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February 28, 2015 / 9 Adar , 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘White House’

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.

White House Takes Aim: Netanyahu ‘Departing From Protocol’

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

A spokesperson for President Barack Obama is making sure Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu knows his boss is disgruntled.

The White House says it is “reserving judgment” of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress about Iran on February 11, but that the event to which the prime minister has been asked to speak “is a departure from protocol.” The event is being held at the first branch of the American government, the legislative branch.

Netanyahu’s planned visit comes in response to a direct invitation by Congressional Speaker John A. Boehner, who asked the prime minister to address lawmakers of both houses on the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat. Boehner extended the invitation Wednesday, Jan. 21, less than 24 hours after Obama snubbed the Congress on the issue in his State of the Union address, broadcast live Tuesday night local time on national television.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters in a briefing aboard Air Force One that it had not yet spoken with Israeli government officials. He said U.S. officials are reserving judgment on prime minister’s visit until they hear from their Israeli counterparts about Netanyahu’s plans.

“The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling there,” Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama. “This particular event seems to be a departure from that protocol,” he added dryly in a clear poke at Israel’s top leader and the Speaker.

As has been the case for some time, there is obviously no deep friendship between the American president and the Israeli prime minister. Nor have Obama’s staff in recent months bothered to trouble themselves to hide their own personal distaste for most members of the Israeli administration.

But this latest sarcasm makes it plain the president is now granting new privileges to those who speak for him; or perhaps he is no longer chooses to restrain his own emotions in the interest of diplomacy or simple good taste.

Sadly, this particular battle is not even with Netanyahu although Obama has decided to make it so: actually it’s between the president and his Congress, and Israel’s prime minister is just being caught in the crossfire.

In his address, Obama vowed to veto any measure that in any would infringe on negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear development activities.

Israel’s voters, meanwhile, are facing a national election in March. Netanyahu will have to answer to his constituents at the ballot box himself and explain what, if anything, he has or has not done to eliminate the existential threat to Israel presented by Iran’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu has repeatedly warned the international community, and the United States, that Israel will never allow Iran to achieve its goal in creating an atomic weapon of mass destruction.

No Israeli government official, and few – if any – intelligence officials in the world today actually believe Iran’s claims that it is continuing to increase and upgrade its uranium enrichment activities for “peaceful purposes only.”

Even if the Supreme Leader himself crosses his heart and solemnly says so.

 

Indiana’s GOP Governor Tours Israel with Eyes on the White House

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is touring Israel this week in a business and pleasure trip that also is considered as a first step to tout credentials to be the Republican party presidential nominee in the 2016 elections.

He celebrated Christmas in Jerusalem with his family and toured Christian holy sites.

Last week, Ben Carson, a black Republican, avowed Christian and retired neuro-surgeon from Florida and also a touted candidate for the GOP nomination, visited Israel for the first time in his life

Pence, like Carson, often sounds like an evangelist and is deep in the conservative camp, but his being virtually unknown outside Indiana has left him in the bottom of the growing heap of possible candidates.

A non-profit Christian-based organization paid for the Pence family’s trip, which is also a three-day economic mission.

“Hoosiers have cherished our relationship with the people of Israel for generations,” Pence said in a statement. “As we look ahead, deepening our ties with the people, businesses and state of Israel remains a commitment that will empower us as partners.”

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Victor Smith called Israel a “global entrepreneurial hotspot” and stated, “Israelis are launching new businesses at a tremendous rate, and that’s triggering economic and job growth that’s primed to expand to the United States.”

His trip includes a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and leaders in high technology and life sciences.

Pence will meet with the Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett on Monday and will fulfill the requirement of foreign dignitaries by visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

It is only a matter of time before likely GOP candidates Rick Perry and Ted Cruz visit Israel to enhance their CVs for being policy experts, more so than several Israeli Knesset Members.

State Dept.: Anti-Settlement Policy Will Remain even After Obama Leaves

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

The State Dept. insists that its anti-settlement policy is not dependent on President Barack Obama and will continue even after he leaves the White House in January 2017.

Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told high school students this week in Gush Etzion, which the United States considers “illegal,” that the  Obama Administration “won’t be around forever” and that Israel will resume building for Jews in Judea and Samaria once he is gone as president.

He apparently thinks Hillary Clinton won’t succeed Obama.

Ya’alon has a habit of saying what he thinks before he thinks. Earlier this year, he was quoted as stating in “private” remarks that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is “obsessed ‘and has a Messianic complex when it comes to the “Peace Process.”

He didn’t bother to think that his remarks to the high school students this week would be quoted, but maybe it is better off to give the White House a not so gentle reminder that it is going to have to fight hard in the Israeli election campaign if it wants to get rid of people like Ya’alon, who don’t take orders from Washington., which thinks otherwise.

“This Administration’s opposition to settlements is fully consistent with the policies of administrations for decades, including of both parties. So the notion that would change is not borne out by history,” State Dept. spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters at Wednesday’s press question and answer session,

She agreed that Obama will be out of office in two years, pending a sudden change in the U.S. Constitution, and the next administration is not going to change anything regarding the audacity of Israel to build homes for Jews in half of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, where it had been doing so for more than 40 years before President Obama blew in with the wind.

Previous administrations, contrary to what Psaki says, never have been called Jews “illegitimate” for living in areas of Jerusalem that the Palestinian Authority, with the backing of the State Dept. thinks is their God-given property.

Ya’alon notwithstanding, Israel will be stuck with American opposition to Jews living within Israel’s borders that the United States determines, according to Psaki.

It is unusual for a State Dept. spokesperson to predict what future administrations will determine.

Maybe she knows something that no one knows, but it is more likely that her comments give testament to an attempt to make the State Dept.’s long-standing pro-Arab policy part of the White House Bible.

Joe Biden to Light ‘National Menorah’

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Vice President Joe Biden will assist in the lighting this year of the Hanukkah menorah on the ellipse in front of the White House.

Biden’s participation on Dec. 16, the first night of the holiday, marks the 35th anniversary of the first lighting of the “National Menorah,” an event sponsored by American Friends of Lubavitch, the Washington office of the Chabad movement.

It has become a tradition for Cabinet-level officials to assist in the lighting.

White House Spokesman Denies Sanctions Against Israel

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

The White House denied on Monday that President Barack Obama’s administration is planning to impose economic sanctions against Israel.

Spokesperson Josh Earnest told journalists that reports that the president had been considering the sanctions due to plans by the Israeli government to build homes in Jerusalem were “completely unfounded and without merit.”

“Recent reports suggest that your administration has held classified meetings over the past several weeks to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions against Israel for its decision to construction homes in East Jerusalem,” 48 Congress members wrote to Obama on Friday.

“We believe that those actions are counterproductive, that they don’t serve to facilitate the kind of trust that we believe is necessary for both sides to try to hammer out their differences in a way that is consistent with the national security concerns of the Israeli people and with the broader aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Earnest said.

Last month there were echoes of frustration from the U.S. State Department over plans to build 500 housing units in the badly overcrowded Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in Jerusalem. The State Department called an announcement of the plans by the Jerusalem district planning and building committee “unfortunate” and “illegitimate” — a condemnation that followed a similar spat the week prior.

At the end of October, the prime minister’s office approved plans to build 600 new housing units in the same neighborhood, in addition to 400 units in Har Homa, another post-1967 neighborhood in the capital. Washington said at that point that Israel was taking steps that were “not conducive to peace in the region and a two-state solution.”

The State Department had expressed “concern” over what it called “settlement construction” — an odd choice of words for a northern Jerusalem neighborhood that is home to more than 20,000 people and has been in existence for nearly half a century.

 

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/white-house-spokesman-denies-sanctions-against-israel/2014/12/09/

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