Senator Marco Rubio had something very important to say about Israel’s battle with Gaza.
Posts Tagged ‘Senate’
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.”
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.
The U.S. Senate’s Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on the plight of Holocaust survivors in the United States.
Both Republicans and Democrats on the committee said at the Wednesday hearing that survivors are better off aging at home.
“The emphasis on caring for aging survivors must be on creating a safe space surrounded by a trusting caretaker, familiar environment, and a basic sense of control over daily life,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the committee chair.
“For many of these seniors, this means staying in their homes to receive medical care in their twilight years, a model of care not supported by the traditional Medicaid model, for instance,” Nelson said, referring to the federal medical funding program for the impoverished.
According to the Senate committee, one fourth of the roughly 140,000 survivors in America live at or below the poverty line, the Washington Jewish Week reported.
Many face significant health and mental illnesses beyond normal aging due to nutritional deprivation and the lack of medical care during World War II.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the committee’s top Republican, said institutional living presents added challenges for survivors.
“The emotional triggers that can be set off by institutional care can be devastating for them,” she said. “Things that other residents would likely ignore can take aging Holocaust survivors psychologically and emotionally back to their traumatic youth or childhood. Confinement is an institutional setting with certain rules, schedules and uniformed staff can literally bring back nightmares. Everyday experiences — showers, doctors, hunger, a lack of privacy — can trigger flashbacks and nightmares.”
Vice President Joe Biden last month laid out a program to assist impoverished Holocaust survivors, including appointing a Health Department envoy to the community and creating additional capacity for volunteers to help the survivors.
Jack Rubin, a constituent of Nelson’s and a survivor of several Nazi concentration and death camps, said many Holocaust survivors are living below the poverty line and can’t afford two hearing aids let alone someone to come into their house daily to help out. He suggested that the German government should contribute.
“U.S. taxpayers are already burdened enough,” he said, adding, “We are not schnorrers. We are not beggars. What we are asking for is what we deserve.”
Besides Rubin and Anat Bar-Cohen, a daughter of survivors, several organizational leaders testified for the need for increased funding, including the Jewish Federations of North America and Selfhelp, a community services organization that helps survivors living in New York.
“Living in poverty, plagued by immeasurable loss, they are at risk of falling into isolation and despair,” Lee Sherman, the president of the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies, said in his testimony.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany provided written testimony.
Senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties introduced a bill on Thursday that would toughen sanctions on Iran and effectively squash the interim deal between the major Western powers and Iran. The deal has been ridiculed by many as appeasement in return for a nuclear bomb.
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois said the bill’s proposals for a worldwide boycott on Iranian oil exports and blacklisting the country’s mining industries are “an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception.”
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said, “Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table.”
In the unlikely event that the Senate defies President Barack Obama and passes the bill, and the House of Representatives goes along for the ride, it would render the deal null and void because of the negotiators’ promise that no new sanctions would be introduced before the end of talks for a final deal in six months.
The bill also states, “If the government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States government should stand with Israel” with diplomatic, military and economic support.”
The 26 senators who introduced the deal basically made a stand against President Obama, and when the time comes that it is clear that the President and the leaders of the major powers were duped, the bill’s sponsors can say, “We told you so.”
But that won’t be of much help to Israel.
Members of the U.S. Congress have introduced legislation to award Israeli President Shimon Peres the Congressional Gold Medal.
Spearheading the push to award Peres the medal are Ezra Friedlander, a New York-based lobbyist, and Rabbi David Baron of the Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills.
Should the legislation pass, Peres, who turns 90 on Friday, would be one of just nine individuals to win both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which President Obama accorded Peres last year. The two medals are the highest U.S. civilian honors.
Dual recipients include Nelson Mandela, who led the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa; Martin Luther King, the U.S. civil rights giant; Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist; and Aung San Suu Kyii, the Burmese democracy activist. Of the eight dual medalists, five — like Peres — are also Nobel peace laureates.
“Shimon Peres has honorably served Israel for over 70 years, during which he has significantly contributed to United States interests and has played a pivotal role in forging the strong and unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel,” said the legislation introduced Thursday in the Senate by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).
Almost identical legislation was introduced Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.).
The immigration overhaul passed in the U.S. Senate includes provisions that protect a visa program used by Jewish summer camps and that makes permanent a law that facilitates immigration for victims of religious persecution.
The bipartisan bill passed Thursday by the Senate, 68-32, creates a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States.
A broad array of Jewish groups supported the reforms, and lavished praise on its passage, although its fate in the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is uncertain.
“The bill contains priorities the Reform Jewish Movement has long championed, including a pathway to citizenship, legal avenues for future flow of immigrants, enhanced ways for families to be reunited, and important protections for workers,” Rachel Laser, the deputy director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, said in a statement.
Other groups praising the bill included the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Bend the Arc.
Provisions in earlier versions of the bill aimed at preventing abuse of immigrant workers included regulatory changes that religious groups feared would make onerous the hiring of temporary overseas workers.
Jewish groups bring in summer camp counselors, shlichim — Israeli emissaries — and other workers through the J-1 visa program.
The Reform movement and JCPA, the umbrella body for public policy groups, joined other faith-based groups in lobbying senators to modify the proposed changes so they would not onerously affect hiring through J-1.
Also included was language that makes permanent the Lautenberg Amendment, the law first passed in 1989 and initiated by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) that loosens tough refugee status standards for designated persecuted religious minorities.
As it stands, the law must be renewed with each annual budget; the new language in the Senate bill would grant the president discretion to apply it on an as-needed basis.
The law helped facilitate the exit of hundreds of thousand Soviet and Iranian Jews among other minorities. HIAS, which led the bid to make Lautenberg’s language permanent, said it was a fitting tribute to the senator, who died earlier this month.
“If enacted into law, this bill would preserve Senator Lautenberg’s legacy of protecting persecuted religious minorities while creating new opportunities for other persecuted groups—with an emphasis on those seeking religious freedom—to receive protection,” HIAS said in a statement.
The proposed immigration bill now in the Senate has been altered to t remove requirements that would affect Israeli and other foreigners wanting to work temporarily in Jewish summer camps, but the House may block its passage.
Provisions for the J-1 non-immigrant visa for exchange visitors now “allow an important cultural exchange” between American youth and foreign staff members, Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center told the Jewish Forward.
The original version of the bill contained extra requirements that were changed after Jewish camp operators said it would hurt their programs, where 1,400 Israeli counselors and almost the name number work in summer camps.
The altered Senate version could come unraveled if House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner goes through with his threat to block its passage if he thinks a majority of republicans will not vote for the measure.