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Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Eric Cantor Stepping Down as House Majority Leader

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Eric Cantor will be stepping down as House Majority Leader by July 31, according to a Washington Post report.

The scramble is now on as to who will get to replace him.

Cantor has also decided to not run as a write-in candidate in November’s election.

Israeli Shoe on America’s Foot, Swapping Taliban Terrorists for a Soldier

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama is finding himself in the same position as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – having to explain a controversial decision to outraged lawmakers and a questioning public.

Obama faced the nation on Saturday night to defend his directive to negotiate a prisoner swap with the Taliban terrorist organization in order to free the lone American soldier held hostage by the group in Afghanistan for the past five years.

Like that of former Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the background behind the capture of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was less than heroic. Shalit was not in combat when he was kidnapped by Arab terrorists in a cross-border raid in southern Israel in 2006. According to a blog post by prominent U.S. civil rights attorney Jonathan Turley, Bergdahl was taken prisoner after leaving his base in east Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.

On Saturday, the 28-year-old army soldier was released by his Taliban captors in exchange for five Taliban members who were freed from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The deal was reached after a week of intense negotiations mediated by Qatar, which allegedly will maintain custody of the Taliban detainees for one year.

U.S. officials said efforts to negotiate the soldier’s release began in November 2010 and that his return became a top priority in May 2011. The opportunity to resume talks over the issue emerged several weeks ago, Turley wrote.

The U.S. president called the deal part of America’s “iron-clad commitment to bringing our prisoners home.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in making the announcement that he informed Congress on Saturday of the decision, adding that the U.S. had “coordinated closely with Qatar to ensure that security measures are in place and the national security of the United States will not be compromised.” He thanked the Emir of Qatar for that and for his “instrumental role in facilitating the return” of the soldier.

But the United States has also had a legal “iron-clad commitment” not to negotiate with terrorists, as it happens.

Turley quoted a joint statement expressing outrage and concern over the swap by top U.S. Congress member Howard P. McKeon, (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Like all Americans, we celebrate the release of Sergeant Bergdahl from terrorist captivity,” the two lawmakers said. “However – we must carefully examine the means by which we secured his freedom.

“American has maintained a prohibition on negotiating with terrorists for good reason. Trading five senior Taliban leaders from detention in Guantanamo Bay for Bergdahl’s release may have consequences for the rest of our forces and all Americans.”

Hm. Sound familiar? Perhaps an echo of the fears expressed by the Israeli public over endless “good will gestures” forced on its government by the U.S. State Department to free convicted Arab terrorists in order to keep the Palestinian Authority at the negotiating table? Or the outrage expressed by families of victims of terror when more than 1,000 bloodthirsty jailed terrorists were freed in exchange for the lone Israeli soldier held hostage for more than five years by the Iranian-backed Hamas rulers of Gaza?

Yes – the same Hamas terror organization with which PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas now intends to unite his Fatah faction in a Palestinian Authority “unity” government. Mind you, most of those freed terrorist murderers are still at large, armed and dangerous, working on their next “projects.”

Gee.

America’s lawmakers also pointed out that President Obama “clearly violated laws” requiring him to notify Congress 30 days prior to the transfer of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay. Those laws require him to explain exactly how the threat posed by those terrorists was substantially mitigated.

Israel Slams Claim of Spying on U.S.

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman slammed a report by U.S.-based Newsweek magazine claiming Israel has been “spying” on America.

The foreign minister told listeners on Israel’s Voice of Israel government radio Wednesday morning, “First of all, these are malicious accusations. . . I would not agree to any spying on the United States, not in any form, directly or indirectly.”

Israeli Embassy spokesperson Aaron Sagui also flatly denied the charges, telling Newsweek, “Israel doesn’t conduct espionage operations in the United States, period. We condemn the fact that such outrageous, false allegations are being directed against Israel.”

The report, published Tuesday by Newsweek, quoted anonymous senior intelligence officials in the United States, and Congressional staffers.

Written by journalist Jeff Stein, the report began with the question, “Whatever happened to honor among thieves? When the National Security Agency was caught eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, it was considered a rude way to treat a friend. Now U.S. intelligence officials are saying – albeit very quietly, behind closed doors on Capitol Hill – that our Israeli “friends” have gone too far with their spying operations here.”

Stein wrote the espionage had allegedly been revealed in recent visa waiver briefings, saying the spying came under cover of trade missions and joint defense technology contracts. The alleged primary target: “America’s industrial and technical secrets,” according to his report.

Last month a senior House aide also noted the U.S. intelligence community is concerned that adding Israel to the visa waiver program would make it easier for Israeli spies to enter the country, the CQ Roll Call news site reported.

Counter intelligence agents, wrote Stein, had called Israel’s “espionage activities in America… unrivaled and unseemly,” and said they went “far beyond activities by other close allies, such as Germany, France, the U.K. and Japan.” Unnamed Congressional staffers referred to testimony at the briefings as “very sobering … alarming … even terrifying … damaging.”

Of course, wrote Stein, the United States spies on Israel as well. He quoted a former top CIA operative who told him that Israel was “the last place you wanted to go on vacation” because of ‘heavy-handed Israeli surveillance.’

Israel’s foreign minister, however, said Wednesday morning that he heard no complaints about “spying” during a meeting with members of Congress on a visit to the United States last month. Mr. Liberman told listeners he believes the charges are the work of saboteurs trying to scotch relations between the two countries.

The U.S. visa waiver program enables travelers to the United States to enter the country without first having to obtain a visa. According to a statement by the Department of Homeland Security quoted by Newsweek, requirements for entry to the program include “enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States, timely reporting of lost and stolen passports, and the maintenance of high counter-terrorism, law enforcement, border control, aviation and document security standards.”

Israelis face a high rate of visa refusal by the U.S. due to the problem of young people entering the country and then staying past the expiration date of tourist visas in order to work illegally.

Another obstacle to Israel’s acceptance to the program is the U.S. government’s perception of alleged discrimination against Arab Americans in Israeli security protocols.

AIPAC Conference Opens with Appeal for Bipartisanship

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC opened its annual conference with an appeal for bipartisanship.

“Bipartisanship is essential,” Michael Kassen, the board chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said Sunday in his opening statement to the conference, which drew a record 14,000 activists.

“We must affirm bipartisanship in our own ranks if we want support for Israel to be championed by Democrats and Republicans alike, he said. “AIPAC’s political diversity is critical to our continued success.”

The conference opening Sunday follows a period of tension between the lobby and the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress over AIPAC’s backing for new Iran sanctions, which Obama opposes as a detriment to nuclear talks now underway between Iran and the major powers.

AIPAC last month retreated from pressing for an immediate Senate vote on the sanctions, not wanting to undercut its influence with Democrats. The group is still backing the sanctions bill but is not pressing for a vote until the measure has enough endorsers to bust a promised Obama veto.

A number of conservatives and Republicans have since urged the group to resume its pressure for a Senate vote, even if it would land AIPAC in a partisan battle. Advocates of renewing pressure for a sanctions vote say the stakes with Iran are too high to consider Democratic sensibilities.

Kassen’s remarks seemed directly aimed at those who would advocate for an immediate vote.

In addition to seeking additional endorsers for the sanctions bill, AIPAC delegates who will meet Tuesday with lawmakers will press for the passage of an enhanced U.S.-Israel security relationship bill. AIPAC activists backed the same bill at the last conference a year ago, but it has only made limited headway.

The delegates also will seek signatories on a bipartisan Senate letter to Obama outlining the “core principles” that must come out of the talks with Iran. Chief among them is preventing Iran from “having a uranium or plutonium path to a nuclear bomb.” A similar letter may also come out of the U.S. House of Representatives in time for the Tuesday lobbying blitz.

The “path” wording allows for a degree of flexibility between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outspoken advocacy for ending Iran’s uranium enrichment capability and the Obama administration’s warnings that Iran likely will have some limited civilian enrichment capability.

Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, told delegates they would encounter a degree of resistance to their Iran-related advocacy on Capitol Hill.

“When you’re up on the Hill, no matter what reception you receive, no matter how forcefully your member of Congress may express reservations,” he said, “be gracious and be respectful and make clear that the conversation cannot end here, that you will come back.”

Peres Can’t Leave His Ghetto Mentality

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

President Shimon Peres met with the Congressional Black Caucus in Jerusalem Tuesday and whined about the long-suffering Jews whose only friend on Planet Earth is the United States, may it live another 120 years.

“We’re fortunate to have our special relations with America, we’re alone, isolated and often attacked, and you support us not because of oil but because of values,” Peres said. “When it comes to defending our land, there was no request which President Obama did not accept.

“President Obama and Secretary Kerry are trying to bring peace to this region. Secretary Kerry’s contribution has been incredible,” he said. “This is a small country with a long history and while it is not simple, it can be done.”

Poor, poor Israel, So isolated. So often attacked. Just like in Europe. Just like in Spain, Just like in the Crusades, Just line under the Roman and Greek empires.

Forget Israel under Kings Saul, David and Solomon. Forget the First and Second Holy Temples. They only were footnotes to the suffering Jew, with his wretched hand held out for support from the high and mighty, from the United States of America, from President Barack Obama himself.

Peace, peace, peace, says Peres. Just give us peace. Take our land. Sure, it is where we live and used to live, but the Arabs need another country, and charity begins away from home.

We have the whole Negev to ourselves. Sure, the Bedouin are taking it over, but we still control Be’er Sheva. And it has the country’s largest mall.

And Kerry really is incredible. He has promised us peace, so let’s make the painful concession of giving up our ability to defend ourselves and considering Israel a Jewish state.

After all, with friends like the United States, we don’t care about enemies. Just look how Obama stared down Assad. Look how he outsmarted Iran. Look how he has stabilized Egypt.

If Peres has his way, Israel will always be poor, poor Israel.

Sharansky to Congress: Keep Up Awareness of Political Prisoners

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Natan Sharansky joined the parents and spouses of political prisoners in asking the U.S. Congress to speak of their loved ones during meetings with foreign officials.

Sharansky, imprisoned by the Soviets for nine years because of his activism on behalf of Soviet Jews, recalled at a hearing Thursday that his jailers told him, “You are in our hands. If you disappear, no one will notice.”

Instead, Sharansky told Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission that thousands of activists wrote letters, attended marches and wore bracelets in support of Jewish refuseniks.

Sharansky, who now chairs the Jewish Agency for Israel, said he believes he was finally freed because of these activists, according to a Washington Jewish Week report.

Keeping these prisoners in the news is key, he said, urging members of Congress to speak of specific political and religious prisoners whenever they meet with the leaders of the country in which they are imprisoned.

Sharansky and the other speakers said it was important for U.S. ambassadors to frequently ask about the fate of any political prisoners and hold press conferences whenever they are denied the right to meet with such prisoners.

Commission chairman Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) suggested that those working to free political and religious prisoners use Gal Beckerman’s book, “When They Come for us We’ll be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” as a model for activism.

“If you think the Congress and the administration will save you, you are sadly mistaken,” Wolf said, explaining that a groundswell of support worldwide is what is needed.

Beckerman, who also testified during the hearing at the Capitol Visitor’s Center, said the Soviet Jewry movement was successful because it combined “a tribal motivation” to help one’s own people with a general sense of outrage that someone was being imprisoned for their beliefs.

Countries holding political and religious prisoners that were discussed at the hearing include Bahrain, China, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

The commission is named for the late Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress, whose hallmark was human rights advocacy.

Bill Would Link Funding for Palestinians to Incitement

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

A bill introduced by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee would link assistance to the Palestinian Authority to its efforts to stop incitement.

Under the bill presented Wednesday by California Republican Rep. Ed Royce, the president would have to determine that the Palestinian Authority “no longer engages in a pattern of incitement against the United States or Israel; and is engaged in peace preparation activities aimed at promoting peace with the Jewish State of Israel.” The president would have to re-certify compliance every six months.

“As Secretary of State John Kerry engages in negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, Congress will make it clear to the Palestinian Authority that continuing anti-Israel incitement to violence through PA-controlled media outlets must cease,” Royce said in a statement.

The United States earmarks about $400 million annually for the Palestinian Authority.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/bill-would-link-funding-for-palestinians-to-incitement/2014/01/16/

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