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    Benjamin Netanyahu Tag

    Today is the 4th of July and besides being the 240th birthday of America... (Mazal Tov! You've already doubled the usual wish of "until 120" ) is also the 40th anniversary of an equally auspicious day - the miraculous rescue by IDF special forces of over 100 Jewish hostages held by German and Palestinian terrorists in Entebbe, after their Air France airplane was hijacked on its way from France to Tel Aviv.

    This past Sunday more than 1,500 people—along with dozens of members of the media and press—attended The Jerusalem Post’s 5th Annual Conference in New York City. The one-day event, themed “Israel, the U.S. and the Free World Facing Global Terror,” was held at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in the heart of Times Square and Manhattan’s theater district. JPost annual conference 2016 logo According to the pre-conference publicity, the annual conference—which in the past has proved to be “both newsworthy and dazzling”—was predicted to be the “best and biggest yet”. It was indeed.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French Prime Minister Manuel Valls he wants to hold a one-on-one meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas instead of a multinational conference in Paris. Netanyahu thinks Abbas will use the conference as a way to ignore direct negotiations with Israel. France has scheduled the peace talks for the beginning of June without Israel or Palestinian Authority representatives. From The Times of Israel:
    “The Palestinian Authority does not see the French initiative as an inducer for negotiations, but as a way to avoid them,” he said. Instead, Netanayhu said, he would be willing to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “in Paris or wherever,” and hold face-to-face negotiations without international mediation. “Every difficult issue will be on the table,” he said.
    France plans to host another conference with Israel and Palestine in the autumn.

    There continues to be fallout from the profile of Obama adviser Ben Rhodes that appeared in Sunday's New York Times magazine last week. Much of discussion of the article has surrounded who demonstrated bad faith, the Obama administration or Samuels. There are two targets of the criticism. In the MSM and left-leaning media the villain is David Samuels for writing a hatchet job on the administration. In the right-leaning media the villain is the administration for lying about the nuclear deal with Iran. But the question of dishonesty or bad faith is less important than the system Samuel described. From the administration's view, the article was, according to Lee Smith, "a victory lap," a boast of how they bested their political opponents and mastered the media. Little attention has been paid to exactly how the "echo chamber" Ben Rhodes boasted about actually worked.

    As part of the Israeli Independence Day celebrations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted a live question and answer session on Twitter. Respondents tweeted questions using the #AskNetanyahu hashtag. Typical of most hashtag events, ne'er do wellers loaded up #AskNetanyahu with all kinds of silly questions. Unlike most hashtag events, Netanyahu responded.

    Among the last remaining Yemeni Jews secretly were rescued and brought to Israel to escape persecution and increased danger in Yemen. The once thriving Yemeni Jewish community of over 50,000 mostly were rescued just after Israel's founding, in what became known as Operation Magic Carpet. Watch the film The Forgotten Refugees for the story of the over 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries. This last group brought an ancient Torah Scroll, believed to be several hundred years old. The Times of Israel reports:

    Ahead of Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Israel, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that the White House is considering new efforts to revive the Middle East peace process.
    The internal discussions are aimed at offering a blueprint for future Israeli-Palestinian talks in a bid to advance a critical foreign-policy initiative that has made little progress during Mr. Obama's two terms in the White House, the officials said. The strongest element on the list of options under consideration would be U.S. support for a Security Council resolution calling on both sides to compromise on key issues, something Israel had opposed and Washington has repeatedly vetoed in the past. Other initiatives could include a presidential speech and a joint statement from the Middle East Quartet, an international group comprising the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.
    According to the Journal, the President Barack Obama hasn't made up his mind but "is considering a range of options." In any case no decision is expected until later this year.

    Two ongoing news stories that broke this past week show the Obama administration's contrasting styles towards America's top Middle East ally and a rogue nation that continues to flout international law. Obama and his top officials have no problem playing hardball with Israel, but become like Rex the dinosaur in Toy Story, who doesn't like confrontations, when dealing with  Iran. First, last Tuesday The Wall Street Journal (Google link) reported that the administration excluded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the list of foreign leaders it would not spy on after Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA regularly spied on friendly heads of state. Quoting current and former U.S. officials the spying on Netanyahu was deemed by Obama to be a “compelling national security purpose.” Of course the reason for this was Netanyahu's objections to the Iran nuclear deal. The fear was that Netanyahu would leak sensitive information he had been told by the United States in order to torpedo the deal. (Israel insisted that the secret details that it learned came from spying on Iran.)

    This should be interesting. When two over-sized personalities collide, neither of whom is known for backing down. On Twitter and Facebook, Benjamin Netanyahu just released the following statement:
    Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump's recent remarks about Muslims. The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens. At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world.

    In a look at the history of the tensions between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The New York Times several days ago started with an interesting anecdote.
    For President Obama, it was a day of celebration. He had just signed the most important domestic measure of his presidency, his health care program. So when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel arrived at the White House for a hastily arranged visit, it was likely not the main thing on his mind. To White House officials, it was a show of respect to make time for Mr. Netanyahu on that day back in March 2010. But Mr. Netanyahu did not see it that way. He felt squeezed in, not accorded the rituals of such a visit. No photographers were invited to record the moment. "That wasn't a good way to treat me," he complained to an American afterward. The tortured relationship between Barack and Bibi, as they call each other, has been a story of crossed signals, misunderstandings, slights perceived and real. Burdened by mistrust, divided by ideology, the leaders of the United States and Israel talked past each other for years until the rupture over Mr. Obama's push for a nuclear agreement with Iran led to the spectacle of Mr. Netanyahu denouncing the president's efforts before a joint meeting of Congress.
    It's interesting because this is not at all how I remembered it. I remember that the lack of attention to the meeting was perceived as an intentional slight of Netanyahu. A quick check of the contemporaneous reporting confirmed this.

    This week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Washington for his first meeting with President Barack Obama since the passage of the Iran nuclear deal. It was their first face-to-face conversation in over a year, and while DC journalists largely pitched the meeting as a welcome relief to the normally-tortured U.S.-Israel relations, I wrote yesterday that both leaders appeared almost too careful during the limited time they appeared together before the press. During this week's meeting, Netanyahu reportedly spoke at length with Obama over concerns regarding instability in Syria, and the uncertain (in international relations terms) status of the Golan Heights. This territory is important to Israel---especially now, since Islamic jihadists have gained significant control in bordering, war-torn Syria. Both former Ambassador Michael Oren and former cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser have publicly called for American recognition of Israeli sovereignty of the Golan, saying that it would help stabilize the region. More from the Times of Israel:
    Israel claims the western Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and took steps to formally annex in 1981. The plateau is considered a critical strategic asset for Israel because it overlooks the towns and villages of much of the Galilee.

    Today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Obama at the White House to discuss ISIS, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, and the continuing scandal that is the Iran nuclear deal. It was the first time the two men have met face to face in over a year, and the first time they have spoken since the passage of the Iran deal. During a private session with the press, Obama emphasized that both leaders are looking for "common ground," and condemned the latest wave of Palestinian violence perpetuated against Israelis; he backed the right of Israelis to defend themselves, but pushed Netanyahu for ideas on how to relieve the tension. Netanyahu continued his public support for a two-state solution, but insisted that a solution would only come when the Palestinians relent and recognize Israel as a Jewish state---which the Palestinians continue to reject. You can see the press briefing here:

    Former President Bill Clinton's said last week in Israel in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, that peace is up to Israel. As the Associated Press reported:
    "He refused to give up his dream of peace in the face of violence," Clinton, who formed a close bond with Rabin when both were in office, said to roars of applause. "The next step will be determined by whether you decide that Yitzhak Rabin was right, that you have to share the future with your neighbors ... that the risks for peace are not as severe as the risk of walking away from it. Those of us who loved him and love your country are praying that you will make the right decision."
    Even last year, Clinton indicated that he didn't believe that Netanyahu could make peace. But this is false history, as Jonathan Tobin at Commentary pointed out, "if there is anything that the last 22 years have taught us it is that it clearly not up to the Israeli people."

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before the U.N. General Assembly today. It was a powerful speech -- one of, if not his best. The full speech is at the bottom of the post. The full text is here. Here are some highlights. Too bad neither John Kerry nor Amb. Samantha Power were present to hear it, and as a show of solidarity. Netanyahu had a powerful 45 seconds of silence shaming the U.N. for its silence on Iran's threats to destroy Israel. In the face of repeated Iranian threats and U.N. anti-Israel resolutions, Netanyahu declared "Israel will do whatever it must do to defend our state and to defend our people."

    Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted a webcast with American Jewish participants urging them to oppose the Iran nuke deal. His message reached an estimated 10,000 people, and served as a counter to propaganda spread by pro-deal activists plying the media with misinformation about the motive behind Israel's opposition. From the Washington Examiner:
    "The deal that was supposed to end nuclear proliferation, will actually trigger nuclear proliferation. It will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," contended Netanyahu. The Israeli Prime Minister, who spoke Tuesday afternoon on a video conference organized by the Jewish Federation of North America, pled with the nearly 10,000 participants to actively speak out against the deal. "The days when the Jewish people could not or would not speak up for themselves, those days are over," he said. "Today we can speak out. Today we must speak out. And we must do so together." Netanyahu, who has been an ardent critic of the deal argued that the agreement would bring Tehran closer to producing a nuclear weapon. "The nuclear deal with Iran doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb," he charged. "It actually paves Iran's path to the bomb." In the prime minister's estimation, if Iran upholds the agreement it could obtain a nuclear weapon within 15 years.

    The Obama administration and its supporters try to paint opposition to the Iran nuke deal as a Bibi Netanyahu problem. That's a convenient excuse, because it allows Obama to play the Democrat loyalty card among members still upset about Bibi's appearance in Congress. It also plays into "Israel Lobby" demonization, the bogeyman of the left. The opposition to the Iran nuke deal, however, is bringing together usual political enemies. Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic interviews Isaac Herzog, Bibi's primary domestic political opponent, Israeli Opposition Leader: Iran Deal Will Bring Chaos to the Middle East:
    Last December, when I interviewed the leader of Israel’s left-leaning Labor Party, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Forum, he said, in reference to nuclear negotiations with Iran: “I trust the Obama administration to get a good deal.” In a telephone call with me late last night, Herzog’s message was very different. The deal just finalized in Vienna, he said, “will unleash a lion from the cage, it will have a direct influence over the balance of power in our region, it’s going to affect our borders, and it will affect the safety of my children.”
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