December 2012 Archives

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Father Roy writes: The article pasted below was published in ‘The Times of Israel’.  Please see my highlights. Congress wants to “at least double” what the President is proposing to fund the replenishment of Israel’s military.  Another bill proposes separate funding for Iron Dome.  The folks at AIPAC are singing:  “Happy days are here again…” 

Meanwhile, at the grassroots level, a large and growing number of voters and taxpayers are voicing disapproval of what Congress is asking.  And we’re also disapproving of the fact that the US Congre$$ i$ in AIPAC’$ “pocket”.  For confirmation, see:  www.aipac.org…

Those of us who disapprove can have a say in the matter.  We can Contact the White House anytime we choose … and … we can “weigh in” by letting the President know what we think.  Internationals can write, also, of course.   Peace, Roy 

source: www.timesofisrael.com…

Congress seeks to increase US funding of anti-missile cooperation with Israel

In wake of Pillar of Defense success, Iron Dome spending may balloon from $210 million to $680 million

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Congress wants to at least double the Obama administration’s funding request for anti-missile cooperation with Israel.

Obama asked Congress for $99.9 million in 2013 for “Israel co-operative programs,” which include programs like the long-range Arrow anti-missile system and the short-range David’s Sling.

The US House of Representatives version of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed earlier this year, recommended adding $168 million to that request, and the Senate recommended adding $100 million in its own National Defense Authorization Act, passed last week.

A letter sent Wednesday by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) to the top senators on the Armed Services Committee urges them to agree to the higher House increase in the bicameral conference talks that finalize the act.

“As witnessed by the recent attacks on Israel from Gaza, the continued joint efforts of the United States and Israel in missile defense systems is critical to protecting this close US ally and American interests in that region,” the letter said. “The technology yields results that both of our militaries will utilize in our respective defense systems. US funding is fully matched by that of Israel.”

The bill separately authorizes new funding for Iron Dome, the short-range anti-missile system Israel used to deflect most rockets targeting populated areas that were launched from the Gaza Strip during its recent conflict with Hamas.

The Senate recommends $420 million for Iron Dome, double the $210 million the Obama administration is expected to request, and the House recommended $680 million. Those amounts also will be reconciled in conference committee.

Funding for cooperation on missile programs like Arrow and David’s Sling is not considered assistance because it benefits US as well as Israeli defense development. Iron Dome, however, is proprietary to Israel.

All these monies would be in addition to the $3.1 billion Israel receives annually in defense assistance.

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Father Roy writes: Please see my highlights in AP’s news report.  Is it possible that Obama will go down in history as the President who broke the stranglehold Israel’s lobby has on the US Congress?  If so, Obama will need grassroots support:  Contact the White House.   Peace, Roy 

source: www.google.com…

US hits Israel hard on settlement plans

By MATTHEW LEE

WASHINGTON (AP) — In unusually rare and blunt criticism of its top Mideast ally, the Obama administration on Tuesday slammed Israel for continuing to announce new settlement construction on land claimed by the Palestinians.

The State Department accused Israel of engaging in a “pattern of provocative action” that calls into question statements from Israeli leaders that they are committed to peace. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said settlement activity only puts the goal of peace “further at risk” and urged both Israel and the Palestinians to halt all provocations and take steps to revive long-stalled peace talks.

“We are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action,” Nuland told reporters. “These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk.”

The administration’s questioning of the Israeli leadership’s stated commitment to peace was unexpected, if not unprecedented, and appeared to take Washington’s longstanding opposition to settlements to a new level. However, it was not clear if the tough new words would be matched by actions.

The comments came as Israel’s prime minister rejected international criticism of plans to build thousands more Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, saying construction would move forward. Meanwhile, diplomats said four European nations were moving ahead with plans to condemn Israel at the United Nations for settlement construction.

Despite the strong rhetoric, Nuland said the United States did not believe pursuing condemnation of Israel at the U.N. Security Council would be “helpful” in resurrecting the stalled peace process.

“We again call on Israel and the Palestinians to cease any kinds of counterproductive, unilateral actions and take concrete steps to return to direct negotiations,” she said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced plans to build thousands of homes in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in response to the U.N. General Assembly’s decision last month to upgrade the Palestinians’ status to non-member observer state.

One diplomat said the proposed European statement of condemnation would be a “political message” distributed to all the other Security Council members but that the Europeans are not asking the council to adopt a formal “presidential statement” or less important “press statement.” Each of those would require approval by all council members.

In such cases, the United States previously has stepped in on the side of Israel on the recurrent issue of settlements.

read the rest of this article here

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Father Roy writes: A fight over Chuck Hagel’s confirmation will reveal to American voters and taxpayers the extent to which Israel’s lobby influences the US Senate.  See my highlights in Reuters’ article pasted below.  Those of us who support Hagel’s confirmation can Contact the White House.  Internationals can write, too, of course.   Peace, Roy

www.reuters.com…

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Pro-Israel groups, neoconservatives and even some former colleagues on Capitol Hill are confronting President Barack Obama with a growing backlash against Chuck Hagel, the ex-Republican senator tipped as his leading candidate for defense secretary.

Obama’s aides have given no sign of dropping Hagel from consideration – even after several American Jewish leaders privately complained about his policy views, most notably on Israel and Iran, at a White House-hosted Hanukkah party last week, according to one attendee.

But what has become clear in recent days is that the Democratic president will have a Senate confirmation fight on his hands if he decides to nominate the former Nebraska lawmaker, regarded as a moderate Republican, to replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon.

The White House is preparing for a major realignment of Obama’s national security team, possibly by the end of this week, sources familiar with the process have said. But the announcement could be delayed by the difficult “fiscal cliff” negotiations with congressional Republicans.

That could provide more time for Hagel’s critics to marshal opposition to his nomination, in public and behind the scenes. But even they are skeptical of being able to derail it.

Obama himself has faced questions from American Jewish leaders about his approach to close U.S. ally Israel, especially given his strained relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and may decide to take a risk with Hagel.

“This is a nomination that could be toxic to some degree for the White House,” a Senate Republican foreign policy aide said. “Do they really want this in the first months of a second term?”

Some of Israel’s leading U.S. supporters contend that Hagel, who left the Senate in 2008, at times opposed Israel’s interests, voting several times against U.S. sanctions on Iran, and made disparaging remarks about the influence of what he called a “Jewish lobby” in Washington.

William Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard wrote in a recent column that Hagel “has anti-Israel, pro-appeasement-of-Iran bona fides.”

While declining to discuss Hagel’s record on Israel, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last Thursday that “the president thinks very highly of Senator Hagel.”

Hagel’s office has remain tight-lipped and had no immediate comment.

J Street, a liberal American Jewish group, said it was “appalled by efforts surfacing in recent days to question his commitment to the state of Israel and to Middle East peace.”

But The Washington Post weighed in late on Tuesday with an editorial declaring that Hagel was “not the right choice.”

It chided him for advocating deep defense cuts and said he was out-of-step on Iran for voicing skepticism that force might eventually be needed to stop its nuclear program.

read he rest of this article on reuters.com…

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Abu Mazen’s status on the world stage seems to be sky-rocketing! He has had an audience with the Pope! What next – the Queen of England perhaps?

Certainly it is a good thing to see Christians standing in solidarity with their Palestinian brethren when so much of the Western church seems to hold them in contempt. Let’s hope though that these diplomatic gestures will achieve something concrete.

Father Dave

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

source: Al-Bushra

Solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires talks, pope says

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Just weeks after the Vatican praised Palestine’s boosted status as a non-member observer state at the United Nations, Pope Benedict XVI met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a private audience at the Vatican.

During the “cordial” talks in the papal library Dec. 17, the two men discussed the need to restart talks between Israelis and Palestinians in a way that respects the rights of all parties involved, said a statement from the Vatican press office.

In discussions about the U.N. vote last month, the Vatican said it was hoped Palestine’s new U.N. status “will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may be reached only by resuming negotiations between the parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both,” the statement said.

The two leaders also talked about the broader situation in the Middle East, which is “troubled by numerous conflicts,” and expressed hopes that “the courage for reconciliation and peace will be found,” the Vatican statement said.

The contribution Christian communities can offer in promoting the common good for the territories and the whole region was also discussed, it said.

As Abbas arrived, the pope greeted him in English, saying, “Welcome, it’s good to see you.” The president replied, “I’m very glad to see you here again.” Abbas had met with the pope at the Vatican in June 2011.

The pope and Abbas spoke privately for 25 minutes before the president introduced his eight-man delegation. The pope gave Abbas a painting of the fountains in the Vatican gardens.

Abbas, who is president of the Palestinian National Authority, gave the pope a picture of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

The pope said, in Italian, “It’s very beautiful. Thank you.”

The artwork, made up of large painted tiles, had an inscription — in English and Arabic — that said, “Presented by President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) President of the State of Palestine,” reporters said.

Reporters traveling with the Palestinian delegation said that “it was not the first time” Abbas referred to the Palestinian territories as a Palestinian state since the U.N. General Assembly voted last month to grant Palestinians observer status.

Abbas’ visit to the Vatican was part of a larger “tour of thanks,” reporters said, expressing gratitude to world leaders for their support of Palestine’s increased status at the United Nations.

Last month, 138 member states voted to boost Palestine’s status from “entity” to “non-member state” — the same status held by the Holy See — in an implicit recognition of Palestinian sovereignty. Israel, the United States and Canada were among the nine states that voted against the motion. Forty-one countries abstained.

The Vatican had praised the United Nations vote, but called for full recognition of Palestinian sovereignty as necessary for peace in the region. Pope Benedict has repeatedly called for a two-state solution to “become a reality, not remain a dream.”

After meeting the pope, Abbas met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states.

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“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

If it’s happening in Bethlehem again then it may catch on! 😉

Source: Al-Bushra.org…

Bethlehem Awaiting a Uniquely Joyful Christmas

Palestinians Rejoicing at UN Recognition as Non-Member State

JERUSALEM, DEC. 19, 2012 (Zenit.org…) – An auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem says this Christmas in the town where Jesus was born will be particularly joyful.

Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem told the charity Aid to the Church in Need that Bethlehem will enjoy a uniquely festive Christmas because Palestinians welcomed as a “victory” the recent UN recognition of Palestine as a non-member state.

Bishop Shomali suggested that the morale of Palestinians – both Christians and Muslims – was boosted by last month’s “status upgrade.”

“For Christians in and around Bethlehem,” the bishop told ACN, “Christmas this year will be joyful because of the UN recognition of the Palestinian state.

“This has given people a lot of morale and indeed is seen by many as a victory.”

But Bishop Shomali said the festive spirit was tempered by many overseas tourists scrapping Christmas pilgrimages to the Holy Land in response to last month’s Israel-Gaza conflict.

“There will certainly be fewer pilgrims and other visitors from overseas,” he said. “Many have cancelled their trips here but we will still have many people coming from Galilee and elsewhere as well as many Christians from Bethlehem.”

Bishop Shomali also told ACN that the conflict in Syria is of grave concern to Christians in the Holy Land.

“What is happening in Syria casts a dark shadow. It impacts on us very greatly. We are not happy with what is happening in Syria. We are anxious and sad about the situation there.”

“There are good and bad feelings this Christmas,” he concluded, “but if we consider that Christmas is above all a spiritual feast, I believe it will be a very good celebration.”