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January 31, 2015 / 11 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Time-Honored White House Diplomatic Traditions on Israel

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

For those readers who have become avid fans of the soap opera unfolding in the White House around the drama between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a tidbit just for you.

On Friday, as the White House press corps was engaged in its usual back-and-forth with spokesperson Josh Earnest, they finally managed to force a truth from his lips: The President and the Prime Minister, he said, have a “fundamental disagreement” about diplomatic talks with Iran.

Netanyahu “doesn’t share [Obama's] view,” Earnest admitted. But still, he claimed, those “differences of opinion” don’t undermine the “unshakable” American commitment to Israel’s security.

On America’s terms, of course. And if it happens to prove mistaken and an existential threat to the Jewish State, which is about the size of New Jersey, well. . .

<menacing music>

As it happens, most members of Congress also have a “fundamental disagreement” with the President about the diplomatic talks with Iran, it seems. Not just the Republicans, who comprise the majority in both houses, but there are a fair number of Democrats who also believe Iran is using the talks simply to gain more time for its covert nuclear development activities.

And Iranians have long made it clear both in the street and in their mosques that their targets will not be limited to Israel; America is in the cross-hairs as well. Members of the intelligence community are well aware of it, as are members of Congress and the Israeli government.

So as early as last October, U.S. Rep. John Boehner was talking to Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer about inviting Netanyahu to address the Congress on the Iranian nuclear threat. The formal invitation was made public last week – and accepted as well – to the apparent “surprise” of the White House.

It’s a bit hard to believe that any of The President’s Men – or Women – could be caught off guard. But let’s leave that bit for quiet contemplation.

It turns out the annual AIPAC conference is being held in March this year – a “must” for every Israeli head of state, and Netanyahu is no exception. The address to Congress made much more sense scheduled around AIPAC, and was penciled in for the same week.

Utter fury at the White House. Sarcastic remarks from press secretary Josh Earnest, with a reference to the Speaker of the House making a “departure from protocol.” On the Prime Minister’s visit, Earnest was altogether tight-lipped, saying his boss was “reserving judgment.”

Later reporters were told that neither Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry would meet with Israel’s head of state while he is in Washington for both events.

Imagine. One of America’s “closest allies” comes to the capital and neither the President nor the Secretary of State makes time to meet with him, when the United States shares military, intelligence, economy, academic and who knows how many other priorities with Israel.

Not to mention their “differences of opinion” that are so important to work out – something that one would believe an administration so committed to the process of “diplomacy” would consider a priority.

The White House spokesperson tried to put a good face on it.

“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” he explained Thursday.

Netanyahu Pours Salt on Obama’s Wounds

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu jabbed President Barack Obama in the ego Thursday in an announcement of his accepting an invitation by Congressional Speaker John Boehner to address a joint session of Senators and representatives next month.

Just by coincidence, pure coincidence, the Prime Minister will be speaking two weeks before the Knesset elections, a situation which gave Obama the opportunity to rule out a meeting with his sparring partner as a matter of standard operating procedure that the president does not meet with visiting dignitaries near an election.

Whether Boehner invited Netanyahu or whether the Prime Minister invited himself doesn’t matter to President Obama.

Netanyahu advised the American Ambassador but did not notify the president before Boehner made public that the Prime Minister will address Congress, a move that the White House officially said departed from protocol but really meant was a direct  cut at Obama.

The office of the Prime Minister poured salt on the cut Thursday when it announced:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted the invitation sent by Speaker John Boehner, on behalf of the bipartisan leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate, to address a joint meeting of Congress…..

The address will provide an opportunity for the Prime Minister to thank President Obama, the US Congress and the American people for their support of Israel.

Netanyahu has cornered Obama. He will profusely thank the president for the support that both men know is grudging.

And since the president is supporting Israel, and since Israel wants tough sanctions on Iran to remain, just like Boehner does, it only is logical that  Obama is really not supporting Israel if he vetoes a Congressional bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran if does not conclude negotiations on limiting its nuclear program by the next diplomatic deadline, which keeps getting extended while Tehran plays for time.

In case Obama did not get the message from Netanyahu that the Prime Minister and the president are on the same page, even if in a different book.

Netanyahu’s office added:

“Just last week I discussed with President Obama the common challenges we face from Islamist extremism, including resurgent terrorism and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“I look forward to being able to share with the joint session Israel’s vision for working together to address these threats and to reiterate Israel’s commitment to the bond that unites our two democracies.”

Netanyahu, like most of us, heard or read Obama’s State of the Union address this week in which he vowed to fight terror but, instead of mentioning “Islamist extremism,” made clear that  “we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.”

Pass the salt, please.

Netanyahu to Address US Congress on Iran

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will reportedly address a joint session of Congress on February 11 at the invitation of Speaker John A. Boehner, who has asked him to address American legislators on the issue of Iran.

Boehner extended the invitation Wednesday less than 24 hours after President Barack Obama snubbed the Congress on the issue in his State of the Union address on national television.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it our unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his people. In this time of challenge, I am asking the prime minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life,” Boehner wrote in a statement. “Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again. As many have pointed out, there’s no proof Obama’s actions have in fact halted Iran’s nuclear program. Indeed, the diplomacy has worried those who most fear the consequences of a nuclear breakout in Iran, including Netanyahu.”

The invitation was a strong gesture of support to the Jewish State. But it was also a direct slap at the president who repeated his threat to veto any proposed legislation toughening sanctions against Iran over its nuclear development activities. Obama wants lawmakers to allow him time to complete diplomatic negotiations with Tehran.

Last week it was announced that Iran is building two new nuclear plants “for peaceful purposes” – similar to all the other “peaceful civilian” nuclear facilities now churning out uranium enriched to military weapons grade levels.

Iran’s atomic agency chief said a week ago that Iran is increasing its uranium enrichment capacity to 30 tons per year, according to the Tasnim news agency, as quoted by China’s Xinhua news group. The increased production levels are intended to meet the “fuel needs of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.”

But at the beginning of the current round of negotiations, didn’t the Iranians agree to “freeze” their program during the talks? It is no secret that Iran has used talks to buy time in the past – nor is it a secret to anyone who watches the “talk game” that they are doing it now as well.

Israel’s prime minister has warned world leaders repeatedly about the risk facing their nations, their people and his own because of the gamble taken by the White House. He also said there was a limit as to how far Israel would be willing to allow that gamble to endanger Israeli lives.

Netanyahu has addressed the U.S. Congress twice before, in 2011 and prior to that in 1996. Each time he has addressed the threat of Iran’s steadily growing nuclear prowess and what it could mean for America and the world.

Next month’s address will undoubtedly exacerbate the already strained ties that exist between Jerusalem and the White House. But time is running out for everyone. Netanyahu and the people of Israel face elections in March.

Iran can do a lot of damage before then.

Obama Negotiated with Cuba ‘Behind Everyone’s Back,’ Lawmakers Charge

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama negotiated with Cuba to restore diplomatic relations “behind everyone’s back,” lawmakers charged Wednesday night after he announced the restoration of full diplomatic ties with the island nation.

News agencies in the United States buzzed on Thursday with the details of how Obama accomplished that task in a personal 45-minute telephone call on Tuesday with President Raul Castro. The call followed 18 months of secret talks between the White House and Cuban officials that also involved the highest levels of the Vatican – and Pope Francis himself.

As part of the deal, USAID worker Alan Gross returned from Cuba on a U.S. government 757 aircraft after five years in custody, along with a U.S. intelligence agent who had spent the last 20 years of a life term in prison.

The move, which was carried out without any knowledge of Congressional lawmakers on either side of the aisle, inflamed already hot tempers about Obama’s penchant for doing things on his own. Media commentators and some legislators on Thursday referred to the president as “King Obama.”

The president further exacerbated that anger by saying he was “ending an outdated approach that had failed to advance U.S. interests for decades… The previous approach failed to promote change, and it’s failed to empower or engage the Cuban people,” he said. “It’s time to cut loose the shackles of the past and reach for a new and better future with this country.”

Democratic lawmakers expressed shock and disappointment that the president had spent 18 months negotiating with an “enemy, Communist regime” without even consulting with any other legislator from his own party.

Members of the Cuban immigrant community were incensed that Obama had cut through more than half a century of sanctions and provided a “shot in the arm” to the repressive regime they fled for its brutality.

Castro said the 52-year embargo had caused enormous human and economic damage. He added there was still disagreement on many issues, including that of foreign policy.

Following the announcement, however, the Dow Jones Industrial Average leaped, possibly in response. Media commentators began discussing what the economic implications would be if Congress could not control corporate financial and production flow in and out of Cuba.

Rep. Steve Cohen Proposes Building Moat around the White House [video]

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee’s first Jewish Congressman, came up with a brilliant suggestion Wednesday to beef up security for President Barack Obama by building a moat around the White House.

‘Would a moat – water, six feet around, be kind of attractive and effective?” Cohen asked with a straight face at a House Judiciary Committee hearing with Joseph Clancy, the acting director of the Secret Service.

Clancy didn’t bat an eye and politely responded, “Sir, it may be,” but he explained that the Secret Service is considering changing the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

‘Like a higher fence?’ Cohen asked.

“You’re right sir, a higher fence would certainly help us,” Clancy responded.

Cohen didn’t suggest that moat should include a drawbridge, without which no one could arrive or leave the White House except by boat or helicopter.

Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert couldn’t miss the opportunity to rap the Obama administration and said maybe should there be no fence at all around the White House since the government has not agreed to build a fence at the Texas-Mexican border.

“I would think that if the admin’s gonna being consistent, t’s now time to remove the fence from around the White House – ’cause if it isn’t good enough for our border, it shouldn’t good enough for our White House,” Gohmert said.

The hearing was held on the background of recent slip-ups in security, such as a mental disturbed man’s sprint across the White House lawn before he was nabbed.

Rep. Cohen, a Democrat, had the last laugh, though.

“This guy got further into the White House than some of my Republican colleagues have ever gotten,” said Cohen.

Cohen suggests the moat in the video below.

U.S. Midterm Elections 2014: How Will Obama’s Behavior Impact Today’s Scores?

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

U.S. citizens are going to the polls today (Tuesday November 4) to cast their ballots in midterm elections for Congress, with candidates being chosen in races where seats in the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and a number of gubernatorial races are up for grabs.

Thanks to Democratic President Barack Obama and probably the most dominant GOP Congress since 1929, it is likely that when the dust settles, America will wake up to find the first Republican majority in the Senate in years. Analysts are predicting that the House could see its largest Republican majority, in fact, in 65 years.

In New York State, however, incumbent Governor Andrew M. Cuomo — who is endorsed by The Jewish Press print edition – is not likely to lose his position.

A Democrat like his father, former Governor Mario M. Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo appears likely to win today’s re-election by a comfortable margin. The 56-year-old governor headed a bipartisan delegation this summer to show solidarity in a 3-day visit to Israel during the counter terror Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

A former housing secretary during the administration of former President Bill Clinton, Cuomo is seen as a shoo-in over Republican challenger Rob Astorino, the executive of Westchester County due to his efforts to cap property taxes and help New Yorkers recover from Hurricane Sandy. People interviewed by The New York Times also cited his strong support on equal wages for women and similar issues in its own pre-election coverage.

Also in New York, general state elections are taking place as well, with residents casting their ballots for representatives to the State Assembly, the State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

In Maryland, the race for governor that originally was considered an easy win for Democrats now looks to be a toss-up.

Democratic candidate Anthony G. Brown, currently the state’s Lieutenant Governor, has had a difficult time in the past month convincing voters his term will look different from that of his boss, Governor Martin O’Malley. With Maryland facing hard times and a struggling economy, people along the Chesapeake Bay are looking for the “change” long promised by another man of color in his first term of office, incumbent Democrat President Barack H. Obama.

Republican candidate Larry Hogan has attacked O’Malley’s tax increases, slammed the fading finances and says he can bring more jobs to the state. He says, simply, that Marylanders just ‘can do better’ and he can make that happen.

The message has been heard and the race is now a tight one, with the two men showing only a single-digit difference between them in the polls as they enter Election Day.

Senate Approves ‘ISIS Bill’ – US Military Hopes for More

Friday, September 19th, 2014

The U.S. Senate approved the “ISIS bill” 78-22 in a ‘last gasp’ vote Thursday, approving a measure to train and arm 5,000 Syrian rebels one day after members of Congress had done the same.

After the vote, both senators and congress members then fled Capitol Hill, heading for a grueling fall campaign prior to midterm elections.

The bill itself went straight to the desk of President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

But even as the president prepared to approve the measure intended to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, U.S. military leaders are growing more concerned. So is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), who was quoted by the Washington Post as saying Obama should listen to his commanders.

“I think it’s very important that he does follow the advice and counsel that he receives, the professional advice of the military. They are the ones best suited to do that,” McKeon said.

But as to Obama’s ban on ‘boots on the ground,’ the lawmaker added, “I realize he’s commander in chief, he has the final say and the final obligation and responsibility. I would also request that he not take options off the table.”

Retired Marine General James Mattis told the House Intelligence Committee in testimony on Thursday that Obama’s ban on combat troops in the Middle East would cripple the military.

“Half-hearted or tentative efforts – or air strikes alone – can backfire on us and actually strengthen our foes’ credibility,” Mattis told American lawmakers. “We may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American boots on the ground.”

The testimony followed a public suggestion two days earlier by the chairman of the Joint chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, not to rule out the possibility. According to the Post, Dempsey pointed out that Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander for the Middle East, had already made the recommendation at least once in connection with a case in Iraq – but was overruled.

The U.S. military has carried out 176 air strikes against ISIS in Iraq since August 8. Obama has hinted the U.S. will also carry out air strikes against the terror group in Syria as well.

But given the clear opposition expressed by Iran and Russia, let alone Syria — and to some extent, the threatening posture maintained by Iran over the issue – it is not at all clear when or even if Obama will actually send American warplanes into Syrian skies.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/senate-approves-isis-bill-us-military-hopes-for-more/2014/09/19/

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