be examined by the IRS’s antiterrorism unit was instituted “probably years ago,” according to Muthert in his testimony. That testimony leaves unclear whether the news coverage in 2009 and 2010 prompted the scrutiny to which groups like Z Street say they have been subjected, or whether every nonprofit group whose application indicates it may engage in foreign activity, regardless of the country, is put under the microscope.
According to Muthert, it’s the latter, and he denies that pro-Israel applications are treated differently from those of other groups that claim they plan to engage with foreign countries. “It has to do with money laundering and things, because a lot of organizations will create charities to funnel the money to terrorist countries,” he explained. “So it is not so much Israel. It is just foreign countries.”
— Eliana Johnson is media editor of National Review Online.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
By ILAN BEN ZION May 28, 2013, 10:30 pm
Syrian rebel group that twice abducted United Nations peacekeepers near the Israeli border in the past three months stole several UN vehicles, a UN Peacekeeping spokesperson acknowledged to The Times of Israel — including at least two sophisticated armored personnel carriers.
An Israeli expert warned that the sophisticated UN-marked vehicles could be used in surprise border attacks on IDF targets.UNDOF reported in itsquarterly report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that on March 6, a supply convoy carrying 21 UN personnel was waylaid by Syrian rebels near the village of Jamlah, near the Israeli border. After several days in captivity the Filipino peacekeepers were released unharmed, but, as of the writing of the March report, their four vehicles were “yet to be recovered.”
Video footage uploaded by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, the Syrian rebel group that claimed responsibility for the March 6 hijacking, showed the hijacked vehicles, which included a UN-marked Renault water tanker and two RG-31 Nyala armored personnel carriers.
The RG-31 Nyala is a South African-made, mine- and IED-resistant eight-metric-ton behemoth capable of carrying up to 10 men, and has a price tag of approximately $670,000, according to analyst estimates. According to a Canadian news report from 2005, the Nyala is “virtually indestructible” and is “designed to be able to resist twosimultaneous blasts from anti-tank mines.”
UN Peacekeeping spokesperson Josephine Guerrero confirmed to The Times of Israel, however, that not only were the four vehicles missing from March’s kidnapping, but that “a number of vehicles were taken during the March and May incidents involving the detention of UNDOF peacekeepers [emphasis added].”
She didn’t specify how many vehicles were stolen during the May 7 incident, during which four more Filipino peacekeepers were taken hostage by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade. (Evidently, in the latest May 15 kidnapping of UNTSO peacekeepers on the Israel-Syria border, only the soldiers’ personal effects were “looted,” according to the UN, and no military hardware was stolen.)
Guerrero also refused to verify the types of vehicles stolen by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, or confirm the authenticity of the rebel videos, which clearly showed the rebels taking control of two RG-31 Nyalas.
“This is of concern to UNDOF and the Mission is working to recover them,” Guerrero added. Neither she nor Secretary General Ban’s spokesman Farhan Haq specified how the UN planned to retrieve the vehicles. The Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade ignored Times of Israel queries about the vehicles believed to be in their possession.
Professor Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Stategic Studies, said that while the vehicles didn’t confer a game-changing strategic advantage to the Syrian rebels, they were a platform by which the Yarmouk Brigade could launch potentially deadly surprise attacks against IDF positions along the border.
Such a maneuver would hark back to tactics employed last August, when Sinai-based terrorists launched a sneak attack on an Egyptian army base located near the Gaza Strip and the Israeli border. The attackers killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, hijacked an armored vehicle and careened the juggernaut through the Israeli border crossing. Speeding nearly a kilometer into Israeli territory, the stolen vehicle almost reached a nearby kibbutz, but was stopped in its tracks by a last-ditch airstrike.
In response to inquiries about the possible threat the trucks may pose to soldiers on the Israeli border and nearby communities, an army spokesperson stated that “the IDF is fully confident in its ability to defend Israel’s borders.”
According to a military source, the IDF has strict procedures regulating the entry of UN vehicles from Syria into Israeli territory. The source said that the IDF coordinates with UNDOF, “who inform us in cases when UN vehicles are stolen or go missing in Syria, and we use the details they give us” to deny red-flagged vehicles entry via the Quneitra border crossing.
The IDF source wouldn’t absolutely confirm or deny such coordination with UNDOF regarding the vehicles snatched this spring by the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade.
Syrian civil war analyst Eliot Higgins of the Brown Moses blog said that the RG-31s would provide the rebels with a secure platform for smuggling arms, fuel or other contraband near the area where the Israeli, Syrian and Jordanian borders converge.
Though the trucks wouldn’t be a major offensive weapon, Inbar, the Begin-Sadat Center expert, suggested that their loss may have dealt yet another blow to the increasingly fragile morale of international peacekeepers on the Golan Heights.
Amid frequent raids on United Nations personnel and near-constant violence between rebel forces and those loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, UNDOF peacekeeping soldiers are said to be growing increasingly concerned about their personal safety and the effectiveness of their mandate. The UNDOF peacekeepers, drawn from the Indian, Austrian and Philippine militaries, are licensed by the UN Security Council to observe the ceasefire lines separating Israeli and Syrian forces on the Golan Heights. They are lightly armed, carrying sidearms and occasionally M-16s, but are not allowed to intervene in the event of third-party violence.
Both Manila and Vienna have expressed concern over the deteriorating security situation on the Israel-Syria border, and officials from both countries have suggested that morale among the peacekeeping forces is understandably low.
Philippine Ambassador to Israel Generoso D. G. Calonge, who has seen 25 countrymen abducted and liberated by Syrian rebels in the past few months, recently said that Philippine soldiers stationed on the Syrian border are likewise “disappointed” by the devolving situation.
A journalist who recently visited UNDOF’s headquarters told The Times of Israel that Austrian soldiers may be eager to sign up for the mission, but they are growing disheartened by their inability to do anything except defend themselves from direct assault. (Despite this, only a handful have returned to Austria out of concern over the growing violence, according to the Austrian newspaper Kurier.)
With the intensification of hostilities along the Israel-Syria border, the Austrian force’s “main task changed from reporting to stay safe themselves,” the reporter said. Deputy UNDOF commander Brig. Gen. Stefan Thaller was said to tell Austrian Defense Minister Gerald Klug during the latter’s recent visit to Camp Faouar that UNDOF’s mission “is only to report to New York [the UN secretary-general's office], and that’s it.”
An UNDOF spokesperson refused to comment on the status of morale among UNDOF troops, and rejected repeated requests to interview force commander Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha about the sit
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
May 22, 2013
The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution affirming America's firm opposition to Iran's nuclear ambitions, and pledging full support for Israel in the event of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The chance to slam Iran’s government and speak up for Israel brought a rare moment of complete bipartisan unity to the Senate. Republican Lindsey Graham was a lead sponsor of the resolution.
“If that day ever comes where Israel has to take military action, to our friends in Israel: we will be there with you every step of the way diplomatically, economically, and, yes, militarily. And to the Iranian people: we would love to have a better relationship with you. To the Iranian regime: you are one of the biggest evils on the planet. And we will stand up to you. We will stand by our friends,” Graham said.
The resolution is an expression of the collective will of the Senate. It neither authorizes the use of U.S. military force, nor constitutes a declaration of war.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez noted a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying that Iran has boosted its ability to enrich uranium with hundreds of new centrifuges.
“We seek full implementation of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran, and urge the president [Barack Obama] to continue to strengthen enforcement of those sanctions. I cannot emphasize enough my strong concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, and the extraordinary threat it poses - yes, to Israel, but very importantly to the United States of America,” Menendez said.
Iran has long insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, arguing that Israel is the true threat to regional peace.
Monday, May 20, 2013
By Barak Ravid | May.19, 2013 | 3:22 PM
A Friday report in the Times of London, according to which Israel prefers the regime of Bashar Assad than see a takeover of the country by rebel Islamist militants, is untrue, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a meeting of Likud ministers on Sunday.
"The statements attributed to an Israeli intelligence officer do not represent the Israeli government's position," Netanyahu said, according to a source present at the meeting.
The prime minister stressed that Israel is not intervening in the Syrian civil war and is not taking a position concerning who should rule the country.
"I don't think there is anyone in Israel eager to take action" in Syria, Tzipi Livni, a member of Netanyahu's security cabinet and a former foreign minister told Army Radio on Sunday, hinting at concerns that any strike could provoke a wider conflict.
Livni also said that Israeli politicians ought to avoid taking sides. "Israel isn't popular in Syria. Therefore any such statement could only be used as ammunition by one of the sides to try and divert the debate or the violence toward Israel and that's the last thing we need," she said.
The Israeli official told the Times: "Better the devil we know than the demons we can only imagine if Syria falls into chaos, and the extremists from across the Arab world gain a foothold there."
According to the Times, the senior intelligence officer in the north of Israel said a weakened but stable Syria under Assad is not only better for Israel but for the region as a whole.
Another defense official was quoted saying it is more likely than initially estimated that Assad will remain in power.
“We originally underestimated Assad’s staying power and overestimated the rebels’ fighting power,” the source said.
The report in the Times comes a day after the United States said the Russian missile shipment to Syria will embolden Assad and prolong the conflict.
Friday, May 10, 2013
By MAGGIE MICHAEL | Associated Press – Fri, May 10, 2013
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood staged an anti-Israel rally in Cairo on Friday, the first such protest by the main backers of President Mohammed Morsi since they rose to prominence in the wake of the country's 2011 uprising.
Emerging from weekly services at Al-Azhar mosque — the centuries-old seat of Sunni Muslim learning — demonstrators chanted "the people want the destruction of Israel" in protest of recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria and the detention of a Palestinian Muslim cleric.
At one point, leading Brotherhood member Mohammed el-Beltagy took the microphone and shouted: "we will repeat it over and over, Israel is our enemy." Others echoed the call, and one organizer whipped up the crowd in a chant urging the army to launch a war against Israel to "liberate Palestine ... from the sons of monkeys and pigs."
Since the revolt that deposed longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood — known for its anti-Israeli and anti-Western rhetoric — has largely avoided showing enmity to the West or its former foe on its eastern border.
Morsi himself has repeatedly stressed commitment to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, and won U.S. praise by brokering a cease-fire between Palestinian Hamas militants and the Jewish state just months after he assumed his post.
But both the Islamist president and his group have had a hard time melding their longtime anti-Jewish stance with new responsibilities since coming to power.
Earlier this year, Brotherhood heavyweight Essam el-Erian created a stir after calling on Egyptian Jews who fled the country to return, in what many saw as a sort of outreach to Israel. Shortly after the remarks however, an Egyptian TV program revealed older comments by Morsi, in which he described Jews as "bloodsuckers" and "pigs."
The revelations raised alarm among senior U.S. officials and reminded Washington of the Brotherhood's anti-American and anti-Israeli roots — a stance some fear the group could easily slide back into should it find it useful or necessary.
Morsi later distanced himself from the comments, saying he was quoted out of context and that he respects all religions. Such remarks are not uncommon in Egypt, where anti-Israeli, not anti-Jewish, sentiment is profound across the political spectrum.
The Friday protest centered on Israeli airstrikes in Syria that targeted alleged shipments of advanced Iranian missiles thought to be bound for Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Brotherhood official Yasser Mehres said.
The demonstrators were also protesting the Israeli detention of the mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, Mehres added in comments in the official newspaper of the Brotherhood's political party, Freedom and Justice. Hussein was held for several hours on Wednesday for questioning over disturbances at a holy site but released without charge.
The rally comes a day after Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Muslim cleric and Brotherhood ally, crossed to the Palestinian Gaza Strip to join a rally held by Hamas. At the rally, al-Qaradawi voiced support for militants who fire rockets at Israel and said the country has no right to exist.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
From Boston to Israel, radicals are attempting to destroy Western culture.
BY YAIR SHAMIR | MAY 1, 2013
George Orwell wrote in his seminal tome, 1984, "The object of terrorism is terrorism ... Now do you begin to understand me?"
Unfortunately, we live in a world where too many still do not understand.
After the recent terrorist attacks in Boston, there was immense incredulity when the ethnic nationality of the perpetrators was made known. The act did not make sense to many, because terror has so often been explained merely as a product of national conflict, or as a logical reaction to "oppression" or "occupation." Even al Qaeda, we are told, is merely reacting to America's role in the Muslim world.
Neither the United States in particular, nor the West in general, has played a significant role in the decades-long war in Chechnya. The usual talking heads were left scratching their heads -- even after more evidence of the bomber's Islamist ideology came to light.
Modern terror connected to an extremist Islamist mindset is simply something that many in the West are unable or unwilling to truly understand. Our opinion-shapers will look into every possible angle of a terrorist's background and history to find some way to explain away, or on occasion sympathize with, the perpetrators' motives.
We ignore terrorists' ideology at our own peril. While their acts are inhuman, these people are human and we must hold them accountable for their actions -- not treat them as a mere tool of retribution for other misdeeds. Ignoring their ideology will mean that we can never fully understand the implications behind these attacks.
We would not accept Christians meting out vengeance against Muslims for massacres and church bombings in Nigeria, or the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Why do we accept the argument that perceived Muslim persecution in one part of the world necessitates Islamist violence in another?
In reality, our Islamist enemies' goals are aggressive by nature. Al Qaeda's ideological underpinnings are found in the writings of Egyptian Islamist theorist Sayyid Qutb, which lauded offensive jihad, or a jihad of conquest. There is little that is reactive about this belief system - it is not aimed at defending its rights, but at conquering the world of the disbelievers.
While it may seem unbelievable to most that al Qaeda's attacks on the United States are about toppling the American nation, this is at the core of the terrorist organization's goals. On March 11, 2005, al-Quds al-Arabi published extracts from al Qaeda leader Saif al-Adel's "al Qaeda's Strategy to the Year 2020." Written in the 1990s, this document outlines how the terrorist organization has attempted to undertake a series of steps that will bring down the United States and the West. This impossible goal is an integral aspect of radical terrorist belief system.
The perpetrators of the Boston attacks, while seemingly unconnected to a terror cell or organization, are examples of people imbued with this radical ideology. Where and how they became radicalized is an important question for the FBI or CIA. But there is one thing we already know: Once they became practitioners of Islamist terror, their goal, in the words of a Boston police chief, was simply to kill as many people as possible. This was not about military occupation, borders, or national aspirations.
In the West, we can understand a person who fights with every breath against tyranny and oppression. We were raised on the heroic struggles against Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. However, we cannot understand someone whose goal is to maim and murder innocents in the name of their religion.
So we avoid that conclusion at all costs. It is a concept so foreign that we reject it outright, and seek other answers more acceptable to our Western palate.
In Israel, we have fought against jihadi terrorism long before there was a single Israeli foot in the West Bank, and even before Jewish sovereignty was reestablished in 1948. In the 1920s and 1930s, the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, would whip his followers into a religious frenzy who would then murder, burn, and frequently dismember innocent Jews.
Husseini's modern-day disciples are no less interested in murder for spiritual gain. While most assume that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is about sovereignty, that is not what the Palestinian terrorist groups claim.
Hamas, the most popular party during the last Palestinian elections, seeks the complete obliteration of Israel. As Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said in Gaza last December, "Palestine is ours, from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on an inch of the land."
Article 7 of the Hamas Charter, promises a world without Jews, where the "Day of Judgment" will only arrive when the last Jews are hunted down and killed. It is genocidal in its intent.
It is this aggressive and offensive jihad, unconnected to any particular conflict or borders, which conjoins Islamist terror groups around the world. It is this murderous and invasive mindset that drove the Tsarnaev brothers to attack innocent civilians in Boston.
If we in the West wish to stand in the way of this malevolent terror, we must first understand its vision, its true nature, and its goals. Only then can it be conquered. Sadly, at present, we are not even on the same battlefield.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
BY: Washington Free Beacon Staff
The map of the Middle East displayed in an Obama administration video released days before President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel shows the Jewish state dispossessed of substantial parts of its current territory, including its capital.
The map of Israel, displayed repeatedly during the video, shows the Golan Heights, Jerusalem, northern Israel, and areas surrounding what is currently the West Bank as non-Israeli territory. The Golan Heights is shown as part of Syria; Jerusalem is shown as part of the West Bank; and northern Israel is shown as part of Lebanon.
The itinerary on the White House website also implies that Jerusalem is neither Israel’s capital nor even part of Israel.
The president’s schedule lists two stops in “Tel Aviv, Israel” and one in “Amman, Jordan” but his activities in Israel’s capital city are identified as taking place only in “Jerusalem” — with no country name attached. This keeps with a reluctantly-acknowledged administration policy of denying that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital or even a part of Israel.
Monday, March 4, 2013
By Lara Seligman - 03/04/13 05:00 AM ET
Three times as many voters believe the Obama administration is not supportive enough of Israel as believe it is too supportive, according to a new poll for the Hill.
The proportion of voters who now say the president does not give strong enough backing to Israel is higher than it was in each of three similar surveys conducted for The Hill since May 2011. Correspondingly, fewer voters now find the White House’s policy excessively supportive of Israel.
According to the latest Hill Poll, just 13 percent of respondents say the president’s policy toward Israel is too supportive. A full 39 percent said Obama is not supportive enough, the highest percentage The Hill Poll has seen.
Over the past two years, recent surveys for The Hill show a fluctuating number of voters who believe the president needs to express stronger support of Israel.
In a poll for The Hill conducted in May 2011, 27 percent of voters said Obama was too supportive toward Israel, while 31 percent said he was not supportive enough.
In September 2011, the proportion of voters who said Obama was too supportive of Israel went down, and those insisting he was not supportive enough increased slightly.
March 2012 saw a slight uptick in the number of respondents who said Obama was too supportive of the Jewish state, to 25 percent, while slightly fewer voters, 32 percent, said the president was not supportive enough.
Meanwhile, in the most recent survey for The Hill, a slightly larger percentage of likely voters say Obama is generally anti-Israel than say he is pro-Israel, 30 percent to 28 percent. The percentage of voters who label Obama as pro-Israel is up slightly from a September 2011 survey for The Hill, as is the number of voters who say Obama is anti-Israel.
Overall though, the data hasn’t changed much since 2011. In the September survey, 23 percent dubbed Obama pro-Israel, while 29 percent said the president was anti-Israel. In the most recent survey, 29 percent of likely voters said Obama is neither, which is a somewhat smaller figure than the 38 percent of voters who gave that answer in 2011.
These findings underline the American public’s concern about Obama’s policy on the Jewish state at a time of heightened fears about Iran’s nuclear program. Israel has insisted that Iran must be stopped by any means necessary, including a military strike, from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Obama administration has expressed its preference for a diplomatic solution, a posture that pro-Israel critics say is insufficiently muscular.
The White House appears to be refocusing on the U.S.-Israel alliance after spending the last few months on domestic issues. Vice President Biden is scheduled to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s upcoming conference Monday, and Obama will make his first visit to Israel as president later this month.
Another question central to the U.S.-Israel alliance is how involved the White House should be in brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. According to the latest Hill Poll, a majority of voters said Obama should be somewhat or very involved in brokering a deal, while just 32 percent of voters overall said he should be not at all or not very involved in the process.
By way of broad comparison, in a May, 2011 survey, just 24 percent said Obama should be more involved in brokering a peace between the two nations, while 50 percent of voters said Obama should not be more involved and a solid 26 percent said they were not sure.
As Obama embarks on a second-term push to secure his place in history, the president is no doubt thinking about his global reputation.
But according to a comparison of two recent surveys for The Hill, fewer voters now believe Obama has improved the United States’ standing in the world.
In May 2011, 47 percent said Obama had improved the country’s standing, while 38 percent said Obama damaged the nation’s reputation. But in the Hill Poll’s most recent survey, just 37 percent said the United States is more respected internationally than it was prior to Obama taking office, while a full 43 percent said the country is less respected in the world.
These findings were based on a nationwide survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted on Feb. 28 by Pulse Opinion Research.
Click here to view data from The Hill Poll.
Read more: http://thehill.com/polls/285899-hill-poll-presidents-support-for-israel-found-wanting-by-many-voters#ixzz2Mc1xsWMn
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Thursday, February 28, 2013
(CNSNews.com) – Describing Iran as a country with an “elected” government and a “remarkable history,” Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday reiterated President Obama’s willingness to hold bilateral talks with the regime.
“It’s a matter of public record that he personally communicated to the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] that he was prepared to engage and to discuss these issues,” Kerry told a news conference with his French counterpart in Paris.
Responding to a reporter’s question about negotiating with a “terrorist” regime, Kerry pointed out that “Iran is a country with a government that was elected and that sits in the United Nations.”
“And it is important for us to deal with nation-states in a way that acts in the best interests of all of us in the world,” he added, drawing a parallel with President Reagan’s willingness to sit down with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Nixon’s decision to engage with China.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking through an interpreter, said in reply to the same question, “If we were only to discuss with full democracies, the ministers for foreign affairs would have a lot of free time.”
Kerry also said that Obama “has made it clear that he will entertain the notion of a bilateral discussion” with Iran.
“The president has said publicly on any number of occasions, and it’s a matter of public record that he personally communicated to the supreme leader, that he was prepared to engage and to discuss these issues,” he said.
“So as a matter of record, I restate today, the United States is prepared to engage in a serious bilateral negotiation with respect to this course we’re on, with the belief that Iran, that has a remarkable history, the Iranian people – there are many Iranian Americans today who contribute to our society.
“We would like to move to a better relationship, and it begins by resolving this nuclear issue.”
The personal communication from Obama to Khamenei referred to by Kerry was reportedly a letter sent shortly before Iran’s disputed June 2009 presidential election, a development not disclosed by the administration but first reported by the Washington Times on June 24, 2009.
When then-White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the letter during that day’s press briefing he said he would not “confirm or deny anything around this,” but also noted that “the administration has indicated a willingness to talk with the leadership in Iran and have sought to communicate with the Iranian people in a variety of ways.”
Khamenei himself referred indirectly to the letter, saying during a sermon at Tehran University that the U.S. administration was speaking in a supportive way about Iranian street protests – taking place at the time in response to the election dispute – while at the same time “they write letters to say we’re ready to have ties, that we respect the Islamic Republic … which one should we believe?”
As Kerry noted, Iran does have an “elected” government, but the 2009 election that returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term was viewed largely by Western governments, and by many of Iran’s citizens, as a farce.
Less than a month before the election the Guardian Council, an unelected religious-judicial body appointed by the supreme leader, announced that out of 476 men and women who had applied to be candidates, it had approved just four.
Iranians’ unhappiness with the process and an election result widely seen as rigged prompted the biggest anti-government protests seen in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution – and a subsequent bloody crackdown.
Kerry stopped short of calling the regime in Tehran “legitimate,” a term that his newly sworn-in cabinet colleague, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, used more than once in relation to Iran during his confirmation hearing last month, before backtracking under questioning and saying he should have said “recognized.”
Both Kerry and Hagel have a record of favoring engagement over isolation and sanctions when dealing with Iran and other regimes hostile to the U.S.
In Paris on Wednesday, Kerry stated, “The world has made a decision that an Iran with a nuclear weapon poses a threat to global stability, to nonproliferation efforts, to the Gulf, to the region, and that if we are interested in a world with less nuclear weapons, not more, it is critical to try to find a peaceful way – as President Kennedy did in the Cuban missile crisis – to defuse those situations that are dangerous for everybody.”
He described as “useful” talks between Iran and six powers in Kazakhstan on Tuesday and Wednesday, expressing the hope that Iran would carefully consider what he called “the credible confidence-building steps that the P5+1 have put on the table.”
“If Iran engages seriously, and we hope they will, then these could pave the way for negotiations that lead towards a longer-term and comprehensive agreement.”
The offer put forward by the P5+1 – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – has not been unveiled publicly, but reportedly includes easing of some sanctions in return for the suspension of some uranium-enrichment.