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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘effort’

The Grassroots and Interfaith Effort Behind the GOP’s Pro-Israel, anti-2 State Platform

Monday, July 18th, 2016

{Originally posted to the JNS website}

Amid the intrigue and speculation over the upcoming Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, one item that the party has settled is its firm support for Israel and opposition to a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Tuesday, the Republican Platform Committee unanimously approved a number of significant changes to its platform in an attempt to further set the party’s pro-Israel credentials apart from the Democrats, who are facing concerns over their party’s future support for the Jewish state. The GOP’s platform changes included removing language encouraging a two-state solution as well as reinstating a reference to an “undivided” Israel that was previously included in the party’s 2008 platform, but was removed in 2012.

“The U.S. seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region,” the approved amendment said. “We oppose any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms, and call for the immediate termination of all U.S. funding of any entity that attempts to do so.”

Alan Clemmons, a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and a Republican convention delegate, conveyed his disappointment over the 2012 GOP convention, when the platform committee chose not to recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.

“I was a delegate at the last RNC, but was not on the platform committee. I observed the platform committee process and proposed language similar to the language that was passed today (July 12). Unfortunately, that language gained no traction and it went nowhere on the platform, and as a matter of fact the platform regressed in terms of support for Israel,” Clemmons told JNS.org.

The push to bolster the Republican Party’s language on Israel follows a four-year effort by Clemmons and Joseph Sabag, the former executive director of the Israel Allies Foundation. Both leaders sought to reach out to the party’s base—evangelical Christians—as well as to Jewish and other ethnic groups to reach a consensus on the GOP’s pro-Israel stance.

“Between Joseph and myself, we talked to pastors that represent literally millions of evangelical Americans,” said Clemmons.

Although evangelical support was a significant factor in crafting the 2016 RNC platform, Clemmons said the party “didn’t leave the Jewish population out of that mix.”

“We met with many of prominent movers and shakers in the Jewish community throughout the United States, and Israel as well,” he said.

According to Clemmons, two more recent alliances that made a significant impact on drafting and approving the platform’s Israel language were with David Friedman and Jason Dov Greenblatt, senior Israel advisers for presumptive nominee Donald Trump’s campaign.

“Those gentleman appreciated what we were doing. They appreciated the language that was being offered and presented it to Mr. Trump, who likewise was very interested in being of assistance in this process,” Clemmons said.

Clemmons, in his platform committee speech prior to this week’s vote, said that along with Trump’s advisers and leading policy experts, he “was able to present platform language that captures the true sentiment of pro-Israel supporters everywhere.”

The Trump campaign’s Friedman told JNS.org that getting the pro-Israel language on Jerusalem reinstated “was a collaborative effort with a lot of people whose hearts were in the right place with respect to Israel. I think the outcome speaks for itself.”

“It’s the most pro-Israel platform that either party has ever issued, so we’re obviously very proud of the accomplishment,” he said.

The Trump campaign’s involvement in reinstating the platform language may also signal a move by the candidate to bolster his pro-Israel credentials, amid questions over his past statements on remaining “neutral” about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and accusations of anti-Semitism stemming from his recent Twitter post featuring what critics called a Jewish Star of David.

Friedman said that Trump has been working very hard to “lay that issue to rest over the last couple of months.”

“Mr. Trump himself has said, over and over again, that he is a highly pro-Israel candidate—not just in comparison to Hillary Clinton, where the differences are stark—but even in absolute terms, he’s a very pro-Israel candidate,” he said.

The GOP platform “should lay that issue to rest,” said Friedman, who argued that the Trump campaign’s work on the Israel language highlight the candidate’s ability to work with leaders across different faiths and ethnicities to achieve a common goal.

“When people criticize [Trump] for being polarizing, I think just the opposite is true. This was an effort which unified people of different faiths, all united behind a desire to support Israel,” Friedman said.

One of the groups that the Trump campaign worked with closely on the platform was the Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition (HILC), a group that seeks to engage Latino Christians in support of Israel. HILC is a subsidiary of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

Pastor Mario Bramnick, president of HILC, told JNS.org that Trump and his advisers “were very strong on the importance of this language [on Israel]. And through discussions, the language was finalized…[and] ultimately approved by a unanimous vote.”

“We are very encouraged by the resolve and support of Mr. Trump and his advisers on the issue,” said Bramnick, who is also a regional vice president for the NHCLC. “We had worked with the platform committee leadership regard the reinserting of the language as a united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of the nation of Israel, and the moving of the embassy to Jerusalem should the Republican candidate win the presidency.”

Clemmons, the South Carolina state lawmaker, affirmed the roles of Bramnick and HILC, calling them a “very big part” of the process to reinstate the platform language.

“[Bramnick] certainly has a large congregation and a prominent following, and a good feel for the respect that evangelical Christians have for Israel. He was certainly a partner in all of this. That’s not unlike the other pastors around the country who were a part of it as well,” Clemmons said.

The push for the revised platform language was also backed by Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI) non-profit through its separate 501(c)(4) lobbying affiliate, the CUFI Action Fund.

In a letter (first reported by JNS.org) that was sent to Republican convention delegates on July 6, former Ronald Reagan administration official Gary Bauer, director of the CUFI Action Fund, called for the Republican platform to “strengthen its language in support for Israel with Jerusalem as Israel’s ‘undivided, enteral’ capital.”

Bramnick praised CUFI’s role in the process, saying the group “worked very hard behind the scenes to make sure that a very strong supportive platform language came forth from the Republican Party, especially as it pertains to a united Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel.”

For evangelical Christians, support for Israel is not only a political stance, but a theological one. As such, working to strengthen the Republican Party’s ties with the Jewish state is a highly prioritized process for that faith community moving forward.

“There was a Pew [Research Center] report back in 2013 that said that 82 percent of the evangelical community believes that God has given the land of Israel to the Jewish people, and we read that literally,” Bramnick said. “We believe that is a biblical covenant and mandate that really no person has the right to revoke….For the evangelical community, this is very important.”

{By Shalle’ McDonald/JNS.org}

JNS News Service

Haredi Party Spearheading Effort to Protect Israeli Religious Charities from US Tax Authorities

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

The heads of charity organizations in the ultra-Orthodox society, commonly known as Gemachim, received at least a temporary measure of relief from the Knesset Finance Committee, chaired by MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ), ahead of a new amendment of the Income Tax Act that takes effect in September and compels Israeli financial institutions to report through the local tax authorities on the Israeli financial affairs of US citizens. The amendment is the result of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance (FATCA) agreement between Israel and the US, which was a prerequisite for continued cooperation between Israeli and American financial institutions.

It’s not much, but MK Gafni demanded that the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel order the banks to give the Gemachim time until the end of June to resolve their status as public institutions, which he hopes would allow them to exclude themselves from the FATCA rules. Gafni envisions a tweaking of the amendment to exclude groups with deposits of less than $50 thousand, or holdings worth less than $50 million.

According to Chairman Gafni, the new regulations could bring the collapse of the Gemachim. “The Israeli government signed an agreement with the US government without considering the disastrous consequences for one of the most important enterprises of the Jewish people that has existed for millennia — the charity and mutual aid societies,” Gafni said, explaining that the Gemachim are “the only means at the disposal of a person under financial duress to receive an interest-free loan to get back on his feet.”

MK Israel Eichler (UTJ), Chairman of the Public Petitions, summoned Dr. Ilan Steiner, Director of the Bank of Israel Currency Department, to his committee hearing, to warn him against another aspect of the US attack on these charity institutions. According to Eichler, banks are being forced under pressure from foreign governments to close the accounts of Gemachim accounts, “in the name of ‘fighting terrorism’ and stopping money laundering, the IRS and the American government have become supervisors of all bank accounts around the world including in Israel. Everyone has to go through their inspection, so the Gemachim have received a letter that they will not be able to keep their bank accounts anymore.”

MK Eichler told Dr. Steiner: “I hope that the Bank of Israel find a way to abide by the agreements with the US while not mixing up the Gemachim with the war on terror. The banks must not become a burden and a restriction on associations and charity organizations who want to help people and do not engage in terrorism. There are limits to the madness of the banking system. We must not allow the charity organizations and Gemachim to be paralyzed by American pressures.”

The issues of compliance regarding money laundering and the war on terror stem from the side benefits of an IRS act that was intended to make sure US citizens who make money abroad share some of it with Uncle Sam. According to the IRS, FATCA targets tax non-compliance by US taxpayers with foreign accounts, focusing on individuals’ reporting about foreign financial accounts and offshore assets, as well as by foreign financial institutions about financial accounts held by US taxpayers or foreign entities in which US taxpayers hold a substantial ownership interest.

Using the US’ enormous economic clout, FATCA bullies the world’s financial institutions into reporting on their American clients to Uncle Sam. Under FATCA, to avoid being withheld upon, foreign financial institutions must register with the IRS and agree to report to the IRS about their US accounts, including accounts of foreign entities with a substantial US ownership. Foreign institutions that enter into an agreement with the IRS to report on their account holders may be required to withhold 30% on certain payments to foreign payees if such payees do not comply with FATCA.

Talk about working for the Yankee dollar.

According to The Marker, Gemachim stand to suffer three different ways from the new law: instead of permitting a Gemach to transfer money into their accounts, they could now be questioned regarding the source of the funds and whether or not tax was paid on them in the US; each deposit could be subject to harassment by the bank, in order to verify that it is not part of a money laundering scheme; and the Gemach could be saddled with a new definition as a financial institution, and as such would be compelled to report on its fund sources to the IRS or face criminal sanctions.


Jordan and Israel to Trade Water in New Venture

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdalla Ensour and his cabinet approved a new plan to trade water with Israel.  In a new Red Sea desalination project expected to cost $1 billion, Jordan will sell part of the resulting water to Israel in exchange for water from the Tiberias reservoir.

Middle East countries are known to face chronic water shortages.

“We will sell Israel water at a rate of JD1 per cubic metre and buy from them at a rate of JD0.3 per cubic metre. This process will save us the effort and cost of conveying water from the south to the northern governorates,” Ensour said, the Jordan Times reported.

According to Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazem Nasser, the agreement is legal based on Article 2 of the peace treaty signed with Israel in 1994, and is of “strategic national interest” to Jordan.

JNS News Service

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/jordan-and-israel-to-trade-water-in-new-venture/2013/08/23/

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