Will Netanyahu Speech Fracture U.S.-Israel Ties?

TEL AVIV, Israel Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu probably knew his decision to address Congress about Iran nuclear talks at the invitation of the GOP and without the White House’s approval would be controversial.

Did he know just how controversial it would be?

National Security Adviser Susan Rice has called Netanyahu’s plans “destructive to the fabric of the relationship.” Many leading Democrats have said they will not attend Tuesday’s speech, because Netanyahu is up for re-election on March 17. President Barack Obama has also declined to meet with the Israeli leader during his D.C. visit.

It has also raised fears in Israel that Netanyahu’s move could deeply damage the vital alliance. The U.S gives about $3 billion in aid to Israel annually.

“Ever since the creation of the State of Israel and the development of the bilateral relations it was always the policy of the government of Israel to make Israel a bipartisan issue a wall-to-wall issue,” said Oded Eran, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank that deals with terrorism, security and military affairs.

“There is a danger now that this will be changed or perceived to be a partisan issue and I think it is unhealthy and very unfortunate,” he added.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on Feb. 15.

Some worry that Netanyahu’s hard line could lead to anti-Israeli sentiment in the United States. Israel has depended on the U.S. vetoing anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations, but analysts says it is now conceivable this could change.

Other aspects of the close relationship also stand to lose, Eran said.

“There could be other variations relating to the transfer of military equipment, sharing experiences in developing weapons and intelligence,” he said. “I hope [none of that] is affected.”

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Will Netanyahu Speech Fracture U.S.-Israel Ties?

Italy urges recognition of Palestinian state

Italian MPs have backed a non-binding resolution that urges the government to recognise Palestine as a state.

Italys Chamber of Deputies voted by 300 to 45 to pass the motion presented by Prime Minister Matteo Renzis Democratic Party.

But they failed to back a move supported by the left wing Left Ecology and Liberty party that would have fully and formally recognised the Palestinian State.

While most developing countries recognise Palestine as a state, most Western European nations do not, supporting the Israeli and US positions that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from negotiations with Israel.

Ireland, Britain and France have held similar parliamentary votes on the status of Palestine in recent months. Sweden went further, officially recognising Palestine.

Earlier, pro-Palestinians activists clashed with Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Bilin. Hundreds of Palestinians protesters gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of weekly demonstration against the construction of the Israeli separation barrier.

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Italy urges recognition of Palestinian state

Italian MPs approve Palestinian resolution

(MENAFN – The Peninsula) Italian lawmakers yesterday backed a non-binding resolution that encourages the government to recognise Palestine as a state, a move that underlines European frustration over stalled Middle East peace negotiations.

European countries have become increasingly critical of Israel, which since the collapse of the latest US-sponsored talks last April has pressed on with building settlements on territory the Palestinians want for their state.

Italy’s Chamber of Deputies voted by 300 to 45 to pass the motion presented by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) “to promote the recognition of Palestine as a democratic state”.

While most developing countries recognise Palestine as a state, most Western European governments do not, supporting the Israeli and US position that an independent Palestinian state should emerge from negotiations with Israel. Yesterday’s symbolic vote does not change the position of the Italian government which, like other European countries, still supports a negotiated two-state solution.

Italy’s Chamber of Deputies also approved yesterday a second motion calling for the “timely return to direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians”.

Both motions were criticised by the PLO Executive Committee for falling short of an unconditional recognition of Palestine.

“We call on the Italian government to recognise the Palestinian state without conditions, to take serious and concrete measures to end the (Israeli) military occupation and to work towards a just peace,” PLO committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement. In a statement issued by its Rome embassy, Israel said it “positively acknowledges the choice of the Italian parliament not to recognise the Palestinian state and to have preferred to sustain direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians”.

Italian lawmakers did not back a stronger motion, supported by the left-wing Left Ecology and Liberty party, that would have “fully and formally recognised the Palestinian State”.

Ireland, Britain and France have held similar parliamentary votes on the status of Palestine in recent months. Sweden went further, officially recognising Palestine. The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

While Gaza’s boundaries are clearly defined, the precise territory of what would constitute Palestine in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will only be determined via negotiations with Israel on a two-state solution.

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Italian MPs approve Palestinian resolution

Bibi is not my buddy: How many American Jews view Israel

The majority of American Jews are Democrats. According to the Pew Religious Landscape Survey, 47 percent of American Jews voted for the Democratic Party in the 2012 presidential elections while only 17 percent voted Republican. Another fact: American Jews dont care about Israel as much as you might think they do. In an additional survey conducted by Pew, only 12 percent of secular Jews and 37 percent of religious Jews felt a strong emotional attachment to Israel.

Only half of religious Jews and a quarter of non-religious Jews believe that supporting Israel is an essential part of being Jewish. Additionally, 89 percent of survey respondents said that being strongly critical of Israel is compatible with being Jewish. For a religion thats supposedly rooted in the belief that Israel is a spiritual homeland, most Jews either care a little bit or not that that much at all. American Jews are generally both liberal and more critical of Zionism than one might think.

This can be directly attributed to the fact that American Jews are much more secular than their Israeli counterparts. Jews who fled to the United States after the 1908 and 1917 Russian pogroms and before the worst of World War Two developed their own political identity separate from Israeli Jews who emigrated from Europe in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Simply put, because so much of the Jewish identity is more concerned with its socio-political aspects than with its observance of Jewish tradition, Israeli Jews have developed a separate political identity that is much more concerned with Israeli affairs than American Jews.

In all likelihood, American Jews whose heritage predates the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel can afford to not be so vested in the issues facing Israel today, whereas those with direct lineage from Holocaust survivors and mid-20th-century Israeli settlers have many more reasons to care about the actions of the Israeli government. Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus primary link with the United States is the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, which is one of the most powerful right-wing think tanks in the country. Their financial backers include wealthy right-wing Jews, such as Sheldon Adelson, who have a history of throwing their financial weight around in political and electoral matters.

Despite the lobbying power of AIPAC, their interests generally do not align with most American Jews. A portrait of American Jews, a study from the Pew Research Center, found that only 38 percent of American Jews believed that Israel is sincerely pursuing peace. Furthermore, of the Jews that believed that supporting Israel was essential to being Jewish, 58 percent identified as Republican. Also, 57 percent of Jews that did not support a two-state solution were Republican, and only 37 percent were Democratic. The American Jews that express unwavering support for Israels actions in the ongoing Gazan war are actually the outliers, not the majority amongst American Jews.

Overall, the majority of American Jews are Democratic and secular Jews who are hesitantly supportive of Zionist thought and even more skittish about directly supporting the actions of the state of Israel. In the wake of the third Intifada, a lot of criticism has been directed toward American Jews for not answering to the actions of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israel Defense Forces. In fact, misinformation and overzealous pro-Palestinian movements have directed their ire at American Jews where it may not be duly deserved.

Many American Jewswho again, are strongly affiliated with the political leftare cautious Zionists. Many pro-Palestinian groups, particularly on college campusesthough not necessarily our owncontinually attempt to drag Jews into the debate in a way that isnt deserved.

As the momentum of pro-Palestinian activism grows, so too does deeply ingrained anti-Semitism. I sincerely believe that the two are not directly correlated. The momentum of pro-Palestinian activist groups has given previously quiet anti-Semitism an excuse to be much louder. However, as the data suggest, there is a strong disconnect between the identity politics of Israeli and American Jews. Our values are different and our politics are different. There is far less in common that American and Israeli Jews share than one might expect. The ire over the actions of Israelis has little to do with how American Jews feel.

Most Jews have become more and more uncomfortable with Israels practices. To make matters even more complicated, the same benefactors that are the lifeline of Jewish institutions such as Jewish private schools, synagogues, philanthropic groups, and birthright programs are the same individuals who are backing AIPAC, which does not represent the same interests as most American Jews.

The only real tool Jews have to counteract AIPACs influence is to simply continue to vote blue. AIPAC is a very powerful lobbying group with an immense ability to ensure that pro-Israeli interests are being represented in the GOP. American Jews, many of whom are critical of Israel, can only hope that Democratic lawmakers, who are also critical of Israels policies, place pressure on Israel to work toward more sustainable peace options.

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Bibi is not my buddy: How many American Jews view Israel

WorldViews: When some Americans opposed the creation of Israel

A new Israeli election adreleased by the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invokes the pastto boost the premier’s political future.

The videoharks back to the moment of Israel’s founding in 1948, “painting a picture,” as the Times of Israel puts it, “of an embattled national figure who had to make the critical decision of declaring independence against the wishes” of eminent figures in Washington.

The embattled national figure is Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. His “critical decision” is that of declaring Israel’s independence in 1948 despite the opposition of then U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall (yes, the manwith the plan).It’s a historicalreference that is intendedtodraw immediate parallels to the contentious present, with Netanyahu set to make a controversial speech in Washington on the threat of Iran no matter the stateddisapprovalof the White House.

“Ben-Gurion — contrary to the State Department’s position — announced the establishment of the state,” the ad says. “Would we be here today if Ben-Gurion hadnt donethe right thing?” It then flashes the slogan: Only the Likud, Only Netanyahu.

Confronted withan election he very well may lose, the Israeli premier is doubling down on his supposed security chops. The gambit is to be expected, given Netanyahu’s penchantfor ungainly historical metaphors.But it’s a referencethat may surprise Americans,who consider their nation an ever-present ally of Israel.

In fairness, the United States was the first country tode factorecognizeIsrael — just 11 minutes afterIsrael had declared its independence at 12:01on May 15, 1948. But the days preceding that moment had been fraught and acrimonious in the White House.

In the aftermath of World War II, President Harry Truman was faced with two competing camps at loggerheads over how todeal with the question of Palestine, from where the beleaguered Britishintendedto withdraw.

One camp favored the Jewish Agency’s desire tocreateIsrael, a Jewish state,both out of moral obligation following the horrors ofthe Holocaust as well as political expediency, given the need to woo Jewish-American voters. Truman appearedwell-disposed to this position. In November 1945, he offered this riposte to American diplomats cautioning him against embracing the cause of Zionism: “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism: I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”

The other camp, represented by Marshall, sided with the British proposal to cede Palestine to U.N. trusteeship, or administration. Otherwise, theyfeared an all-out war between Jewish settlers and neighboring Arab states — already, in the years prior, Jewish militias were attacking and seizing Arab villages and land and violence between the two sides was rife. They also feared the disruption of American oil imports from Arab countries.This appeared to be a consensus position among a considerable section of the U.S. security establishment.

AsMark Perry documented in Foreign Policy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had issued numerous reports on Palestine, some of which concluded that a Jewish statewould present a headachefor future Americanpolicy:

WorldViews: When some Americans opposed the creation of Israel

Indigenous Indians Cleared to Immigrate to Israel, Convert to Judaism

Feb 22 2015 / 5:19 am

Arrival of Bnei Menashe group in Jan. 2014 (‘Israel Returns’ website)

A former Netanyahu aide is the key figure behind an unprecedented government decision to allow an indigenous people from north-eastern India to immigrate to Israel and convert upon arrival.

According to an investigation by Haaretz, nearly 1,000 members of the Bnei Menashe community have arrived in Israel over the past two years. Though little, if any, proof exists of their Jewish lineage, the paper writes, the Israeli government voted in October 2012 to allow a large group to move to Israel, and, a year later, voted to bring in an even larger group.

Such a move required special government permission since the Bnei Menashe dont qualify as Jews under the Law of Return and are, therefore, not eligible for automatic citizenship. The new arrivals joined another 1,500 already in Israel, who had arrived in trickles over the years. Many of the longer-standing immigrants live in West Bank settlements.

According to Haaretz, this is likely the first and only time the government has allowed and even provided finance for the mass immigration of a large community whose members do not qualify as Jews under the Law of Return, nor do they have proven Jewish ancestry according to the broader definition of seed of Israel.’

– Read more: Former Netanyahu aide behind lost tribes moving to Israel from India Middle East Monitor

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Indigenous Indians Cleared to Immigrate to Israel, Convert to Judaism

PM must take next step after McLay appointment – Greens

The Green Party is calling on John Key to take the next step and recognise the state of Palestine following the Governments decision to appoint Jim McLay as the Representative to the Palestinian Authority

Today, Murray McCully announced that Mr McLay would be undertaking the role of New Zealands Representative to the Palestinian Authority. However, in the past, the ambassador to Israel has also handled relationships with Palestine.

“While this might seem like a positive step, some have expressed concern this was a result of pressure from the Israeli Government,” said Green Party global affairs spokesperson Dr Kennedy Graham.

“Israel refused to accept our ambassador in Turkey, because he was also going to handle relations with Palestine, and suddenly, we have split the roles.

“If New Zealand is to appoint a separate representative to Palestine, this should be our independent decision; not a result of external manipulation.

“The Representative to Palestine will be based in New Zealand, instead of the region, and will not have the support of the embassy.

“The critical thing is for our Government to recognise Palestine as a state and endorse its membership at the United Nations.

“The Green Party hopes that appointing such a senior diplomat is a signal that New Zealand is finally moving towards full recognition of Palestinian statehood.

“If it is not, then Mr McCully needs to come clean and explain why he has bowed to Israels demands,” said Dr Graham.

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Hollande: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Muslim Acts Threaten France

French President Francois Hollande says the rise of acts against Jews and Muslims threatens the country’s very foundations.

Hollande spoke Tuesday in Sarre-Union, where 250 Jewish graves were desecrated over the weekend. Hollande noted anti-Semitism and acts against Muslims are both on the rise in France, notably after the attacks last month in Paris that left 20 people dead, including the three gunmen.

The president called on French Jews to remain in France and not follow the Israeli prime minister’s call for a mass immigration of European Jews.

Five local teenagers have been detained in the cemetery desecration in eastern France. Hollande said anti-Semitic acts doubled in 2014 compared with 2013, and acts against Muslims in just the month after the attacks totaled the same for the entire previous year.

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Hollande: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Muslim Acts Threaten France

Israeli election chief puts curbs on Netanyahu's speech to U.S. Congress

By Luke Baker

JERUSALEM Mon Feb 16, 2015 3:08pm GMT

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a handover ceremony at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, in which the new Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot replaced outgoing Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, February 16, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The head of Israel’s election commission acted on Monday to limit any pre-election boost Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may get from a March 3 speech to the U.S. Congress in which he will warn of the threat from Iran’s nuclear programme.

The speech has caused controversy in Israel and the United States, where the Democrats and the White House are angry that the Republican speaker, John Boehner, invited Netanyahu to speak at a sensitive time in the nuclear negotiations between Iran and six big powers including Washington, and only two weeks before Israel’s closely fought March 17 election.

Following complaints from opposition parties, election chief Salim Joubran decided that Netanyahu’s address should be broadcast with a five-minute delay in Israel, giving news editors time to cut any statements deemed partisan.

“Editors-in-chief of broadcast channels will watch and make sure that nothing the prime minister says can be construed as election campaigning,” Joubran said in a statement. “Any campaigning will be omitted from the broadcast.”

President Barack Obama, at odds with Netanyahu over the Israeli prime minister’s criticism of the nuclear talks, will not meet him during his visit, saying it is a breach of protocol to receive a foreign leader before an election.

In Israel, Netanyahu has been roundly criticised even by some of his right-wing allies, mostly for appearing to put his ties to the Republican Party ahead of the close relationship Israel has always had with the United States.

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Israeli election chief puts curbs on Netanyahu's speech to U.S. Congress


A surprising film from the award winner filmmaker of “Hamesima X”. The true story of Daniel, a young Israeli who traveled to the US in search for “the meaning of life”. While studying for……

By: Desala Klae

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Jeff Halper: Transforming Israel-Palestine into a Binational Democratic State – Video

Jeff Halper: Transforming Israel-Palestine into a Binational Democratic State
Feb. 8, 2015: Jeff Halper is the co-ordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and a leading figure in the Israeli peace movement. Nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize,…

By: Paul S. Graham

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Jeff Halper: Transforming Israel-Palestine into a Binational Democratic State – Video

Israel's Netanyahu Accuses Publisher of Smear Campaign

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday accused the publisher of an influential newspaper of carrying out a smear campaign against him in the hopes of pushing him out of office.

Netanyahu took to Facebook to attack Noni Mozes of the Yediot Ahronot daily, claiming the publisher launched the campaign to advance his own personal business interests.

Yediot and its sister news site Ynet have taken an aggressive stand against the Israeli prime minister, exposing what they called several political and personal “scandals” ahead of the March 17 election.

Netanyahu said Mozes was trying to get even with Yediot’s rival, the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom, and reclaim his dominance in the Israeli media landscape.

The Israeli premier said Mozes was behind the “ridiculous, orchestrated defamation” against Netanyahu and his wife in an attempt to remove his Likud party from power.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” posted Netanyahu and promised more details later.

Netanyahu often accuses the media of being biased against him and treating his wife unfairly. In recent weeks, he has come under fire for the way he handled a planned speech before Congress that created a rift with the Obama administration. His wife has also been scrutinized for expense in their taxpayer-funded home and alleged abusive behavior toward staff.

Yediot columnist Nahum Barnea told Israel Radio that Netanyahu was “paranoid.”

Yediot had long had the largest distribution in Israel before it was surpassed in recent years by Israel Hayom, the free daily supportive of Netanyahu’s government and funded by Jewish-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson. A bill was making its way through parliament trying to curtail its influence before it was shelved when new elections were called.

Yediot on Monday published a report on a petition to Israel’s Central Elections Committee against its competitor that called for banning the paper’s “propaganda” on behalf of Netanyahu.

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Israel's Netanyahu Accuses Publisher of Smear Campaign

Breaking News

Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League was quoted by Forward Friday as urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to scrap his address on the Iranian peril to Congress on March 3, because of the political circus it has created. The opposite view is advocated by Jewish groups supporting the Republican Party, who want the congressional Democrats who said they will boycott the speech to give their names.

Vice President Joe Biden would not attend the session in his capacity as President of the Senate because he was traveling abroad, said an official statement. The White House earlier denounced House Speaker John Boehners invitation to the Israeli prime minister without prior notice to the president as a breach of protocol. The event has raised a storm of controversy in Israel, taking place as it does two weeks before a general election, as well as the US.

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Israel Elections 101: Why Netanyahu sees Congress speech as a net gain

Tel Aviv Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be flying into a stiff political headwind next month when he lands in Washington to address a special joint session of Congress on Iran.

Political commentary in the US media has been especially critical, and some Democrats are hinting theyll boycott the March 3 speech by the Israeli leader. At home, his political rivals in an election to be held two weeks after the address are accusing him of trashing US-Israeli diplomatic relations by siding with the Republican-controlled Congress against the Obama administration.

But Mr. Netanyahu has been undaunted, insisting Thursday that its his duty to travel anywhere to sound the alarm over a nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran.

So was his acceptance of an invitation from US House Speaker John Boehner, and the corresponding snub to President Barack Obama, reckless or politically shrewd?

Netanyahus decision, Israelis analysts say, reflects a calculation that the electoral upside from a high-profile speech on Iran to receptive lawmakers outweighs the fallout from the uproar over the setting of yet another low point insix years of chronic estrangement between the two administrations.

In a campaign in which the opposition Labor party would like to focus the debate on socio-economic issues on which Netanyahu is vulnerable, the address to Congress allows him to keep the spotlight on his strengths: national security and his efforts to block a nuclear Iran.

Hes smart enough to know that as long as the debate is on those issues on which he is considered to be strong, he doesnt care. If, two weeks before the election, he is seen as defending the world and Israeli interest from Iran, it doesnt matter if the Americans will chase him away, says Aviv Bushinsky, who served as a spokesperson for Netanyahu during his 1990s premiership.

Hes saying that hes willing to get muddied by going there, because [he has] a fundamental issue, and people here will see it as an act of courage.

Even so, it could prove a risky strategy. Israeli-US relations are seen by many here as an existential component of the countrys national security, and political analysts say that the issue has the potential to swing Israeli voters between left and right.

In 1992, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Netanyahus Likud party lost to Labors Yitzhak Rabin because voters were unhappy that President George HW Bush had frozen some financial assistance to Israel over the building of new Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

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Israel Elections 101: Why Netanyahu sees Congress speech as a net gain