Category Archives: Foreign Relations

Former CIA Chief, Major General, Govt Official Contrast Clinton Counterterrorism Strategy with Republicans

Hillary Clinton campaigning for president. Clinton has offered a detailed strategy for defeating terrorism while attacking Republican opponents saying,“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”  © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hillary Clinton campaigning for president. Clinton has offered a detailed strategy for defeating terrorism while attacking Republican opponents saying,“Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.” © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and candidate for president, declared  “Slogans aren’t a strategy. Loose cannons tend to misfire. What America needs is strong, smart, steady leadership to wage and win this struggle.”

Today, Hillary for America held a press call to contrast the differences in the former Secretary of State’s approach to that of GOP hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in counterterrorism and offer a strong argument that Clinton brings the skills, experience and judgment to be president and commander-in-chief. The call featured former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, Major General Tony Taguba (ret.), and former senior U.S. government official Rand Beers built upon the address Clinton delivered yesterday at Stanford University, in which she detailed her strategy to defeat ISIS and terrorism. The officials addressed more broadly the challenges the nation faces, arguing that Clinton brings the experience and steady leadership that will be vital, in contrast to  the dangerous rhetoric and plans being peddled by the leading Republican presidential candidates.

“We are living at a time in the 21st century when the United States is facing an unprecedented number of threats and challenges in the world – serious flash points that threaten the security of the US – including a growing threat from ISIS-aligned terrorists who have proved a capability to strike at heart of Western Europe and who are a clear and present danger,” stated former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta.

“In addition, there are failed states such as in Yemen, breeding grounds for extremists. The regime in Iran which in spite of the nuclear agreement, continue to test missiles with “death to Israel’ painted on the side, which violate the ban. Iranians use cyberattacks to go after infrastructure. There is an unpredictable leader in North Korea, renewed challenges from Putin’s Russia, China’s territorial claims in South China Sea. And no question, we need to worry about battlefields of the future: cyberattacks that can be used by nation-states and terrorists to virtually cripple our country.

“To confront these challenges, US must provide strong leadership and must have a commander-in-chief with experience,  judgment, steady hand to keep us safe. The most qualified person to assume the duties and provide the necessary world leadership on Day 1 is Hillary Clinton. Her speech at Stanford [ about countering ISIS and terrorism],  which built on 5 previous speeches, outlined key objectives: intensify the military campaign against ISIS in Syria; go after their people, territory, infrastructure in Iraq. Keys to defeating ISIS include go after their leadership (announced today, ISIS’ #2 commander was killed, which is encouraging because we have to decimate ISIS leadership and remove them from territory, from Mosul to Rakka.

“We need a surge in intelligence and law enforcement to penetrate before there is an attack – beefing up intel is absolutely critical. We need to attack the global financial networks, recruitments networks. Lastly, we need to counter the narrative that brings new individuals to their cause.

“We don’t yet know the scope of network that carried out Brussels attacks, but American network, in close coordination with allies in Europe, NATO and the Mideast will be critical in the long term to defeat ISIS.

“[In this strategy], there is a clear contrast between Sec. Clinton’s approach which is serious, comprehensive and tough, to those proposals that are being proposed Republican candidates.

“The choice for president is the most important decision the American people will make, largely because the next president will be commander in chief and have the ability to decide between war and peace

“What we are hearing from the Republican side are dangerous, irresponsible proposals that will put our national security at risk, further divide us from the very allies we need to win war against ISIS.

“Trump’s plan is to torture people, bomb families, walk away from NATO, build walls around Muslims, keep Muslims out of the country. These are not serious proposals,  they are political slogans, not strategies for dealing with this threat. Reckless and won’t work.

“Ted Cruz’ recommendation that police officers infiltrate Muslim neighborhoods is hard to understand, sounds like violation of 4th amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, and further antagonizes those who we need on our side.

Both [Republican] candidates offer  shoot-from-the-hip slogans that demonstrate a stunning lack of knowledge about security and our values.

“Thomas Jefferson believed a president’s first duty was to protect the nation. We need a president who will protect the nation, take the fight to terrorists in smart, effective way. I believe Secretary Clinton understands her first duty as president will be to protect the American people.”

Former Senior U.S. Government Official Rand Beers, who spent 42 years in government in counter insurgency, counter terrorism, counter narcotics, said, “I have deep concern with the remarks from Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. I find the statements that Cruz is making about increased surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods is completely wrong headed . He thinks he’s found a solution for catching terrorists? His is a strategy that will create more terrorists.

“We know from the array of information about terrorist individuals who have been captured and brought to trial in this country that in each and every instance, there is some behavior that is noticed by a family member or friend or someone in religious community that is in fact a precursor of mobilization toward violence. What we need to do is create environment where those individuals will come forward, know who to come to. – law enforcement community and community leaders. Putting more enforcement, fomenting more reactions by the rest of America to the Muslim community is counter-productive. Our Muslim Americans are part of our critical line of defense, and need to be part of strategy.

“As a country, we are capable of keeping our people safe and living up to our values at the same time.

“What we are hearing from this election from the Republican opposition is simply appalling – banning Muslims, cordoning them off will simply not result in a successful strategy. Sec. Clinton understands this, has spoken out. Her comments make very clear that all these solutions proposed by other side will make matters worse.

“I have sat with Sec. Clinton in the Situation Room discussing counter-terrorism issues, and seen the steady, knowledgeable hand of a person who has studied these issues. Without a doubt, she is  the best candidate for president of US.”

Major General Tony Taguba (ret.), who led the investigations into torture by US personnel at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, addressed his horror over the topic of torture once again entering the conversation. “It took this country almost 12 years, before the Senate Select Committee found use of torture is not very effective, and actually is counter productive. It led Senators McCain and Feinstein to co-sponsor landmark anti-torture legislation that reinforced the ban on torture, including waterboarding and enhanced interrogation techniques, that Republican candidates are [now] saying is a tool.

“We cannot go back in time where we clearly violated our own laws, the Constitution, international laws – and broadcast throughout the world, especially to our enemies that a candidate, a future Commander-in-Chief  is more than happy, if not condone, torture and waterboarding in violation of our law and international law. It puts more of our troops, our nation in danger. I believe that Sec. Clinton’s approach of having a steady, measured hand in leadership – not use torture – but the strategy she has indicated is the way to fight terrorism…”

Asked what responsibility President Obama and Secretary Clinton might have for the “perils we see in the world,” Panetta said, ““These threats have developed over these last number of years, terrorism has metastasized. You can’t lay blame on any person. You have to confront the threat. We’ve been dealing with threat from North Korea for 60 years – you can’t lay that at anyone’s feet. Challenge from Russia, China. Look at the threats out there, everybody has to accept some responsibility but more importantly, accept the responsibility for having to deal with that. We need a president, a commander in chief, who can build relationships with other countries to confront these threats. These are not just threats against security of US, all are threats against the world.” The next commander in chief, he said, needs to be somebody who can build alliances to confront this very threat. “The only person is Sec. Clinton.”

Are Obama and Clinton responsible for the rise of terrorism? Panetta said, “Whether Boko Haram, al Shabaab, ISIS, Al Qaeda….. Terrorism has developed in those countries because of the conditions present in those countries – that kind of terrorism is something we need to confront not just on the military battlefield, but the root causes of what creates that kind of attraction to terrorism. One area we haven’t been as effective is how we go after the narrative, the root causes in the world that contribute to development of terrorism. That is something Clinton has said is important to defeat ISIS.”

Asked to comment on candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to combat terrorism, Beers said, “Sen. Sanders has a very distinct focus on the economy and a limited focus and perspective on international issues. Sec. Clinton has given a number of foreign policy speeches, specifically on terrorism, and has responded immediately in that arena to the major attacks that have occurred. Sen. Sanders does not have that background. Is more focused on the economy, and that is clearest indication – Sen. Clinton is the most capable candidate in terms of addressing the full range of issues, but particularly, the national security issues that face this country.”

Asked whether there is any validity to the claim that the rhetoric coming from Cruz and Trump is troubling to world leaders, Panetta said, “Almost everywhere I go, responsible leaders express deep concerns about the kind of rhetoric that they are hearing in campaigns from Trump and Cruz and it deeply concerns them that that kind of rhetoric is divisive and hurts our ability to develop the kinds of alliances we absolutely need in order to confront a dangerous enemy. I know the candidates sometimes think they are just talking to their voters in this country, but that is the worst mistake they can make, because the rhetoric they are using is damaging the US abroad, creating concerns about where this country is going in the future.”

See also:

HILLARY CLINTON: ‘DEFEAT ISIS THROUGH PRINCIPLED AMERICAN LEADERSHIP’

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News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us onfacebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Obama Speech to Cuban People is Affirmation of Democracy and Virtue of Reconciliation

By Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ugly Americans.

Donald Trump. Ted Cruz. Their arrogance is nauseating. And dangerous. These are the people calling to expand the use of torture, that the United States is somehow above international law and norms. These are the people who proclaim “American Exceptionalism” and deny that the United States ever did anything wrong, or that as a country, we have yet to achieve the fullness of our potential or promise. Slavery? Indian ethnic cleansing and genocide? Not even a footnote in their minds. Neither one has a clue of what makes America “exceptional.”

But President Obama does, and said as much during his historic and courageous visit to Cuba, overcoming more than 50 years of hostility.

Instead of cheering for Obama’s historic visit to Cuba – which along with his visit to Argentina, his leadership on the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Agreement and the Syria Ceasefire (at least, the attempt), do more to keep Americans safe than the calls to keep the extra-legal Guantanamo Bay prison open , expand the use of torture, send in police to surveil Muslim American neighborhoods do more to keep America safe – they condemn his visit as coddling dictators. Yet Obama was able to meet with dissidents and give an utterly breathtaking, inspiring speech about the benefits of opening society to speech, assembly and voting. And he did it right in front of Raul Castro, challenging, even daring the Castro regime to . He acknowledged that the United States is not perfect, but that Democracy affords the best means of working toward a more perfect society where each is equal under the law.

“The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution — America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world — those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy.  Not because American democracy is perfect, but precisely because we’re not.  And we — like every country — need the space that democracy gives us to change.  It gives individuals the capacity to be catalysts to think in new ways, and to reimagine how our society should be, and to make them better,” President Obama said in a speech to the people of Cuba at the Gran Teatro de la Habana, Havana Cuba, on March 22, 2016.

President Obama during his historic visit to Cuba (Pool photo).
President Obama during his historic visit to Cuba (Pool photo).

Here are highlights from his speech:

Before I begin, please indulge me.  I want to comment on the terrorist attacks that have taken place in Brussels.  The thoughts and the prayers of the American people are with the people of Belgium.  We stand in solidarity with them in condemning these outrageous attacks against innocent people.  We will do whatever is necessary to support our friend and ally, Belgium, in bringing to justice those who are responsible.  And this is yet another reminder that the world must unite, we must be together, regardless of nationality, or race, or faith, in fighting against the scourge of terrorism.  We can — and will — defeat those who threaten the safety and security of people all around the world…

 

Havana is only 90 miles from Florida, but to get here we had to travel a great distance — over barriers of history and ideology; barriers of pain and separation.  The blue waters beneath Air Force One once carried American battleships to this island — to liberate, but also to exert control over Cuba.  Those waters also carried generations of Cuban revolutionaries to the United States, where they built support for their cause.  And that short distance has been crossed by hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles — on planes and makeshift rafts — who came to America in pursuit of freedom and opportunity, sometimes leaving behind everything they owned and every person that they loved.

Like so many people in both of our countries, my lifetime has spanned a time of isolation between us.  The Cuban Revolution took place the same year that my father came to the United States from Kenya.  The Bay of Pigs took place the year that I was born. The next year, the entire world held its breath, watching our two countries, as humanity came as close as we ever have to the horror of nuclear war.  As the decades rolled by, our governments settled into a seemingly endless confrontation, fighting battles through proxies.  In a world that remade itself time and again, one constant was the conflict between the United States and Cuba.

I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.  (Applause.)  I have come here to extend the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.  (Applause.)

I want to be clear:  The differences between our governments over these many years are real and they are important.  I’m sure President Castro would say the same thing — I know, because I’ve heard him address those differences at length.  But before I discuss those issues, we also need to recognize how much we share.  Because in many ways, the United States and Cuba are like two brothers who’ve been estranged for many years, even as we share the same blood.

We both live in a new world, colonized by Europeans.  Cuba, like the United States, was built in part by slaves brought here from Africa.  Like the United States, the Cuban people can trace their heritage to both slaves and slave-owners.  We’ve welcomed both immigrants who came a great distance to start new lives in the Americas….

 

For all of our differences, the Cuban and American people share common values in their own lives.  A sense of patriotism and a sense of pride — a lot of pride.  A profound love of family.  A passion for our children, a commitment to their education.  And that’s why I believe our grandchildren will look back on this period of isolation as an aberration, as just one chapter in a longer story of family and of friendship.

But we cannot, and should not, ignore the very real differences that we have — about how we organize our governments, our economies, and our societies.  Cuba has a one-party system; the United States is a multi-party democracy.  Cuba has a socialist economic model; the United States is an open market.  Cuba has emphasized the role and rights of the state; the United States is founded upon the rights of the individual. 

Despite these differences, on December 17th 2014, President Castro and I announced that the United States and Cuba would begin a process to normalize relations between our countries.  (Applause.)  Since then, we have established diplomatic relations and opened embassies.  We’ve begun initiatives to cooperate on health and agriculture, education and law enforcement.  We’ve reached agreements to restore direct flights and mail service.  We’ve expanded commercial ties, and increased the capacity of Americans to travel and do business in Cuba. 

And these changes have been welcomed, even though there are still opponents to these policies.  But still, many people on both sides of this debate have asked:  Why now?  Why now?

There is one simple answer:  What the United States was doing was not working.  We have to have the courage to acknowledge that truth.  A policy of isolation designed for the Cold War made little sense in the 21st century.  The embargo was only hurting the Cuban people instead of helping them.  And I’ve always believed in what Martin Luther King, Jr. called “the fierce urgency of now” — we should not fear change, we should embrace it.  (Applause.)

That leads me to a bigger and more important reason for these changes:  Creo en el pueblo Cubano.  I believe in the Cuban people.  (Applause.)  This is not just a policy of normalizing relations with the Cuban government.  The United States of America is normalizing relations with the Cuban people.  (Applause.)

And today, I want to share with you my vision of what our future can be.  I want the Cuban people — especially the young people — to understand why I believe that you should look to the future with hope; not the false promise which insists that things are better than they really are, or the blind optimism that says all your problems can go away tomorrow.  Hope that is rooted in the future that you can choose and that you can shape, and that you can build for your country.  

I’m hopeful because I believe that the Cuban people are as innovative as any people in the world.

In a global economy, powered by ideas and information, a country’s greatest asset is its people.  In the United States, we have a clear monument to what the Cuban people can build: it’s called Miami.  Here in Havana, we see that same talent in cuentapropistas, cooperatives and old cars that still run.  El Cubano inventa del aire.  (Applause.)

Cuba has an extraordinary resource — a system of education which values every boy and every girl.  (Applause.)  And in recent years, the Cuban government has begun to open up to the world, and to open up more space for that talent to thrive.  In just a few years, we’ve seen how cuentapropistas can succeed while sustaining a distinctly Cuban spirit.  Being self-employed is not about becoming more like America, it’s about being yourself…

 

That’s where hope begins — with the ability to earn your own living, and to build something you can be proud of.  That’s why our policies focus on supporting Cubans, instead of hurting them.  That’s why we got rid of limits on remittances — so ordinary Cubans have more resources.  That’s why we’re encouraging travel — which will build bridges between our people, and bring more revenue to those Cuban small businesses. That’s why we’ve opened up space for commerce and exchanges — so that Americans and Cubans can work together to find cures for diseases, and create jobs, and open the door to more opportunity for the Cuban people. 

As President of the United States, I’ve called on our Congress to lift the embargo.  (Applause.)  It is an outdated burden on the Cuban people.  It’s a burden on the Americans who want to work and do business or invest here in Cuba.  It’s time to lift the embargo.  But even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba.  (Applause.)  It should be easier to open a business here in Cuba.  A worker should be able to get a job directly with companies who invest here in Cuba.  Two currencies shouldn’t separate the type of salaries that Cubans can earn.  The Internet should be available across the island, so that Cubans can connect to the wider world — (applause) — and to one of the greatest engines of growth in human history.

There’s no limitation from the United States on the ability of Cuba to take these steps.  It’s up to you.  And I can tell you as a friend that sustainable prosperity in the 21st century depends upon education, health care, and environmental protection.  But it also depends on the free and open exchange of ideas.  If you can’t access information online, if you cannot be exposed to different points of view, you will not reach your full potential.  And over time, the youth will lose hope.

I know these issues are sensitive, especially coming from an American President.  Before 1959, some Americans saw Cuba as something to exploit, ignored poverty, enabled corruption.  And since 1959, we’ve been shadow-boxers in this battle of geopolitics and personalities.  I know the history, but I refuse to be trapped by it.  (Applause.)

I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity, nor the intention to impose change on Cuba.  What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people.  We will not impose our political or economic system on you.  We recognize that every country, every people, must chart its own course and shape its own model.  But having removed the shadow of history from our relationship, I must speak honestly about the things that I believe — the things that we, as Americans, believe.  As Marti said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest, to think and to speak without hypocrisy.”

So let me tell you what I believe.  I can’t force you to agree, but you should know what I think.  I believe that every person should be equal under the law. (Applause.)  Every child deserves the dignity that comes with education, and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads.  (Applause.)  I believe citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear — (applause) — to organize, and to criticize their government, and to protest peacefully, and that the rule of law should not include arbitrary detentions of people who exercise those rights.  (Applause.)  I believe that every person should have the freedom to practice their faith peacefully and publicly. (Applause.)  And, yes, I believe voters should be able to choose their governments in free and democratic elections.  (Applause.)  

Not everybody agrees with me on this.  Not everybody agrees with the American people on this.  But I believe those human rights are universal.  (Applause.)  I believe they are the rights of the American people, the Cuban people, and people around the world. 

Now, there’s no secret that our governments disagree on many of these issues.  I’ve had frank conversations with President Castro.  For many years, he has pointed out the flaws in the American system — economic inequality; the death penalty; racial discrimination; wars abroad.  That’s just a sample.  He has a much longer list.  (Laughter.)  But here’s what the Cuban people need to understand:  I welcome this open debate and dialogue. It’s good.  It’s healthy.  I’m not afraid of it.

We do have too much money in American politics.  But, in America, it’s still possible for somebody like me — a child who was raised by a single mom, a child of mixed race who did not have a lot of money — to pursue and achieve the highest office in the land.  That’s what’s possible in America.  (Applause.)

We do have challenges with racial bias — in our communities, in our criminal justice system, in our society — the legacy of slavery and segregation.  But the fact that we have open debates within America’s own democracy is what allows us to get better.  In 1959, the year that my father moved to America, it was illegal for him to marry my mother, who was white, in many American states.  When I first started school, we were still struggling to desegregate schools across the American South.  But people organized; they protested; they debated these issues; they challenged government officials.  And because of those protests, and because of those debates, and because of popular mobilization, I’m able to stand here today as an African-American and as President of the United States.  That was because of the freedoms that were afforded in the United States that we were able to bring about change.  

I’m not saying this is easy.  There’s still enormous problems in our society.  But democracy is the way that we solve them.  That’s how we got health care for more of our people.  That’s how we made enormous gains in women’s rights and gay rights.  That’s how we address the inequality that concentrates so much wealth at the top of our society.  Because workers can organize and ordinary people have a voice, American democracy has given our people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and enjoy a high standard of living.  (Applause.)  

Now, there are still some tough fights.  It isn’t always pretty, the process of democracy.   It’s often frustrating.  You can see that in the election going on back home.  But just stop and consider this fact about the American campaign that’s taking place right now.  You had two Cuban Americans in the Republican Party, running against the legacy of a black man who is President, while arguing that they’re the best person to beat the Democratic nominee who will either be a woman or a Democratic Socialist.  (Laughter and applause.)  Who would have believed that back in 1959?  That’s a measure of our progress as a democracy.  (Applause.)   

So here’s my message to the Cuban government and the Cuban people:  The ideals that are the starting point for every revolution — America’s revolution, Cuba’s revolution, the liberation movements around the world — those ideals find their truest expression, I believe, in democracy.  Not because American democracy is perfect, but precisely because we’re not.  And we — like every country — need the space that democracy gives us to change.  It gives individuals the capacity to be catalysts to think in new ways, and to reimagine how our society should be, and to make them better. 

There’s already an evolution taking place inside of Cuba, a generational change.  Many suggested that I come here and ask the people of Cuba to tear something down — but I’m appealing to the young people of Cuba who will lift something up, build something new.  (Applause.)  El future de Cuba tiene que estar en las manos del pueblo Cubano.  (Applause.)

And to President Castro — who I appreciate being here today — I want you to know, I believe my visit here demonstrates you do not need to fear a threat from the United States.  And given your commitment to Cuba’s sovereignty and self-determination, I am also confident that you need not fear the different voices of the Cuban people — and their capacity to speak, and assemble, and vote for their leaders.  In fact, I’m hopeful for the future because I trust that the Cuban people will make the right decisions.

And as you do, I’m also confident that Cuba can continue to play an important role in the hemisphere and around the globe — and my hope is, is that you can do so as a partner with the United States.

We’ve played very different roles in the world.  But no one should deny the service that thousands of Cuban doctors have delivered for the poor and suffering.  (Applause.)  Last year, American health care workers — and the U.S. military — worked side-by-side with Cubans to save lives and stamp out Ebola in West Africa.  I believe that we should continue that kind of cooperation in other countries.

We’ve been on the different side of so many conflicts in the Americas.  But today, Americans and Cubans are sitting together at the negotiating table, and we are helping the Colombian people resolve a civil war that’s dragged on for decades.  (Applause.)  That kind of cooperation is good for everybody.  It gives everyone in this hemisphere hope.

We took different journeys to our support for the people of South Africa in ending apartheid.  But President Castro and I could both be there in Johannesburg to pay tribute to the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela.  (Applause.)  And in examining his life and his words, I’m sure we both realize we have more work to do to promote equality in our own countries — to reduce discrimination based on race in our own countries.  And in Cuba, we want our engagement to help lift up the Cubans who are of African descent — (applause) — who’ve proven that there’s nothing they cannot achieve when given the chance.

We’ve been a part of different blocs of nations in the hemisphere, and we will continue to have profound differences about how to promote peace, security, opportunity, and human rights.  But as we normalize our relations, I believe it can help foster a greater sense of unity in the Americas — todos somos Americanos.  (Applause.)

From the beginning of my time in office, I’ve urged the people of the Americas to leave behind the ideological battles of the past.  We are in a new era.  I know that many of the issues that I’ve talked about lack the drama of the past.  And I know that part of Cuba’s identity is its pride in being a small island nation that could stand up for its rights, and shake the world. But I also know that Cuba will always stand out because of the talent, hard work, and pride of the Cuban people.  That’s your strength.  (Applause.)  Cuba doesn’t have to be defined by being against the United States, any more than the United States should be defined by being against Cuba.  I’m hopeful for the future because of the reconciliation that’s taking place among the Cuban people.

I know that for some Cubans on the island, there may be a sense that those who left somehow supported the old order in Cuba.  I’m sure there’s a narrative that lingers here which suggests that Cuban exiles ignored the problems of pre-Revolutionary Cuba, and rejected the struggle to build a new future.  But I can tell you today that so many Cuban exiles carry a memory of painful — and sometimes violent — separation.  They love Cuba.  A part of them still considers this their true home. That’s why their passion is so strong.  That’s why their heartache is so great.  And for the Cuban American community that I’ve come to know and respect, this is not just about politics. This is about family — the memory of a home that was lost; the desire to rebuild a broken bond; the hope for a better future the hope for return and reconciliation.

For all of the politics, people are people, and Cubans are Cubans.  And I’ve come here — I’ve traveled this distance — on a bridge that was built by Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits.  I first got to know the talent and passion of the Cuban people in America.  And I know how they have suffered more than the pain of exile — they also know what it’s like to be an outsider, and to struggle, and to work harder to make sure their children can reach higher in America.

So the reconciliation of the Cuban people — the children and grandchildren of revolution, and the children and grandchildren of exile — that is fundamental to Cuba’s future.  (Applause.)…

 

Sometimes the most important changes start in small places. The tides of history can leave people in conflict and exile and poverty.  It takes time for those circumstances to change.  But the recognition of a common humanity, the reconciliation of people bound by blood and a belief in one another — that’s where progress begins.  Understanding, and listening, and forgiveness. And if the Cuban people face the future together, it will be more likely that the young people of today will be able to live with dignity and achieve their dreams right here in Cuba.

The history of the United States and Cuba encompass revolution and conflict; struggle and sacrifice; retribution and, now, reconciliation.  It is time, now, for us to leave the past behind.  It is time for us to look forward to the future together — un future de esperanza.  And it won’t be easy, and there will be setbacks.  It will take time.  But my time here in Cuba renews my hope and my confidence in what the Cuban people will do.  We can make this journey as friends, and as neighbors, and as family — together.  Si Senate puede.  Muchas gracias.  (Applause.)  

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News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email editor@news-photos-features.com. Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Obama Pursuing Right Strategy Against Islamic State, as Republicans Seize on Terrorism to Fear-Monger their Way to Nomination

Republican presidential candidates are fear-mongering their way to the nomination, conflating terrorism with the refugee crisis with the immigration issue, but in the process, are willing to abandon America's founding principles. © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Republican presidential candidates are fear-mongering their way to the nomination, conflating terrorism with the refugee crisis with the immigration issue, but in the process, are willing to abandon America’s founding principles. © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin

It would be a travesty if the Republicans cash in the fear they are sowing over the Paris terror attack for a ticket to the white House, in the way the Bush/Cheney Administration milked Americans’ fear after 9/11, a terror attack that incompetence made so much worse. And yet, despite their incompetence, they rode to reelection in 2004.

Brian Lehrer on NPR remarked that Jeb Bush seems to be using the Paris attacks “to claw his way back into relevance.”

On the Monday after the terror attack, AOL broadcast the headline that 72% of Americans are fearful. Well what would you expect with nonstop reports about terrorism? It’s exactly what ISIL wanted – just as Osama bin Lad3n was thrilled beyond imagination at the reaction after 9/11. In essence, thanks to Bush/Cheney reaction, 19 terrorists brought down a nation, because they let it happen.

Already, several Republican candidates have basically called for closing borders – Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush say they would only admit Christians – effectively putting a religious test in violation of the Constitution. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said Congress would withhold any funding to relocate Syrian refugees. And 27 (all but one) Republican Governors are refusing to allow any resettlement in their states, again, against the Constitution – basically a redux of what they said about the children fleeing Central American violence. It is absurd to hear the Alabama Governor justifying this stance by saying that his first priority is to keep his citizens safe, when Alabama promotes wanton gun violence, a state which ranks 4th in the nation for the highest number of incidents of and where one Alabaman is killed every 11 hours.

A doctor in a hospital in Paris talked about receiving 27 of the gunshot victims that night when the ER normally gets one. One a day? he was asked. “No, one a year. We’re not like America.”

Republicans are seizing on the fact that a passport attributed to a Syrian who came through Greece with the tens of thousands of refugees in October was left at one of the terror sites. But isn’t it interesting that this is the only terrorist found with an ID? How much logic does it take to realize that it likely was purposefully left – and very probably not the passport of the attacker at all – but was left because ISIL wants Europe and the US to cut off any safe haven for the millions that are fleeing their own terror. They want a population to terrorize. They want Muslims to be marginalized in their communities, to be able to tap the disaffected to their “cause.”

Donald Trump says he would shut down mosques. And, oh yes, points out that France has some of the strongest gun control laws. You might wonder if a President Trump, faced with terror attacks in Paris, would launch attacks against Muslims here. As for the “tough guy” pose as being all it takes to stop all the bad things in the world, Putin certainly strikes the strongman pose, and yet ISIS took down a Russian airliner. His solution? Bomb them to oblivion.

Obama answered “the broader issue of my critics… when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

“But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.”

Does anyone else see the tragic irony that the terrorism is against tolerance, the terrorists can’t stand a society that is open, diverse in ethnicity, religion and thought, but Republicans want to dispatch intolerance with intolerance?

“We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing,” President Obama said at a press conference after the G20 in Turkey. “Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both….

“When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion…

“And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.”

Every society is vulnerable to a terrorist determined to kill himself – but societal institutions should not be.

On the other hand, there is nothing stopping homegrown terrorism, and not just the jihadi kind. White racists have been responsible for more acts of terror here in the homeland than self-proclaimed jihadis. Look at the attacks on Planned Parenthood centers and black churches just in the last few months.

While the Republicans don’t actually offer any constructive proposals, they are really, really obsessively upset over semantics that President Obama does not brand the entirety of Muslims as terrorists- that’s about 1 billion people around the world, including whole nations that we need as our allies in defeating ISIL such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon. Obama, instead, uses terms like “violent extremists” as the enemy.

But these violent extremists no more embody Islam than Nazis embodied Christianity. These are sociopathic thugs – gangsters – who use terror and violence in order to secure power and control. It is a 21st century Facsist regime more similar to 20th century Nazi Germany. The new recruits might be swayed by propagandist ideology and even the idealism in toppling Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad – but they are being used and when some who came to fight for what they thought was a just cause want to leave, they are summarily killed.

Hindsight is 20/20. It’s so easy to say Obama should have been more aggressive in Syria early on (give weapons to so-called moderates who turned out to be ISIL?) but at that point, the opposition was saying Assad was only weeks away from being deposed. Then, when Assad crossed the “red line” using chemical weapons against his own people, Congress failed to give Obama authorization for military strikes inside Syria (Russia stepped up and got Assad to agree to get rid of chemical weapons, without Obama needing to fire a shot). Even now, Republicans are great at hurling accusations of ‘fecklessness” and “weakness” but the real coward is a Congress that refuses to debate a new Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) agreement. And I’m sure even the Bush/Cheney neocons never imagined that after almost a decade and billions of dollars and 4000 American lives, that the Iraqi soldiers would not just cut and run, but would hand over their weapons and territory to ISIL.

For his part, Obama faced a choice – without a crystal ball, he sided with the less deadly option. ISIL changed, and even now has changed its strategy from just torturing and tormenting and terrorizing people within the Middle East, to exporting terrorism internationally – downing the Russian airliner at Sharm el Sheik, the bombings in Izmir, in Beirut and now Paris, all in short order – and Obama is adapting to the changes – essentially intensifying all the levers that can be brought to bear, including bombing, strengthening border controls, sharing more intelligence, and stepping up efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. “And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology,” Obama said.

Obama, in a press conference in Turkey after the G20 summit, sounded just the right tone, and also took on the critics who charge that his “strategy” lacked focus, that he underestimated the Islamic State.

“The strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

“And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those….

“This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

“And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.”

In fact, the single-minded focus on the Paris attacks (while ignoring other terror attacks that took place in Beirut, Izmir, Kenya), seemed to swallow up the news of an attack that killed the Jihadi John, who executed James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as France’s attacks on ISIL oil distribution. Meanwhile, even France’s stepped up bombing of ISIL as retribution for the Paris attacks does not equal the 8000 bombing attacks by US planes.

 

But Obama added that no matter to what extent ISIL is destroyed, that there are still going to be the risks of individuals flowing into  civil societies exacting mayhem on soft targets.

“There has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

“But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

“Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris…

“We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

“These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

“Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.”

But the defeat of ISIS cannot be accomplished by the US alone and as Secretary of State John Kerry noted, a coalition did not even exist a year ago, a political partnership (involving Russia and Iran) did not even exist a month ago, and now Kerry is pointing to the possibility of a cease-fire in Syria in a matter of months, and there seems to be growing acceptance of the reality that Assad has to go, and there has to be a political transition. Solving the Assad problem would rob ISIS of a key motivator to its recruitment.

“The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding,” President Obama said. “With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward – negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.”

Ever the realist, Obama added, “These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

“What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition [Obama has mobilized 65 nations], is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email krubin723@aol.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Israel has Stronger Role in US-Israel Relationship, with Upsurge of Violent Extremism in Region

Ambassador Ido Aharoni of Israel at Great Neck Synagogue: "The root cause for instability in the Middle East has nothing to do with Israel-Palestinians." © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Ambassador Ido Aharoni of Israel at Great Neck Synagogue: “The root cause for instability in the Middle East has nothing to do with Israel-Palestinians.” © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin/News & Photo Features

When Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama earlier this month, it was their first face-to-face meeting in a year.

The meeting promised to re-set the relationship between the United States and Israel.

This includes the pragmatic realization that it is highly unlikely that a two-state solution will be achieved during the remaining time of Obama’s Administration.

“We are reassessing given the fact that the landscape is different, and that we’ve reached that conclusion,” Rob Malley, NSC Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region, said during a press call previewing the meeting. “The President has reached that conclusion that right now — baring a major shift — that the parties are not going to be in a position to negotiate a final status agreement.

“We can’t be satisfied with the status quo, so we have to find ways of making sure that the situation on the ground does not lead to confrontation, but that also we can preserve the option of the two-state solution and try to find ways to move in that direction, despite the current context.”

Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, added, “the fact that we have the realistic assessment that we’re not looking at a very near-term conclusion of negotiations toward the two-state solution in no way diminishes our very fervent belief that a two-state solution is the one way to achieve the lasting peace, security and dignity that the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve.

“And frankly, it continues to be the President’s view that the urgency of moving in the direction of a two-state solution very much remains in part because of what you’re seeing in the facts on the ground, and the demography, and the development of technology, all of which complicates both the security picture and the ability to move swiftly at the appropriate time towards the achievement of a two-state solution.  Clearly, settlements, continued settlement activity complicates both the trust that is necessary to move in the direction of peace and could very practically complicate the achievement of a viable Palestinian state.”

Indeed, it was Netanyahu’s zeal to build settlements in the West Bank – even launching an initiative while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting, without any prior warning – that initially caused  the strained relations between the two leaders. That was vastly compounded by Obama’s pursuit of the Iran nuclear deal.

Netanyahu has sorely tested the relationship with Obama, especially in his address to the joint sessionof Congress. This was especially foolhardy when, over its entire existence, Israel would have seemed to be totally on the receiving end of the bargain.

But the situation now has changed vastly as it has become clear that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not the primary factor in the the explosion of violence throughout the Middle East and into Africa, and the realization that the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is not really about territory.

A community rallies in support of Israel © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
A community rallies in support of Israel © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A couple of weeks ago, there were two events in Great Neck in support of Israel: a rally brought out about 500 people from across the spectrum of the Jewish community,  to show solidarity with Israel over the uptick in terror attacks and to demand the Obama Administration hold the Palestinians accountable for incitement. The rally was followed that evening with a speech by Ambassador Ido Aharoni of Israel at Great Neck Synagogue.

“We have a simple message; Israel wants peace. Unfortunately we do not have peace or security,” Andrew Gross, political adviser to deputy consul general of Israel, declared at the rally. “We are facing an unprecedented situation, when a 13 year old Palestinian kid feels is right to kill another 13 year old Israeli boy riding bicycle. Why are Palestinian children killing? Because of a culture of hate, incitement festering in Palestinian Authority for decades.

"We have a simple message; Israel wants peace. Unfortunately we do not have peace or security," Andrew Gross, political adviser to deputy consul general of Israel, declared at the rally © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“We have a simple message; Israel wants peace. Unfortunately we do not have peace or security,” Andrew Gross, political adviser to deputy consul general of Israel, declared at the rally © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Let’s be clear who are the perpetrators and who the victims. The victims are Israelis, Jews and Israeli Arabs who are going about their lives. The perpetrators are Arabs who are attacking and are sometimes killed in the process. But we won’t apologize for defending ourselves….We need American support.”

Gross, who is originally from New Jersey, later told me “The international community needs to call up Palestinian Authority President Abbas to stop the incitement. Kerry has been helpful – Israel appreciates the fact he has taken time to engage.”

The violence, he said, “is a product of years and years of irresponsible leadership, fostering culture of hatred. Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

“The real question is why Abbas continues to reject offer to Netanyahu to meet with him.

Netanyahu has made clear Israel wants peace- ready to begin negotiations without preconditions.” Despite his pronouncements during his reelection campaign, and the retreat now from negotiations, Netanyahu’s official policy,” he said, “is a two state solution.”

There is more behind suspending movement toward negotiations, besides the fact that Israel has never had a honest “partner” in negotiations, and the latest upsurge in terror attacks.

It is the realization that “land for peace” will not end the Israel-Palestinian conflict. That illusion has been shattered by the Palestinian Authority’s rejection of every territorial accommodation Israel has made, going back to the Camp David Accord in 2000, the complete withdrawal from Gaza, and then the 2008, Olmert’s proposal that would have returned 100% of the territory taken in the 1967 Six Day War, only to be answered by the Palestinian leader:’ I’ll get back to you.’ And never did,” Ambassador Ido Aharoni said at the Great Neck Synagogue.

“For many years we were told that the root cause for all instability in the Middle East is Israel-Palestinian conflict, but look around Middle East, it has nothing to do with Israel-Palestinians and everything to do with two things,” Aharoni said, pointing to the 1500 year old rift between Shiites and Sunnis and the way that colonial powers sliced and diced the Middle East after World War I “completely ignoring ethnic, religious and tribal affiliations. What we are seeing now is a new region realigning itself according t o ethnic, tribal, and religious lines, and this realignment is very painful, violent, brutal.

“Syria is disintegrating..  Because of Syria vulnerability, many regional and international powers trying to put their foot on ground – Iran is heavily, now Russia is getting in. ISIS identified Syria as a fertile ground to instill Sunni pride – and all in all 20 different groups.

“It’s very confusing. In America, you used to think about confrontations between good guys and bad guys. But here’s the challenge: ISIS is killing Al Qaeda, is that good or bad? ISIS is killing Hezbollah, is that good or bad.?”

In this context, Israel has more to contribute to the US-Israel relationship than merely being on the receiving end of American largesse.

These issues were manifest during the meeting this week between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“This is going to be an opportunity for the Prime Minister and myself to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on some of the most pressing security issues that both our countries face,” President Obama said. “It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas.  And as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities.  And that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds.

Obama went on, “We have closer military and intelligence cooperation than any two administrations in history.  The military assistance that we provide we consider not only an important part of our obligation to the security of the state of Israel, but also an important part of U.S. security infrastructure in the region, as we make sure that one of our closest allies cannot only protect itself but can also work with us in deterring terrorism and other security threats.

“In light of what continues to be a chaotic situation in Syria, this will give us an opportunity to discuss what’s happening there.  We’ll have an opportunity to discuss how we can blunt the activities of ISIL, Hezbollah and other organizations in the region that carry out terrorist attacks…

“We’ll also have a chance to talk about how implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement is going. It’s no secret that the prime minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue. But we don’t have a disagreement on the need to make sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don’t have a disagreement about the importance of us blunting the destabilizing activities in Iran that may be taking place.”

“And we will also have an opportunity to discuss some of the concerns that both of us have around violence in the Palestinian Territories.  I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against  innocent Israeli citizens.  And I want to repeat once again, it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself.

“I also will discuss with the Prime Minister his thoughts on how we can lower the temperature between Israelis and Palestinians, how we can get back on a path towards peace, and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process, even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself.”

Netanyahu then stated, “We are obviously tested today in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East, as you described it.  I think everybody can see it — with the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression and terror by Iran’s proxies and by Iran itself.  And the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered hundreds of thousands.  And we don’t know what will transpire.

“And I think this is a tremendously important opportunity for us to work together to see how we can defend ourselves against this aggression and this terror; how we can roll back.  It’s a daunting task.

“Equally, I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace.  We’ll never give up the hope for peace.  And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.

“I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to defend itself against terror and destruction, and neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors that genuinely want to achieve peace with us.  And I look forward to discussing with you practical ways in which we can lower the tension, increase stability, and move towards peace.

“And finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your commitment to further bolstering Israel’s security in the memorandum of understanding that we’re discussing.  Israel has shouldered a tremendous defense burden over the years, and we’ve done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America.  And I want to express my appreciation to you and express the appreciation of the people of Israel to you for your efforts in this regard during our years of common service and what you’re engaging in right now — how to bolster Israel’s security, how to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can, as you’ve often said, defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

“So for all these reasons, I want to thank you again for your hospitality, but even more so for sustaining and strengthening the tremendous friendship and alliance between Israel and the United States of America.”

What’s significant is that the US-Israel role is less about propping up Israel, than in maintaining a vital alliance in the fight against violent Islamic extremism. It changes the dynamic from only what Israel can take from the US, to how the US can also benefit from having a strong ally in the region that for the most part, shares our value system.

But Israel still needs to be more judicious about how it struts around.

Rabbi Dale Polakoff introduced Ambassador Aharoni saying, “He has spent his career working on improving the name of Israel – the brand of Israel – throughout the world – fighting against difficult odds . He accomplished a tremendous amount.”

I have to disagree. It seems almost impossible but over the last 30 years, Israel has managed to be painted in the eyes of the world not as the victim of Arab aggression and incessant terrorism, not as the proponent of peace, willing to give up (and give back) land legitimately won and needed to provide a security rim, in exchange for security, but has become the aggressor, the occupier.

Here in America, we have to fight with our own liberals and progressives who inexplicably have taken up the cause of the Palestinians as a pathetic, impoverished people.

It is very disturbing that the National Press Club in Washington DC will be the venue for a day-long conference “Israel’s Influence: Good or Bad for America?”  co-sponsored by the American Educational Trust, publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy.

Timed to take place two days before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) holds its annual policy conference, “keynote speakers will analyze the enormous impact Israel’s influence has on Congress, establishment media, academia and other major institutions. They will explore the costs and benefits in terms of foreign aid and covert intelligence, foreign policy, America’s regional and global standing, and unbiased news reporting.”

The group goes on to note, “American taxpayers provide Israel with more than $3.1 billion annually in military aid. Since 1948 Israel has received far more than any other country, despite polls showing that most Americans oppose such aid. Israel and its U.S. supporters are now lobbying for a $1 billion increase–to $4.5 billion yearly–as ‘compensation’ for the recently concluded nuclear deal with Iran, despite Israel and its lobby’s overt attempts to prevent it..

“In 2001 Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who characterized the 9/11 attacks on America as “good” for Israel, stated, ‘I know what America is.  America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.’

“The lobby in charge of moving America is vast and powerful. It will raise and spend another estimated $4.1 billion in 2016 charitable contributions to indirectly subsidize Israeli institutions such as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), finance U.S. Israel advocacy, lobby local, state and federal officials, and support Israel-centric “education” programs.

The notice goes on to state, “Some of this ‘education’ supports pro-Israel programs in schools, colleges and universities. It also covers training federal and local law enforcement officials to focus on American Muslim and Arab communities as potential terrorist and ‘violent extremist’ threats.”

This is what Israel needs to contend with, and why it is important for Israel to demonstrate that it isn’t just taking from the United States, but now occupies a key place in this global crisis.

The reason for this is laid on pervasive anti-Semitism and The Media which is an agent of anti-Semitism.

In fact, Netanyahu has been a disaster for Israel’s image in the world, and provided fuel to progressives’ fire.

Look at who he has put forth as (believe it or not), Israel’s public diplomacy chief Ran Baratz, who actually posted in social media that Obama was Anti-Semitic, that Secretary of State John Kerry had the intellect of a preteenager. (“Filling a Top Post, Netanyahu Reconsiders Nominee Who Insulted Obama,” NY Times, Nov. 6)

It’s one thing to have such a man among your advisers, but to have him as the “face” of Israel in the world? A diplomat to be so extraordinarily undiplomatic?

Aharoni talked about Israel’s “brand.” It is significantly in need of improvement.

Israel must depend more than ever on the United States as its singular ally of any substance in the world, continually fending off efforts to delegitimize Israel’s existence.

“This administration has repeatedly stood up against the delegitimization of Israel, including under Secretary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, with respect to the Goldstone report, with respect to the response to the incident with the flotilla that was trying to reach Gaza,” Rhodes said. “And in the aftermath of that tenure, under Secretary Kerry at the State Department, we’ve continued to stand up against efforts to delegitimize Israel, including through BDS.  So there’s been a very consistent diplomatic effort by this administration at various international fora to oppose one-sided efforts to single out Israel or to delegitimize Israel in any way.”

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© 2015 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com,  email krubin723@aol.com. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin