Monday, May 18, 2009

Obama and Netanyahu- Iran and Pakistan

Shalom All,

The big debate going on right now concerns whether or not President Obama will bring pressure to bear upon Israel to make peace with the Palestinians when PM Netanyahu comes to Washington. The wisdom to this point has been that with Israel desiring a stronger tack against Iran by the US, there is leverage against Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians. This is wrong on multiple accounts and Netanyahu is aware of all of them.

First, Iran is at least as big a threat to the US and its interests as to Israel. Yes, an atomic bomb is an existential threat against Israel. However, just imagine the impact of a single detonation of a terrorist atom bomb in any major city in the United States. Such a strike would cripple our nation, result in the immediate rollback of liberty, and dramatically alter how we go about life. It would not kill us all, but the world would change fundamentally. Let's not pretend that the United States is not concerned about even atomic weapons, even without ballistic capabilities, in the hands of those who might use them. Thus, the entire "It's Israel's concern" argument is false. It is OUR existential concern as Americans as well.

Second, we need Israel to do something for us. You see, while Iran may primarily hate Israel, but certainly also despises the US, the US has tremendous problems in Pakistan and with the Pakistani government. You see, the Pakistanis, despite the fact that they are fighting a civil war against the Taliban who are being helped by Al Qaida, are far more concerned with India than with their own insurgents. India is a close ally of Israel. The plot thickens. It is of the utmost importance for the US to secure the Pakistani nuclear arsenal and in the grander scheme of things to prevent Pakistan from going Taliban. If the Pakistanis could be convinced that India is not a threat or more to the point, if India would agree not to be an immediate threat to Pakistan, the Pakistanis could take the fight to the Taliban far more than they are today. The key to getting India to agree just may be Israel.

This leads me to envision an intriguing situation. Netanyahu shows up in Washington with the press buzzing about whether or not he will agree to a two state solution when pressured by Obama. Meanwhile, Obama may well need to ask a favor rather than put forth pressure. The US needs Israel's influence. Take a look at recent news.

Just as an example, the US is asking Israel to warn it before it attacks Iran. Excuse me? I thought the US could pressure Israel to avoid doing that? In fact, I thought that the US told Israel not to attack already.

Rumors are already circulating that pressure is OFF Israel to concede a two state solution. Why? Because that is not currently the primary need of the US. If Israel seeks an exchange for US efforts against Iran, the US has greater priorities than a Palestinian state. Israeli influence with India is more important now than restarting fruitless peace talks with the Palestinians, even if it would make the Arab world happy. Moreover, the US is now the one doing the seeking. Israel likely feels that the only workable solutions with Iran involve sanctions that are only short term solutions and not immediately effective anyway. Hence, the US is holding WEAK CARDS. Israel is holding a royal flush.

Take a look at the two major problems:

1. Problem: Taliban control over Pakistan is an existential threat against the US since Al Qaida would be welcomed and the Taliban would be in control of vastly superior weapons technologies than they currently possess. Imagine Al Qaida roaming the world with several suitcase sized atomic weapons. The Taliban would also destabilize Afghanistan and force the US to redirect resources away from Iraq, allowing Iran to assert itself there. Answer: Pakistani forces need to be diverted from paying attention to India to fighting the insurgency. Solution: Israel can intercede with India, while the US allies itself with India's arch enemy, Pakistan.

2. Problem: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weaponry threatens to destabilize the Middle East and to potentially bring WMDs into the hands of religious zealot terrorists who hate America and American values almost as much as Zionists and Israel. The reality of course is that much of the rest of the Arab world hates Iran also. Answer: The nuclear program must be stopped. Either dramatic sanctions are effective and the weapons program is halted OR military strikes must occur against both nuclear facilities and refined petroleum facilities in Iran. Solutions: Option 1- garner international support for sanctions so that they are effective; Option 2- a major about face regarding the use of US military force and not diplomacy in Washington; or Option 3- a reliance upon Israel's military to get the job done.

The assertion that somehow by forcing Israel to appear to make concessions to the PA, moderate Arab nations would side against Iran is false, because those nations who would be willing to do so are already allied against Iran. They are also allied against the Taliban and Al Qaida. Israel's concessions cannot possibly bring new allies. Worse in fact for those who want the US to pressure Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians, negotiations between Israel and the PA, which are destined to fail, will only damage the coalition against Iran by weakening any Arab leadership working with Israel as their citizenry revolts against cooperation with Israel. In other words, even Arab support against Iran is likely to WEAKEN if the peace process is restarted because it is likely to fail right now. Additionally, as it would be politically impossible for the Obama administration to launch attacks against Iran, US options are limited.

Avoiding military conflict with Iran at ALL COSTS is NOT necessarily in anyone's interests other than Iran's, especially if the sanctions regime is not ramped up to the point of strangling the Iranian economy short of war. The currently imposed sanctions are not stopping Iranian nuclear progress. If the US does not want Israel to strike Iran, IT, not Israel, may have make a concession to the other on this issue as well.

In essence, the two major foreign policy problems facing the United States right now have few solutions and they all involve supporting Israel as it solves the above problems for the United States. One can only hope that the scare tactics being used now, hinting at Israeli strikes against Iran, for example, will be good enough to deter Iran short of actually military conflict. The US may have to offer OTHER concessions to Israel either to avoid attacking Iran or to help with India or BOTH.

Just about all of the bargaining chips that were on the table for the Palestinians are now gone again. More problematic for the Palestinians is that there is a disincentive to reinstate them going forward. Palestinian suffering is diplomatically more beneficial than Palestinian uprising. The risk from failure in the peace process is so damaging at the moment that it is greater than the reward of success.

Obama will almost certainly speak out publicly about the need to create a Palestinian state in the near future, while privately pleading with Israel to help on other issues and conceding the impossible position that the US is in regarding both Pakistan and Iran with Israel being the sole source of help to resolve its problems in both areas. Netanyahu may even help the US diplomatically by talking about the possibility of two states in the future, IF.... Meanwhile, there are bigger fish to fry for both nations.

The Palestinian bargaining position worsens day by day and semi-state status for the foreseeable future, rather than full sovereignty, becomes more and more likely. It isn't just Netanyahu who fears a Hamastan in the West Bank and Gaza, so do Egypt and Jordan as well as anyone who ever wants to see peace in the Holy Land, much less visit its holy sites. What will truly restart the peace process are major concessions by the PA to Israel that allay its security fears, including SUPPORTING, much less recognizing, its status as a Jewish state, and that allow it to move forward diplomatically with its own population. I certainly would not want to be negotiating from that position, which is significantly worse than that faced by Arafat in 2000.

People have wondered what the impact of 9/11 would be on relations between the US and the Arab world. Here is the result. Pakistan and Iran are now far and away the biggest security concerns because they possess, or might possess in the case of Iran, weapons that would make 9/11 pale by comparison. Afghanistan remains a top tier concern as well because it is from there under the Taliban that Al Qaida operated and the Taliban threaten to retake power. Iraq was included with Pakistan and Iran prior to 2003 regardless of whether or not it actually had WMDs because it could easily have constructed them, had them in the past, and had belligerent leadership that was associating with known terrorist entities, Hamas in particular. Internal Arab and Muslim world conflicts including Lebanon, the Palestinians, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, women's rights issues, modernization and a whole host of others have been relegated to second class concerns since 2001 and my friends, that is not simply because George Bush was President.

The simple fact of the matter is that our security trumps others' suffering. Their prosperity and their liberty are dependent on our security. Threatening the United States will result in the United States securing the prosperity and liberty of its own citizenry at the expense of those of others.

This brings me to the final point: OIL. The free flow of oil is still our primary concern PERIOD. Just imagine a Middle East in which a nuclear armed Talibanistan operates from a territory spanning Afghanistan and Pakistan, threatening the entire Indian Ocean, not to mention India, another nuclear power. Imagine on the other side of Afghanistan an Iran possessing nuclear weapons of its own. Now, envision them looking greedily at the vast amounts of money flowing into the hands of abusive despots in the major oil producing nations of the Persian Gulf and looking north toward the Muslim states of the former Soviet Union. Why stop there? Let's put Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of Gaza and the West Bank, operating major arms smuggling in the Sinai Peninsula, and threatening Egyptian sovereignty as well as the Suez Canal.

There could be real ugliness on the horizon and the key to all of it is the US-Israel relationship.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Pope and The Separation Barrier

"One of the saddest sights for me during my visit to these lands was the wall."

-Pope Benedict XVI

Shalom All,

I certainly understand the Pope's sentiments concerning the Separation Barrier. The "Wall" is a sign of the hatred that exists and the fear that hatred evokes. It is a sign of the separation of peoples who cannot get along.

For the Palestinians, it may divide them from parts of their families, keep them from lands and businesses, make their journeys longer in many cases and make them feel like prisoners. It is also a tangible reminder that Israel exists and that there will not be a single Palestinian state over the entirety of the territory. For many THAT evokes sadness and hatred.

But there is another side to the "Wall." For Israelis, the Barrier is a symbol of security and freedom. It is a barrier against the shredding of flesh, the murder of women and children, and the use of fear as a weapon. It is a barrier to violence against innocents and it has been exceedingly effective.

I'm not going to tell you that the ROUTE of the barrier, which is a FENCE and not a wall for most of its length, is ideal. It encompasses settlements that it my mind are indeed barriers to peace and will have to be removed for there to be a two state solution. The Israeli Supreme Court has ordered it moved in certain places because security concerns do not require its path. The essential requirement of the barrier is not to put post-1967 land on the Israeli side, but to prevent the slaughter of innocents. That its route encompasses some of the land East of the Green Line is necessary. That it juts into the West Bank to encompass enclaves like Ariel is HIGHLY PROBLEMATIC and rightly results in condemnation. In making peace, such issues will obviously need to be resolved. This all said, let us not pretend that when there are two states, suddenly there will be no need for the barrier. The barrier SAVES LIVES and will continue to save lives for the foreseeable future.

All one needs to do is look at the list of terror attacks against Israelis since 2000 and you will note the dramatic decline in both the quantity and effectiveness of attacks since the bulk of the barrier was completed by 2006. Just compare pre-2006 with post-2006:

But also think of this: there have been no major Israel incursions into the West Bank for years now. Why? Because the threat from the West Bank is minimal. People there can go about their lives without fear of Israeli military operations. During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, people in the West Bank watched the news on televisions in cafes without fear that suddenly dozens of tanks would pour through their villages. The barrier has provided real security for the Palestinians in the West Bank, not only for the Israelis, by allowing Israel and the Palestinians to avoid regular and increasing conflicts.

Now, I am not under the false pretense that "life is good" in the West Bank. Peace will make it far better. A Palestinian state in control of a large contiguous territory in the West Bank will make it overwhelmingly better. But right now, one of the things that has resulted in dramatically better lives for the people in the West Bank versus Gaza is that Israel has largely been able to leave the people of the West Bank alone. It has not had to send in forces to strike at would be slaughterers of innocents, while resulting in the collateral damage of civilian deaths and injuries, destroyed infrastructure, ruined economies,.... That is PRIMARILY the result of the effectiveness of the Security Barrier.

Shalom is not simply the absence of violence. Shalom is a sense of well-being that is achieved with the absence of the THREAT of violence.

It saddens me that the Pope did not acknowledge that the Separation Barrier is, for lack of a better term, a necessary evil. Taken in conjunction with the missed opportunity to connect with justified ONGOING, not only decades old, Jewish fears of genocide, the absence of acknowledgement of the Security Barrier as a RESULT of the real threats against the Jews and Jewish people from those who would continue the work of the NAZIs is in my mind glaring.

I think those ARE the Pope's sentiments. I simply wish that he had stated more explicitly in Bethlehem that there is a NEED for the barrier as long as there are threats of violence or even that he understood Israel's act in its construction as based upon its security fears. With many nations condemning Israel for defending its citizenry against those who would slaughter them, such a statement could have been greatly beneficial.

Immediately following the Pope's statement in Bethlehem, standing before the barrier, President Abbas' spoke. Abbas said that the “apartheid wall” was a bid by the Jewish state to drive Palestinian Christians and Muslims from the Holy Land. He spoke of “oppression, tyranny and land expropriation” and said Palestinians wanted a future with “no occupation, no checkpoints, no walls, no prisoners, no refugees”. Abbas gave the Pope's words CONTEXT that the Pope did not intend, because the Pope did not give them context that day.

If I were the speech writer for the Pope, I would have written the following words for him to have said in Bethlehem:

While I am saddened by the very existence of this wall and the conflict that has resulted in its construction, having just visited Yad Vashem, where I saw the results of the kind of libelous rhetoric about, murderous hatred against, and demonization of the Jewish people that are continually, even today, uttered against the Jews in the media, including on Palestinian television stations, by religious leaders, and on the streets in the Arab world and have been all too often put into action from THIS SIDE of the wall, I can understand WHY the wall behind me exists. For there to be a Palestinian state, the Jews must be allowed to live in peace and security in their own state on the OTHER SIDE of this wall. You must be allowed to live in peace and security on THIS SIDE of the wall in your own state. Someday, it is my fervent hope that the wall behind me will not separate enemies, but will divide friends and then it will be taken down. Let us pray for the coming of that day.


Friday, May 15, 2009

The Pope's Words

Shalom All,

I have noticed a trend recently that is exemplified by the article from YNET,7340,L-3707501,00.html. Arab leaders are now calling for a two state solution, while OPPOSING one of them being a Jewish state. Rather than calling for a single Palestinian state, Arab leaders advocating for the Palestinian side are PRETENDING to be supporters of "two states for two peoples" by agreeing to "two states." However, their intent is that BOTH states will become Palestinian states. They drop the "for two peoples" part of the statement. This is to be accomplished by insisting on the Right of Return of Palestinians to what is now Israel. As the Palestinians would then only be slightly less than a majority and have a much higher birthrate than the Jewish population, in a manner of short period of time, Israel will end up with a Palestinian majority. Thus, BOTH states would become Palestinian dominated states. Recent statements by President Abbas are strong indications that he is NOT as moderate as many on the world stage would like him to be.

The biggest problem that those desiring peace now face is that Israel seems to have a choice between maintaining a single state in which Jews dominate Palestinians, many of whom live in occupied territories, or agreeing to peace terms under which there will not be a Jewish state into the future. Even the political left is beginning to see this problem. The issue is not simply a question of a one or two state solution, but of "two states FOR TWO PEOPLES" meaning that one of those states would be a Jewish state. Even Ahmadinejad supports Abbas' version of two states in which in essence both would become Palestinian in short order.

Simply put, what is going on now is that leaders who seek the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state are SUPPORTING a TWO state solution, only doing so in such a way that ultimately NEITHER of those states will be JEWISH. Their support for "two states" allows them to APPEAR to be moderate, when they are very much not and continue to seek the end of the Jewish state.

They really want two states for ONE people.

For this reason, I was particularly appreciative of Pope Benedict's comments during his visit to Israel. There were those who eagerly jumped on his statements and said, "The Pope advocates for the creation of a Palestinian state!" No, my friends. The Pope's statement said much more than that. He said, "In union with people of good will everywhere, I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace IN A HOMELAND OF THEIR OWN, within secure and internationally recognized borders."

Taking a close look at what he actually said, the Pope essentially called for two states for TWO PEOPLES, meaning that one is a JEWISH state and one is a Palestinian state. Second, the Pope called for "secure" borders.

While many will pounce on this statement as advocating for the establishment of a Palestinian state plain and simple, it is definitely not. It is in fact much in line with the understanding of the Israeli government. If anything, the Pope's statement favors the ISRAELI position that at the end of negotiations there must be a JEWISH state, not just one of two states that happens to be within the boundaries of Israel's recognized borders, and that the states must have SECURE borders, the very phrase which is used to mean that the pre-1967 border is NOT necessarily what that border SHOULD be.

I found and find the Pope's words supportive of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people's desire for their homeland to remain a place of security for Jews.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Sermon on Remembering the Difficult Journeys

Sermon on Remembering the Difficult Journeys
May 8, 2009
Rabbi David Kaufman

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, continues the explanation of what it means to be Holy. Specifically, it concentrates on the priests maintaining a status of purity. Emor also contains the liturgical calendar including all of the festivals. Missing on that calendar are two events marked in the Jewish world recently, Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. I thought of talking about those modern Jewish holidays tonight.

I also considered talking about the hate-filled protest against the Jews and Gay and Lesbian community of Des Moines this week by a handful of crazy people from Westboro Baptist Church and about the fact that their pitiful protest paled in comparison to the opposition against it. Had we wished to allow them a modicum of attention, we could have arrayed hundreds of people standing on our side of the street, shouting in our support.

I thought about talking about the AIPAC Policy Conference and about the relationship between Israel and the United States today and the threats and challenges that Israel faces. I’ll leave that for some other time as well.

I actually began the day with the idea that I would discuss the dramatic changes that the financial crisis has brought to the Union for Reform Judaism and the threats that it poses to my beloved Hebrew Union College. I have spent no little time in the past couple of weeks working with other rabbis, lay leaders, and faculty members in the defense of the Cincinnati campus which was threatened with closure, but another thought came to mind.

I even thought of doing a sermon on the now widely circulating joke:

“They said that a black man would become President of the United States only when pigs fly and now, 100 days into his administration: Swine Flu!”

I thought to myself about all of the major changes that are going on in the world, all of the major issues, all of the sands that seem to be shifting beneath our feet. Then I decided to tell another story.

Dafer’s family’s story is like many in places where Jews were tolerated in the best of times and threatened during the worst. His mother’s family lived in Baghdad until the great Exodus of Jews from the Arab world to Israel from 1948 to 1952.

Once the nation of Israel was created, Jews living in Arab lands suffered tremendous persecution. The Iraqi government forced most of the Jewish population to leave the country. The majority fled to Israel but others went to any nation that would accept them.

Dafer was an exception. His mother had married an Iraqi Muslim and the government did not force them to leave. When the rest of the family was forced to flee with no notice, his mother and father were not, and did not find out that the family had gone to Israel until it was too late to keep in contact.

Why did they lose touch? Because anyone trying to reach out to someone in Israel from Iraq after that time would have been seen as a spy or traitor and been executed. They could possibly have contacted their relatives in other nations such as in Britain, but Dafer’s family didn’t have relatives or friends who could serve as bridge contacts with them to Israel.

Ammar, Dafer’s niece, relates in a letter that Dafer carries with him, that after the death of Dafer’s father in 1967, Farha, his mother, tried to reconnect the family with Judaism. The Baath party started to monitor them, no doubt wondering whether or not they were Israeli agents, and in order to protect her family, Farha had them once again stay away from the Jewish community.

After a long hiatus from Judaism, Ammar and Dafer’s family was emboldened after the 2003, US invasion to once again pursue rejoining the Jewish community. The guard at the Temple there told them that once there is a new government, they would reopen the Temple. Then new problems faced Dafer and Ammar’s family. The Mahdi Militia and Bader Militia, both Iranian backed organizations, found out that their family was Jewish and persecuted them, forcing them from their homes.

They ended up in Syria, where they sought out the Jewish community in El Hara El Yahodia, but the government of Syria had ordered the synagogue closed. Finding out that they were Jewish, the Syrian Intelligence Services then hounded them. Some Jewish people in Syria who heard of their plight then suggested that they escape to Jordan. The Jordanians refused to accept them because of Jordan’s own security problems with the Iraqis, so the family was sent back to Baghdad.

Back in Baghdad, the family was attacked by the militias that threatened them before. Two members of the family were killed and two others kidnapped and held for ransom.

At that point the family decided to appeal to go to Israel. They were eventually able to get to Turkey and Dafer made it to Des Moines, how and why I still do not know, where a Bus Trainer, someone who trains refugees in how to use the local buses to get around, brought him to Temple B’nai Jeshurun on a Friday afternoon.

When I arrived at Temple this afternoon, we had three guests. Two were from Lutheran Refugee Services and a third was an Iraqi Jewish immigrant who spoke almost no English, but knew enough to have his helper bring him here.

“We need someone who speaks Arabic!” Kathy, a volunteer at the Temple, told me as she spoke with the volunteers. “Arabic?” I thought. “Arabic?”

I thought of two people to call: my Sudanese friend, Francis Chan, who works with Arabic speaking refugees, and Nashi K., who is a member of Tifereth. I called them both. No answer. Mark Finkelstein of JCRC helped me tracked down Nashi while I spoke with the aid worker.

While we were talking, Dafer, handed me the letter written by his niece Ammar, that told the story of their plight.

Then Nashi arrived.

I cannot begin to tell you just how strange a place Des Moines is. Nashi, as far as I know the only Arabic speaking Jew in Iowa, happens to also be a Baghdadi Jew and has relatives who may know Dafer’s relatives in Israel. He promised to speak to them about Dafer’s family. Nashi was able to talk to Dafer and to relate to him in ways that no refugee aid worker could. Dafer now had a Jewish friend and an Iraqi Jewish friend at that! Talk about Mazel!

Three weeks ago, we were visited by Shlomo Molla, a Member of the Knesset of Israel who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia. He talked of literally walking hundreds of miles to be able to be flown to Israel, to freedom. Two weeks ago, we heard from Marion Blumenthal Lazan about her journey during the Holocaust, eventually coming to this country. Hopefully, all of us have heard the story of our own Peter Pintus.

I was struck as I thought about all of these stories, just HOW easy, HOW good, HOW blessed my life has been and continues to be.

I live in a place where when hateful people come to protest against me because I am a Jew, more people come to my defense and virtually everyone considers the hateful people to be ignorant idiots. I live in a place that is not threatened by war or sectarian violence. I live in a place where a wandering Jew from a foreign land is brought to synagogue by helpful Christians wanting to aid him in his practice of Judaism! I live in a place and in a time when I truly need to seek out stories of those Jews who were not and are not so fortunate.

I truly need to remember. We need to remember.

It was not long ago that Jews faced tremendous discrimination in this country.

It was not more that two generations ago that Jews marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and sat with members of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee at lunch counters where they were refused service and forcibly removed.

It was not long ago that virtually every country club not founded by Jews denied their admittance as members.

It was not long ago when indeed people would have thought that pigs would fly before America would elect a President from a racial minority.

It was not terribly long ago that in every Jewish gathering could be heard the accents of Eastern Europe. It was not long ago. But today, my friends, it is too easy to forget.

The stories of the journeys from oppression to freedom become almost mythical, something that happened THEN to THEM, not NOW and not to US.

This afternoon, I was reminded of just how special it is to live in this nation of freedom and security.

At the AIPAC Conference, I had the opportunity to hear from Clarence Jones, who was Martin Luther King’s attorney and a close friend. Clarence Jones related Dr. King’s story of his visit to a Conference with Conservative Rabbis in honor of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s birthday. Dr. King said that as he and Rabbi Heschel entered the room, the convention, 1,000 rabbis began chanting, “We shall overcome” in Hebrew.

The words are:

Anu nitgabeir, anu nitgabeir, anu nitgabeir bevo hayom.
Ani ma'amin be'emunah shleimah, nitgabeir bevo hayom.

The last verse combining the principles of Maimonides with the anthem of the Civil Rights movement.

“I believe with perfect faith that we shall overcome someday.”

I thought that it would be appropriate to conclude with those words.


Anu nitgabeir, anu nitgabeir, anu nitgabeir bevo hayom!
Ani ma'amin be'emunah shleimah, nitgabeir bevo hayom!

We shall overcome, but we still have a lot of work to do.

Shabbat Shalom


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

An Impression of AIPAC Policy Conference 2009

Shalom All,

There is a false perception that AIPAC is somehow an organization of the political right. Anti-Israel groups have worked hard to give people that false impression. Many in the Jewish community, see AIPAC also WRONGLY as an advocate for the Israeli political right. In many ways, Jewish peace groups are responsible for that falsity. One need only look at the depth and breadth of the AIPAC Policy Conference to see the dramatic error in those false conceptions of AIPAC.

AIPAC is a BI-PARTISAN organization seeking to maintain and strengthen the bonds of friendship between the United States and Israel. It DOES NOT advocate for or against specific policies of the nation of Israel. AIPAC's lobbying agenda this year included three things, all of which were sponsored by leading Senators and Representatives from BOTH parties.

First, efforts need to be strengthened to increase the diplomatic pressure put upon Iran to cease its development of nuclear weaponry and to allow its nuclear efforts, regardless of whether they are intended for peaceful purposes as Iran contends or for military purposes as others contend, to be monitored far more closely by the IAEA. Failing this effort, should Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, the Middle East will become a new home for nuclear proliferation as other nations will follow in their footsteps. Additionally, as a grossly destabilizing force in the Middle East, Iran's power and influence would be strengthened, something that bodes ill for the future of the region. To have the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world in possession of nuclear weaponry will enhance the threat that all terrorist organizations backed by Iran pose to Iran's enemies, which includes at the top of the list, Israel and the United States. Furthermore, to have Iran, which has threatened Israel's demise, in possession of the means to execute that plan is simply unconscionable. Thus, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act is being introduced in the House and Senate by leading members of BOTH parties in the hope of achieving an end to Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions short of military action by strengthening sanctions against Iran.

Second, as there is a new administration and new Congress in Washington, there is a desire to reiterate the basic points essential to maintaining a positive working relationship between the United States and Israel regarding the peace process. To that end, a letter was written to President Obama, again with Bi-Partisan origin, asking that the fundamental principles of the peace process be maintained, namely that the US must continue to insist that the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist, that they renounce terror, and that they abide by previous resolutions. This is particularly important considering efforts to form a unity government including Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, promotes and practices terror, and refuses to abide by previous resolutions. Additionally, the administration is asked to promote a bi-lateral solution to the crisis between the Israelis and Palestinians with the understanding that imposed solutions have failed to achieve positive results. The parties must negotiate face to face with each other.

Third, maintaining the Security Assistance to Israel and passing the entire Foreign Aid bill is essential. The assistance is vital to Israel's security and since 75% of the money given in aid is spent in the US, Foreign Aid also provides a stimulus to our economy.

These three issues have overwhelming BI-PARTISAN support.

As I listened to the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, once vilified in Israel for his dovish attitudes by its political right and who spent almost his entire speech talking about Israel's pursuit of peace, being shouted down by American Jewish peace protestors chanting "Free Gaza," as if this Nobel Prize winning peace maker wanted something other than freedom for the people of Gaza , I felt strengthened. Peres' voice of peace, honored by AIPAC, was far more powerful than the "peace protesters" voices in support of ignorant hatred. I wanted to call out to those souls blinded by hatred of their fellow Jews, "Free them from Hamas! Free them from hatred!" But, to have interrupted Shimon Peres again would have been to insult the desire for peace, because that desire was the central theme of his speech that day and that desire has been the central theme of his life. Three misguided protestors brought that point home all the stronger.

The first protestor shouted without listening as he said, "It is clear in our eyes that peace may require painful compromises, difficult concessions. Compromises require two conditions. First, peace must be real, lasting, mutually respected. We have to guarantee that our children -- actually, all children -- will be free from war, will breathe the fresh air of peace -- all children, from all nations, from all parties. And then, secondly, peace should enable Israel to protect its people, to realize the fundamental responsibility of a free government, namely to defend its people from harm, to enable them to meet opportunities."

The second jeered without caring as he said, "The same is true for the future of the Palestinian people as well. I say it loudly, because I believe in it more fondly. The Palestinian people have the right to govern themselves. We don't want to be their masters. They have the right to invest their resources, to direct aid to civil high tech, not military rocket -- to books, not bombs -- to their people, so their people can be both free and prosperous, free from fear, free from hunger."

The third stood and blotted out his memory when he remembered, "I can still see with my eyes and feel with my heart when President Sadat landed from Egypt. We thought he came from the moon. If Anwar Sadat had not courageously taken the one-hour flight between Cairo and Jerusalem, I doubt peace would be achieved. We were ready. He showed his readiness."

And at the conclusion of his speech, he might as well have been speaking to those protestors when he said:

Ladies and gentlemen, to know the future you have to remember our history. Calling history is actually remembering the past. But as you know, we are pragmatic people. So when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he turned to his people and called them. "People, listen, Israel. Shema Yisrael." He asked them -- he asked us to listen, so we shall be able to hear the prophetic message, the mountainous music of peace and justice to this very day. But as you know, we are pragmatists. So the people replied, "We shall do and listen. Naaseh Venishma."

AIPAC is an organization that includes large numbers of Christian supporters of Israel from every ethnicity in America, of every economic level, and of walk of political life. It is an organization for all of those who support Israel's security and advocate for its peaceful future. It's membership does not by any means all agree on the ways to go about achieving those goals, but that membership understands that the friendship between the United States and Israel is essential to them and mutually beneficial. If only more of us listened, perhaps more of us would do the right things. Naaseh v'nishma!

Od yavo shalom aleinu v'al kol Yisrael v'al kol amim.
Someday peace will come for us, for all of the people of Israel, and for all peoples.