web analytics
May 23, 2015 / 5 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Ben Cardin’

Post-Bibi Bipartisanship May Result in Congressional Ability to Review Iran Deal

Friday, March 6th, 2015

In what may be the most significant direct result of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the joint session of Congress last Tuesday, March 3, Democrats and Republicans are now within spitting distance of  ensuring that Congress will be able to review the details of the nuclear capabilities agreement the administration and the other members of the P5+1 are currently negotiating with Iran.

Just a few days ago it did not look as if any bipartisan breakthrough was in the cards any time soon, especially given several real tangles between the parties before, during and immediately after Netanyahu’s speech.

The Israeli prime minister’s speech to Congress became, despite Netanyahu’s claimed efforts to avoid that to the contrary, a wildly partisan mosh pit, with allegations of disrespect hurled at Netanyahu by certain Democrats and allegations of anti-Semitism smeared on those who refused to attend.

But Democrats and Republicans escorted Netanyahu into the chambers, and there was enthusiastic applause for the Israeli head of state from nearly everyone in the room (Rep. Pelosi’s very public meltdown notwithstanding).

And then, just a few hours after the address, Netanyahu met with a small bipartisan group of Senators in Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.

That meeting included Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

But the boxing match bells went off signaling yet another round when Sen. McConnell (R-KY) announced later on Tuesday that he intended to call a vote next week on proposed legislation which would require congressional approval of any deal with Iran.

That legislation, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, had been introduced by Sen. Corker (R-TN) last Friday, Feb. 27.

INARA would delay the lifting of sanctions on Iran and block the implementation of any agreement between Iran and the P5+1 at least until after a period of Congressional review takes place.

The Democratic co-sponsors of that legislation were infuriated by McConnell’s move. They said they understood there had been an agreement to wait to bring the bill up for a vote until after the March 24 framework deadline for the negotiating parties.

Nine Senate Democrats and one Independent (Angus King, of Maine) who had supported the congressional approval legislation penned a curt letter to McConnell, which was sent on Wednesday, March 4

The letter was signed by Sen. Menendez (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and others, and informed McConnell that there was no need to rush the bill out for a vote, as no final agreement with Iran was expected before the end of June.

“We remain committed to working on this bill in a bipartisan manner,” the senators informed McConnell, but they warned him, “we will only vote for this bill after it has gone through the regular mark-up process in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and after the March 24the deadline for the political framework agreement.”

Without the support of the Democrats who signed the letter, there is no way the INARA could survive President Obama’s promise of a presidential veto.

McConnell, ceding to the wishes of the Democrats who are willing to support INARA, so long as the timing is right, chose to undo his decision to call up INARA for a vote next week.

As a result of McConnell’s concession, INARA won the support of an additional four Senate Democrats: Chuck Schumer (NY), Ben Cardin (Maryland), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Chris Coons (Delaware).

In other words, this exercise in bipartisan cooperation means that INARA is now only three votes away from a veto-proof majority, and with lots more time to seek additional supporters.

Bi-Partisan Senate Trio Demand Answers From Kerry on UNRWA Conduct in Gaza

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

At least some members of the U.S. congress finally realized that if weapons belonging to Hamas were found in UNRWA facilities, questions need to be asked of UNRWA employees as to how those weapons got there, who put them there, who observed them, what – if anything – was done to remove them (or to keep them there), along with other pertinent and essential lines of inquiry.

U.S. senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), sent a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, demanding an investigation into the actions of  the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) during the fighting in Gaza.

The senators used very strong language to condemn the agency on several different bases.

First, the discovery, on three different occasions, of Hamas weapons in UNRWA facilities, whereupon the weapons were returned to the terrorist organization, Hamas.

Second, UNRWA has repeatedly issued statements condemning Israel and ignoring the wrongdoing of Hamas.

And third, the senators pointed out the very troubling close affiliation between Hamas and UNRWA, the irrefutable proof of which was the election of 25 Hamas candidates were voted onto the 27 member UNRWA ‘s workers’  union board in 2012.

Next, the senators explained why they are convinced it is appropriate for them to demand such an investigation into UNRWA: we pay for it! The United States contributed $294 million in 2013. It is the single largest donor to UNRWA. Since 1950, more than $5 billion U.S. taxpayers’ dollars were funneled into UNRWA.

Senator Mark Kirk is a member of the Senate Appropriations sub-committee which has jurisdiction over the Department of State, as well as U.S. contributions to U.N. activities. Kirk said in a statement posted on his website:

I am demanding a credible and independent assessment of UNRWA’s actions during this crisis. Given UNRWA’s ties to terrorism in the past, U.S. taxpayers deserve immediate answers and full transparency regarding their intentions and actions. The State Department must make clear to the U.N. that it need to take all necessary steps to prevent Hamas from using taxpayer-funded property to launch attacks against our allies.

Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added:

When leaders and organizations of the United Nations blur the clear distinction between a nation-state defending itself and a terrorist organization attempting to murder civilians, Americans take note. When an organization funded in part by the U.S. suggests that the two are morally equivalent, U.S. taxpayers take note. Israel is undertaking extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas cynically uses other Palestinians as human shields and deliberately attempts to kill Israeli civilians. U.N. resources and personnel cannot be complicit in Hamas’ violent terrorist actions.

Senator Marco Rubio is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rubio had the following to say:

As the U.N.’s leading source of funding, American taxpayers will not tolerate the use of U.N. facilities by terrorists to stage attacks against our allies. We know Hamas has been using civilians as human shields and stores its weapons and fighters in civilian buildings, but for the U.N. to stand idly by while Hamas attacks Israel from its facilities is an outrage. This is the latest example of why the U.S. needs to bring greater transparency and accountability to the U.N. by pursuing reform of its programs and institutions.

The text of the letter the senators sent to Secretary of State Kerry:

Dear Secretary Kerry,

We write to express our profound concern with the troubling role the United Nations Refugee and Work Agency  (UNRWA) has played during the ongoing crisis in Gaza, including multiple instances of weapons found at UNRWA schools as well as one-sided statements from UNRWA leadership that unjustly condemn Israel. For instance, on July 14, UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl stated that Israeli security forces are acting “contrary to international humanitarian law” and also called Israel’s Gaza blockade “illegal.”

As you know, UNRWA admitted on July 17, July 22nd, and July 30th that it found rockets belonging to Hamas on its property. We commend UNRWA’s quick condemnation of these incidents, but are concerned with the ultimate fate of these rockets, which UNRWA claimed to have turned over to the “local authorities” or have gone missing. We fear that this means these rockets may have found their way back into Hamas’ hands.

We urge the State Department to launch an independent investigation into these incidents and to call on the United Nations leadership to hold UNRWA accountable, including by reprimanding or dismissing the UNRWA staff responsible as appropriate, as well as asking the U.N. to ensure that these incidents never take place again.

In the course of your investigation, we ask you to examine the fate of these rockets, what measures the U.N. took to secure UNRWA property, and how the U.S. intends to work with the U.N. to make sure incidents like these are never repeated.

As you know, the United States is the largest donor to UNRWA and has contributed almost $5 billion to the organization since 1950. The United States taxpayers deserve to know if UNRWA is fulfilling its mission or taking sides in this tragic conflict.

We look forward to your reply,

Sincerely,
Now that the strong statements have been made and a letter from three members of senate committees with jurisdiction over the State Department and the U.N. has been sent to the secretary of state, it behooves Israel’s supporters to demand follow-through.

BiPartisan U.S. Effort to Ensure Hamas Disarmed Before Ceasefire

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Three U.S. senators wrote a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to ensure that any ceasefire promoted by the U.S. must eliminate the ability of Hamas to continue terrorizing Israel.

New York’s senior senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), along with Delaware’s Senator Ben Cardin (D) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-N.C.) pointed out that it would be of no utility to impose a ceasefire until Israeli citizens can be assured that they will not continue living under a constant threat.

Unlike many public statement emanating from Washington, D.C., these three senators did not equate Israel’s killing of civilians, with the targeting of civilians by Hamas.

The three senators wrote that Israel’s military has taken “great pains to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties.” Whereas the rockets launched by Hamas “have only one purpose: to kill as many innocent Israelis as possible.”

“Any cease fire should create a situation in which Israeli citizens no longer face the threat of brazen terrorist attacks,” said the senators.

“Israeli citizens have faced over 1800 rocket launches from Hamas since June.  While Iron Dome has saved countless lives, over five million Israelis live in fear of incoming rockets fired indiscriminately from Gaza.  Twenty-eight tunnels have been discovered by the IDF since the ground operation in Gaza began.  Israel has an absolute right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel.

“The threats posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels whose only purpose is to kill and kidnap Israelis are intolerable, and Israel must be allowed to take any actions necessary to remove those threats.  Any effort to broker a ceasefire agreement that does not eliminate those threats cannot be sustained in the long run and will leave Israel vulnerable to future attacks.”

It is not  known whether the senators intend to introduce a resolution into congress so that the message would have a little more bite than simply a letter. A resolution does not have the effect of law, it is merely an expression of the sentiment of congress, but it would require other legislators to take a position.

Sen. Carl Levin Garners 23 Dems for Softer-Toned Iran Talks Letter

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Sen. Carl Levin Garners 23 Dems for Softer-Toned Iran Talks LetteTwenty-three Democratic senators signed a letter to President Obama on the Iran nuclear talks that was cast in less strident terms than a separate letter sent last week.

“As negotiations progress, we expect your administration will continue to keep Congress regularly apprised of the details,” said the letter, spearheaded by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin’s letter sent March 22 is a word for word replica of a letter sent last week by an overwhelming number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, initiated by Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House majority leader, and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House minority whip.

Levin had circulated the Cantor-Hoyer letter, saying he preferred it to another letter initiated by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

The Menendez-Graham letter, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, garnered signatures from 83 senators of both parties, out of the body’s 100 members, and was sent last week.

Levin did not explain why he preferred the Cantor-Hoyer language in his cover letter seeking signatories, but that letter was considerably softer in tone than the Menendez-Graham letter.

The Menendez-Graham letter more definitively described outcomes of the Iran negotiations that “must” be in place while the Cantor-Hoyer and Levin letters instead were “hopeful” of such outcomes. The Cantor-Hoyer and Levin letters were also closer to the position of the Obama administration, explicitly saying that its signatories “do not seek to deny Iran a peaceful nuclear program.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a number of Republicans in Congress say that any deal must end uranium enrichment altogether; Obama administration officials have said that a limited degree of enrichment is the likely outcome of any deal.

The Menendez-Graham letter does not explicitly count out an enrichment capability for Iran, nor does it mention it.

The Senate letter suggests that the body could soon reconsider new sanctions on Iran, a bid also backed by AIPAC that the Obama administration deflected earlier this year.

Of the Levin letter’s 23 signatories, 19 also signed the Menendez-Graham letter, and four were Jewish: Levin, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). AIPAC backed the Cantor-Hoyer letter in the House, but did not back Levin’s version in the Senate.

Senate Urges State Dept. to Renegotiate Terms for Iraqi Jewish Archive

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

The Senate unanimously urged the State Department to renegotiate the terms for the return to Iraq of an archive of Iraqi Jewish texts.

The resolution passed Thursday “strongly urges” the department to renegotiate the agreement with the Iraqi government “in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be kept in a place where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed.”

The nonbinding resolution also “recognizes that the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it.”

The resolution was initiated by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

U.S. troops uncovered the archive in the Iraqi secret service headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, much of it waterlogged.

Iraqi agents under Saddam Hussein had looted many of the articles after the dictator had driven the remnants of the Jewish community out of the country in a terror campaign.

Under an agreement with the Coalition Provisional Authority that had governed Iraq, the materials were sent to the United States where experts, led by a National Archives team, restored them.

Iraqi Jews in Israel, the United States, Britain and elsewhere oppose its return to Iraq under the agreement, saying the government now in place is not sympathetic to Jewish interests and would not make it available.

The archive, now on display at the National Archives in Washington D.C., is due to be returned in June.

Jewish groups, including the Orthodox Union, the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, praised the Senate for passing the resolution.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/senate-urges-state-dept-to-renegotiate-terms-for-iraqi-jewish-archive/2014/02/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: