Sunday, January 19, 2014

The US Government and Israel

14 January 2014 Last updated at 17:41 GMT (BBC)

The US has condemned as "offensive" reported comments by Israel's defence minister about Secretary of State John Kerry's Middle East peace proposals.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the alleged comments by Moshe Yaalon were "inappropriate" given America's support to Israel's security.

Mr Kerry's peace proposals reportedly include security arrangements in the Jordan Valley - between a future Palestinian state and Jordan.

However, Israel is said to be demanding that it maintains a military presence under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

While the peace talks have been continuing, Israel last week announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Monday, 25 November, 2002, 23:14 GMT  

Israel asks US for more money
Top Israeli officials have gone to Washington DC to ask for special financial aid, to help the country deal with the vicious economic downturn triggered by two years of Palestinian uprising.

In a statement from the Prime Minister's office, the Israeli government said its director, Dov Weisglass, and Finance Ministry Director-General Ohad Marani had held a "detailed discussion of the request" with US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

Israel is not saying how much money it is looking for, but the domestic media speculate that it could be as much as $14bn, of which $4bn would be military aid and $10bn loan guarantees.

About $2.9bn in grants and aid are routinely awarded each year,

Loan guarantees would allow Israel to borrow at rock-bottom rates. As long as Israel keeps up with repayments - and it has never defaulted, government officials are at pains to stress - the guarantees cost the US nothing.

Some observers have speculated that the US could ask for preconditions in the wake of the shooting by Israeli forces of a British United Nations official last week, but Israeli Finance Minister told public radio on Sunday that there would not be any strings attached.

Israel's $100bn economy was booming in the latter years of the 1990s, buoyed by a flourishing technology sector driven and underwritten in part by the Israeli military.
By 2000, it was growing at 6% a year.
But all that changed with the Palestinian uprising of September that year, which began after now-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon toured the religious site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif.
The tour by a known hardliner with armed guards was seen as provocative, and catalysed the following 26 months of violence.
Holes in the budget
Aside from the human cost, the economic damage has been immense.
Israel has since slumped into negative growth, its tax receipts dropping, defence budget creaking at the seams and foreign investment - and tourism - all but gone.
Unemployment tops 10%, while inflation is above 8% a year.
The situation for the Palestinians is even worse, as near-continuous blockades, destruction of property for security reasons and the steady expansion of Jewish settlements have wiped out most economic activity. 

 ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates

Never have I seen Israel and America’s core Arab allies working more in concert to stymie a major foreign policy initiative of a sitting U.S. president, and never have I seen more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — more willing to take Israel’s side against their own president’s. I’m certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.

That said, I don’t mind Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia going ballistic — in stereo — over this proposed deal. It gives Kerry more leverage. Kerry can tell the Iranians: “Look, our friends are craaaaaazzzy. And one of them has a big air force. You better sign quick.”

No, I don’t begrudge Israel and the Arabs their skepticism, but we still should not let them stop a deal. If you’re not skeptical about Iran, you’re not paying attention. Iran has lied and cheated its way to the precipice of building a bomb, and without tough economic sanctions — sanctions that President Obama engineered but which Netanyahu and the Arab states played a key role in driving — Iran would not be at the negotiating table. I also understand the specific concerns of the Gulf Arabs, which I’d summarize as: “It looks to us as if you want to do this deal and then get out of the region — and leave behind an Iran that will only become economically more powerful, at a time when it already has enormous malign influence in Syria, Iraq, in Lebanon through Hezbollah, and in Bahrain.”

Uploaded on Oct 22, 2013

October 22, 2013, Yeshiva University, Lamport Hall. L to r, Yeshiva president Richard Joel, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and Sheldon Adelson

Senate briefing against new Iran sanctions

By | Nov. 14, 2013 | 4:27 AM

Tensions heightened and rhetoric escalated between Washington and Jerusalem on Wednesday as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave what was described as a “fairly anti-Israeli” briefing on Capitol Hill while his State Department dismissed Israeli evaluations of the proposed nuclear deal with Iran as “inaccurate, exaggerated and not based in reality.”

Accompanied by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, top U.S. nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman and other officials, Kerry tried to convince Senators to refrain from approving new sanctions against Iran, with saying that such a move would “destroy the ability to be able to get agreement.” Kerry told skeptical lawmakers that they needed to “calm down” and to give the negotiations a chance to succeed.

But Republican Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said that Kerry’s briefing had been “disappointing” while his colleague Mark Kirk (R-IL) described it as “very unconvincing."

Speaking to reporters after the briefing before the Senate Banking Committee, Kirk described it as “fairly anti-Israeli” and seemed to put more trust in intelligence assessments apparently given to him by Israeli officials than in Kerry’s official presentation.

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON | Tue Dec 18, 2012 10:50pm EST

(Reuters) - Pro-Israel groups, neoconservatives and even some former colleagues on Capitol Hill are confronting President Barack Obama with a growing backlash against Chuck Hagel, the ex-Republican senator tipped as his leading candidate for defense secretary.

Obama's aides have given no sign of dropping Hagel from consideration - even after several American Jewish leaders privately complained about his policy views, most notably on Israel and Iran, at a White House-hosted Hanukkah party last week, according to one attendee.

But what has become clear in recent days is that the Democratic president will have a Senate confirmation fight on his hands if he decides to nominate the former Nebraska lawmaker, regarded as a moderate Republican, to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.

The White House is preparing for a major realignment of Obama's national security team, possibly by the end of this week, sources familiar with the process have said. But the announcement could be delayed by the difficult "fiscal cliff" negotiations with congressional Republicans.

That could provide more time for Hagel's critics to marshal opposition to his nomination, in public and behind the scenes. But even they are skeptical of being able to derail it.

Obama himself has faced questions from American Jewish leaders about his approach to close U.S. ally Israel, especially given his strained relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and may decide to take a risk with Hagel.

"This is a nomination that could be toxic to some degree for the White House," a Senate Republican foreign policy aide said. "Do they really want this in the first months of a second term?"

Some of Israel's leading U.S. supporters contend that Hagel, who left the Senate in 2008, at times opposed Israel's interests, voting several times against U.S. sanctions on Iran, and made disparaging remarks about the influence of what he called a "Jewish lobby" in Washington.

William Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard wrote in a recent column that Hagel "has anti-Israel, pro-appeasement-of-Iran bona fides."

While declining to discuss Hagel's record on Israel, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last Thursday that "the president thinks very highly of Senator Hagel."

Hagel's office has remain tight-lipped and had no immediate comment.

J Street, a liberal American Jewish group, said it was "appalled by efforts surfacing in recent days to question his commitment to the state of Israel and to Middle East peace."

But The Washington Post weighed in late on Tuesday with an editorial declaring that Hagel was "not the right choice."

It chided him for advocating deep defense cuts and said he was out-of-step on Iran for voicing skepticism that force might eventually be needed to stop its nuclear program.


On Tuesday even some of Hagel's former Republican colleagues expressed misgivings about him.

Asked about Hagel's 2006 statement that the "Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people here," Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he would "have to answer for that comment" if he is nominated.

"And he'll have to answer about why he thought it was a good idea to directly negotiate with Hamas and why he objected to the European Union declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organization," said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "He's been a friend, he has a stellar military record, but these comments disturb a lot of people."

After leaving office, Hagel urged Obama to open talks with Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction

Senator John McCain of Arizona insisted "we would review his entire record" but declined to "make a judgment until he's nominated."

Ironically, a Hagel nomination might be better received by Democrats - though they too might be wary of his contrarian reputation.

Many Republicans consider Hagel suspect. He was an early dissenter on the Iraq war - an issue that helped Obama rise to prominence - and crossed the aisle to endorse the president in his successful re-election bid this year.

On top of that, since leaving the Senate after two terms, he has been a vocal critic of his own party's fiscal policies.

Obama is said to feel comfortable with Hagel. The two traveled together to the Middle East during the 2008 campaign.

He currently co-chairs Obama's Intelligence Advisory Board, and his confirmation would put the Pentagon under a decorated Vietnam War veteran and give Obama's Cabinet a bipartisan cast.

Christopher Preble, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute, wrote that Hagel would be an excellent choice and would help keep the U.S. military from undertaking further "quixotic nation-building missions."

But high-profile opposition to Hagel's possible nomination is growing. Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Washington Post that his record "relating to Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship is, at best, disturbing, and at worst, very troubling."

Josh Block, president of The Israel Project, a pro-Israel group that describes itself as a nonpartisan educational organization, said Hagel's positions were "well outside the mainstream Democratic and Republican consensus."

Some of the negative buzz surrounding Hagel has made its way into Israeli media. "Hagel is a Republican with a problematic voting record on Israel," The Jerusalem Post said on Monday.

Also in the mix for the Pentagon job are Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, and Ashton Carter, the current deputy defense secretary.

(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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