PM Netanyahu speaks to the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) laying out Israel’s position.

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=8461

Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs Newsletter

Redacted from a much longer, and his usual eloquent address, by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
January 28, 2014

Speaking at the seventh conference in The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) annual series “Security Challenges of the 21st Century,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed three principal issues: Iran, the Palestinian issue, and the global economic challenge.

“Thank you for the opportunity to discuss several of the larger challenges we face, some of the largest ever faced by the state of Israel. There are three such challenges, or at least three which I wish to discuss: Iran, the political process vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the global economy.

With regard to Iran, although there is internal dissent in Iran about the allocation of resources — how much comes in, how much goes out — there is no dissension in the Iranian regime, which continues to be controlled by Ayatollah Khamanei. There is no dissension, first about its aspirations to obtain military nuclear capability and there is also no dissension regarding the goal of erasing the State of Israel from the Earth. They say it all the time domestically of course, and occasionally also internationally.

Iran “remains close to nuclear weapons,” it must be understood that there are three stations when producing nuclear weapons, in manufacturing the fissile material needed for nuclear weapons: producing enriched uranium at a level of 3.5%, uranium enriched to 20% and finally a quick jump to uranium enriched to 90%, which is the level needed for a weapon.

What the Iranians did, and this is what the agreement determined is that they would return the train to the first station, but at the same time, they are upgrading the engine and strengthening it so that they will be able to break through all at once, without any stations in the middle, straight to 90%.

The agreement made in Geneva is not a good agreement — it is a bad agreement. In our estimation, this agreement delayed Iran by six weeks — no more — from where they were before, and therefore the test was and remains the final agreement, if such an agreement is achieved, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

Of course, Iran is trying to fool the West; it makes all kinds of statements and claims. You heard Rouhani in Davos recently. He said, for example, that they object to any intervention in Syria at a time when they are up to their necks in Syria. In fact, they are propping up Assad’s regime. They actively participate in the mass slaughter there. He said they object to harming the innocent; in Iran hundreds of people every year are executed. Most of them are innocent, including dozens of people who were hung there last week. You would undoubtedly define most of them as innocent. They were executed.

He speaks of free access to technology; that’s what Rouhani said in Davos at a time when Iran is denying its citizens to surf on the internet freely. And of course, he repeated his statement that Iran does not seek to obtain nuclear weapons, that it only wants nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Iran has directly invested at least 40 billion dollars in its nuclear facilities and nuclear program, and an additional 140 billion dollars as the cost of the sanctions. A country does not invest nearly 200 billion dollars in nuclear energy for peaceful purposes when it is so rich in other sources of natural energy.

Now of course the Iranian threat is not just an unconventional threat; it is also a conventional threat which mainly focuses on missiles and rockets brought to the Iranian enclave which surrounds us, in an attempt to strangle us from two sides, from Lebanon and from Gaza.

We want to ensure that in the political negotiations with the Palestinians, we achieve two goals: one, we don’t want, I don’t want a binational state. I think that in this, I reflect the will of most citizens of Israel. And second, we do not want another country to be established here under Iran’s sponsorship that fires missiles and rockets at us or that launches terror attacks on us. We need to achieve both these goals, not just one of them — both of them.

The Americans are working to formulate the American positions. But I would like to emphasize that they are not Israeli positions, but rather American ones. Israel does not have to agree to anything the Americans present, but we insist on two fundamental things. The first is, of course, recognition of the Jewish State or the nation-state of the Jewish people. I would like to explain the reason for our insistence on this issue, because it is at the root of the conflict. This conflict has gone on for nearly 100 years. The date I choose to mark for its beginning is 1920, 1921 – one year after my late grandfather arrived in Jaffa. When he arrived, he made his way to the Jewish immigration office. In 1921, rioting Palestinian Arabs attacked that office; they attacked in Jaffa. There were no settlers there; there were no settlers as they are defined today. There were no territories. There was a basic objection to any Jewish presence, an opposition that grew and resulted in the attacks in 1929 in Hebron and of course the great riots of 1936-1939.

This struggle, which continued through the War of Independence and afterwards until 1967 – this struggle was not over the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Those were in Arab hands. This struggle was against the very existence of the Jewish state, against Zionism or any geographic expression of it, any State of Israel in any border.

The conflict is not over these territories; it is not about settlements; and it is not about a Palestinian state either. The Zionist movement agreed to recognize a Palestinian state during the partition plan, and various governments also agreement later on to recognize a Palestinian state. But this conflict has gone on because of one reason: the stubborn opposition to recognize the Jewish state, the nation-state of the Jewish people. To end the conflict, they must recognize that in our land, this land, in the Jewish homeland, there are two peoples.

We cannot be sure that this recognition would take root in Palestinian society which has experienced and continues to experience methodical incitement against Jews and the Jewish state. And that is why there must also be robust security arrangements. These security arrangements must also include long-term Israel Defense Forces (IDF) presence along the Jordan River and other security arrangements that fundamentally rest on the State of Israel, the IDF and Israel’s defense system.

The most condensed version of the formula for a peace agreement with the Palestinians is a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. I cannot tell you this arrangement will take place.

I said there was a third challenge and that was the global economy. We are in the age of knowledge, in an outburst of knowledge, and the economy is globalized. This provides the State of Israel with a tremendous opportunity. Not only do we produce more knowledge-based products per capita at the highest level in the world, we can do more. Even in absolute terms, our technological product is large, even very large. For example, in the cyber field, we create approximately 50 times more than our relative size. That means that the State of Israel has the same weight as a country with a population of 400 million in terms of these products, and that provides us with an opportunity, alongside the development of the global economy, to reach many more markets that would have been very hard to reach if it were not for these two trends, globalization and technology, especially the internet.

I do not know how many of you were at the cyber conference we held yesterday. It was pioneering. There were 1,500 people there, including the most advanced companies in the world in this field — and they did not come here because of our beautiful eyes, nor did they come because of any kind of political consideration. They came, they told me, for three reasons — those same three reasons I am given with I meet with the leaders of China or of Mexico or of other countries, as I did recently.

They want three things: Israeli technology, Israeli technology and Israeli technology. They know what they want. Our advantage in this field, I believe, results from unique reasons that created a crystal of tremendous technological capabilities here, and we must continue to nurture it.

The reasons are, first of all, our military needs which created special capabilities in the ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES (IDF) and the security branches; our excellent universities – I am at one of them — our research institutions; our special culture, which is connected to the fact that we always ask questions. This tradition burst forth after the French Revolution and the fall of the ghetto walls into new fields, fields like science, mathematics, physics and chemistry. The results of this are clear.

Let me touch on China. China is very interested in Israeli technology, to say the least. We think we can gain a small share of a huge market, which for a country with eight million citizens can help us a great deal. This is an opportunity which exists and there are other opportunities with China.

China must still move a significant portion of its goods for the next 20 years to central markets in the West, including Europe. These goods still must move there physically. 95%-98% of them come by sea, a significant portion of that through the Suez Canal, and we are building a valve in the form of a train that would connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean, between Eilat, Aqaba to Ashdod and Tel Aviv. This is a land connection between Asia and Europe and between Europe and Asia, and then there will be a passenger train that will allow you to travel from here, from Tel Aviv to Eilat in two hours.

If there are two huge engines driving the global economy today, the first is the rise of Asia, first and foremost China; and the second is the rise of the internet. I made the decision to ease the exportation of Israeli cyber companies. There are now several hundred and their numbers continue to increase — half of them didn’t even exist four years ago. We are in a position where we can transform Israel into a world power in technology.

Let me say a few words about the Israel Defense Forces, especially about the members of the regular army. Everything we are describing: these tremendous opportunities alongside dealing with the dangers lurking at our doorstep and the desire on the one had to prevent the dangers of a nuclear Iran and terror, while on the other hand ensuring a stable agreement with the Palestinians – our entire existence depends on the IDF. It also depends on many other factors, but first and foremost it depends on the IDF, and the core that leads the IDF is the regular army and the regular army has recently suffered irresponsible attacks.

In order to sustain a regular army, in order to achieve the goals of repelling the threats we face and advancing the secure peace at the same time — this obligates a very strong army. I do not see a situation in which we will not need a very strong army and an additional security system — including the Mossad and the Shin Bet – in the coming years. We will also need special cyber capabilities. All this necessitates a great deal of money. We will not get this money through contributions and handouts. It will come from the development of that same economic capability in a global economy and the economy of tomorrow. We are developing it with the goal of reaching our main target: the Jewish state.

Thank you very much.”

Complete speech at:
http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/PressRoom/2014/Pages/PM-Netanyahu-addresses-INSS-Annual-Conference-28-Jan-2014.aspx

A very beautiful description of her first trip to Israel by Star Parker who wishes Pres. Obama follows in her footsteps

Let Israel trip open President Obama’s eyes

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=6175

By Star Parker
Jewish World Review March 11, 2013

As Barack Obama prepares for his first trip to Israel as president, I hope when he gets there he sees what I saw.

Several weeks ago, I returned from my first trip to Israel. I went with a delegation headed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who visits Israel at least once every year.

What did I see?

I saw kids, no more than 18 years old, walking down the street, waiting at bus stops, wearing army-green khakis and carrying machine guns on their backs. One young girl was as black-skinned as me. (Not an unusual sight. Thousands of Ethiopian Jews have been flown to Israel, rescued from persecution in their own land and welcomed into Israel with open arms where they frequently and bravely serve in the Israel Defense Forces.)

The kids were doing their compulsory army service as part of Israel’s citizen army. Three years for boys, two years for girls. No university deferment. First high school, then army, then university.

I also saw Masada. The fortress at the top of a mountain rises high above the Judean Desert, where almost 2,000 years ago a contingent of Jewish zealots, having fled Jerusalem after the fall of the second Temple, took their own lives rather than surrender to the Roman troops closing in on them.

New recruits into Israel’s army, the Israel Defense Forces, climb the long, winding path to the mountaintop fortress and vow to not let Masada fall again.

I also saw Israel’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem — the name taken from a verse in Isaiah, “… I will give in mine house and my walls a place and a name … an everlasting name which shall not be cut off” — that documents the horrors out of which the state of Israel emerged.

I walked through the halls of deep mourning and saw the displays, the photos, the books and papers documenting the unimaginable: the intentional slaughter of 6 million Jews, a third of the world’s Jewish population, done less then three-quarters of a century ago and perpetrated by a German nation that was home to some of the foremost scientists, writers and philosophers of modern times.

A crime of dimensions beyond human conception, perpetrated by a madman with whom some in the Western world, at the time, thought they could do business. Today, a madman in Iran — with whom some in the Western world think they can do business — denies these events even occurred.

My thoughts turned with agony back to my own home in America, where the lives of 55 million unborn children have been taken since 1973.

I saw the prime minister of Israel take 40 minutes out of his busy day, in the midst of trying to form a new government in this boisterous democracy, to welcome our small group into his office in the parliament building and take our questions. He even took one from me, which he answered at length and with care.

I saw a once-barren land — a land once described by Mark Twain as “a desolate country … a silent and mournful expanse” — now fruitful and ripe. Everything the Israelis have touched seems to have come alive and then some.

You see the result of the relationship of a land that uniquely goes with a people and the people that uniquely goes with that land, and you think of the Song of Songs: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine: He browses among the lilies.”

I saw the great hope of my Scriptures come alive right before my eyes, and I was left exuberant and confident that the God of truth and justice is still speaking today.

In the words of the Psalmist: “When the Lord brings about the return to Zion, we will have been like dreamers. … Then they will say among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them, The Lord has done great things for us. We will then rejoice.”

Yes, I pray that when the president of the United States lands in Israel for his first time since he was a senator, that he sees what I saw.

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can do About It.

Sen. Patrick Leahy declares his mis-guided anti-Israel policy recommendations

Zionist Org. of America criticizes Sen. Leahy for Seeking Cut in U.S. Aid to Elite Israel Defense Forces.

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=1303

But Leahy supported increased aid to the Palestinian Authority

Redacted from a press release by Morton Klein, Pres. ZOA
August 17, 2011

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for promoting a bill that seeks to cut from the U.S. foreign assistance legislation for 2012 the component from U.S. military aid to Israel that is earmarked for three elite Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units – the Israeli Navy’s Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit and the Israel Air Force’s Shaldag unit. These units have been on the front lines protecting Israeli citizens in counter-terrorist operations, hunting down terrorists and securing Israel’s borders.

In contrast, Senator Leahy has never called for reducing aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA), despite the PA’s continuing failure to arrest terrorists, outlaw terrorists groups, end the promotion of hatred and violence against Israel and its recently signed unity agreement with Hamas. In fact, he has supported increased aid to the PA.

The ZOA has noted that Senator Leahy’s effort to defund these IDF units has emerged under pressure in his home state from anti-Israel activists seeking to criminalize Israeli self-defense. These activists have sought to have Israel declared guilty of human rights abuses last year when the Israeli Navy’s Shayetet 13 unit lawfully intercepted the Gaza-bound Turkish ship Mavi Mamara to ensure it was free of weaponry. Pro-Hamas operatives and other extremists on board carried out a pre-planned assault upon the Israeli boarding party, leading to the death of nine of the assailants in the resulting clash.

Leahy, who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee’s sub-committee on foreign operations, was the principle sponsor of a 1997 bill prohibiting the United States from providing military assistance or funding to foreign military units suspected of human rights abuses or war crimes.

In recent years, Senator Leahy has been sharply critical of Israel, including of Operation Cast Lead, the counter-offensive launched against Hamas in Gaza following thousands of rockets fired into southern Israel over preceding years. Leahy claimed that Israel had a right to self-defense but then criticized Israel merely for imposing a blockade on Gaza, saying that it had failed to change Hamas policies.

He did not ask whether the blockade’s effort to reduce the flow of weaponry to Hamas had been successful. Leahy also claimed that, “The blockade was not coupled with an effective strategy to address the underlying causes of the conflict.” Leahy found Hamas actions “deplorable” but did not say that Hamas needs to “address the underlying causes” of the conflict by ceasing to be a genocide-seeking terrorist movement calling in its Charter for the world-wide murder of Jews.

Unsurprisingly, Leahy has become very close to J Street, the extremist, left-wing lobby which falsely claims to be pro-Israel while having urged Obama not to veto anti-Israel resolutions in the UN, refused to support Israel’s 2008-9 defensive military operations against Hamas in Gaza and which has lobbied against sanctions on Iran.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “Senator Leahy has shown in recent years a propensity to blame Israel for the Arab war on Israel so it is therefore perhaps not surprising that he has now sought to penalize Israel for defending itself, as in the case of the Mavi Mamara affair.

“Now, Senator Leahy has added fuel to the fire by seeking to penalize the brave, professional Israeli military forces that actually perform the dangerous and vital task of protecting Israeli civilians, the first duty of an Israeli government. He seeks to defund parts of the IDF on the basis of allegations of human rights abuses by long-term, hardened, anti-Israel extremists.

“The IDF is not only the indispensible defense force of Israel, it is also an amazingly valuable U.S. ally whose combat experience, innovation and intelligence-gathering have been of immense value to the United States and the U.S. armed forces. The Israeli forces that have had the most experience of dealing with ruthless, blood-thirsty terrorists are precisely the elite units that Senator Leahy has specifically sought to defund.

My journalist granddaughter, Sammy, on her Birthright Israel Trip

10 Days in Israel

Written by Samantha Stratton on 07/27/201

Louisville Ky. Voice-Tribune Editor’s note:
Intern Samantha Stratton just returned from a 10-day trip to Israel with the Birthright organization, www.BirthrightIsrael.org. This is her story.

My journalist granddaughter, Sammy, on her Birthright Israel Trip

When I told my non-Jewish friends about the trip to Israel I was about to take, they were baffled. They couldn’t fathom that someone would just give me a free 10-day trip to Israel.

No, I didn’t win some kind of contest, I told them. No, you can’t just say you’re Jewish and they’ll let you go too. The questions were endless. After I explained that Birthright Israel is designed to connect Jewish young adults to the heritage and history of their religion, my friends didn’t understand why that connection would be important.
Even for some of my fellow Jews, the concept of Birthright seems a little over the top.

Why do young people actually have to go to Israel to learn about it? Books, movies and lectures could probably suffice. Birthright Israel’s mission is to help Jews ages 18 to 26 find some kind of connection to the place that is at the center of their religion by showing them the land, providing an Israeli guide to explain each area visited and letting them decide the next step for themselves. On July 10, 2011, my journey to find some kind of “connection” began …

I’ve just spent more than 10 hours on a plane, flanked by complete strangers, unable to sleep and unaware of what I’m getting myself into. My group and I gather at baggage claim to retrieve the luggage we’ll carry for the next 10 days. I’m hot and eager to get out of my airplane clothes. It’s only 7:30 a.m. in Israel, and I’m already exhausted.

Our Israeli guide tells us to quickly open our checked luggage and pack a daypack. Our next destination: Mount Arbel, which means we’ll be hiking. Then, we’ll have breakfast – after the airplane meal and lots of snacking, this will be my third “breakfast” of the day – and raft on the Jordan River. We won’t arrive at our hotel until around 6 p.m. Sounds like a sick joke, right? Well, this joke would soon become a sobering reality and possibly the best experience of my life.

During my second semester at American University, I decided on a whim to register for Birthright with two friends from my dorm. Here’s the gist of the program: If you’re Jewish and between the ages of 18 and 26, you’re eligible for a free trip to Israel. I figured, why not? I didn’t have much else going on this summer (I hadn’t yet secured my job at The Voice) and my mom had been practically begging me to sign up since I turned 18. If I had two friends joining me, it would be a lot less scary.

After I signed up and received an acceptance to the trip, I didn’t give it much thought. I saw the trip as filler for my summer boredom. I didn’t understand what Birthright was about except a free vacation with people my age. I’m now much more aware of Birthright’s mission.

Not many people actually know who started the program; all we know is that Birthright was founded by wealthy philanthropists who sought to send young Jewish people to Israel in order to bridge the gap between Israel and Jewish communities around the world. During our orientation, one of the Birthright staff members explained that this trip was a “gift” and that, in Israel, the program is called “Taglit,” which means “discovery” in Hebrew.

During that first meeting, I didn’t really connect with what this staff member was saying. However, after just a few days, I discovered more about my religion, the Middle East and myself than I could have imagined. Though referring to Birthright as a gift seemed cliché initially, I won’t hesitate to say that this trip was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.

I’m so grateful for my experience that it is difficult to put into words.

In fact, as the trip progressed, I became more and more apprehensive of even writing this article. How was I supposed to explain the highlights of my experience when almost everything we did and saw was a highlight?

We visited places I’d only heard of in Sunday School as a child. We floated in the Dead Sea, rode camels in a Bedouin village, experienced Shabbat at the Western Wall, learned about Kabbalah in Tzfat, ascended Masada by way of the Roman Ramp and so much more.

Looking over our trip itinerary, I’m still blown away by how much we fit into 10 days and how much I enjoyed each aspect.

We also built relationships with eight Israeli soldiers who traveled and stayed with us for a portion of our journey. Hearing about their lifestyles gave me a huge amount of respect for them. But, at the same time, I realized that they were all just like me. We were the same age and liked the same TV shows and places to shop. Just one thing separated us: When I turned 18, I was preparing for college; when my Israeli friends turned 18, they were reporting for duty in the Israeli Defense Force.

Now, I realize I might be starting to sound a little brainwashed by Israel’s charm. But don’t be mistaken. I’ve heard plenty of arguments opposing my experience.

During the early stages of our trip, friends and I discussed some of the negative views circulating the media about Birthright. Opponents of the program criticize it for being a tool to lure young Jews into becoming ultra Zionists and encouraging them to make “Aliyah,” immigration to Israel, which many Zionists consider one of the highest forms of worship.

I’ve heard several defenses against Birthright in the past month – before, during and after my trip. Some suggest that the Israeli tour guides assigned to each group preach Zionism and don’t give the full story of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Others even suggest that Birthright specifically selects good-looking Israeli soldiers to persuade young girls and guys that everyone in Israel is beautiful.

I won’t use this article to defend Zionism, Judaism or even Birthright. My only goal is to describe my wonderful experience as best I can.

I sat down on a plane to Israel with a group of 39 other Jewish college students a few weeks ago. I knew two people going in. I feared I’d be surrounded by a bunch of – excuse the term – Jewish American Princesses. I worried that I’d hate the food. I dreaded having talks about Judaism.

A few days ago, I exited a plane at John F. Kennedy airport. I had to say goodbye to 47 new friends, eight of whom are Israeli soldiers.

Instead of ultra-Jewish young adults, I met mostly secular and reform people like me, who’d never truly felt a connection to their religion.
I stepped on American soil and found myself craving falafel (although we’d had it every single day for 10 days straight).

I got on a plane to Louisville missing Israeli accents, debates about the Israel/Palestine conflict and the sweltering desert weather.

I tried to think of the moment I really felt something emotional for Israel, the Holy Land I’ve always been told I should have a connection with.

I remembered the Western Wall. We visited on one of the hottest days of our trip. Everyone had to cover his or her knees and shoulders out of respect for the holy place, which made us all even more uncomfortable. I wrote down a simple prayer on a piece of paper – nothing too emotional or soul bearing. I approached the wall to place my written prayer in one of the cracks. For some reason, I began to cry. These weren’t just a few tears, they were almost sobs.

I rejoined my friends and realized they’d been crying too. We agreed that there was this palpable feeling of sadness at the wall – hundreds of years of pain, suffering and struggle. It was something none of us had ever felt before. It showed me that I could feel something for my religion and its history.

Birthright changed me.

I won’t say it made me a better person. I’m not a staunch Zionist. I won’t even claim to be a more religious Jew. But I am more connected to my heritage, more educated about my religion and more respectful of the conflict currently affecting my homeland.

Contact writer Samantha Stratton sstratton@voice-tribune.com.