"Israel-first" now the law.

28 Jul

On 27 July, President Obama signed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, thus making it the law of the land.  See my previous entry immediately under this one to read a summary of the bill.  I decided to post a new entry on this rather than merely an update to the previous, as I found some of the president’s remarks upon signing the bill to be rather remarkable and wanted to highlight them.

First, Obama’s remarks as he signed the bill.  I have bolded certain portions of interest: Obama actually brags about bringing Israel into our internal security operations (albeit without details), additional spending of US money on Israel (although he only cites the figure for the Iron Dome project and not overall increases), and how the US has to keep Israel secure and safe.  He notably does not mention that the bill allows the Israeli air force to practice within American air space or detail exactly how deep the “cooperation” on security matters will go.

Remarks upon signing the bill – full text:

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Hope you guys are all staying cool.  Well, listen, I just wanted to welcome these outstanding leaders to the Oval Office.  I want to in particular acknowledge Congressman Howard Berman and Senator Barbara Boxer, who have done outstanding work in shepherding through this bipartisan piece of legislation that underscores our unshakeable commitment to Israel.

As many of you know, I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues — intelligence, military, technology.  And, in many ways, what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really, at an unprecedented level between our two countries that underscore our unshakeable commitment to Israel security.

I’m also very pleased that this week we are going to be able to announce $70 million in additional spending — $70 billion [million]*, excuse me, in additional spending for Iron Dome.  [Teri’s note: the correct figure is $70 million additional for the Iron Dome program alone, and does not reflect overall US monetary benefits to Israel.]  This is a program that has been critical in terms of providing security and safety for the Israeli families.  It is a program that has been tested and has prevented missile strikes inside of Israel.  And it is testimony to the leadership of the folks sitting here that we’re going to be able to lock in that fund to assure that that program continues and that we are standing by our friends in Israel when it comes to these kinds of attacks.

Let me just close by saying that the tragic events that we saw in Bulgaria emphasize the degree to which this continues to be a challenge not just for Israel, but for the entire world — preventing terrorist attacks and making sure the people of Israel are not targeted.

And I hope that, as I sign as this bill, once again everybody understands how committed all of us are — Republicans and Democrats — as Americans to our friends in making sure that Israel is safe and secure.

Leon Panetta, our Secretary of Defense, will be traveling to Israel to further consult and find additional ways that we can ensure such cooperation at a time when, frankly, the region is experiencing heightened tensions.

So, with that, let me sign this bill.  Again, I want to thank all who are standing beside me for their outstanding leadership and their outstanding work on this issue.
(The bill is signed.)

Next, let’s look at the White House fact sheet about the bill.  Again, the bolding is mine.  The amount of money going to Israel is astounding and the White House even acknowledges that we are funding Israel generously “despite tough fiscal times”.  The priorities of Congress and Obama are repulsively laid out in microcosm here; while Americans continue to lose jobs and homes and get bitch-slapped into poverty in unprecedented numbers, Congress votes to take financial support from the American people and send US tax-payer monies overseas to fund military operations in a foreign country.  Because Israel can depend on the US to finance more than one-fifth of its military budget, the Israeli government can spend its money on such benefits as universal health care for its citizens.  I hope they appreciate it – it’s one thing we are never going to offer our own people, because we “don’t have the cash”.    [From wikipedia on Israel’s universal health coverage: “Health care in Israel is universal and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory. Health care coverage is administered by a small number of organizations, with funding from the government. All Israeli citizens are entitled to the same Uniform Benefits Package, regardless of which organization they are a member of, and treatment under this package is funded for all citizens regardless of their financial means. Generally, health care in Israel is of high-quality and is delivered in an efficient and effective manner. Partly as a result of this, at an overall 82 years, Israelis enjoy the fourth-longest life expectancy in the world as of 2012.”]

There is a significant amount of rhetorical threat against Iran in this WH “fact sheet” on the Israel-first bill.  Whether this is included simply as column B of the menu or to actually signal Obama’s increasing willingness to start another war remains to be seen.  In this fact sheet, Obama gloats about the long history of his sanctions against Iran – even bringing up his ex-Congressional executive orders – but neglects to admit that the sanctions are a form of economic warfare and the supposed reasons for sanctioning Iran have no basis in facts.  Iran, in truth, has not been found to be violating their nuclear agreements or to be developing nuclear weapons.  Obama says that “the impact on Iran has been severe”, but does not detail just how Iranian civilians are suffering because of them, with soaring food and medicine prices driving many of them into hunger and rising transportation costs preventing them from being able to keep their jobs.  Our State Department has admitted that the forced destitution of the Iranian people is our goal, in much the same way we deliberately intended to harm the Iraqis through the US/UN sanctions in the 1990’s.  We seem to think the sanctions will turn the Iranians against their own government even though time after time, in country after country, what really happens is that civilians tend to become more nationalistic and blame the sanctioning governments for their misery.

Notice that here again, no mention is made of the fact that we have offered to host the Israeli air force, nor are any specific details spelled out regarding the level of “help” Israel will give us with our own internal security.  Also not brought up is the part of the bill which starts the process of including Israel in NATO.

Fact Sheet on the bill from the White House, in full:

The President has strengthened Israel’s security in tangible and concrete ways.

On July 27, 2012 the President signed the “United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012”, which strengthens Israel’s qualitative military edge.  The bill expressed bipartisan Congressional support for Administration initiatives that deepen U.S. defense and security cooperation with Israel, to include providing Israel with financial and technological assistance to produce defensive systems to counter the threat of rockets and missiles; access to U.S. manufactured defense equipment and excess defense articles; and increased opportunities to train with U.S. military forces.

Despite tough fiscal times, the President fought for and secured full funding for Israel in FY 2012, including $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing – the largest amount of funding for Israel in U.S. history.

The President secured an additional $205 million in FY 2011 to help produce an Israeli-developed short-range rocket defense system called Iron Dome, which has helped defend Israeli communities against rocket attacks by successfully striking rockets as they are fired at Israeli civilians.

In July 2012, President Obama provided an additional $70 million to Israel to ensure that Israel could maximize its production of the Iron Dome system for 2012.  Over the next three years, the Administration intends to request additional funding for Iron Dome, based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat.

Israeli forces now benefit from regular joint exercises and training opportunities, access to advanced U.S. military hardware, emergency stockpiles, and favorable terms for the acquisition of equipment.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the AIPAC conference on May 23, 2012, that “Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.  He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented… And he has backed those words with deeds.”

In a July 25, 2012, speech to the Israeli National Security College, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “The security ties between us and the current administration are at the highest level they have ever been.  The administration is consistently strengthening the depths of Israel’s security abilities.  The decision to expand the Iron Dome system with U.S. financial backing is yet another expression of this deep connection and commitment.”

The President has galvanized the international community to put more pressure on the Iranian regime than ever before.
President Obama has been clear that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  He has backed up this commitment with tangible steps to increase pressure substantially on the Iranian regime and raise the costs of its defiance of the international community.

With President Obama’s leadership, the United States gained the support of Russia, China, and other nations to pass United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, creating the most comprehensive and biting international sanctions regime the Iranian government has ever faced.  This resolution imposes restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, ballistic missile program, conventional military exports to Iran, Iranian banks and financial transactions, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Obama Administration also worked with allies such as the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada, and others to adopt additional national measures to increase pressure on the Iranian regime, including in the financial, banking, insurance, transportation, and energy sectors.  Iran is now virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system and we are working aggressively to isolate Iran even further.

In addition to multilateral sanctions, President Obama worked with Congress to pass in 2010 the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which strengthens existing U.S. sanctions, and makes it harder for the Iranian government to buy refined petroleum and the goods it needs to modernize its oil and gas sector.  Already, close to $60 billion in energy-related projects in Iran have been put on hold or discontinued.

More recently, the Administration worked with Congress to develop Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which makes sanctionable a host of transactions involving the Central Bank of Iran.

The United States has worked closely with partners during the first half of 2012 to secure their cooperation with these sanctions, resulting in the significant reduction of purchases of oil from all of Iran’s major oil trading partners.  For instance, the European Union has put in place a full embargo on Iranian oil.  The impact on Iran has been severe, with perhaps as much as 1 million barrels per day in sales revenue taken away from Iran, at the cost of billions per month.

International companies are increasingly recognizing the risks of doing business with Iran and are abandoning existing business opportunities, declining to take advantage of new ones, and scaling back any existing relationships.  This trend has been replicated across a broad range of industries.  Examples of companies withdrawing from business with Iran include:  Shell, Total, ENI, Statoil, Repsol, Lukoil, Kia, Toyota, Siemens, and foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms such as GE, Honeywell, and Caterpillar.

The Obama Administration is working to develop more sanctions to further isolate and increase the pressure on the Iranian regime.  The President signed two new Executive Orders in April 2012 that addressed human rights violations and sanctions evasion, and we continue to look for new ways to expand our authorities and strengthen our implementation of existing ones to ensure that Iran understands that its failure to comply with its international obligations will have ever intensifying consequences.
The President has stood with Israel in times of crisis.

The President personally intervened to help avert catastrophe when a violent mob stormed the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.  Afterwards, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said of the President: “I requested his assistance at a decisive—I would even say fateful—moment.  He said he would do everything possible, and this is what he did. He activated all of the United States’ means and influence — which are certainly considerable.  I believe we owe him a special debt of gratitude.”
The President has made clear that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Hamas, a terrorist group sworn to its destruction.

In his speech in Cairo and elsewhere, the President has consistently demanded that Hamas accept Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to all existing agreements before it can play a role in achieving Middle East peace.
The President has spoken out forcefully to condemn Hamas attacks against Israelis.  He has made clear that “it is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.  That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.”  At the United Nations, he emphasized that “the slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance – it’s injustice.”

The President has forcefully opposed unbalanced and biased actions against Israel in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and across the UN system.

The President has consistently opposed attempts to shortcut the peace process through resolutions at the United Nations.  When an effort was made to insert the Security Council into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it.  In his September 21, 2011 address to the United Nations General Assembly, the President said “I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades.  Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.”

When the UN General Assembly voted for a commemoration in September 2011 of the original 2001 Durban conference, we voted against it and announced we would not participate.  When the Goldstone Report was released, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself.

The President has called on all sides – Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis alike – to do their part to help achieve Middle East peace.
In Cairo, the President said that Arab states must recognize that they too have responsibilities to move towards peace, including by fostering a culture of peace.  He said clearly that “threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong,” and that denying the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”
In his May 19, 2011 speech, President Obama emphasized that a peace agreement must meet the needs of both sides, including by:  ending the conflict and resolving all claims, achieving the goal of two states for two peoples with Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people, achieving secure and recognized borders for both sides, and devising robust security arrangements that will not leave Israel vulnerable.


On the above mentioned Goldstone report, you can read a summary of it here:

Hillary we-came-we-saw-he-died Clinton spoke the truth about why the US did not endorse the Goldstone report:  “On 26 February 2010, in testimony before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Hillary ‘admitted that the report was problematic for the United States and other countries, which face the same type of war on terrorism coming out of populated areas’. She also warned that if the Goldstone report were to set the international standards, the U.S. and many other countries might be accused of war crimes for their military operations.”  – from the wikipedia article mentioned above.

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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Congress, Iran


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