The Day In Israel: Sunday May 16th, 2010

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has admitted the Obama administration has “screwed up the messaging” about its support for Israel.

rahm emanuelThe Obama Administration has “screwed up the messaging” about its support for Israel over the last 14 months, and it will take “more than one month to make up for 14 months,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said Thursday to a group of rabbis called together for a meeting in the White House.

“During the elections there were doubts about President Obama’s support for Israel, and now they have resurfaced,” Emanuel said, according to one of those who participated in the meeting. “But concerning policy, we have done everything that we can that is in Israel’s security and long range interests.  Watch what the Administration does.”

Dennis Ross, who runs the Administration’s Iran policy, allayed fears during the meeting that by calling for a nuclear free Middle East the US policy regarding Israel’s nuclear capabilities was changing.

Since 1995, Ross explained, the Administration’s policy, supported by Israel, was to support a nuclear free Middle East in conjunction with comprehensive peace. Emanuel, according to a participant in the meeting, said  “We understand Israel’s full layer of deterrence.”

These comments came during the second of two White House meetings with a carefully selected slate of 15 rabbis from across the US representing the Orthodox, reform and Conservative streams.  The first meeting took place on April 20, shortly after Obama was widely perceived to have treated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shabbily during their last White House meeting.

In addition to Emanuel and Ross, the other Administration officials in the meetings were Dan Shapiro, the deputy national security adviser who supervises policy for Israel and its neighbors; Susan Sher, the chief White House liaison to the Jewish community; and Danielle Borin, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Special Assistant to Vice President Joe Biden.

Ross opened Thursday’s meeting, saying he hoped that the rabbis “had seen the manifestations of the change” of the Administration’s tone since they met the first time a month ago.

Ross quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who last week in Washington declared that regarding defense and security the relationship between Israel and the US has never been stronger.

Ross said that the US was providing Israel with everything it needed “in a tough neighborhood,” integrating Israel into America’s “military architecture,” especially in the missile defense sphere.

Ross said that both he and Shapiro were meeting Israeli officials on a weekly basis, either in Jerusalem or Washington, regarding defense issues.

Shapiro pointed out the Administration on Thursday announced a $205 million allocation for the Iron Dome missile defense system,  on top of the annual $3 billion in military aid.  One of the participants in the meeting quoted him as saying there could be no two state solution without effective missile defense and no successful peacemaking if others perceived any gap between the US and Israel.

Emanuel said, according to a participant in the meeting, that he has worked for two US administrations, and was a congressman during a third, and that the cooperation between the two countries on security issues has never been better.  But, he said, things have been “static” at “the top,” which has created “some angst” out there.  He pointed out that the US pushed Israel’s acceptance this week into the OECD.

Regarding Iran, Emanuel said that the US could not unilaterally impose sanction and have them effective.  He said that if the US would move before sanctions pass the UN Security Council, it would give a gift to Russia and China and get them off the hook as far as having to take a stand on sanctions.

The sanctions that are being drawn up will not be incremental and will impact the Iranian economy in a serious way, Emanuel was quoted as saying.  But the sequence is important, he said, and has to be first UN sanctions, followed then by EU ones and then finally by steps from Washington.

Emanuel said that the Administration’s priorities in the Middle East centers around three issues: isolating Iran, “removing America’s footprint in Iraq” which is perceived as an intrusion into Arab and Moslem lands, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process which he said is key to Israel’s security, and also helps both Isarel and the US

Regarding the proximity talks, which will enter a second round later this week with the arrival of US envoy George Mitchell, Ross said both sides needed to create an atmosphere where the talks could succeed. He said the US was not looking to impose a settlement, but that when the sides reached an impasse in negotiations they often needed a third party to suggest a way to bridge the gaps.

During the first meeting in April, Emanuel, according to a participant at that meting, said that Obama understood why Israelis were cynical of the peace process, since bilateral negotiations – the Oslo process – led to the terrorism of the Second Intifada; and unilateral action – withdrawal from Lebanon and disengagement from Gaza – left them with a strengthened Hamas and Hizbullah.

He also said that no Israeli government could make peace without security, and that Israel needed to know that the US was behind them.

Jack Moline, a Conservative rabbi at Congregation Agudas Achim in Alexandria, Virginia, initiated the two meeting meetings after a talk he had Emanuel about the Obama administration’s perceived deficit of friendliness toward Israel.

The two meetings were part of a charm offensive after the Obama-Netanyahu meeting last month.

In recent weeks, several high-profile US Jewish communal figures have slammed the Obama administration over the intensity and public nature of its criticisms of Israeli actions on these fronts.

Moline said the rabbis, all of whom attended both of the meetings, were selected because of the high profiles they have in their communities, and because they had concerns about how the Obama administration was conducting Middle East policy ­ but they had not displayed outright hostility to the president.

The rabbis who were in this group were chosen because they’re in touch with their different congregations in different parts of the country, Moline said.

One source said the meeting was a sign that the Administration was concerned they may “be losing the Jews.”

Not all the rabbis came away entirely mollified, but they were impressed at the seriousness of the outreach.

Efrem Goldberg, the rabbi at Florida’s Boca Raton Synagogue, which is Orthodox, said he left the meeting still wondering if the administration is on the right track, but cautiously optimistic because of the depth of commitment to Israel he heard.

I left with a clear impression that these individuals have a real passion about Israel, even if he did not agree with them on tactics, Goldberg said.

There was a lot of highlighting of the actual activities and policies of the administration, Moline said ­and some frustration that what the Obama administration has done for Israel has not been comprehensively and accurately reported. They emphasized that whatever the messaging has been over the past year and half, the policies have been in place.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)?

6:40PM: Keeping the trash out.

6:20PM: Has the world gone completely bonkers?

Via Honest Reporting:

Recently, the Comedy Central TV network censored an episode of the popular South Park cartoon following threats from Islamic extremists offended at the show’s portrayal of the Prophet Mohammad. But while Comedy Central was perceived to have caved in on a matter of free speech, it appears that the network exercises double standards when it comes to producing genuinely offensive material.

Currently appearing on Comedy Central’s website is a game called “I.S.R.A.E.L. Attack!”. The premise of this game has nothing to do with Israel and, as such, is nothing more than an insidious attempt at association. The game’s introduction begins with a character who states:

You lied to me, Jew Producer

referring to a character who has failed to carry out a mission to destroy other child-like cartoon characters. If this piece of anti-Semitism isn’t bad enough, a robot – the Intelligent Smart Robot Animation Eraser Lady – is sent to do the job that the Jew Producer failed to achieve.

The character openly calls the robot by its acronym – ISRAEL – and the association created by those behind this game is unmistakable – Israel the child killer.

The game then involves the robot destroying everything and everyone in its path, including children and animals.

Read here for more on getting this vile excuse for antisemitism-masquerading-as-humor removed.

2:40PM: The North Koreans are not happy with Israel, nor Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

North Korea on Saturday angrily denied previous Israeli allegations that Pyongyang is spreading weapons of mass destruction, denouncing Lieberman as an “ultra-rightist” and “an imbecile in diplomacy” and vowing not to tolerate Israel’s alleged slander.

The North’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday the country has nothing to do with the spread of WMDs. It also said it would never pardon Israel for daring to slander the dignified (North) by concocting “sheer lies.”

Because up until now, relations between us and the North Koreans were just swell.

2:15PM: Following this little performance by a member of the Muslim Student Union at UC San Diego comes this one by one of their invited guests at UC Irvine – pro-terrorist Malik Ali.

StandWIthUs writes:

Write a letter to the administration at UC Irvine.

Tell them that on Thursday, May 13th, the Muslim Student Union (MSU) has once again hosted a speaker, Malik Ali, who clearly stated in the video below that he supports terrorist groups and Jihad on campus. The MSU invites him to speak on campus once a year or more.

Tell the UC Irvine administration that enough is enough. The MSU continues to host hateful speakers on its campus, inciting division and marginalizing Jewish students who support the state of Israel as the “new Nazis” on campus.

Tell the UC Irvine administration that this is dangerous and needs to stop. MSU should be sanctioned and placed on probation because they foment hatred against one specific group on campus: the Jewish group.

MSU is absolutely irresponsible in their choice of speakers, as this video proves.

Please send the link to the video, and your own note to:
chancellor@uci. edu
mngomez@uci. edu
president@ucop. edu

Please send a copy to info@standwithus. com

1:48PM: It looks like no-one is immune from the recent iPad ban.

And I mean no-one.

bar refaeliIt’s only been a couple of weeks since Israel lifted its ban on the iPad and both are back in the news again.  This time, international supermodel and 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover girl, Bar Refaeli, is in hot water for not declaring her iPad when she recently entered her native country for a short visit.

According to an interview on Israeli television, Refaeli didn’t declare the iPad because she believed it was in a suitcase that had been lost in transit.

Israeli customs requires all items valued over $200 be declared upon entering the country.  Unfortunately for her, Refaeli must now pay 650 shekels (approximately $170) in fines and taxes to get her iPad back.

No doubt the customs guys wanted to rummage through her belongings anyway..

6:40AM: Canned peas peace.

Cold peace with Jordan: Israelis good were burned in Jordan Saturday, during protests against Israel in the Hashemite Kingdom’s capital marking Nakba Day.

Hundreds of members of the Anti-Normalization Committee, which fights against normalization of economic relations with Israel, set fire to hundreds of fruit and vegetable crates imported from the Jewish neighbor.

The protest, held in Amman’s central marketplace, came a day after Jordanian clerics issued a religious edict that forbids purchasing merchandise from Israel.

Director of Jordanian trade unions Dr. Ahmed al-Armouti said that these activities reflect the Jordanian people’s stand in respect to normalizing ties with Israel. According to al-Armouti, such normalization will serve as a recognition of the “occupation’s legitimacy and existence,” and lead to “economic, political and security dangers that might threaten Jordan’s stability.”

Al-Armouti said the Jewish state is “an entity that plans to destroy al-Aqsa Mosque and expel the residents of Palestine.” Those who have normal ties with Israel are “godless people devoid of humanity,” he said, adding that the Anti-Normalization Committee plans to announce the names of Jordanians who maintain normalized relations with Israel in the near future.

The religious edict issued on Friday forbids purchasing merchandise produced in Israel. London-based publication al-Quds al-Arabi reported that 51 religious clerics announced the collective edict on Friday, and called on all Muslims to boycott products made in Israel, because it was “the enemy that plunders Muslim land.”

The religious edict also ruled that all Muslims are required to support Jihad by all means necessary, in order to abolish the occupation and back the residents in “occupied lands.”

Nice to see they’re burning food while their brethren “starve” in Gaza.

But let it be said as long as they’re importing our food, what they do with it is their business. Heck, perhaps these burning activities will increase our exports to Jordan.


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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media