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May 29, 2016 / 21 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘aid’

Rep. Maloney Presses Feds for Generators to Help Pump Out East River Subway Tunnels

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan/Queens), spoke with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood today seeking urgent Federal disaster aid for the efforts of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to pump out tunnels under the East River.

“The power is out in the East River subway tunnels, and Con Ed and the MTA cannot predict when power will be restored. Portable generators are needed to power the pumps to empty the tunnels, and that’s what I’ve asked from both DOT Secretary LaHood and Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Fugate,” said Maloney.

“New York City took an enormous hit from this storm and our thoughts and prayers are with all who have been affected by this disaster. I am deeply grateful to all the first responders who braved the elements to help those in need— and to the workers now in the field working to restore normal conditions.

“The storm’s combination of wind and flooding caused the largest storm-related outage in Con Ed history and the worst conditions ever in the 108-year history of the New York subway system.

“Recovery efforts are now underway but it is going to take a significant period of time to repair this much damage. I will do everything I can to ensure that all available Federal assistance is forthcoming.”

Following their conversation, Congresswoman Maloney sent the following letter to Secretary LaHood:

Dear Secretary LaHood,

Thank you for speaking with me earlier today about providing emergency federal assistance from the Department of Transportation to the MTA to help deal with record flooding in the New York City subway system. Providing this emergency federal disaster funding will greatly aid in the recovery process, by covering the costs of generators needed to address flooding in the subway system, as well as other immediate needs.

As you know, the subway tunnels going under the East River serving, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx are totally flooded. MTA can’t ascertain damage or time it will take to repair until the tunnels are pumped out, but they can’t be pumped out because there is no power for pumps from Con Ed.

Sandy inflicted widespread and significant damage to our country’s largest transit system and I deeply appreciate your assistance as we recover from this disaster.

Sincerely,

Carolyn B. Maloney

Member of Congress

Jewish Press News Briefs

Why Economic Development as a Panacea for Middle East Problems is a Myth

Sunday, October 28th, 2012
Visit Rubin Reports.
A reader asks:
“I agree that democracy and economic development are not panaceas for the Middle East, just as they are not for any other location on the planet.  But aren’t they a start?  And since it is possible to chew gum and walk at the same time, does it hurt to at least pay lip service to doing things to bring the rest of the Middle East into the 21st century? And what would those things be in your opinion?”
As you noted, both candidates in the presidential election spoke of economic development as a top priority in their Middle East policy. This sounds good to voters but is pretty meaningless.

A typical example of this meme is given by Obama in his June 4, 2009 Cairo speech:
We…know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  That’s why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who’ve been displaced.  That’s why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend on.
 But almost four years later none of these massive expenditures have either changed the situation in those countries or even brought much benefit to their people.
A Western viewer might accept Obama’s claim that people just want good jobs, nice housing, and higher living standards for themselves and their children. Yet the appeals of radical ideology overcome material considerations. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini dismissively referred to this theory shortly after he took power in Iran by remarking that the West seemed to think the Iranian Islamist revolution was about the price of watermelons but that wasn’t true of all.It does make sense to the Western mind that material conditions will determine the political beliefs and loyalties of Arabs and Iranians. Yet over the span of the last century things have simply not turned out that way in practice. This was partly due to the fact that nobody  delivered major increases in living standards except in the Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and in those places it was a highly traditional and religious way of life being reinforced.Elsewhere governments mustered loyalty not by making the pie bigger but by controlling who got what. So if you had the option material well-being for the urban middle class and certain ethnic segments meant supporting the dictatorship and getting some reward. That will also apply if the dictatorship is an Islamist one, which can offer spiritual exaltation as well. And at least for some years many voters–where people have the opportunity to choose–will believe that Islamism is the best chance for a stable, just, and relatively prosperous society.

There are lots of people who would like their children to grow up to be suicide bombers or prefer piety to prosperity. Even though many don’t think that way, they might be persuaded that radicalism is the best route to better lives. And finally, when people and rulers see no real way to achieve prosperity, both the governments and the masses will turn to demagoguery, scapegoating, and foreign adventures.

Countries are not prepared for progress due to ideology, worldview, institutions, political culture, and many other factors. In particular, the presence of such large and powerful radical forces—willing, even eager, to use violence—is a huge problem. Demagoguery is potent. Such factors can override the kind of materialistic orientation and enlightened self-interest that Westerners expect and that underpin the belief that democracy can provide stable polities and ensure moderation.
It should be stressed that every country is different. In general, though, the problem with economic development is that it does not trump politics. The countries of the region can be divided into those that have oil wealth and those that don’t. The wealthy countries don’t need American programs to engage in economic development. In some cases, radicalism and instability keep getting in the way. In others—think of Iran or Iraq under Saddam–economic development is managed within the framework of an extremist regime and ideology.
It is true that the wealth of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have made them more cautious and—often in practice but not in rhetoric or domestic policy—more pragmatic. But one must be cautious here. Saudi Arabia’s wealth and the high living standards of many citizens has not made the country a paragon of democratic values at home and moderation abroad.
Saudi money has been used to spread Islamism and back radical Islamists, most notably in contemporary Syria and in Iraq a few years ago. Qatar has aligned itself with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, engaging in mischief as far afield as Libya. Iraq and Algeria need stability but the problem is not economic development as such but merely pumping more oil and doing something about bureaucracy and corruption.
Certainly, though, these countries do not need Western governments to promote economic development.
Radical regimes, like Libya under Muammar al-Qadhafi, Iraq under Saddam Hussein, or Islamist Iran use some of their wealth for development and much of it for projects like building nuclear weapons and subverting their neighbors.
So regarding the wealthy countries there isn’t much for the West to do in promoting economic development. What about the non-oil states? Let’s look at the specific cases. Lebanon, famous for its merchants, had a self-made multi-millionaire as prime minister who focused on economic development. But he was forced out and assassinated. Internal conflict, ideology, and engagement in foreign adventures wrecked the chance for economic development.
The same applies even more to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, which is more interested in fighting Israel than in raising living standards. How can the West help when the local impetus is lacking?
This brings us to Egypt. The truth is that Egypt has a lot of people but few resources and a terrible structural and cultural situation regarding work. Here’s one example. A leading British supermarket chain opened stores in Egypt. Traditionalists, radicals, and competitors (the owners of small stores) spread rumors that the supermarket company backed Israel and was anti-Muslim. Despite the store’s efforts at denial and appeasement, the pressure became so great that it had to close and leave the country.
In a Muslim Brotherhood ruled Egypt, with Salafists engaging in anarchic violence, is U.S.-backed economic development going to make any differences. As for the Palestinian Authority, vast amounts of aid money have flowed in and despite some apparent successes—a lot of luxury apartments have been built and people kept employed in the government bureaucracy—no lasting progress has been made. A lot of the money has ended up in the political leaders’ foreign bank accounts. At any time, Hamas could take over or the Fatah-led regime turn back to a war against Israel.
Economic development sounds good but in practice it is more a way to keep Western citizens happy than to make a real difference in the Middle East. For example, when discussing his economic development policy in the foreign policy presidential debate, Obama cited his government’s “organizing entrepreneurship conferences.” And in reality a lot of the money is simply a pay-off to local regimes or a way to shore them up. It has nothing to do with real development.
The story of the battle of factions and corrupt leaders in the Palestinian Authority over awarding a mobile phone contract; how EU-financed public housing turned into luxury apartments to reward regime supporters; or the sabotage against building an improved sewer system in the Gaza Strip—even though foreign aid was paying for the whole project—are wonderful case studies in how economic development campaigns that look good in the West amount to a joke on the ground.
There are, however, three countries that could benefit from economic development efforts if they were to be focused. Those are Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan. Tunisia, of course, is currently ruled by an Islamist-dominated regime. Whether that government will remain cautious or turn increasingly radical—pressed on by rampaging Salafists—is not clear. Strengthening the moderate forces in Tunisia, which are more proportionately substantial than in any other Arabic-speaking country, is a worthwhile effort but it might not work.
Ironically, Morocco and Jordan are led by moderate regimes threatened by a public opinion that is often radicalized due to poverty. Even there, however, this is not the sole factor. Jordan, for example, has a powerful opposition Brotherhood and a potentially radicalized Palestinian majority. The Palestinians who came there after being expelled from Kuwait in 1991 (because of the PLO’s support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion) brought in a lot of riches and business skills. Amman has become a much wealthier city but Jordanians generally don’t seem to have benefited much.
But Jordan is relatively small, weak, and doesn’t cause trouble, while Morocco is not a factor in the region’s international affairs. So the places where a real economic development effort could really make a difference get neglected. For a while, the Saudis talked about admitting Jordan to the rich man’s club, the Gulf Cooperation Council and giving a billion dollars in aid. But nothing came of it in the end.
Remember that the United States gave tens of billions of dollars in aid to Egypt without getting gratitude or popular moderation. Similarly, the United States gave or helped organize an effort for the Palestinians that constituted the most aid money given per person in history. Yet this brought neither progress on the peace process, a transformation in Palestinian thinking, or gratitude.
At any rate, while “economic development” sounds like a great idea, a fine way of making people happy, getting them to love America, and undermining radicalism, in practice it isn’t so effective.
Originally published at Rubin Reports.
Barry Rubin

IDF Intercepts Latest Boat to Gaza

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

The Israeli Navy intercepted and boarded the “Estelle”, a schooner  flying under the Finnish flag, that was en-route to Gaza in an attempt to break the Israel blockade of the Hamas-led terror state.

Unlike the Mavi Marmara, the passengers on the “Estelle” did not used violence, and the boat was redirected to the Ashdod port.

While the activists claimed they were bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, including tons of cement, there was no aid whatsoever on the boat.

Observers had previously noted that the boat was riding too high in the water to be carrying tons of cement.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Israel Appeals to UN to Halt Gaza-Bound Ship

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Israel asked the United Nations to stop a Swedish-owned ship carrying human rights activists from attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, called the ship Estelle a “provocation” that “raises tensions and could easily spark a serious escalation of the conflict.”

“I want to stress that Israel is not interested in confrontation but remains determined to enforce its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip — and will take all lawful actions to this end,” Prosor wrote in a letter delivered Tuesday to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Part of the Freedom Flotilla movement, the Estelle reportedly is carrying humanitarian aid such as cement, basketballs and musical instruments. The small vessel began its journey in Sweden and toured Europe, including Finland, France and Spain, before arriving earlier this month in the Gulf of Naples. It is due to arrive in Gaza’s territorial waters early next week.

The boat, flying the Finnish flag, is also carrying at least 17 activists from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Israel and the United States. Members of parliament of four European countries reportedly boarded the vessel at sea near Greece on Tuesday, according to the Swedish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, which said there are now some 30 activists.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2007 after the terrorist group Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. It says the sanctions are to prevent weapons and other terror material from being smuggled in to Gaza,

The Freedom Flotilla’s first attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli Navy commandos on May 31, 2010 boarded the Mavi Marmara, which claimed to be carrying humanitarian aid, after warning the ship not to sail into waters near the Gaza Strip in circumvention of Israel’s naval blockade.

JTA

Why We Stay Away from the Interfaith Roundtable

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Sometimes, only a period of separation will save a troubled marriage. That is why the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other Jewish groups are pulling out of the Christian-Jewish Roundtable. Fifteen liberal Protestant leaders, including those of the Presbyterian, Lutheran and Methodist denominations, chose the Jewish High Holiday season to urge Congress to curtail U.S. aid to Israel.

We were expecting a different initiative from our dialogue partners, one focusing on the tens of millions of Christians under siege from Nigeria to Afghanistan. The oldest Christian communities on earth in the Assyrian Triangle of Iraq have been all but ethnically cleaned. More than ten million Coptic Christians in Egypt live in perpetual fear of a government controlled by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. Practicing Christians in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are incarcerated on charges of blasphemy; in North Korea, they languish in huge concentration camps. As for the plight of the Palestinians – more have been killed in Syria in the past few weeks than in almost four years of conflict with Israel, since the end of the Gaza War.

After decades of breaking bread together, we would have expected these church groups to ask us to join with them to shake the rafters with a prophetic scream on behalf of a religious minority under siege – Christians.

Instead, these groups stand mute while their own brothers and sisters are persecuted, and seek to invoke the wrath of Heaven and Congress on the Jewish state.

We’re not happy about the breakup of a relationship forged with optimism and sincerity. After WW 2, many Christians felt some responsibility for the theological anti-Semitism that set the stage for the racial anti-Semitism of Hitler’s Germany. For many, in the wake of images of Auschwitz, building bridges of understanding and respect to the Jewish world became a priority. At the same time, Jews saw the need to begin a new chapter in Jewish history, one in which Christian friends and neighbors were able to look to their own theology to find the dignity and validity of the Jewish experience. Decades of fruitful conversation and education followed.

There were always bumps in the road, particularly regarding the Jewish State. Unlike Evangelicals who were enthusiastic in their support, liberal denominations had a hard time fully accepting Israel and understanding its centrality to Jews. When Arab armies threatened Israel’s existence in 1948, ’67, and ’73, these denominations did not speak up, to the deep consternation of their Jewish partners. Both parties, however, remained in a less-than-perfect relationship, believing that a core mutual understanding could guide future dialogue. In the case of some signatories of the letter, there never was a relationship. The Mennonite “peace” church has never had anything but unvarnished contempt for Israel; the Quakers may be friends to many, but not to the Jewish people.

Now, with the latest threat to vaporize Israel still ringing in our ears from Ahmadinejad’s soon-to-be nuclearized Iran, with millions of Israelis living within the target range of Hamas and Hezbollah rockets—these erstwhile friends choose this moment to call upon the U.S. to cut into Israel’s defense capabilities.

Why the slap in the face? Thank God, their call to Congress will fall on deaf ears. Americans’ support for Israel remains bipartisan and strong. Did these church elite believe their initiative would lead to more scrutiny of foreign aid? Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt and the Palestinians would likely lose more from calls for greater transparency, not the Jewish state. Israel provides U.S. with vital intelligence, technological and military cooperation, and military aid to Israel creates American jobs.

If peace is these churches’ sole objective, shouldn’t they also criticize the PA’s corruption that led to losing the trust of their own people?

Why else release such a letter? Some suggest that the signatories are seeking to placate the entrenched, vocal anti-Israel extremists in their own churches. Those activists were incensed when the rank and file of several denominations adopted a policy not of divestment but of investment, a strategy that actually produces tangible benefits for the Palestinians.

Alas, we sense there is also a more basic reason at play. Some at this table really don’t like us. How else can we account for such a selective moral outrage, pounding the Jewish State for real and imagined sins, but yet to demand that the U.S. take action when their co-religionists face murder and ethnic cleansing? Only a deep-seated hatred could turn these leaders deaf to all the other urgent issues raging around them.

Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein

Surviving Without US Financial Aid

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Late last week former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that Washington must make it clear to Israeli leadersthat the U.S. must not permit Israel to harm American interests.

Speaking at an event in Norfolk, Virginia, Gates commented that Israeli leaders must be aware they “do not have a blank check to take action that could do grave harm to American vital interests.”

Previously, Gates had called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “ungrateful ally,” stating that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has received nothing in return, particularly regarding the peace process, for all the steps it has taken to ensure Israel’s security. Specifically, Gates referred to Israel’s access to top- quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems and high-level intelligence sharing.

The former U.S. Secretary of Defense also accused Netanyahu of endangering Israel by refusing to grapple with the country’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces should it decide to maintain control over the West Bank [Judea and Samaria]. Such hypercriticism emanating from the highest echelons of the United Stated defense establishment is a far cry from U.S. President Harry Truman’s 1948 vow regardingIsrael “to help build inPalestine a strong, prosperous, free and independent democratic state… large enough, free enough and strong enough to make its people self-supporting and secure.”

It would be a serious mistake to slough off these most recent statements as the idle rantings of a retired civil servant. Rather, Gates’ view reflects a general shift in the U.S. stance vis-à-vis Israel.

It’s important to note that far from the fringe, Robert Gates, who served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council and under U.S. President George H. W. Bush as Director of Central Intelligence, is in fact the consummate Washington insider. And it’s this U.S. stance that is pushing the Islamic Republic of Iran to become a country on the brink of nuclear capability. For the Obama administration’s reaction to Iran’s nuclear ambitions indicates a reassessment of Israel’s strategic value, which has always been the primary motivation for U.S. support.

With Israel’s survival increasingly viewed as a burden for Washington to bare, the Jewish state should remember that it is but one of many allies that the United States has around the world.

Let’s not forget that France too was a vital ally of Israel’s – until Paris suddenly decided to abandon Israel in favor of the Arab world. France was Israel’s main weapons supplier until its withdrawal from Algeria in 1966 removed most common interest from the relationship and France became increasingly critical of Israel, especially after the Six-Day War in June 1967, when Charles de Gaulle’s government imposed an arms embargo on the region that mostly affectedIsrael.

Israelsurvived and eventually even prospered without French largesse. Now, with the Obama administration’s obsession with being an “honest broker” leading it to shift its allegiance away from Israel and towards such regional power players as Turkey and Iran, it’s time for Israel to downgrade its dependence on US aid.

Beyond Obama’s cold shoulder, there are other reasons for Israel to consider going off U.S.aid, which comes with a rather heavy price tag: U.S. aid to Egypt and Jordan, for example, forces Israel to spend more on its military since it must maintain a qualitative advantage in equipment and weaponry.

By accepting U.S. aid, the Israeli government often has to go with U.S. weapons even if domestic products are better, cheaper or both, causing efficient Israeli producers to lose government contracts. When Israel purchases from the U.S., Israeli companies frequently loses contracts abroad. Washington has also used it leverage to limit Israeli overseas arms sales.

Finally, the guaranteed payment, irrespective of Israel’s defense needs, leaves the system with no incentive to become more efficient.

In sheer volume, the amount of aid provided to Israelby the United Statesis the most generous foreign aid program ever between any two countries.Israel receives moreU.S. aid per capita annually than the total annual GNP per capita of several Arab states.

What is perhaps even more unusual is that Israel, like its benefactor, is an advanced, industrialized, technologically-sophisticated country, as well as a major arms exporter.

Gidon Ben-Zvi

US Aid to Egypt Blocked by Republican Congress Following Riots

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

At last, the violent rallies against the U.S. embassy in Cairo, in reaction to an anti-Islam video, and Egypt’s laxidasical efforts to defend American assets, have yielded a real result: talks about $1 billion in debt relief and millions more in aid to Egypt are suspended, according to U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity.

It took Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi more than 48 hours to condemn the breach of the US embassy premises in Cairo and the removal of the American flag.

There will not be new aid approved for Egypt until after the November elections, and talks intended to ease to payment of funds that have already been approved are stalled, the officials said.

But the same officials added that the delays are temporary and do not represent a reevaluation of U.S. aid to Egypt.

“Folks are going to wait and see how things materialize both with the protests and on Capitol Hill,” one congressional aide told the Post.

The U.S. annual aid to Egypt comes to about $1.6 billion, and the Obama Administration was fully prepared to continue providing this aid, despite the election of a new government in Egypt run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, President Obama has proposed an additional $1 billion in debt relief for Egypt, whose debt to America stands at about $3 billion.

Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. aid after Israel, since 1979. Of the $1.6 billion it receives, more than $1.3 billion goes to military aid.

The major hurdle in the path of U.S. funds to Egypt is the Republican House of Representatives which last year attached conditions to U.S. aid, most notably a requirement that the State Department certify that Egypt is abiding by its peace treaty with Israel.

Several Congress members have been proposing additional conditions. And there’s been some pushback on the part of the State Department. For instance: this week, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wanted to hold a hearing on U.S. relations with Egypt, but it was canceled because the State Department refused to send witnesses. DOS instead offered a private briefing for lawmakers, a congressional aide told Reuters.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland attempted to paint with pastel colors that clash of wills between Republican Congress Members and Hillary’s DOS: “We are continuing to work with the Hill on the support that we think is important to support those very forces of moderation, change, democracy, openness in Egypt that are very important for defeating extremism of the kind that we saw,” she said on Monday.

According to Nuland, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would appear before Congress in person soon regarding U.S. aid to the Muslim-Brothers run Egypt and all the other painful realities exposed by the violent protests.

According to the Washington Post, American and Egyptian officials were in the final stages of negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars in aid just as the protests exploded outside the embassy and American flags were being set on fire.

And a delegation of 120 U.S. business leaders was in Cairo at the same time as well, as the State Department was trying to encourage foreign investment in Egypt.

Here is an excerpt from the State Dept. Monday briefing regarding the U.S. and Egypt:

QUESTION: On Egypt, you said the Egyptians have been cooperative in providing the additional security you requested. Can you talk a little bit more broadly about what the contact with the Egyptians has been like over the last few days? And what is the status of the discussions about delivery of aid? Has that been affected at all?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the White House reported that the President had a good conversation with President Morsi. I think it was before the weekend. I can’t actually remember. It might have been Friday. Right. And then the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Amr on Saturday. I think we reported that conversation out to you over the weekend. She, as you know, spoke to leaders around the region on Saturday. She also spoke to Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, FM al-Faysal. She spoke to the Libyan Prime Minister Abushagur. She spoke to Foreign Minister Davutoglu, spoke to Foreign Secretary Hague, and Foreign Minister Fabius of France.

Yori Yanover

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