U.S. Briefs 3-6-12

Obama’s new Iran comments contrast with his own AIPAC speech and Netanyahu’s remarks

President Barack Obama followed up on his address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) with new comments about Iran on Tuesday, presenting a sharp contrast to both his own speech as well as that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu told AIPAC delegates Monday that the world “can’t wait much longer” for Iran to end its endeavor to produce nuclear weapons, and also stressed the following: “For the past decade the international community has tried diplomacy; it hasn’t worked. For six years, the international community has tried sanctions, that hasn’t worked either.”

Obama, however, said at a White House press conference Tuesday that, "Iran is feeling the bite of these sanctions in a substantial way.” The president also conveyed that there is more time to deal with the Iranian than Netanyahu suggested, describing a “window of opportunity where this can still be resolved diplomatically.”

On Sunday, Obama said that, When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” Asked at Tuesday’s press conference to clarify that comment, Obama said it was "not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any particular military action.” In his AIPAC speech, Obama had spoken about keeping the military option on the table for Iran."

—JointMedia News Service

Panetta reassures AIPAC crowd of Obama Administration’s commitment to Israel

WASHINGTON, DC—Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta addressed the AIPAC Policy Conference on Tuesday, reserving much of his speech to discuss his own personal commitment to Israel, and to reassure the audience of President Obama’s dedication as well.

“The bonds between Israel and the US will only grow,” Panetta said. “Even in the face of budget reductions, the defense strategy that we have designed makes very clear our commitment to confront and defeat any adversary, any time, any where.”

When it comes to Iran, Panetta reiterated, “of course we prefer a diplomatic path. And as the Prime Minister has said, military action is the last alternative when all else fails. But make no mistake, when all else fails we will act.”

The United States is devoted to ensuring Israel’s military superiority in the region, Panetta said. He cited a 10-year, $30 billion commitment to Israel’s security, and claimed that the president has committed “more than $650 million in Department of Defense funding for Israeli missile defense.”

The defense secretary also disclosed that the United States will provide Israel with the highly expensive, new fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“This makes [Israel] the only country in the Middle East with fifth generation fighter capacity…maintaining Israel’s military edge for years to come.”

JointMedia News Service

At AIPAC for final time as senator, Lieberman calls for U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

Click photo to download. Caption: U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman waves to the crowd during his address at the AIPAC conference on Monday. Credit: AIPAC.WASHINGTON, DC—Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman, speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference for the final time as a U.S. Senator, called for moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is the “eternal capital of the state of Israel,” Lieberman said, yet the U.S. embassy sits in Tel Aviv. Next year, the former vice presidential candidate and the most prominent Sabbath observer in Washington said he is “just leaving the Senate” and “not retiring.”

Lieberman promised to remain an advocate for “a strong America, a strong Israel, and an unbreakable relationship between America and Israel” following the end of his 24-year Senate career.

“The bond between our two great democracies and our two great peoples is deeper, and wider and stronger than ever,” he said of America and Israel.

On the topic of Iran, Lieberman said, “Do not let anyone tell you that a nuclear-armed Iran is just Israel’s problem.” The problem with Iran’s nuclear program is not “what Israel might do about it, and when,” he said. When it comes to U.S. action, Lieberman said it’s not a matter of whether we can stop Iran, but “whether we choose to stop them.”

—JointMedia News Service

Report: Congresswoman planned to speak at fundraiser of Muslim on terrorist watch list

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz planned to speak at a fundraiser hosted by an American Muslim currently listed on the Federal Terrorist Watch List, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Jonathan Beeton, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, has since told the Free Beacon “there was a miscommunication, she is not speaking to the organization,” clarifying that “we never agreed to do a fundraiser, nor this event.”

The host in question was Khurrum Wahid, an attorney known for publicly defending accused terrorists and involvement with Muslim Brotherhood-type groups. His clients include a man convicted for planning to bomb a subway, a U.S. physician who planned to treat wounded al Qaeda terrorists, and imams who are accused of giving money to the Pakistani Taliban.

Schultz received widespread criticism from both Democrats and Republicans alike. “I’m not sure how much money they will raise at this event, but there is no amount that is worth having the head of the Democratic Party associated with anyone who appears to have a soft spot for terrorism,” a Jewish Democrat told the Free Beacon.

—JointMedia News Service

Analysts: Obama re-election not a done deal

WASHINGTON, DC—Republican candidate Mitt Romney may not have clinched his own nomination just yet, but President Obama hasn’t sealed his re-election either, analysts concluded at the AIPAC Policy conference on Sunday afternoon.

“[Romney] is still wobbling a little bit, he’s right on the edge,” said Republican political consultant Mike Murphy, referring to Romney’s struggle in Michigan. Romney barely won the Michigan primary, his home state. Former Senator Rick Santorum claimed half the delegates, although he lost the popular vote.

Political commentator Bill Kristol said he believes Romney’s campaign has “foolishly” tried to sell the notion that his victory in the primary is inevitable.

“You should be respectful of the voters,” Kristol said. “I think the campaign is a little off-putting that way.”

Ohio is the key to gaining the Republican nomination, the analysts said, while the economy will determine Obama’s re-election.

“This thing is not at all in the bag for the president,” said Paul Begala, political commentator and former advisor to President Bill Clinton.  

Donna Brazile, the Democratic National Committee’s vice chair of voter registration and participation, said that if Obama sticks with his current message on domestic and national security issues, he “will do alright.”

—JointMedia News Service

Cantor endorses Romney in GOP race

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) on Sunday officially threw his support behind former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential race, becoming the highest ranking member of Congress to endorse a GOP candidate.

Cantor, the sole Jewish Republican in Congress, said Romney was the only candidate who had come out with “a bold pro-growth, pro-jobs plan for the future.”

The endorsement from the House majority leader gives Romney an additional boost ahead of Tuesday’s big vote in 10 states, including Cantor’s home state of Virginia, where only Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul qualified to be on the primary ballot.

Cantor says Romney is the candidate best able to create jobs, make people feel better about the future and beat U.S. President Barack Obama.

“I cast my vote already in Virginia for Mitt Romney and I’m here today to tell you that I’m endorsing Mitt Romney in his candidacy for the presidency of the United States,” Cantor said on the NBC news program “Meet the Press.”

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Panetta meets Barak in Washington

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon last week to discuss Middle East policy, particularly the violence in Syria and the policy regarding Iran.

Tension has been building between the U.S. and Israel on the issue of Iran. The meeting was held in the wake of American efforts to pressure Iran via sanctions and other diplomatic means, while Israel is thought to believe a military strike might soon be an inevitable action in order to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Barak said the talks were “important and useful,” according to Israel National News, and described them as indicative of the “close security ties between the U.S. and Israel.”

—JointMedia News Service

California State program returning to Haifa after decade-long hiatus

Following a decade-long lull in many cooperative programs between Israeli universities and the California State University, a new window of opportunity, opened by Haifa University, now exists for students who want to study abroad.

Haifa University rector Prof. David Faraggi said, “This decision confirms the prestige and attractiveness of Haifa University in every respect connected to programs for foreign students.”

In June 2011, in Faraggi’s section of the university’s Report of the President and the Rector, he wrote, “Having the University of Haifa ‘go international’ is an excellent way to upgrade the university and turn it from a peripheral institution on the Israeli higher education scene to a forward-looking institution of international renown.”

The report said that to expand its reach, the university would begin offering foreign students degrees, including non-degree programs in English, and sending more Israeli students abroad. The university hopes to expand its international school to 1,200 students a year over the next five years, opening about 20 international Master’s degree programs that would integrate 500 foreign students a year, among them 100 doctoral students, and also sending about 200 Israelis abroad.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Replica of Western Wall unveiled in Brooklyn

Click photo to download. Caption: A new replica of Jerusalem’s Western Wall was unveiled at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y. Credit: Chabad.org.A new replica of Jerusalem’s Western Wall was unveiled at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y., last week. Israeli Public Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein and El Al Israel Airlines CEO Eliezer Shkedi unveiled the gigantic replica as the centerpiece of the museum’s 6,000-square-foot fourth floor.

Visitors can place notes in the cracks of the model. The notes will then be transported by El Al Airlines to Israel, where they will be placed inside the cracks of the actual Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“The Western Wall is a special place for us,” explained an early visitor, 9-year-old Nathen Cohen, according to Chabad.org. “Here at the Jewish Children’s Museum, we can pretend that we are at the Wall in Jerusalem, even though we are thousands of miles away.”

—JointMedia News Service

Posted on March 5, 2012 and filed under Briefs, U.S..