Donald Trump used his American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) speech yesterday to further some of his campaign noise, noise that included his usual knock against President Obama. And while some of his noise fell on a few welcoming ears in the audience, the organizers and president of AIPAC later issued a statement, rebuking Trump and his comments against President Obama, calling those comments divisive.
“Last evening, something occurred which has the potential to drive us apart, to divide us,” AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus said during the final day of the organization’s annual policy conference in Washington. “We say, unequivocally, that we do not countenance ad hominem attacks, and we take great offense against those that are levied against the president of the United States of America from our stage.
“While we may have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the United States and our president, Barack Obama,” she added to resounding applause. “There are people in our AIPAC family who were deeply hurt last night, and for that we are deeply sorry.
“We are disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with or condone.”
The comments were a clear shot at Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, who appeared on the same stage barely more than 12 hours before.
So here in America, we have a right-winged Republican calling for a ban on all Muslims coming to this country. But Donald Trump’s way of thinking is apparently not exclusive to him or the Republicans. In Israel, another right winged nut-job is calling for the expulsion of all Christians from Israel.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Donald Trump of Israel.
“Christmas has no place in the Holy Land,” insists Benzion Gopstein, the leader of a far-right Israeli group that has indirectly received support from the government.
According to Gopstein, Christians are “vampires and blood suckers” that must be expelled from Israel, the U.S.’ closest ally. “Let us remove the vampires before they once again drink our blood,” he wrote in a recent article on an ultra-Orthodox website.
Gopstein, a religious extremist also known as “Benzi,” calls “the Christian Church” Jews’ “deadly enemy for hundreds of years,” which has used “the maximum tools at its disposal to destroy the Jewish people.”
He laments that the “disgust” for Christianity “has disappeared with the ‘good life’ of the democratic age.”
Leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Gopstein’s remarks. It also noted that the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism and the Coalition Against Racism have asked the government to investigate.
We’re going to need our mucking boots today because we’re going to wade into the Middle East. Until now, I have assiduously avoided all mention of the region because it’s messy and confusing and controversial and, quite frankly, my ideas have, shall we say, evolved over time. But the events of the day are far too important and compelling for me to stay away from the issues, so I am now going to opine. With FEEling.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a first and world-class jerk who has no business actually running a government. His comments last week on the eve of the Israeli elections regarding a two state solution with the Palestinians and his warnings about Israeli Arabs voting in droves have only widened the differences between Israel and both the US government and many American Jews. His speech in front of Congress, orchestrated by the House Republican leadership and done without consulting or notifying the Obama Administration, was a new low in political gaming and rogue foreign policy. That the speech almost ended up actually costing Netanyahu his election, and thus his need to play the racist, far-right card, told us that he would do anything to win votes (not a bad thing in and of itself, mind you). His persistent warnings about Iran’s intentions to build a bomb and use it on Israel are complicating the nuclear talks between the US and Iran, and his approval of new Israeli settlements is angering our allies around the world.
Netanyahu and his right wing government, is the only institution that is standing between Israel’s future existence and radical, terrorist, anti-Semitic entities that want to destroy it. His focus on Israel’s security is a prerequisite for winning and holding national office and, along with the economy, is the main issue for both domestic and foreign consumption. He’s a strong leader and has been able to navigate his way through the thickets of his country’s political system en route to 4 national election victories.
I support Israel and believe that it must survive and thrive as a testament to its Jewish roots, its democracy, its vibrant culture and its place as an island of hope in a hostile world. I also believe that there should be a state for the Palestinians because the present political and social arrangement is unsustainable and in some cases, inhuman. But now we are stuck because the current state of world affairs is so polarized and unforgiving that any compromise seems impossible. Radical Islamic groups would like nothing more than to see Israel destroyed. Israel needs to confront its adversaries and deserves the right to defend itself against attacks from both rockets and words.
What to do? The easy thing is to say that the Arab and Islamic states need to formally recognize that Israel exists and will continue to exist, and that the Israelis need to recognize that they will have to give up some land that they won in the six-day war of 1967. Militant groups will need to give up their weapons and stop using them against Israel, and Israel will need to loosen some of the border restrictions so that the Palestinians can freely conduct commerce and make their economy grow. Sounds easy, right?
Of course it isn’t and Netanyahu isn’t going to help. He’s going to hold a hard line now and wait to see who the next US president is going to be, hoping it’s someone he can work with, since his relationship with Obama is probably irreparable. I’m sure he’d love to see a more aggressive neo-conservative Republican, but I think Hillary Clinton would fit the bill too.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to oppose anything that might threaten Israel and will oppose any agreement with the Iranians. And there will be an agreement with the Iranians because deep down I think the Iranians want an agreement on their nuclear program. The Iranian economy is in shambles because of sanctions and the middle class (yes, there is a middle class) is demanding a place in the larger world. A nuclear agreement would also hold the Iranians to specific actions and inspections that, while there are many who say they will ultimately ignore any limits, will require Iran to play by the world’s rules if it wants to be taken seriously. I could be utterly misreading the politics, but I don’t think so. Attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon will only invite Iran’s destruction. They clearly don’t want that.
The prospects for genuine peace in the region look about as bleak as they ever have, and it will probably take a new generation of leadership to improve them. Of course, weren’t we saying the same thing in the 1970s?
“Editors-in-chief of broadcast channels will watch and make sure that nothing the prime minister says can be construed as election campaigning,” Salim Joubran, the head of Israel’s central election committee, said in an order two weeks ago. “Any campaigning will be omitted from the broadcast.”
It seems that even in Israel, people already knew the purpose of Netanyahu’s speech in Congress had nothing to dwo with Iran and everything to do with a political event, inspired by the Republican party. So they did what we should have done here, they blocked out the live feed of the event and placed a 5 minute delay in the broadcast to filter out any campaigning.
Yep. That’s what we should have done here.
On the eve of Netanyahu’s divisive and political speech to a joint session of congress, the US and Iran continued their negotiations to derail Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
By the shores of Lake Geneva in the town of Montreux, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif as they try to pin down a political framework for a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear programme by a March 31 deadline.
US officials said they began their talks at 9:33 am (0833 GMT).
After months of discussions, the two men launched this latest round of talks on Monday, and are due to continue negotiating until Wednesday afternoon, when Kerry will fly to Riyadh to meet King Salman.
Few details of the emerging deal have publicly come to light so far, but aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have threatened that may change when the Israeli leader makes a controversial address to the US Congress later Tuesday.
Kerry and his staff have warned Netanyahu against betraying US trust by revealing classified briefings about the course of the negotiations.
Netanyahu’s lobbying trip to Washington is seen as a last-ditch bid to derail one of the last key goals of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.
But the US insists that a deal forged through diplomacy would be the best way to ensure Iran does not acquire a nuclear bomb.
Mitch McConnell, moderate. I thought I’d never see that characterization, but after last week’s embarrassing, incompetent, dangerous gambit the House Republicans played, he’s looking like the only GOP adult in the room. John Boehner seems to have lost his caucus and is now dependent on the far right to dictate what gets done in the House, and what’s getting done is virtually nothing. Kicking the Homeland Security funding argument to this week will do nothing except make Friday night another frantic opportunity for brinkmanship and Obama-bashing. In the end, Homeland Security will get funding and the president’s immigration changes will stand. The real losers will be the people who work for the agency as they bite their nails and wait to see if they’ll be getting paid for another week. If terrorists read American news sources, they are surely laughing at us.
Not content to make itself look bad on the domestic front, the Republicans doubled down and asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to come and speak to a joint session of Congress, an honor he will deliver this week. Never mind that his visit, essentially a jab at the Obama administrations efforts to negotiate a nuclear treaty with Iran, will only put more on strain US-Israel relations, although there are reports that things might be getting less strained. Mr. Netanyahu, I’m sure, will have important things to say. The problem is that he might want to think twice before attaching himself to the clown car Congress that can’t seem to find money to pay for homeland security, much less debate a serious issue like a possible Iranian nuclear weapon.
This is also the week that the Supreme Court will hear arguments in King v. Burwell, the case that challenges whether the federal government can give subsidies to people who buy health insurance on the federal exchange. The plaintiffs believe that only those who buy policies on state exchanges should get subsidies. Which of course begs the question, if the court rules for the plaintiffs, will they work feverishly to make sure that the states without exchanges set them up quickly so the law can work and millions of people can keep their health care?
Of course not. This is most likely the final attempt to destroy a law that is working wonderfully and is fundamentally changing the health care landscape for the better. Also, the states that would suffer the most if the subsidies are struck down will be the poorest, reddest states in the country. You know, the ones whose citizens vote against their interests by electing governments that seek to limit the programs their people desperately need.
And the state that would suffer the most? Florida. Does Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio have a fall back plan if millions of Floridians lose their health insurance? No. Do both of them want to be president? Of course, but what a catastrophe either of them would be.
And finally, this week will see the rollout of the PARCC tests across the nation. School districts are hoping that their technology holds up and that students can navigate the many screen they’ll need to use in order to answer the questions. Some families have decided that they don’t want their students to participate, so they’ve opted out, or “refused” to take the tests as the officials like to characterize it, The testing will take almost three weeks and then return in late April or early May, taking more valuable time and resources from classrooms and actual learning. The tests will mean almost nothing to students, but for teachers, they will count for 10% of their yearly evaluation (in New Jersey, at least). I give these tests five years, and then the education establishment will move on to something newer.
March is certainly roaring in.
Is this how we handle terrorism these days, to have everyone run back to their homeland? Isn’t that what the terrorists want… segregation?
In a speech on Sunday, Netanyahu, while talking about a Jewish man who was killed in an attack outside Copenhagen’s main synagogue. suggested the separatist way as the way to stop terrorism – segregation.
“Jews have been murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews,” Netanyahu said. “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home.”
Denmark’s chief rabbi Jiar Melchior said he was “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s invitation. “If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”
Separately, Netanyahu also announced $45 million to encourage the immigration of Jews from France, Belgium and Ukraine in a government initiative planned before the Copenhagen attacks.