Along with the bad news, we can see those who do get it and respond appropriately. I will describe what I have learned briefly – briefly being my practice, of necessity, before Shabbat.
The first issue is the matter of Obama’s State of the Union threat to veto any legislation regarding sanctions against Iran. The issue was misrepresented, as, in fact, the sanctions under the proposed Kirk-Menendez legislation would not kick in until and unless negotiations failed. The current negotiating deadline is June 30. There have been two extensions already and it becomes ridiculous – the Iranians are being provided with the opportunity to advance their agenda. Obama’s argument that this legislation would inhibit negotiations is nonsense – on the contrary, it would “motivate” Iran to negotiate.
On Tuesday, a letter was sent to the president, signed by 10 Senate Democrats, telling him that by March 24, but not before, they would vote for legislation to impose sanctions on Iran if the Iranians refuse to commit to a “political framework that addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement.” Menendez was among those who signed the letter.
There was a widespread reaction when this news broke interpreting this as a setback for those who want to see the Kirk-Menendez legislation pass. I didn’t understand that, because Obama was simply being given a bit of leeway before action on the bill would kick in. And what was significant was that 10 Democrats were now prepared to support this legislation – (with the considerable exception of Menendez, and then Charles Schumer) it had been labeled a partisan “Republican” effort. Now this was clearly no longer the case.
The ten who signed the letter were: Menendez, Schumer, Blumenthal, Peters, Casey, Cardin, Coons, Manchin, Donnelly, and Stabenow. If you are a constituent of one of these, you might want to write and thank him/her for readiness to support the bill.
Fast forward to the Banking Committee, which had to pass on the Kirk-Menendez legislation. The 10 Democrats had pledged not to vote on this legislation until March 24 – but that was on the floor of the Senate. There was no commitment regarding a holding pattern in the Banking Committee.
The very good news here is that yesterday it passed through the Committee 18-4, with three additional Democrats who had not signed the letter – Tester, Heitkamp, Warner – voting for it.
There are then three Democratic Senators – Booker, Bennett, Gillibrand – who had voted for an earlier version of the Kirk-Menendez bill, and are expected to support this version, although they didn’t sign the letter.
And so, the bottom line – according to Omri Ceren of The Israel Project – is that the way seems clear for it to be brought to the floor, and it looks as if the vote, come March 24, should be veto-proof.
And this is before Netanyahu speaks to the Congress. His words might bring along additional votes.
Obama, who does not take defeat lightly, is clearly not a very happy man right now (see second story below).
The story broke three days ago in the Free Beacon (emphasis added):
“A U.S. State Department funded group is financing an Israeli campaign to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and has hired formed Obama aides to help with its grassroots organizing efforts.
“U.S.-based activist group OneVoice International has partnered with V15, an ‘independent grassroots movement’ in Israel that is actively opposing Netanyahu’s party in the upcoming elections, Ha’aretz reported on Monday. Former national field director for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign Jeremy Bird is also reportedly involved in the effort.
“OneVoice development and grants officer Christina Taler said the group would be working with V15 on voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts but would not engage in overtly partisan activities. She said OneVoice and V15 are still formalizing the partnership.
While V15 has not endorsed any particular candidates, it is working to oppose Netanyahu in the March elections.
“’We’ve formed a partnership with [V15], but it’s important to know we’re absolutely nonpartisan,’ Taler told the Washington Free Beacon. ‘Our biggest emphasis and focus right now is just getting people out to vote.’
“OneVoice said in a press release on Tuesday that it is teaming up with V15 because Israel ‘need[s] a prime minister and a government who will be responsive to the people.”’
Clearly, this is not the “good news.” This is an outrage above and beyond. I have difficulty here giving voice to how I responded to this, because I try to write very professional pieces, and what I have to say would not be quite “professional.”
The direct meddling in our election, not for positive reasons, but in an effort to oust Netanyahu because Obama despises him, cannot be tolerated. And this is the same Obama who has refused to meet with Netanyahu when he comes to speak to Congress, “because it’s wrong to influence the election.”
My own hope would be that Israelis, on learning of this, would be so enraged by the meddling that they would make a point of – dafka! – voting for Netanyahu, because the State Department cannot tell us which candidate we should support. (Dafka? Just so. In spite of. To the contrary. Spoken a bit ironically.) It is said that we Israelis are a “dafka” people, and that is how we survive.
This news has been picked up and put out by a variety of sources.
Head of NGO Monitor, Gerald Steinberg, has blasted the State Department over this action.
“Steinberg pointed out that American taxpayer funds have been used for similarly politically-charged projects in the recent past. In 2012, USAID, the US’s largest provider of foreign assistance, donated millions of dollars to Israeli NGOs through the ‘Peace and Reconciliation Program,’ which included support for the so-called “Geneva Initiative” – another grassroots project pressuring the Israeli government to make concessions to the Palestinians.
“’After public exposure, the funding was discontinued,’ Steinberg said.” (Emphasis added)
So that’s the first order of business, folks. Scream long and loud about this. Protest to your elected representatives. Put this information out wherever you can – in letters to the editor, Internet talkbacks, on your FB pages, etc. etc. In the US make the point that taxpayer money is being used improperly. This CAN make a difference, and it falls to each of you to do your part. Don’t sit still for this. Be enraged in a pro-active manner.
And the good news? “U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Congressman Lee Zeldin, R-NY-1, today sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking for information regarding media reports that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to fund efforts to influence upcoming elections in Israel.”
Said Senator Cruz: “This administration’s relentless harassment of Israel is utterly incomprehensible. The Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing the deadliest weapons on the planet, and there can be no doubt that their first target will be Israel, followed by the United States. This administration should be focusing its animosity on the very real enemies we face, not on our staunch allies.” (Emphasis added)
The letter requests answer to eight questions.
You can see the full letter here:
We’ve got good people working for what is right.