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NJ Gov. Christie Signs Law Imposing Sanctions on Iran

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

(New Jersey Jewish News) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law new sanctions against Iran that prohibit public contracts with any company or person that invests in Iran’s energy and finance sectors.

Christie shared the announcement of the new legislation in remarks at a gala in Whippany on Tuesdasy celebrating the merger that created the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

With Christie’s signature, New Jersey becomes the sixth state after New York, Florida, California, Indiana and Maryland to enact such legislation. The state Senate and Assembly had approved the bill in June with broad bipartisan support.

Max Kleinman, executive vice president and CEO of the Greater MetroWest federation, had testified before the Assembly supporting the legislation in June.

“We are very pleased to see that the governor has signed the Iran Sanctions Act and would like to thank him as well as all the sponsors who moved the bill,” said Gordon Haas, chair of the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ. “Our gratitude goes to both the Assembly and Senate, who voted for the bill unanimously.”

The move to impose sanctions follows a July 2010 law signed by President Obama that gives states and local governments the authority to prevent contracting with companies that do business in Iran.

“With this law, the State of New Jersey is bolstering the United States government’s stand in support of the rights of the people of Iran and against the dictatorial regime and the economy on which it relies,” according to a news release from Christie’s office.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat who signed on as a prime sponsor of the legislation, noted the latest bill goes beyond a resolution he introduced last year urging more aggressive federal sanctions.

“By exercising the federal authority granted to the states by enacting our own state sanctions,” he said, “New Jersey’s message remains strong and clear: Until Iran confirms that it will curtail its nuclear ambitions and join in the pursuit of peace, we will continue to act forcefully to meet the danger that a nuclear Iran poses to everyone.“

Gov Cuomo Vetoes Orthodox-Endorsed Religious Special-Ed Bill

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have made it possible for many special-education students to be placed in private schools using public funds, the NY Post reports.

Under the school districts would have been obligated to consider a child’s religion when placing them in a school.

Under the current law, families of special-education students are able to get tuition reimbursement from the government if nearby public schools do not provide the services their child need.

According to Cuomo, the new bill created new criteria that were too open-ended.

Catholic and Orthodox Jewish groups had lobbied for the bill, arguing that children learn best in settings that resemble their home environment.

Public school advocates lobbied against the bill, saying it would start a slippery slope towards a voucher system.

“This bill unfairly places the burden on taxpayers to support the provision of a private education,” Cuomo said in his veto message.

He argued that the measure would “result in incalculable significant additional costs to be borne by every school district and taxpayer.”

The bill gave school districts 90 days to act on parents’ requests and 30 more days to reimburse the family for their child’s private-school tuition.

Congress Boosts Sanctions—Which Are Working—But President Gets to Roll Them Back Selectively

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Congressional negotiators have settled on a bill enhancing Iran sanctions, and President Obama announced new sanctions targeting fronts for Iran.

“This bipartisan, bicameral Iran sanctions legislation strengthens current U.S. law by leaps and bounds,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committee and a chief sponsor of the bill, said in a statement released Monday after House and Senate negotiators finalized the legislation.

“It updates and expands U.S. sanctions, and counters Iran’s efforts to evade them,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The bill sends a clear message to the Iranian regime that the U.S. is committed, through the use of sanctions, to preventing Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold.”

Obama administration officials likely will cite the enhanced sanctions bill, due to pass both houses in its final version before week’s end, in their efforts to persuade Israel not to take military action against Iran in the coming months.

But the Obama administration, with backing from Senate Democrats, managed to roll back some provisions backed by the House and Senate Republicans.

Under the final version, for instance, the president has considerable leeway to postpone sanctions on insurers in order to give them time to comply.

Also omitted from the final version are sanctions that congressional hard-liners had sought on individuals associated with SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, as long as the body continues to deal with Iran’s central bank.

Obama administration officials in a conference call with reporters would not commit to signing the bill or endorsing all its facets, but said they were “optimistic” about working with Congress to continue isolating Iran.

Ehsan Mehrabi reported in insideIRAN.org (Report from Tehran: How Sanctions Hurt the Lives of Ordinary Iranians) that the sanctions are having a significant effect on the lives of most Iranians. Razie Sadeghi, an economic journalist who is in regular contact with the country’s economic officials, told Mehrabi that Iranian officials believe declining oil revenues as a result of the sanctions on the Central Bank and the country’s oil sector “could deliver a big blow to Iran’s economy.”

Mehrabi points out that one of the consequences of the sanctions has been the refusal of many companies to sell auto parts to automobile companies in Iran. He cites a 36% reduction in car manufacturing in the country, “which can have unpredictable consequences in regards to labor unrest.”

According to Mehrabi’s report, the majority of people blame Iran’s leaders and believe that the government’s insistence on carrying out the nuclear program is the cause of the economic problems. Nonetheless, he believes that ultimately these sanctions will hurt the people more than the regime.

CBS News reported earlier this week that financial sanctions and oil embargoes imposed upon Iran by the international community are having an effect upon Tehran’s ballistic missile program, with experts saying Iran’s ability to develop and build missiles capable of striking targets in Western Europe and beyond has been significantly impeded.

On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the sanctions are having a “serious impact” on the Iranian economy, even if their results may not be immediately obvious.

Panetta’s comments come just a day after US President Barack Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney, during his trip to Jerusalem, backed Israel’s right to attack Iran’s nuclear program.

In a separate move on Tuesday, Obama introduced new sanctions that target fronts for Iranian entities already subject to sanctions.

The new sanctions, Obama said in a statement announcing his executive order, are “authorized for those who may seek to avoid the impact of these sanctions, including against individuals and entities that provide material support to the National Iranian Oil Company, Naftiran Intertrade Company, or the Central Bank of Iran, or for the purchase or acquisition of U.S. bank notes or precious metals by the Government of Iran.”

Singled out for citation were the Bank of Kunlun in China and Elaf Islamic Bank, for having “facilitated transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of Iranian banks that are subject to sanctions for their links to Iran’s illicit proliferation activities.”

“By cutting off these financial institutions from the United States, today’s action makes it clear that we will expose any financial institution, no matter where they are located, that allows the increasingly desperate Iranian regime to retain access to the international financial system,” Obama said in his statement.

Members of Congress to Hold Moment of Silence for Munich 11

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will hold a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

“We’re going to give one-minute speeches on the House floor and devote a substantial moment of that to silence on Thursday,” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a conference call with the media on Wednesday. Following that, he and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) will lead a group of lawmakers to the Capital grounds for another moment of silence.

Engel and Lowey are cosponsors of a bill calling on the International Olympic Committee to hold a moment of silence for the Israelis during Friday evening’s opening ceremonies of the London Games. The bill unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but a vote has yet to be scheduled by the full body. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a similar resolution.

“On Friday, millions of people around the world will tune in to the Olympics opening ceremony,” Lowey said. “A minute of silence would be a reminder that we must be constantly vigilant against prejudice, hate and intolerance, and it would pay tribute to the Munich 11 and their families.”

President Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, along with several governments around the world, have joined the call for a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies, but the IOC has rejected the request.

“For them not to do a moment of silence, that’s being political because frankly they’re afraid of offending some of the Arab nations,” Engel said, adding later that “If you have this fiction of fraternal bonds and commonality of feeling, then it’s appropriate for the IOC to act without any politics whatsoever. The only reason they haven’t done this in 40 years is because it’s Israeli athletes, and that makes it even more disgraceful.”

Rep. Ted Deutsch (D-Fla.) added on the call, “There is still time for the world to honor these athletes and to unite against terrorism. We can’t allow the 40th anniversary of their murder to pass by, and we can’t allow it to be overshadowed by geopolitics.”

In the past, Olympics officials have attended private Israeli or Jewish ceremonies marking the tragedy, but other than the day after the murders themselves, the IOC has not held a commemoration during the Games for the Munich victims. There was a brief mention of the killings at the close of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when then-IOC head Juan Antonio Samaranch called for a moment of silence for the victims of a bombing during those Games as well as the slain Israelis.

Evolution Vs. Revolution in Struggle over Haredi Draft

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

The Knesset was humming with the sound of bells on Wednesday as the call to vote for an equal service bill filled the building.

“You have a responsibility to contribute to your country, to the state that you get benefits from,” FM Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu spokesperson said. “Those who serve will receive.”

The proposed bill was shot down by a 74-20 vote.

The opposition in large part came from the Haredim. Avraham Chasida, 32, is a Chassid from Jerusalem and an army veteran. He believes that the army is a method for protecting the Jewish people. In turn, he also said that continuing to learn Torah is the only way the Jewish people will really be protected.

Chasida set up a tent in Wohl Rose Park outside of the Knesset in protest of the new bill. He explained that there has already been a natural increase in army service in the Ultra Orthodox community without force or punishment. In 2007, 305 Haredi men were serving, and in 2011 that number has increased to 2,372. The sentiment was a confusion at changing something that is already working.

“Don’t just be right, be smart,” he said. “After 64 years, you can’t take people and turn it around and switch it in one shot.”

Knesset members are also aware that the transition must be smooth. “We can’t have a revolution, we have to have evolution,” MK Tzipi Hotovely said, adding that the Army needs to be prepared for the Haredim just as much as the Haredim need to be ready for service.

However, time is of the essence, and not only because of the August 1 deadline posed by the Supreme Court. Hotovely said that the window of opportunity exists now – because in the near future Knesset representation will change.

A spokesperson for Yisrael Beytenu echoed her statement. “We’ve had 64 years to evolve,” he said. “Demographically, it will be impossible to pass this bill 20 years from now.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu is now working on a bill that is quite similar to the Tal Law, and if all goes well, should be passed before the end of the month.

Despite Declarations for Equality – Knesset Shoots Down Universal Service Bill

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

The Knesset was humming with the sound of bells on Wednesday as the calls to vote for an equal service bill filled the building. The Supreme Court’s decision to cancel the Tal Law has caused a crisis in the Knesset to create a new and acceptable law before August 1.

The Yisrael Beytenu party, under Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, proposed the bill. Yet despite previous claims of fairness and equality by many Knesset members, as well as the government’s previous support of the bill, an overwhelming majority (74-20) voted against the bill.

This concept of equal service is one that the Yisrael Beytenu party has always supported, and they promised to vote for any bill that included that statement, according to a spokesperson for the party. This proved to be true when the party voted for an almost identical bill proposed by the Ha’atzmaut (Independence) party of Ehud Barak.

“Despite all the talk, there is no seriousness about change coming from any other party, as no one has created a written law in response,” someone close to the Yisrael Beytenu party told JewishPress.com. “We’re days away from the end of the Knesset and the August 1st deadline is looming,” he said.

The vote occurred the day after the Kadima party pulled out of the coalition and entered the opposition, specifically because of the draft issue.

The service options covered under the new bill could include military service, national service or community service, but the point is to create one rule for everyone to create a greater equality among Israelis.

“You have a responsibility to contribute to your country, to the state that you get benefits from,” a Yisrael Beytenu spokesperson said. “Those who serve will receive,” he added, using a phrase very similar to one Prime Minister Netanyahu used regarding compromising and negotiating with the Palestinians.

The opposition in large part comes from the Haredim.

Avraham Chasida, 32, is a Hassid from Yerushalayim and also an army veteran. He believes that the army is just one tool for protecting the Jewish people. But in turn, he also said that continuing to learn Torah is the only way the Jewish people will really be protected.

Chasida set up a tent in Wohl Rose Park outside of the Knesset in protest of the new bill. He explained that there has already been a natural increase in army service among the Ultra Orthodox community, without force or punishment – and specifically because of the Tal Law. Annually, there are around 7500 Chareidim who come of draft age. In 2007, 305 Haredi men were enlisted, while in 2011 that number has increased to 2,372. The Tal Law was working, he told us.

“Don’t just be right, be smart,” he said. “After 64 years, you can’t take people and turn them around and change them in one shot.”

Netanyahu also believes that it’s not practical to force the Ultra-Orthodox into service and is therefore attempting to create a proposition with more carrots and less sticks.

Some Knesset members are also aware that the transition must be smooth. “We can’t have a revolution, we have to have evolution,” MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said. That is in reference to society from both sides. The army needs to be prepared for the Haredim just as much as the Haredim need to be ready for service.

However, time is sensitive, and not only because of the August 1 deadline. Hotovely said that the window of opportunity is now, because in the near future, it may not be possible to pass due to Knesset representation changes.

A spokesperson for Yisrael Beytenu echoed her statement, but with some criticism. “We’ve had 64 years to evolve,” he said. “Demographically, it will be impossible to pass this bill 20 years from now.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu is now working on a bill that is a variation of the Plessner bill, that if all goes well, could be passed before the end of the month.

Liberman Buys Time for Coalition, Hareidim Not Buying Idea of Service in Jewish Army

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

The fierce political, religious, and sociological debate over whether Hareidi Jews should be mandatorily drafted into the Israeli Army like their Religious Zionist and secular counterparts hit a boiling point on Tuesday, with the Kadima party backing out of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition and threatening the stability of the government.  Yet Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman has made it clear that he will continue to pursue the drafting of all Israelis at the age of 18, but will uphold the current administration and keep his party at the center of the action.

“We won’t leave the coalition under any circumstances. We will fight the battle from within,” Liberman said on Wednesday in an interview with Army Radio. “Those who really want universal enlistment must support our bill. You can postpone the end, but you can’t evade a decision forever.”

Yisrael Beytenu has drafted its own version of a national conscription law following Kadima’s departure under the leadership of Shaul Mofaz over the failure of committees to draft a replacement for the Tal law to its liking.

The Tal law, which exempted Hareidi Jews in yeshiva from the military draft was declared unconstitutional by the High Court of Justice earlier this year.  If an alternative law is not drafted, all Hareidim will be subject to the draft beginning on August 1.

On this week’s Jewish Press radio program hosted by Yishai Fleisher, Hareidi tour guide and resident of the eastern Jerusalem Jewish community of Maale HaZeitim, Meir Eisenman, defended the Hareidi position against serving in the army, but also stressed the importance of understanding that despite the disagreements, Hareidi Jews support the IDF.  “I think the first thing we have to do is make a very strong difference [and not lump together Israeli Arabs and Hareidim when ].  The Hareidim are on our side, they support the state of Israel, they support the army, and they are certainly not wishing, G-d forbid, for the army to fail, and we have to make that clear distinction any time we discuss this issue,” he said.

Eisenman cited the Book of Joshua’s emphasis that there is “clear connection of inheriting the Land of Israel through the Torah of Israel” as a case for exempting full-time Torah students from participating in the IDF.  He also tied the last major terror attack – a 2009 attack in Eilat which killed 8 and injured 40 – to the summer “bein hazmanin” yeshiva break, summer vacation for Torah students.  If you look back through the latest 10- 15 years, many of the most horrific terror attacks occurred when the national study level is on a down.” The Sbarro bombing and the Number 2 bus bombing, are among those attacks, according to Eisenman, as well as the Park Hotel bombing which occurred during the Passover break.

Eisenman further said that the success of the IDF is not rational, and that Israelis should attribute at least part of their safety to Torah study.  “To see that the Jewish people, all we need is the soldier that goes and risks his life, however important it is – that he’s the only thing that’s protecting the Land of Israel and the Jewish nation and the Torah of the Land of Israel, you’re just looking at half the picture, you’re not looking at the full picture.”

Fleisher replied by saying the draft is not a threat to Torah study, but rather lets them “fulfill the great mitzvah of being in the Jewish army”.  He said “the best, the most religious” Jews – including Joshua himself – were also the greatest warriors on behalf of the Jewish nation.  “You’re going to mention the Book of Joshua and you’re going to use that as a proof that because he was told to take the Torah with at all times and study the whole time…? He’s the exact example of the Torah student who is the greatest of the generation, he’s the biggest rabbi around, and he’s the number one soldier as well,” Fleisher said.   “To me, what’s missing in this whole discussion is that soldiering and being a Torah Jew in the Land of Israel are one.  Those are connected things.”

But Hareidi leadership has not seen it that way.  In late June, thousands of Hareidi men gathered for an early morning “sack and ashes” prayer service to beseech God to “annul the evil decree” of being forced to serve in the Jewish army.  Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yosef recommended to cancel the “bein hazmanim” yeshiva break and continue Torah study in order that God would hear their prayers not to be drafted.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/liberman-buys-time-for-coalition-hareidim-not-buying-mitzvah-of-protecting-israel-in-jewish-army/2012/07/18/

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