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‘This Never Happened’: Sources Close To Trump Rally To His Defense Over Atlantic Story


President Donald Trump was quick to deny a recent report from The Atlantic, which alleged that he had said a number of disrespectful things about fallen American service members — and in the days that followed, a number of others have gone on record to support him.

Trump claimed that the story had been invented to help The Atlantic “gain some relevance.”

First Lady Melania Trump made a rare public statement as well, saying that the story was “not true” and adding, “It has become a very dangerous time when anonymous sources are believed above all else, & no one knows their motivation. This is not journalism – It is activism. And it is a disservice to the people of our great nation.”

Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders noted that she was there at the time Trump was supposed to have made the reported comments — and she said simply, “This never happened.”

Dan Scavino also said that he was with President Trump in France and called the report “complete lies.”

General Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, also defended the president, saying, “The Atlantic story is completely false. Absolutely lacks merit. I’ve been by the President’s side. He has always shown the highest respect to our active duty troops and veterans with utmost respect paid to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those wounded in battle.”

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie joined CNN’s Dana Bash and offered his own defense of the president Sunday, saying that he had not heard Trump disparage American service members and adding, “I would be offended too if I thought it was true. Again, I think ‘anonymous’ are the same people that brought you fake heart attacks, fake strokes, Russian collusion.”

WATCH:

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton — who left the White House and the president’s favor in very public fashion — said in his book that weather and security were the primary factors that ultimately canceled Trump’s visit to Belleau Woods in France.

Bolton also told Fox News White House correspondent John Roberts that if the canceled trip had been the result of a presidential temper tantrum, he would have given it a full chapter in his book.

The Federalist’s Ben Domenech acknowledged the many hurtful things President Trump had said about his late father-in-law — Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain — but also noted that The Atlantic had not exactly “clothed itself in glory” with regard to journalistic integrity.

WATCH:

Domenech tweeted a similar sentiment when the story broke, saying, “I’m confident I have better sources within this White House than @JeffreyGoldberg, and I expect that upon investigation his anonymously sourced story will live up to the quality we can expect from The Atlantic under his leadership.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the story “garbage,” adding, “the liberal activists at The Atlantic are uninterested in the truth and they are only interested in peddling conspiracy laden propaganda.”

And they were not alone.

Fox News reporter Jennifer Griffin said that she was able to corroborate some details of The Atlantic’s story — but her sources were kept anonymous as well.

COLUMN BY

VIRGINIA KRUTA

Associate Editor.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Caller column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

The Hateful Meshugash of Jewish Apostates

Jews Against Themselves cover(1)Hat tip to Imre Herzog.  You may have read the tweet exchanges by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic with leftist anti-Zionist columnists at Ha’aretz who call Israel, ‘evil’.  Goldberg took both them and the publisher Amos Schocken to task for their bizarre commentaries. Ruthie Blum chronicled that in the Algemeiner yesterday.  That prompted University of Washington professor Edward Alexander, author of Jews against Themselves and colleague Paul Bogdanor, author of Kasztner’s Crime to expose two America academics of similar evil intent who have published in Ha’aretz: Professor Dina Hasia of NYU and Professor Marjorie Feld on Babson College near Boston.  They wrote a profile of both in an Algemeiner article appropriately entitled, “Jewish Apostates”for their hateful anti-Semitic anti-Israelism giving aid and comfort to the enemy of the Jewish nation. Note these scathing condemnations of both ‘apostates’:

Since the fury of Feld and Diner is aroused by Israel’s being a Jewish state, why do they not direct it also against Britain, a Christian state, with an official Protestant church, a Protestant monarch, and a Protestant state education system? Other self-declared Christian states with numerous non-Christian citizens include such progressive bastions as Denmark, Finland, Greece, and Norway. And let us not speak of all the states whose names begin with “Islamic Republic of…” or “United Arab…,” and who are among the most zealous supporters of such hate fests as “Israel Apartheid Week.”

Since Israel’s people have been under military as well as ideological siege throughout its existence, our professorial duo could hardly avoid the subject of atrocities. They deal with it, alas, just as one might have expected. Diner writes: “I abhor violence, bombings, stabbings, or whatever hurtful means oppressed individuals resort to out of anger and frustration. And yet, I am not surprised when they do so, after so many decades of occupation, with no evidence of progress.” Can these historians really be unaware that terrorism against Jews in the Jewish homeland began decades before the “occupation”? As Paul Berman observed about apologists of their ilk, “Each new act of murder and suicide testified to how oppressive the Israelis were. Palestinian terror, in this view, was the measure of Israeli guilt. The more grotesque the terror, the deeper the guilt…”

Feld and Diner are nothing if not frank. They do not even bother to hide the logical end-point of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Diner not only boycotts everything Israeli, but also many of her co-religionists in the Diaspora. “I feel a sense of repulsion,” she explains, “when I enter a synagogue in front of which the congregation has planted a sign reading, ‘We Stand With Israel.’ I just do not go and avoid many Jewish settings where I know Israel will loom large as an icon of identity.”

As genocidal fanatics build nuclear bombs in Iran; as Hezbollah arms itself with over a hundred thousand missiles in Lebanon; as men, women, and children are butchered with knives in Israel; as small children in a Jewish school and shoppers in a kosher deli are massacred in Europe; as synagogues and community institutions are fortified against the never-ending nightmare of Islamist violence throughout the world, the Israel-haters take pride in their own perfidy by shunning their fellow Jews.

“One who separates himself from the [Jewish] community” – by showing indifference when it is in distress – “has no share in the world to come.” So declared Maimonides, the greatest of all Jewish sages, in the twelfth century (Laws of Repentance, iii). But if this verdict seems too remote and old-fashioned for Diner and Feld, let them ponder the following, delivered at the height of the Holocaust: “The history of our times will one day make bitter reading, when it records that some Jews were so morally uncertain that they denied they were obligated to risk their own safety in order to save other Jews who were being done to death abroad” (Ben Halpern, Jewish Frontier, August 1943).

Last October, we published in the Iconoclast blog of the New English Review, a review of Alexander’s “Jews against Themselves” by Phoenix-based David Isaac, “Why are Jews against Israel”. the creator of the video education series, “Zionism 101”that appeared in the Washington Free Beacon. We wrote:

Isaac’s review of Alexander‘s collection of jeremiads, “The Enemy Within” published in today’s Washington Free Beacon excoriates these diverse ‘shadtlanim’ beyond the usual suspects. Isaac pays tribute to Alexander withering and acerbic wit in these essays. He writes:

Alexander describes “the new forms taken by Jewish apostasy in an age when Jewish existence is threatened more starkly and immediately than at any time since the Nazi war against the Jews.” He notes that there are always readers astonished to learn that Israel-bashing Jews exist. But precisely these home-grown haters are the ones who “play a disproportionate role in basic

Isaac notes Alexander’s theme threading his oeuvre defending Israel against the usual and not so usual suspects:

Alexander is a staunch defender of Israel, the foundation of which he calls one of the “few redeeming events in a century of blood and shame, one of the greatest affirmations of the will to live ever made by a martyred people, and a uniquely hopeful sign for humanity itself.” As an English professor at the University of Washington, he wrote books on moral exemplars of the Victorian period like Matthew Arnold. He could have remained in his ivory tower, but instead he has delved into the muck. With pen in hand—happily Alexander is a superb writer and wields a very sharp pen—he has taken apart Israel’s enemies in books ranging from The Jewish Idea and Its Enemies to The Jewish Wars to The State of the Jews and The Jewish Divide Against Israel.

RELATED ARTICLE: Anti-Semitism on Campus 2016

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

J Street Launches Ad Campaign Promoting Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal [+Video]

You probably have seen our panel discussion on the J street Challenge and comments about the pro-Iranian lobby group NIAC board members, “J Street Challenge documentary and Informed Panel Discussion in Pensacola.“ We noted:

Former deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, Lenny Ben David, revealed forensic analysis of the IRS tax filings of J Street. He noted the questionable funding by known enemies of Israeli both in the U.S. and the Middle East. Jeremy Ben Ami is exposed by Ben David apologizing for why he hid major funding for J Street from George Soros, who is fervently anti-Israel. A J Street board member, Genevieve Lynch, also sits on the board of Iran’s chief lobbying arm in Washington, the National Iranian American Council. Ben David also raised the question of why a Filipino woman living in Hong Kong underwrites almost a third of J Street’s budget.

In an earlier Iconoclast post we referenced a Breitbart News report on a former NIAC employee, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, who was now an NSC staffer in the Obama White House:

Breitbart News in a March 31st, 2015 dossier article on Ms. Nowrouzzadeh reported:

Found that a person with the same name has previously written several publications on behalf of NIAC. According to what appears to be her LinkedIn account, Nowrouzzadeh became an analyst for the Department of Defense in 2005 before moving her way up to the National Security Council in 2014.

A NIAC profile from 2007 reveals that Sahar Nowrouzzadeh appears to be the same person as the one who is currently the NSC Director for Iran. The profiles indicate that she had the same double major and attended the same university (George Washington).

Critics have alleged that NIAC is a lobby for the current Iranian dictatorship under Ayatollah Khamenei. A dissident journalist revealed recently that NIAC’s president and founder, Trita Parsi, has maintained a years-long relationship with Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif.

NIAC was established in 1999, when founder Trita Parsi attended a conference in Cyprus that was held under the auspices of the Iranian regime. During the conference, Parsi reportedly laid out his plan to introduce a pro-regime lobbying group to allegedly counteract the influence of America’s pro-Israel and anti-Tehran regime advocacy groups.

NIAC has been investing heavily in attempts to influence the talks in favor of an agreement with the state sponsor of terror. In recent days, its director, Trita Parsi, has been spotted having amiable conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s brother.

With the announcement of P5+1 nuclear agreement by President  Obama on Monday, July 14th, like night follows day, J Street is launching a multi-million dollar video campaign supporting the deal.  All while all  Israelis , many members of Congress and Americans support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s view that the pact is a dangerous  “historic mistake.” They have been joined by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates castigating the deal with Iran posing an existential threat in the Middle East and some suggest here in the US, as well.

The Algemeiner reported on this latest example of J Street revealing its promotion of the President’s outreach to a nuclear Iran:

The left-wing Jewish lobby J Street said Wednesday that it is building support for the Iran nuclear deal through a “multimillion dollar national campaign.”

“J Street wants Congress to know that, despite some loud opposition to the deal coming from Jewish organizational leaders, our polling suggests that a clear majority of Jewish Americans agrees with us and backs the deal,” J Street said in its announcement of a campaign “to make the case to lawmakers that the agreement reached yesterday advances both US and Israeli security interests.”

The campaign, according to J Street, “will launch with a 30-second advertisement highlighting the unprecedented inspections and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear and military sites under the agreement.

Algemeiner noted the comments of Lori Lowenthal Marcus, national correspondent for The Jewish Press and  Jeffery Goldberg of The Atlantic, a frequent interviewer of President Obama.

Marcus said:

While every other Jewish group which praised the negotiators who reached the agreement “did so for their (the negotiators’) efforts,” only J Street praised the actual content of the deal. On Tuesday, J Street called the deal “a major step forward that will make the world appreciably safer.”

Goldberg tweeted:

“If Israel’s elected leader, and the head of the opposition, oppose the Iran deal, can J Street support it and still call itself pro-Israel?”

Maybe that’s why MK Isaac  Herzog Israeli opposition leader of the Leftist  Zionist Union (Labor) Party said he would work with Prime Minister  Netanyahu’s coalition  to stop the Iran deal.  We wonder which Iranian  conduit funneled the money to underwrite the launch of the J Street video ad with the Orwellian title: “Good for America/Good for Israel”.

Watch the J Street ad on this You Tube video:

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Obama’s Unrealistic View of Israelis

General Kuperwasser

Israel Gen Kuperwasser (Ret.) Former Director General, Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Source: Honest Reporting

Gen. (Ret.) Yossi Kuperwasser is an  Israeli Intelligence expert and former Director General of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. He wrote Jeffrey Goldberg, these remarks following the latest Atlantic interview and Obama’s appearance at Goldberg’s synagogue in Washington, Adas Israel on Friday morning, May 22nd. The President  received applause from the 1,200 who attended  his address, a day prior to the Shavuot Jewish holiday. Shavuot  celebrates  the  reading of the law by “Moshe rabbenu’ (Moses the teacher) before the assembled Exodus multitude  gathered under the Mountain. Perhaps the President had that it mind on the occasion of his address to the assembly of Washington Jewish notables at Adas Israel who like Goldberg profess to be “progressives” like the President. After all, Obama said that many in the audience considered him  the equivalent of “the First Jewish President.”

Others distant from Washington, like our colleague  Dr. Richard l. Rubenstein; noted theologian, former university president ,author of seminal works on post holocaust period,including  Jihad and Genocide  consider Obama “the most radical President ever.”  To Goldberg’s credit, he published  in the latest edition of The Atlantic  Kuperwasser’s ‘realistic” views, as an Israeli expert of record, contrasting them with the President’s “optimistic” views . I have to thank my friend Pat Rooney here in Pensacola for sending me them.  Coming as they do before tonight’s airing of an interview with the President of Israel Channel 2 extolling  his view why the P5+1 deal with Iran is in Panglossian terms – the best of all possible options. A deal considered a bad one by a bi-partisan panel of former Senators, ex-CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden and experts from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in an update from the Iran Task Force on Capitol Hill, yesterday.  French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius ‘considers  the current P5+1 deal  “useless” as both he and Gen. Hayden know that nothing will be verifiable as the fissile material will be hidden at military sites that Iran’s Supreme Ruler has denied access to UN IAEA inspectors.

I posted on my Facebook page yesterday this comment that may reflect  what many Israelis and Gen. Kuperwasser may believe about the President:

Obama says there is no military option, but a tough verifiable deal for Iran’s nukes. When asked if PM Netanyahu would exercise a military option, he said “I wouldn’t speculate.” He also suggested he “understood the fears and concerns” of Israelis. When this airs on Channel 2 in Israel Tuesday night the silence will be deafening. This President does not have either Israel’s or this country’s back in dealing with an untrustworthy Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Goldberg prefaced Kuperwasser’s response by offering that he agreed with less than half of them.  Here are excerpts from The Atlantic article, A Critique of Obama’s Understanding of Israel.

President Obama’s anger toward Netanyahu is misplaced, especially given his extraordinary lack of criticism of Palestinians for far more egregious behavior. The Palestinians, after all, are the ones who refused to accept the president’s formula for extending the peace negotiations. It is Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) who have called for “popular resistance,” which has led in recent years to stabbings, stonings, and attacks with cars and Molotov cocktails against Israelis. Since the PA ended the peace negotiations, there has been a sharp increase in attacks and casualties in Israel. Hamas, for its part, openly calls for the extermination of Israelis and sacrifices a generation of children towards that goal.

In response to these threats, all the president had to say at Adas Israel was that “the Palestinians are not the easiest of partners.” Rather than recognizing how fundamentally different Palestinian political culture is, the president offered slogans about how Palestinian youth are just like any other in the world. This is a classic example of the mirror-imaging—the projection of his own values onto another culture—that has plagued most of his foreign policy.

This excerpt from the president’s speech in Jerusalem in 2013 is emblematic of his mirror-imaging, and the problems with that perspective:

“… I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22. And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters. They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons. I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say, I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper. I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do. … Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people—politically, religiously, I believe that they must seem a world away. But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want. They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning. The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza.”

Yes, we want a prosperous life for our neighbors, but unlike the president’s daughters, there are some Palestinian children who are educated to have a completely different set of priorities. Our core values are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this world, but Hamas proclaims “We love death more than you love life.” Happiness will be reached in the next world, according to the Hamas ideology.

So why does Obama pick on Netanyahu and not on Abbas? The most likely reason is directly related to a conflict in the West between two schools of thought, both dedicated to defending democratic and Judeo-Christian values: Optimism and realism. Obama is a remarkable proponent for the optimist approach—he fundamentally believes in human decency, and therefore in dialogue and engagement as the best way to overcome conflict. He is also motivated by guilt over the West’s collective sins, which led, he believes, to the current impoverishment of Muslims in general and Palestinians in particular. He believes that humility and concessions can salve the wound, and Islamists can be convinced to accept a global civil society. “If we’re nice to them, they’ll be nice to us,” Obama thinks.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, is a realist. Due in part to Israel’s tumultuous neighborhood, he has a much more skeptical attitude of Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian President Rouhani’s government. Netanyahu does not see these groups as potential moderates, willing to play by the international community’s rules; instead, he acknowledges their radicalism, and their intent to undermine a world order they consider a humiliating insult to Islam. The major difference between the Islamists and the extremists, according to Netanyahu, is one of timing. The Islamists are willing to wait until the time is ripe to overthrow the existing world order.

Western realists worry that optimists are actively aiding Islamists in the naïve hope that they will block out the extremists. The realists believe that a resolute stance, with the use of military force as an option, is the best way to achieve agreed-upon Western goals. Obama both prefers the optimist approach and believes that his hopeful dialogues will achieve the best possible outcome. Netanyahu, on the other hand, whose nation would feel the most immediate consequences from Western concessions, does not have the luxury of optimism.

This helps explain why Obama targets Netanyahu for criticism. The prime minister’s insistence on the dangers of the optimist approach threatens to expose the inherent weakness of Obama’s worldview and challenge the president’s assumption that his policy necessarily leads to the best possible solutions. For Netanyahu and almost everybody in Israel, as well as pragmatic Arabs, the president’s readiness to assume responsibility for Iran’s future nuclear weapons, as he told Jeffrey Goldberg, is no comfort. The realists are not playing a blame game; they are trying to save their lives and their civilization. To those who face an existential threat, Obama’s argument sounds appalling.

          […]

Does it make sense for Israel—in the face of an aggressive Iran, the rise of Islamic terror organizations across the Middle East, and the fragmentation of Arab states—to deliver strategic areas to the fragile and corrupt PA, just to see them fall to extremists?

Should Israel at this moment aid in the creation of a Palestinian state, half of which is already controlled by extremists who last summer rained down thousands of rockets on Israel, while its leaders urge their people to reject Israel as the sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people? Should it aid a movement that follows these five pillars: 1) There is no such thing as the Jewish people; 2) The Jews have no history of sovereignty in the land of Israel, so the Jewish state’s demise is inevitable and justified; 3) The struggle against Israel by all means is legitimate, and the means should be based simply on cost-benefit analysis; 4) The Jews in general, and Zionists in particular, are the worst creatures ever created; And 5) because the Palestinians are victims, they should not be held responsible or accountable for any obstacles they may throw up to peace?

In short, even though Israel, under Prime Minister Netanyahu, remains committed to the formula of “two states for two peoples, with mutual recognition,” the implementation of this idea at this point is irrelevant. The PA’s poor governance and the general turmoil in the Middle East render any establishment of a Palestinian state right now unviable. President Obama admitted as much, reluctantly, but continued to criticize Netanyahu instead of betraying his optimist paradigm. Netanyahu’s realism would stray too far from the path Obama, and other Western leaders, have set in front of them. But while Obama and the optimists offer their critiques, Netanyahu and the realists will be on the ground, living with the consequences the optimists have wrought.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Bibigate – The Contretemps over Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress on Iran’s Nuclear Program

Last Saturday night a retired U.S. Navy officer said “I’ll bet you even money that Bibi will withdraw from the proposed speech before a joint session of Congress”. I joshed him and said “I wouldn’t count on it.”

Sunday, I received suggestions that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu should have a Plan B given the rising contretemps in the media over US House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to talk about Iran before a Joint Session of Congress. There  was a welter of criticism from the White House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and mainstream media talking heads  included David Brooks of the New York Times and  Chris Wallace and Shepherd Smith of  FoxNews.  They were admonishing Speaker Boehner and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer with terms like “dicey, wicked more for photo op” and “partisan politics” and “unwise for Israel.”  It was ostensibly about the lack of courtesy shown the President by not giving prior notice to the White House of the invitation extended to Netanyahu.  There was pique by certain unnamed senior officials in the White House over what some might call Bibigate.

However, let us remember there was increasing  bi-partisan support for new Iran nuclear sanctions legislation despite  the President’s warning that he would veto it if it was passed. New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez was particularly incensed at the President for his questioning his motivations.  Menendez said: “The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran. And it feeds to the Iranian narrative of victimization, when they are the ones with the original sin.”  Lest, we forget, the President had threatened a veto if increased Iran legislation passed.  It was abundantly clear in the January 16th Joint Press Conference at the White House when the President Obama agreed with UK PM David Cameron’s remarks, urging Senators on Capitol Hill not to take up new sanctions legislation at a “sensitive time”. Thus, one could speculate that Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu on January 21st to speak to a Joint Session of Congress in early March was a rebuttal to the President.

The rancor over Bibigate was visible in the final week of January into February.  Wednesday, January 28thCNN released a clip of Fareed Zakaria’s February 1st GPS interview with President Obama.  Obama suggested that a visit with Netanyahu was “inappropriate,” as it was too close to the upcoming March Knesset elections.  The President said, “I’m declining to meet with him simply because our general policy is, we don’t meet with any world leader two weeks before their election, [I] think that’s inappropriate. And that’s true with some of our closest allies.”  Those comments engendered another rebuttal that the White House may have been giving tacit support to the involvement of Presidential Campaign aide Jim Byrd in advising the Labor-Hanuat opposition to Netanyahu in the Knesset general elections.

Friday, January 30th, Jeffrey Goldberg published an interview in The Atlantic with Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, a former US Republican strategist and member of the Netanyahu’s inner circle.   Dermer discussed the background for Boehner’s issuance of the invitation to Netanyahu to speak to Congress on Iran. Dermer suggested that while the Prime Minister “meant no disrespect towards President Obama … Netanyahu must speak up while there is still time to speak up”.

That led Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson on the blog Legal Insurrection to opine that Obama’s not offended; he just wants Bibi out of office.

The Hill round up on the Sunday Talk shows had comments from Rep. Paul Ryan on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Arizona Senator John McCain on CNN’s “State of The Union.”  Over the issue of Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu Ryan said,” The Invitation to Israeli prime minister was ‘absolutely’ appropriate. I don’t know if I would say it’s antagonizing”.  McCain drew attention to the new low in U.S. – Israel relations under Obama saying, “It’s the worst that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”

Virtually out of nowhere, Sunday, February 1st, commentary from an “Insight” blog post of the Israeli Institute for National Security Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University shed light on a bizarre theory of what was behind Bibigate.  The author of the INSS post, Zaki Shalom, suggested:

The backdrop for the Administration’s expressed dissatisfaction with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intention to present his position on negotiations with Iran to Congress, creating a rather transparent linkage between Israel’s positions on negotiations with Iran and sanctions, and U.S. willingness to assist in combating the Palestinian attempt to exert international legal and diplomatic pressure on Israel.

On Thursday, January 30, 2015, the Senate Banking Committee voted out a ‘softer’ version of the Kirk –Menendez Sanctions legislation by a vote of 18 to 4, including six Democrats.  As reported by The Hill, the legislation:

… Would impose sanctions on Iran if a comprehensive agreement to roll back its nuclear program is not reached by June 30 and would allow the president to waive sanctions indefinitely for 30 days at a time.

However, the bill would be shelved until March 24th for a possible floor vote.  Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said, “All of us understand it’s not going to be voted on before March 24”. While the measure may portend a possible override vote should President Obama veto it that still requires Senator Menendez to keep the group of 17 Democratic Senators who support this version of sanctions legislation in the bi-partisan alliance.

Israeli concern over a weak final agreement by March 24th  is reflected  in a Times of Israel report published  Sunday, February 1st,” US sources deride Israeli ‘nonsense’ on Obama giving in to Iran.”  Israeli  sources contend that Iran is likely to get 80 % of what it is seeking- the ability to continue enrichment with  upwards of 9,000 centrifuges, especially the advanced IR-2s. The Israelis believe that would give Iran nuclear breakout within weeks.  Add to that mix Iran flaunting pictures in a ToA  report of a Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) capable of covering all of Europe. That is to be followed in 2015 to 2016 by one cap ICBM range. Of course there a number of us who believe that Iran may already have purchased nuclear weapons from rogue regimes, but may lack nuclear warheads, which are likely to be supplied by North Korea to be mounted on those ICBMs.

Especially as the President observed, there is less than a 50/50 chance of reaching an agreement. Then assuming the current polls are correct and Bibi retains the ability to form a new Knesset coalition after the March 17th election, he may speak with both authority and strength.

As a usual astute observer of Israel from Europe, Imre Herzog, opined when I wrote him on my side bet “you might win the bet”.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. Washington Times File Photo  5-24-2011.

Obama’s NPR Interview Raises Troubling Questions About Normalization of Relations with Iran

President Obama held a year end  interview with NPR’s  Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep on December 17, 2014 that aired on December 30th. During the interview Obama  was questioned about possible normalization of relations with Iran. He coyly said , “ I never say never.”  He also said  that he might like  to see the Islamic regime become  a “successful  regional power in the region.” All while the  P5+1 beavers away trying to conclude a nuclear deal with Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran, the last time we looked, is still called  a state sponsor of terrorism by the State Department  Read the transcript here.

This sounds like legacy building akin to his dramatic announcement of a renewal of relations with Communist Cuba.

Today’s  concerning remarks are in juxtaposition to his signing into law on December 19, 2014, The US Israel Strategic Partnership Act, H.B. 938  which passed after a year of debate by Congress allegedly deepening trade and military support for Israel. The Times of Israel reported:

Obama said his administration will interpret certain sections in a manner that does not interfere with his constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy. That includes a section requiring the administration to provide Congress with certain diplomatic communications.

The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act increases the value of emergency US weaponry kept in Israel by $200 million, to a total of $1.8 billion. It promotes closer US-Israeli links in energy, water, homeland security, alternative fuel technology and cybersecurity.

It also offers a verbal guarantee of Israel maintaining a qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

The law also expands cooperation on research and development, business, agriculture, water management and academics.

Perhaps the December 19, 2014  signing of the US Israel Strategic Partnership Act was to bolster the Labor- Hatnua alliance in the March 17, 2015 snap election for a new Knesset. The leftist alliance position is that the right in Israel have abused the partnership with the US  through approval of settlement building authorizations undermining possible two state peace arrangements with the Palestinian Authority. Meanwhile the PA supported by Arab League  is rushing to file a resolution for a vote by the  UN Security Council  demanding a peace deal with Israel within a year for and the end of alleged Israeli occupation of the West Bank by 2017. The PA, the Arab League and sponsor of the proposed resolution, Jordan  have been  emboldened by the Recent actions of the European Parliaments and several EU member states passing symbolic Palestinian statehood resolutions. There has been an indication from Secretary Kerry that the US might veto the Palestinian resolution  as it might jeopardize  the March 2017 Israeli snap elections result. Meaning that Israeli leftist allies might hopefully form a new  ruling coalition more amenable to a peace deal . There have also been leaks that the US might threaten to  abstain from such a resolution. The PA believes it may have sufficient votes on the Security Council to pass such a resolution.

Today’s State Department Press Briefing evinced concerns over the President NPR interview in an exchange between Jeff Rathke, Director of the Department’s Press Office and AP’s Matt Lee who covers both the White House and State Daily Press Briefings.

Omri Ceren of The Israel Project in a post this evening drew attention to concerns over the President’s NPR interview comments and a recent wave of support in Washington among advocates for normalization of relations with the Islamic Republic. He  wrote:

He said two things about an Iran nuke deal that are getting talked about: (1) it “would serve as the basis for us trying to improve relations over time” beyond the nuclear issue and (2) it would allow Iran to become “be a very successful regional power.”

The AP’s Matt Lee asked about both of those at today’s briefing: whether negotiations are designed to “bring Iran back into the fold” and whether the White House would reverse 35 years of Iran policy “designed to keep it from becoming a successful regional power.

There’s a separate reason why the normalization comments are getting so much attention: pro-engagement advocates have been flooding the zone with the argument. Barbara Slavin from the Atlantic Council said on Friday that “a deal with [the] US would be transformative.” Robin Wright from the Wilson Center toldFace the Nation on Sunday that for the “first time in 35 years, Iran and United States are on the same page at the same time.”.

The push has raised some eyebrows, because the Iranians – including and especially Khamenei – have been saying the exact opposite and rejecting any possibility of post-deal normalization.

Since taking office, President Obama has written four letters to Ayatollah Khamenei. All have been dismissed by the Supreme Ruler. The fourth and latest ‘secret’ October  2014 letter suggesting that the US and Iran had common interests regarding the Islamic State came amidst P5+1 efforts to obtain a final agreement by the deadline of November 24, 2014. That failed  to interest Khamenei leading to  the P5+1 to set a new  date for June 2015. Obama was roundly criticized by both querulous Arab allies and Israeli PM  Netanyahu  as constituting appeasement of this state sponsor of terrorism. Joseph Puder in a FrontPage Magazine article on November 17, 2014 wrote:

Ayatollah Khamenei rejected Obama’s overtures for improved relations, and in the words of Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the latest letter smacks of “Obama chasing after Khamenei in the undignified and counterproductive manner of a frustrated suitor.”

Watch this C-Span Excerpt we prepared of the exchange between Rathke of State and AP’s Matt Lee:

Below is an excerpt from the transcript of today’s State Department Press Briefing:

Matt Lee: Well, no, I mean normally I would ask the people at the White House, since it was the President’s words. But is that this building’s understanding of the way the negotiations, the nuclear talks with Iran are going on? They’re not an end to themselves IE to get to get rid of any ability Iran might have to build a nuclear weapon, but they are actually aiming towards normalization of the sort that you are looking for, that the President is looking for with Cuba?

Jeff Rathke: Well I think I would encourage folks to read the entire text of the president’s interview in particular with respect to Iran. He was, in response to a question about the possible opening of a U.S. embassy, he said, “I never say never,” and then he proceeded to lay out the fact that right now the focus is on getting the nuclear issue resolved and that’s a question of whether Iran is willing to seize the opportunity that the nuclear talks represent. So, and then he describes that as the first big step and then there would then perhaps be a basis over time to improve relations. But I think reading the President’s answer to that question, it’s quite clear that the focus is on the nuclear negotiations and that is…

Matt Lee: But my question is that, given his comments, is the specific, the nuclear negotiation, is that just a part of what the administration hopes will be a broader reconciliation or rapprochement with Iran that ends up with normalization of relations by 2016 when the president leaves office?

Jeff Rathke: Well as the administration has said, we are not closing any doors, but our concerns on Iran are well-known and our focus now is on resolving the nuclear issue. There is a chance to do that but that’s a question of Iran taking that, taking that opportunity.

Matt Lee: Another thing he said in the interview on Iran is that if they went ahead and reached an agreement, if they got a deal, a nuclear deal, and if the Iranians actually comply, that Iran would be in a position to become a successful regional power and suggested that that’s something that the United States would like to see. And you guys have made no secret of the fact that it’s not just the nuclear issue that is a problem for you with Iran, that there are numerous other things including the fact that it is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world, as identified by you guys. I’m just wondering does the administration want to see Iran become a “successful regional power,” given the fact that since 1979, American foreign policy, with respect to Iran, has been designed to keep it from becoming a successful regional power, has been designed to keep it from exerting its strength over your or exerting pressure on your allies in the region, both Israel and the Arab states?

Jeff Rathke: Well, again, the President’s answer to the question and U.S. policy is focused on resolving the nuclear issue. That is our focus and that’s why we have the P5+1 talks going on.

Matt Lee: Well right, but then why bring all this other stuff in then? If the focus is just on the nuclear issue, why even broach the idea that you want to see Iran become a successful regional power and leave the door open to you know, normalization of relations to the point where you could open an embassy?

Jeff Rathke:  Well, I think the point is that Iran’s behavior is the factor that drives that, and it’s, Iran’s behavior needs to change, not only on the nuclear issue where we have been involved in the negotiation process, but in other respects as well.

Matt Lee: I get all that but I’m just wondering why, and I guess someone needs to ask the president why he answered the questions the way he did, to leave this thing open because it sounds as though that, it sounds as though the administration sees or at least he sees the nuclear negotiations as a path to bring Iran back into the fold, back into the fold and not just the United States, but…

Jeff Rathke: That’s not the way I interpret the transcript. I think it’s quite clear that focus is on dealing with the nuclear issue.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.