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November 7, 2015 1

Getting the U.S.-Israel Relationship Back on Track

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

As Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu arrives this week­end in the U.S. and pre­pares to meet Pres­i­dent Obama next week, there is an oppor­tu­nity for the two coun­tries to reboot rela­tions head­ing into the final stretch of the Obama Administration.

Some believe this will be chal­leng­ing. Many have writ­ten about the per­son­al­ity clash between the two lead­ers. But I think the impact has been exag­ger­ated. How­ever, there cer­tainly have been sig­nif­i­cant pol­icy dif­fer­ences between them over the past sev­eral years.

This was par­tic­u­larly obvi­ous dur­ing the debate around the so-called Iran deal. In that frac­tious exchange, there were tough words exchanged all around. At times, com­pet­ing claims degen­er­ated into slan­der­ous attacks. But both sides should now take a deep breath.

Even deal oppo­nents should rec­og­nize that Pres­i­dent Obama chose a path that he and many experts believed to be sen­si­ble. Based on the analy­sis of experts, the admin­is­tra­tion felt that the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action served not only the U.S. national inter­est but also the inter­ests of our allies in the region, includ­ing Israel. The Anti-Defamation League did not agree with this assess­ment, but many experts and orga­ni­za­tions did.

When he adopted this posi­tion, some fool­ishly labeled the pres­i­dent and his aides as anti-Semitic, a ground­less charge that seems espe­cially weak after a cur­sory review of the facts. Pres­i­dent Obama and his team have con­sis­tently renewed mil­i­tary sup­port for the Jew­ish state and pro­vided diplo­matic sup­port for Israel at the United Nations and in other fora. More­over, not only has the pres­i­dent pro­vided moral sup­port to Israel by link­ing the quest for Jew­ish sov­er­eignty to the Amer­i­can civil rights move­ment, but he has joined U.K. Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron and Pope Fran­cis as world lead­ers who appro­pri­ately have ques­tioned the true moti­va­tions of those who reject Israel’s legit­i­macy as a Jew­ish state.

By the same token, deal sup­port­ers should acknowl­edge that Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu and the Israeli gov­ern­ment took a strong stance against the deal, not out of a desire to be oppo­si­tional to Pres­i­dent Obama or because of a polit­i­cal agenda. Rather, the Israeli posi­tion was derived from a strongly held view grounded in facts that a mil­i­ta­rized and nor­mal­ized Islamic Repub­lic is an exis­ten­tial threat to Israel. Crit­ics who deny this fact seem dan­ger­ously out of touch with reality.

Indeed, since the deal was signed, the Islamic Repub­lic has explic­itly repeated its refusal to accept Israel as a legit­i­mate mem­ber of the fam­ily of nations. Iran­ian prox­ies con­tinue to pur­sue ter­ror­ism against the Jew­ish state. The hos­til­ity and mil­i­tarism of the regime has not ebbed in any per­cep­ti­ble man­ner. And, if we take the Iran­ian lead­er­ship at their word, includ­ing recent state­ments by Supreme Leader Aya­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, it would appear that Israeli con­cerns are well-founded.

Fur­ther com­pound­ing legit­i­mate pol­icy dif­fer­ences, indi­vid­u­als on both sides occa­sion­ally have resorted to ad home­nim attacks, whether indi­vid­u­als in Jerusalemderid­ing Pres­i­dent Obama as anti-Semitic or unnamed offi­cials in the admin­is­tra­tion dis­parag­ing Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu as “chicken-s—.” In both cases, offi­cials dimin­ished them­selves and their nations with such crass slander.

Look­ing ahead to the upcom­ing visit, both sides have an oppor­tu­nity to move past the acri­mony and acknowl­edge that the two coun­tries have far more in com­mon than the issues that divide them.

For the U.S., Israel remains a robust democ­racy and a bedrock island of sta­bil­ity in a region that seems less sta­ble by the hour. Israel’s com­mit­ment to the rule of law, basic free­doms and human decency dis­tin­guishes it from every other coun­try and non-state actor in the Mid­dle East. And the Jew­ish state is a hub of inno­va­tion whose tech­no­log­i­cal achieve­ments power our prod­ucts, whose ground­break­ing research sup­ports agri­cul­ture and man­u­fac­tur­ing, and whose sci­en­tific advance­ments enable med­i­cine and uplift human­ity. And the Amer­i­can peo­ple at a grass­roots level empir­i­cally sup­port the Jew­ish state.

For Israel, the U.S, remains its most impor­tant ally. Amer­ica has been unflinch­ing in its sup­port for Israel in inter­na­tional cir­cles and mul­ti­lat­eral fora that all too often ostra­cize the Jew­ish state. The U.S. has been a cru­cial source of mil­i­tary assis­tance but also an extra­or­di­nary reser­voir of eco­nomic sup­port and com­mer­cial invest­ment at a time when the can­cer of “Boy­cotts, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions” con­tin­ues to grow. And America’s bedrock com­mit­ment to a fair and just res­o­lu­tion of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, one that guar­an­tees Israel’s legit­i­mate secu­rity inter­ests, remains cru­cial to the long-term prospects for peace in the region.

And, as incite­ment per­sists and vio­lence con­tin­ues to flare, both the U.S. and Israel still share a fun­da­men­tal inter­est in see­ing an even­tual end to the con­flict through a two-state solu­tion. To get the process back on track, pre­lim­i­nary steps will be required, includ­ing a ces­sa­tion of vio­lence on the Pales­tin­ian side and the reestab­lish­ment of trust among both par­ties. Nonethe­less, the U.S. and Israel share an inter­est in facil­i­tat­ing this out­come and achiev­ing a just and last­ing peace for all parties.

Amer­ica and Israel have far more in com­mon than the crit­ics care to men­tion. Next week — when the lead­ers shake hands — it will be an oppor­tu­nity to remind the world of the shared inter­ests that bind the two nations.

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August 13, 2015 2

Where We Stand on the Iran Deal

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

The debate about the Iran nuclear deal has com­pelled us to con­sult with mem­bers of Con­gress and Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials as well as to engage numer­ous experts to elicit a deeper under­stand­ing of the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its impli­ca­tions for the United States.

From the begin­ning, we raised a series of ques­tions to Con­gress. Based on what we know now, our deep reser­va­tions expressed on July 24 remain. Indeed, because our pro­found con­cerns with the agree­ment have not yet been sat­is­fac­to­rily addressed, ADL believes that Con­gress should vote no.

Nev­er­the­less and regard­less of the out­come of a vote in Con­gress, we see an oppor­tu­nity for all sides to find new ground based on bipar­ti­san col­lab­o­ra­tion to con­sider a new way to approach the Islamic Repub­lic. This is cru­cial because, despite the nuclear accord that has been struck, Iran clearly con­tin­ues its nefar­i­ous behav­ior in the region. It must be addressed head on.

Yes, the deal offers sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers in Iran’s nuclear path, for at least a decade that will keep Iran from acquir­ing a nuclear weapon, con­straints not cur­rently avail­able through any other means. But, as noted by many experts, these lim­i­ta­tions come to an end within 15 years in the best case. The poten­tial loop­holes in these con­straints con­tribute to our unease. We admired the clar­ity of the rea­son­ing offered by one of the Senate’s most respected, long-standing mem­bers, Sen. Chuck Schumer which crys­tal­ized those concerns.

To be clear, we respect and appre­ci­ate the com­mit­ment of the Admin­is­tra­tion and Mem­bers of Con­gress who have engaged in a seri­ous and sus­tained effort over many years to neu­tral­ize the Iran­ian nuclear threat. We do not pur­port to pos­sess expert knowl­edge of the com­plex­i­ties of nuclear physics or sanc­tions. How­ever, ADL has had pol­icy on this issue for over a decade because of our mis­sion: to fight the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all. And, for decades, Iran repeat­edly has pro­moted anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism; killed Amer­i­can civil­ians; threat­ened to oblit­er­ate the Jew­ish State; and insti­tu­tion­al­ized illib­er­al­ism. So we are con­cerned not only that the agree­ment appears to offer Iran a legal and legit­i­mate path­way to become a nuclear thresh­old state in just over a decade, but more imme­di­ately, stand­ing as a nor­mal­ized mem­ber of the inter­na­tional community.

In exchange for paus­ing rather than per­ma­nently ter­mi­nat­ing its nuclear pro­gram, Iran will receive bil­lions of dol­lars that, con­trary to the argu­ments offered by admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, will almost cer­tainly allow it to advance its agenda of big­otry, expan­sion­ism and sup­port for ter­ror­ism. Indeed in recent days, we have seen com­mer­cial del­e­ga­tions flood into Tehran even as its lead­ers flout inter­na­tional sanc­tions by vis­it­ing for­eign cap­i­tals; its judi­ciary represses reli­gious minori­ties at home; and its incite­ful rhetoric becomes even more sophis­ti­cated and stri­dent. These are omi­nous signs.

We want diplo­macy to work, and we fully accept there are times when our lead­ers must forge agree­ments with coun­tries whose ambi­tions we oppose. We are aware, how­ever, that this deal walks past many of the red lines orig­i­nally drawn by the United States and embold­ens the Iran­ian regime even as it con­tin­u­ally threat­ens the U.S. and our allies. That is why the United States must work to ensure that the ulti­mate red line, as stated by suc­ces­sive U.S. Pres­i­dents, that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon, is made crys­tal clear not only in words, but through con­crete steps taken both uni­lat­er­ally and in con­cert with our allies.

Indeed, there are poli­cies and actions relat­ing to Iran’s aggres­sion that Repub­li­cans, Democ­rats and the White House might actu­ally agree upon. As such, we urge all sides to move beyond a sim­ple “yes” or “no” vote to affirm our shared val­ues as the basis for new efforts to cur­tail the threat­en­ing activ­i­ties of the Islamic Republic.

As Dr. Robert Sat­loff, Direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton Insti­tute for Near East Pol­icy, noted in an online essay in The Atlantic, a vote to dis­ap­prove the deal can actu­ally open up space for the Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress to address many, if not all, the seri­ous con­cerns expressed about the short­com­ings of the JCPOA and the chal­lenges Iran­ian behav­ior pose to the region and the world. In Dr. Satloff’s words, “‘No’ doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean ‘no, never.’ It also can also mean ‘not now, not this way.’”

This is impor­tant because Amer­i­cans of all polit­i­cal per­sua­sions agree on the intrin­sic dig­nity of all peo­ple. As such, the United States should ratchet up the costs to Iran for its oppres­sive poli­cies and regional med­dling even as we offer an out­stretched hand when it finally ceases such activ­i­ties. There is a clear oppor­tu­nity for a non-ideological con­sen­sus around three related points that can take us forward.

We believe a con­sen­sus can be cre­ated to address Iran’s bru­tal human rights record. No one in any polit­i­cal camp here in the U.S. would excuse the insti­tu­tion­al­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion fac­ing eth­nic and reli­gious minori­ties in Iran, includ­ing Baha’is, Chris­tians, Jews, and Sunni Arabs. Their treat­ment ranges from quiet intim­i­da­tion to sys­tem­atic impris­on­ment. LGBT cit­i­zens fare far worse. The U.S. should be vig­i­lant in using exist­ing sanc­tions tar­get­ing these prac­tices and explore new tools that might be needed. Seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion also should be given to tak­ing action against Iran in inter­na­tional fora, for its repres­sive poli­cies toward its own peo­ple sim­ply because of what they believe or who they love.

Another impor­tant point of con­sen­sus is the broad under­stand­ing that Israel has a lot to worry about con­cern­ing Iran. Sup­port for ever-deepening mil­i­tary and strate­gic coop­er­a­tion between the U.S. and Israel is broad, con­sis­tent, and bipar­ti­san. We pro­pose that the U.S. deepen its intel­li­gence coop­er­a­tion with Israel and work with the Jew­ish state to ensure it has suf­fi­cient defense arrange­ments, such that the President’s oft-stated recog­ni­tion that “Israel has the right to defend itself by itself” can match Israeli capa­bil­i­ties. Some have sug­gested that the deliv­ery to Israel of the Mas­sive Ordi­nance Pen­e­tra­tor (M.O.P.), and the means to deploy it would demon­strate this regard­ing the Iran­ian nuclear infra­struc­ture; how­ever, this prin­ci­ple should be acted upon with regard to all aspects of the Iran­ian threat. And it would be con­struc­tive for the Israeli gov­ern­ment to begin to engage with the Admin­is­tra­tion on these issues as soon as possible.

As a third con­sen­sus point, all par­ties know that Iran con­tin­ues to desta­bi­lize the region and expand its sphere of influ­ence using mili­tias and ter­ror­ist prox­ies. Time and again, the words and actions of the Islamic Repub­lic have reflected a ten­dency toward war­mon­ger­ing and worse. We would like to see the Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress artic­u­late a regional strat­egy to counter desta­bi­liz­ing Iran­ian activ­i­ties across the Mid­dle East, includ­ing work­ing with regional allies. This could involve inter­dict­ing the flow of Iran­ian weapons as well as engag­ing the Gulf Coor­di­nat­ing Coun­cil (GCC) directly in dis­cus­sions around neu­tral­iz­ing the Assad regime in Syria and coun­ter­ing Iran­ian inter­ven­tion in Yemen. It could encom­pass a new mul­ti­lat­eral arrange­ment to address Iran’s increas­ing use of cyber-terrorism to threaten its neigh­bors and attack our own institutions.

Finally, we implore all sides to tone down the heated rhetoric. The debate about the JCPOA and addi­tional dis­cus­sions should be con­ducted by all par­ties in a civil man­ner. No one needs to resort to innu­endo or coarse attacks.

We stress that ADL can­not sup­port the JCPOA in its cur­rent form. With­out offer­ing a robust set of mea­sures to account for its vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, the JCPOA presents too great a risk to the U.S. and for our crit­i­cal allies like Israel. Until the admin­is­tra­tion acts to address these con­cerns, and whether or not it is approved by Con­gress, we urge a new path for­ward that con­vinces Iran to eschew its agenda of big­otry and vio­lence. We should come together around smart pol­icy approaches to enable this out­come and rebuild the con­fi­dence of our allies and those around the world who rightly feel uneasy about liv­ing in a Mid­dle East in which an embold­ened Iran has new resources and new stand­ing to empower it.

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April 23, 2015 0

Israel’s Independence at 67: Living Up to the Ideals of its Founders

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

Israel Flag











As Israel cel­e­brates its 67th Inde­pen­dence Day, it is easy to fall into one or two cat­e­gories in reaction.

One entails an “oy gevalt syn­drome” — the sky is falling.  Just look at Israel, its rela­tions with its main ally, the United States.  An Israeli gov­ern­ment is on the verge of being formed after national elec­tions that looks like it will be more right-wing than its pre­de­ces­sor which may inevitably exac­er­bate rela­tions with the U.S., pos­si­bly fur­ther iso­late Israel from the Euro­pean Union, and spur expanded BDS activ­ity on cam­puses and else­where.  And Israel’s demo­c­ra­tic val­ues may be under assault from a Haredi and right-wing politi­cians who will seek hyper-nationalist leg­is­la­tion lim­it­ing rights to those who express oppo­si­tion to Israeli policies.

The other per­spec­tive is one that says, despite all the com­plaints and crit­i­cisms, Israel has never been doing as well nor in a bet­ter place. U.S.-Israel rela­tions remain strong in spite of the spats between Pres­i­dent Obama and Prime Min­is­ter Netanyahu. Ter­ror against Israeli cit­i­zens is way down.  The regional chaos actu­ally ben­e­fits Israel in two ways:  Dis­tract­ing Israel’s ene­mies from focus­ing on the Jew­ish State, and mov­ing the Saudis and the Gulf States into a tacit alliance with Israel based on the shared inter­est of com­bat­ting Iran­ian expan­sion and aggres­sion.  And Israel’s econ­omy remains strong led by the vital high-tech sec­tor which con­tin­ues to enhance Israel’s busi­ness sta­tus in the world.

I pre­fer to look at this moment through a lens that can both enjoy the mir­a­cle of what Israel has become and still, even on a day of cel­e­bra­tion, be aware of the many chal­lenges fac­ing the Jew­ish State as it heads into its 67th year. Para­phras­ing the old Ben Gurion line, I will rap­tur­ously cel­e­brate the won­der that is mod­ern day Israel as if there were no neg­a­tive real­i­ties sur­round­ing its exis­tence, and I will see clearly and worry a great deal about the strug­gles ahead for Israel as if the mir­a­cle of Israel’s very exis­tence and its devel­op­ment were not relevant.

Another way of putting it is that I am as deter­mined as ever, on the occa­sion of this anniver­sary to com­bat the egre­giously dis­torted image of Israel that exists in too many places in the world and on too many cam­puses and main­stream protes­tant churches in the United States.  Israel is far from per­fect as a soci­ety, in its treat­ment of its Arab com­mu­nity and of the Pales­tini­ans.  But it has always been and still is the only true democ­racy and respec­tor of human rights in the region and would have made peace with the Pales­tini­ans on many an occa­sion had it not been for ongo­ing Pales­tin­ian rejec­tion­ism.

I will con­tinue to fight the BDS folks and all those who demo­nize Israel because they are deal­ing in lies about the Jew­ish State.

At the same time, and hav­ing noth­ing to do with the dis­tor­tions from out­side, I worry about some of the direc­tions Israel is going in as an activist Jew who has spent all of his adult life fight­ing for Israel and car­ing about its future.

How will Israel remain both Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic if it can­not find a way out of the cur­rent stale­mate?  With all the legit­i­mate con­cerns about secu­rity, par­tic­u­larly regard­ing an expan­sion­ist and poten­tially nuclear Iran, what is going to be done about the severe domes­tic chal­lenges?  I think of three that demand imme­di­ate atten­tion:  Income inequal­ity, the need for afford­able hous­ing, and the quest for reli­gious pluralism.

So on this impor­tant day, I can live with these dual feel­ings:  An immense pride as a Jew in the glo­ries of the Jew­ish State, and a real­iza­tion that the chal­lenges fac­ing Israel are pro­found and require new initiatives.

Of course, my bot­tom line as a life­long and proud Zion­ist is a belief that Israel will emerge tri­umphant and that what­ever the obsta­cles it will face will be overcome.

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