March 20th - Obama Day One in Israel - History

March 20th - Obama Day One in Israel - History

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Today was the first day of President Obama’s visit to Israel. Before he arrived, the purpose of the visit was not clear. Now, it’s clear, without question, that his purpose was to charm the Israeli people. He as much as said so– in the press conference this evening. From the moment he landed, Obama made clear that he was here to show support for Israel. So to all those people who said President Obama had no special connection to Israel– You were wrong.

President Obama was here on a clear charm offensive, and it looks like it worked. The coverage of the President's visit has all been very positive. If one wanted to summarize the first day of the visit in a two words, they would be "extremely positive". The press was given unpatrolled access– including accompanying him into President Peres' residence with open microphones, capturing some very private/public moments when Netanyahu’s son spoke to President Obama about what it is like to be the child of a nation's leader and asking Obama how Malia was dealing with the experience. Obama who can some times be charming and sometimes be cold was 100% charming all day long.

As I write this piece, the joint Press Conference at the Prime Minister office just ended. As Raviv Drucker, one of the senior correspondence for Channel 10 News stated: "Of the 12 meetings between the two men to date, today's was the most successful." The press conference itself went well, with the two men making it clear that while they still maintain some differences of opinions, they agree on most matters. On the key matter of Iran the two leaders made clear there was absolutely no difference in the intelligence assessment of the two countries and that they were working closely together, sharing all the intelligence.They both stressed that Israel had the right to act alone to ensure her own security. However, Obama stated that he would not allow the Iranians to have nuclear weapons. The difference between the two views seems to be if the Iranians would enter a zone of immunity or not. Obama made it clear that he will not allow the Iranians to get nuclear weapons.

On other areas there was even greater agreement. Netanyahu made it clear that he was committed to a two state solution. Obama was asked how come he did not make any progress on the Palestinian issue during his first term as he promised to do. His answer said it all– He said: "It’s really hard to make peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The issue has failed to be settled for 6 decades, because it is very difficult issue to solve..."

Finally, on the third issue, Syria, both leaders spoke in the same voice. When an Israeli reporter asked about yesterday's use of chemical weapons, and whether that did not cross the red line set by Obama, Obama answered that it was not yet clear the Syrians had used Chemical weapons. And although preliminary evidence points to them having been used, President Obama said he was very skeptical about the claims that the opposition used them. Obama further stated that he would not indicate what action he would take. However, he would take action if it turned out that the Syrian had in fact used chemical weapons.

All in all, the first day was a success for both sides. Obama succeeded in projecting the warmth that he wanted, and Bibi (as he was repeatedly called by Obama,) was able to show that Obama was embracing him and had forgiven him for his actions before the elections.

Believe it or not, Barack Obama had Israel's best interest at heart

A merica has not one but two special relationships: one with Britain and one with Israel. When the two clash, the alliance with Israel usually trumps the one with Britain, as Tony Blair discovered to his cost in 2003. For the sake of the special relationship Blair dragged Britain into a disastrous war in Iraq, but in the aftermath of the war his American allies reneged on their promise to push Israel into a settlement with the Palestinians. Blair was no match to the power of the Israel lobby in the US. With American complicity, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories has now reached its 50th year and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.

American politicians of both parties often use the mantra that the bond with Israel is unbreakable. But Israel’s continuing drift to the right has imposed serious strains on the relations with its principal ally and chief benefactor. In America, Israel is essentially an issue in domestic politics rather than foreign policy. And it is the subject of deep disagreement between the outgoing Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration.

Things came to a head following the passage of UN Security Council resolution 2334 on 23 December with 14 votes in support and only the US abstaining. The resolution condemns Israel’s settlements on the West Bank as a flagrant violation of international law demands that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and reiterates the international consensus in favour of a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Obama administration allowed the resolution to be adopted because by their lights it was not anti-Israeli but, on the contrary, essential for preserving Israel as a Jewish and democratic country. For them this was a last-ditch attempt to arrest Israel’s slide towards apartheid and to preserve the possibility of a peaceful solution. In this respect the resolution was entirely consistent with US policy since 1967 in viewing Israeli settlements on occupied land as illegal and as an obstacle to peace.

For Benjamin Netanyahu, however, the UN resolution was like a red rag to a bull. He lashed out in all directions, cancelling an aid program to Senegal telling the New Zealand foreign minister that this resolution was tantamount to a declaration of war summoning the ambassadors of the other countries who voted for the resolution for a dressing-down on Christmas Day vowing to curtail funding for five UN institutions “that are particularly hostile towards Israel” “punishing” Theresa May, one of the most pro-Israeli leaders in Europe, by cancelling a meeting with her in Davos and accusing the Obama administration of treachery.

That Obama detests Netanyahu is common knowledge. What is less well known is that Obama’s personal antipathy towards the prime minister co-exists with a genuine commitment to the welfare and security of the Jewish state.

Obama’s actual record over his eight years in office makes him one of the most pro-Israeli American presidents since Harry S Truman. Obama has given Israel considerably more money and arms than any of his predecessors. He has fully lived up to America’s formal commitment to preserve Israel’s “qualitative military edge” by supplying his ally with ever more sophisticated weapons systems. His parting gift to Israel was a staggering military aid package of $38bn for the next 10 years. This represents an increase from the current $3.1 to $3.8bn per annum. It is also the largest military aid package from one country to another in the annals of human history.

Netanyahu invariably repaid Obama’s generosity with ingratitude and abuse. He never missed an opportunity to attack Obama he intervened crudely in the 2012 presidential elections by backing the Republican candidate he abused the privilege of an address to a special session of both houses of Congress to insult their president and he conducted the most vociferous public campaign to sabotage the nuclear agreement with Iran. One is hard put to think of a more blatant example of biting the hand that feeds you. Netanyahu’s conduct marks him out as the special ally from hell.

Israel’s leader epitomizes what Senator J William Fulbright once called “the arrogance of power”. He is also devious and duplicitous. In the Bar-Ilan speech of 2009, he paid lip service to the idea of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel. But, in the run-up to the 2015 election, he abruptly reversed this position and solemnly pledged that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch.

Netanyahu has always believed what the Likud’s electoral platform continues to state explicitly: there can be no independent Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. He is a reactionary politician whose overriding aim is to preserve the status quo with Israel as a regional superpower, ruling over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians in what he and his colleagues insist on calling Judea and Samaria.

Netanyahu presides over the most rightwing, jingoistic, pro-settler, and overtly racist coalition government in Israel’s history. He and his government are addicted to occupation – the root of all evil. In the teeth of almost universal condemnation, they continue to expand the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, thereby deliberately destroying the basis for a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state.

Area C, where most of these settlements are located, comprises 60% of the West Bank. Several ministers, led by the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, advocate outright annexation of this area. A cabinet majority is pushing for a new law that would “legalize” the illegal Jewish outposts on the West Bank – illegal even by Israeli standards because they were built on private Palestinian land. This law, if passed by the Knesset, as seems very likely, will translate the ongoing practice of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine into official state policy.

As is the case with Britain, at the core of the US-Israel special relationship are common values like freedom, democracy, the rule of law, justice, and equality. If anyone has betrayed these values, it is not the Obama administration but Israel’s hawk-infested cabinet.

The Israeli hawks cannot wait for Donald Trump to enter the White House because he is a strong supporter not only of Israel itself but of the illegal settler movement. They believe he would give them a free pass to annex the rural parts of the West Bank and they hope that he will act on his promise to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem ̶ a move that would drive a stake through the two-state solution.

Trump has tweeted his opposition to the Security Council resolution and promised that things will change after 20 January. As president he will be able to align American foreign policy more closely with Israel but he would not be able to reverse the latest Security Council resolution. He can tweet until he is blue in the face the resolution will still stand.

Resolution 2334 will not resolve the conflict but it has created a new legal framework and a new momentum. By instructing the UN Secretary-General to report every three months, the council put down a marker that from now on it intends to hold Israel to account for its actions. The resolution also opens the door for other bodies, such as the European Union and the International Criminal Court, to intensify their pressure on Israel to desist from its illegal practices on the West Bank and its war crimes in Gaza. Last but not least, the resolution provides a powerful impetus for BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), the global grass-roots campaign against one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.

This Day in History: The 1913 Women's Suffrage Parade

On this day 103 years ago, thousands of women gathered in Washington, D.C. to call for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. While women had been fighting hard for suffrage for over 60 years, this marked the first major national event for the movement.

The huge parade, which was spearheaded by Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, was held on March 3, 1913. Riding atop a white horse, lawyer and activist Inez Milholland led over five thousand suffragettes up Pennsylvania Avenue, along with over 20 parade floats, nine bands, and four mounted brigades.

Women suffragists marching on Pennsylvania Avenue led by Mrs. Richard Coke Burleson (center on horseback) U.S. Capitol in background. (Library of Congress)

The organizers of the parade also maximized attention on the event by strategically hosting it just one day before the inauguration of President-elect Woodrow Wilson. This tactic worked. As the women marched from the U.S. Capitol toward the Treasury Building, they were met by thousands of spectators, many in town for the inauguration.

Not all spectators were kind. Some marchers were jostled, tripped, and violently attacked, while police on the parade route did little to help. By the end of the day, over 100 women had to be hospitalized for injuries. However, the women did not give up they finished the parade. Their experiences led to major news stories and even congressional hearings. Historians later credited the 1913 parade for giving the suffrage movement a new wave of inspiration and purpose.

While it took another seven years for the Nineteenth Amendment to be ratified on August 18, 1920, the women who marched on this day in history accomplished their goal of reinvigorating the suffrage movement. As the official parade pamphlet read, they gave “expression to the nation-wide demand for an amendment to the United States Constitution enfranchising women.”

Alice Paul, Inez Milholland, and the others who marched in 1913 are just some of the women who made a more just and prosperous future possible for all Americans. While these women paved the way for equality at the ballot box, the Obama Administration is still fighting every day to increase equality for women and girls. From creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, to appointing two women to the Supreme Court and a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, President Obama has taken concrete steps to ensure that women’s voices are heard in government and society.

Throughout Women’s History Month, we’ll update you on the important work the Obama Administration is taking to support women in the workplace, expand women’s access to quality and affordable health care, increase opportunities for girls pursuing STEM education, protect women from violence, support women in the military and female veterans, and much more.

During #WomensHistoryMonth, we remember the trailblazers who opened doors for women today →

&mdash White House Archived (@ObamaWhiteHouse) March 1, 2016

Danielle Cohen is an intern in the Office of Digital Strategy

Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden the 67th Annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ron, Mr. Ambassador, my name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel.

I was thinking as Ron was saying that he doesn't know what it&rsquos like in Catholic families -- whether we argue as much as allegedly occurs in Jewish families. Well, I settled all that. Two of my three children married Jews. (Laughter.) And you want to see what happens then. (Laughter.)

As a matter of fact, my daughter -- I -- the dream of every Irish-Catholic father is for his daughter to marry a Jewish surgeon. (Laughter.) And she did.

But I want you to know I think the only time on record, at least in the state of Delaware, in the oldest Catholic church in the state, the second oldest -- 1842 -- we signed the ketubah in the Catholic rectory. (Laughter.) Not a joke. (Laughter.) Not a joke. I think that's a first. We had a chuppah on the altar, handmade, magnificently, beautiful chuppah. And we had a Catholic priest, Father Murphy, and a rabbi, and it was hard getting a rabbi, by the way. (Laughter.) I had to go up to Montgomery County to find one. (Laughter.) And the reason why -- Montgomery County, Pennsylvania -- and the reason he came is his mother loved me. (Laughter.) But -- and my daughter asked me, she said, Daddy, what do you want played at the wedding? I said, just one -- maybe the concluding hymn could be &ldquoOn Eagles&rsquo Wings&rdquo.

And so the rabbi was a wonderful guy, literally presided over 75 percent of the wedding. The vows were administered by the Catholic priest. And as the wedding party was departing, as the bride and groom were departing down the aisle, they played the hora. (Laughter.) So I figured it out. One way to end arguments is to marry. (Laughter.)

Look, the fact of the matter is that 77 years [sic] ago, at midnight on May 14, 1948, against all odds, in the wake of searing tragedy, defiant in the face of overwhelming military numbers massed on its borders, the modern State of Israel was born. (Applause.)

What you did next was no less than miraculous. You were blessed with one of the greatest generations of founding fathers and mothers of any nation in the history of the world -- Ben-Gurion, Meir, Begin, Sharon, Rabin, Peres. They all fashioned Israel into a vibrant, vibrant democracy.

And in the process, you built one of the most innovative societies on Earth. In the process, you defended your homeland and became the most powerful military in the entire region. And all these years later, things have changed, but the danger still exists. But the people of Israel still live in a dangerous neighborhood. And just to be an Israeli -- it still demands uncommon courage.

Much has changed, but two things have remained absolutely the same: the courage of your people and the commitment of mine. (Applause.)

So today, we celebrate your independence and our friendship, which was born just 11 minutes after Israel&rsquos founding. And President Obama and I are proud to carry forward the unbroken line of American leaders &ndash- Democrat and Republican &mdash- who have honored America&rsquos sacred promise to protect the homeland of the Jewish people.

It&rsquos no secret that, like administrations before us, as the Ambassador said, we&rsquove had our differences. I have been here for a long time, for eight Presidents. I&rsquove witnessed disagreements between administrations. It&rsquos only natural for two democracies like ours. As Ron said, we&rsquore like family. We have a lot to say to one another. Sometimes we drive each other crazy. But we love each other. And we protect each other. (Applause.)

And it&rsquos hard to see with these lights, but I suspect I know many of you personally. As many of you heard me say before, were there no Israel, America would have to invent one. We&rsquod have to invent one because Ron is right, you protect our interests like we protect yours. (Applause.)

So let&rsquos get something straight. In this moment of some disagreement occasionally between our governments, I want to set the record straight on one thing: No President has ever done more to support Israel&rsquos security than President Barack Obama. (Applause.)

Just look at the facts. Each time a rocket has rained down from Gaza, President Obama stands up before the world and defends Israel&rsquos right to defend itself like any other nation.

Under President Obama, with the United States Congress, America has provided $20 billion in military assistance to Israel -&ndash and cutting edge weaponry needed to maintain the qualitative advantage against any potential opponent.

You all know the stories of Iron Dome. What you may not know is that next year, we will deliver to Israel the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter &ndash- our finest -&ndash making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft. No other. (Applause.)

And we continue to discuss, as the Israeli military here and the intelligence communities will tell you in Israel as well as here -- we continue to discuss what more must be done in the near term and the long term to continue to strengthen Israel so she can maintain that edge. (Applause.)

Our commitment to protect Israel&rsquos security in my case and many of your case is not just political or national interest, it&rsquos personal. It&rsquos personal for me and it&rsquos personal for the President.

You've heard me say this many of my friends out there before, but it bears repeating on this day, it began at my father&rsquos dinner table. My father was a righteous Christian. We assembled to eat, to have discussions -- and occasionally eat. My father talked about how he could not understand why there was a debate among Americans or why there was a debate among American Jews about whether or not we should have recognized Israel why there would be any debate about why we hadn&rsquot done more why we hadn&rsquot -- that's where I first learned about not bombing the railroad tracks. I learned from my father about the concentration camps. And the first thing I did with my children when each of them turned 15, I took them to Europe, flew them directly to Dachau, and made them spend a day there with me. And I&rsquove done the same with my grandchildren. My grandchild Finnegan as recently as just a month ago where we met with a 94-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, as well as Dachau. He showed us the camp because he was proud -- proud -- to welcome the Vice President and his granddaughter.

All you have to do to understand is stand on the Golan and look down. I remember the first time I did that as a young senator. All you have to do is wander throughout Israel. All you have to do is take that helicopter ride the entire length of the fence. All you have to do is just look at the map. All you had to is set foot at Yad Vashem -&mdash and you understand.

I&rsquove had the great privilege of knowing every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda Meir and more than just casually. And I&rsquove worked with many of you in this room for up to 40 years. You know me. You raised me. You educated me. And I know you.

So believe me when I tell you: It&rsquos not only personal to me, it&rsquos personal to President Obama, as well. The President was raised with memories of his great-uncle, who marched with Patton&rsquos Army to liberate Jewish prisoners from the horrors of Buchenwald. As a young man, he grew up learning about Israel from the stories of Leon Uris&rsquo in &ldquoExodus&rdquo the Six-Day War and Moshe Dayan, with his eye patch and his courage. I remember sitting in front of Golda Meir&rsquos desk as she flipped those maps up and down, chain-smoking, talking about the losses of the Six-Day War, sitting next to her military attaché at the time, a guy named Rabin.

But Barack, as a young senator -- being 19 years younger than I am, he heard about it. He read about it. As senator, Barack Obama went to a small town in southern Israel to see with his own eyes the lives of the families who live under threat of rockets -&ndash families that he has helped protect as Commander-in-Chief, under Iron Dome.

As President, he stood in Jerusalem, and declared to the whole world, &ldquoThose who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel&rsquos right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere. So long as the United States of America is there, Israel will never be alone.&rdquo (Applause.) He means it. He means it. You know I mean it. I&rsquom telling you he means it.

That&rsquos my President. He understands the need for Israel to have the right and the capacity and the capability to defend itself. At the same time, he says, &ldquowe have Israel&rsquos back&rdquo -- and you can count on it.

The same commitment to the survival and security of Israel is fundamental to our strategy for the entire Middle East. And then we get into the controversial piece. Iran. Remember this is the President who made it for the first time in American history a declared policy of the United States to use all the instruments of our power to prevent -&mdash not contain, prevent &ndash- Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon. He stated that all options are on the table -&mdash then he made sure of what did not exist before. He made sure we spent the time and money and the research to develop the capacity required to act against their capacity to develop a weapon if ever needed.

Over the skepticism of many, we worked with the U.S. Congress, our European allies, and Russia, China, to put in place the toughest sanctions regime in modern history.

We also knew the cost of not negotiating. Midway through the last administration, the U.S. government refused to directly engage. It insisted at the same time that Iran dismantle its entire program.

The result? By the time President Bush left office, Iran had dramatically advanced its movement toward ability to acquire a nuclear weapon. So we&rsquove taken a different approach, combining unprecedented pressure with direct diplomacy to find an enduring solution.

Negotiations began. And we&rsquove come a long way. And you&rsquove all seen the parameters that were put forward. It&rsquos a framework, only a framework -- not a final deal. A great deal of work lies ahead to see if Iran will actually enshrine the commitments that went into that framework as part of a final deal.

If they do, each of Iran&rsquos paths to a bomb would be meaningfully and verifiably blocked. Iran would cut its enrichment capacity by two-thirds shrink its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent. Breakout time to create a weapon&rsquos worth of bomb-grade material will go from two to three months, which it is today, to over a year.

The deal would ensure at least a one-year breakout cushion for a decade. And for years after that, the breakout time would continue to be longer than it exists today.

We&rsquoll prevent the Arak reactor from ever being a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons. We will put in place the toughest transparency and verification requirements in history -&mdash providing the best possible check against a secret path to the bomb.

This isn&rsquot a grand bargain between the United States and Iran. It&rsquos a nuclear bargain between Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany, the EU, America and Iran. It&rsquos based on hard-hitting, hard-headed, uncompromising assessments of what is required to protect ourselves, Israel, the region, and the world.

And if the final deal on the table that doesn&rsquot meet the President&rsquos requirements, we simply will not sign it.

A final deal must effectively cut off Iran&rsquos pathways to the bomb. If it doesn&rsquot, no deal.

A final deal must ensure a breakout timeline at least for one year for a decade. If it doesn&rsquot, no deal.

A final deal must include phased sanctions relief, calibrated against Iran taking meaningful steps to constrain their program. If it doesn&rsquot, no deal.

A final deal must provide a verifiable assurance to the international community demands to ensure Iran&rsquos program is exclusively peaceful going forward. If it doesn&rsquot, no deal.

And if Iran cheats at any time and goes for a nuclear weapon &ndash- every option we have to respond today remains on the table. And your military will tell you, and more.

I&rsquove been involved in arms control negotiations since I was a kid in the Senate at 30 years of age -- every major SALT agreement, START agreement, and toward the end, I was deeply involved negotiating when Brezhnev was still around, leading a delegation of senators. But just like arms control talks with the Soviet Union &mdash- another regime we fundamentally disagreed with, another regime whose rhetoric was outrageous and unacceptable, another regime whose proxies were forcefully making trouble, and we forcefully countered around the world &ndash- we negotiated to reduce the nuclear threat to prevent a nuclear war. And it kept us safer. That&rsquos what we&rsquore attempting to do today.

We also continue to agree with Israeli leaders going back decades &ndash- from Rabin to Sharon, whose funeral I had the great honor of eulogizing &ndash- that a two-state solution is essential to Israel&rsquos long-term survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. Consistent with our commitment to Israel&rsquos security and survival, the United States stands ready to help Israel decide -- if they decide -- how to get there and if they want our help in getting there.

I&rsquoll always remember what my friend and mentor, and Holocaust survivor who worked for me as my national security advisor before he became Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos once said. He said, &ldquothe veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians and can never rest.&rdquo

That&rsquos why we must never retreat from fighting every scourge and source of anti-Semitism as we find it. You see, in too many places where legitimate criticism crosses over into bigotry and anti-Semitism where an explicitly anti-Semitic attack takes place at a kosher grocery store assaults on religious Jews in the streets of major European capitals. Some of you may remember how harshly I was criticized as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee over 15 years ago when I held hearings on anti-Semitism in Europe. Emerson said, society is like a wave, the wave moves on, but the particles remain the same. Wherever, in whatever country, whatever circumstance it rears its head, we have to stop it.

Enough is enough. We have to fight it everywhere we find it.

I&rsquoll conclude -- and my friends kid me and I imagine Ron may, as well -- telling you the story about my meeting with Golda Meir. The reason I do it had a profound impact on me, one of the most consequential meetings I&rsquove ever had in my life. I think I&rsquove met every major world leader in the last 36 or 37 years in the world, in a literal sense.

But I remember meeting for close to an hour with her. She went through what happened in the Six-Day War, and the price that was paid. And I just had come from Egypt. They let me go to Egypt and go to the Suez Canal. And I was saying to she and Rabin that I thought that they were getting ready to attack again. And everyone including my military and Israeli military thought I was crazy.

I remember driving from Cairo all the way to out to the Suez. And you could see these great plumes of dust and sand. But none it seemed isolated. It turns out it was maneuvers taking place in the desert. And I was really worried. And we went through, and she painted a bleak, bleak picture -- scared the hell out of me, quite frankly, about the odds.

And all of a sudden she looked at and she said, would you like a photograph? And I said, yes, ma&rsquoam. And those double-blind doors opened up into that hallway -- not hallway. It looks like -- it&rsquos a foyer. And we walked out, and the press was standing there. We didn't say anything. We just stood side by side. And she must have thought I looked worried. And it&rsquos an absolutely true story. She didn't look at me, she spoke to me. She said, Senator, you look so worried. I said, well, my God, Madam Prime Minister, and I turned to look at her. I said, the picture you paint. She said, oh, don't worry. We have -- I thought she only said this to me. She said, we have a secret weapon in our conflict with the Arabs. You see, we have no place else to do.

I was criticized in the national press a couple weeks ago when I said that, in fact, every Jew in the world needs there to be an Israel. And it was characterized by some of the conservative press as saying that I was implying Jews weren&rsquot safe in America. They don't get it. They don't get it. Israel, Israel is absolutely essential -- absolutely essential -- security of Jews around the world. And that's why you have never farmed out your security. You&rsquove accepted all the help we could give. The most admirable thing about you is you&rsquove never asked us to fight for you. But I promise you, if you were attacked and overwhelmed, we would fight for you, in my view. (Applause.)

The truth of the matter is we need you. The world needs you. Imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century if Israel were not sustained, vibrant and free.

We&rsquoll never stop working to ensure that Jews from around the world always have somewhere to go. We&rsquoll never stop working to make sure Israel has a qualitative edge. And whomever the next President is -- Republican or Democrat -- it will be the same because the American people, the American people are committed. The America people understand.

So I say happy birthday, Israel. Happy Independence Day. May God bless you and may God bless and protect the United States of America. Thank you all so very much. (Applause.)

The History of Inauguration Day

Bradley Craig is an HNN intern and a student at Harvard University.

“So Help Me, God”: The History of the Presidential Inauguration

On Monday, January 21, 2013, President Barack Obama will be sworn in for his second presidential term. The inauguration has been a key event at the start of each presidency since George Washington first took office. Since then, certain features have remained fairly constant, such as the oath and the inaugural address. Other aspects, such as the date, have changed. Inauguration Day was originally March 4 until the ratification of the 20th Amendment, which switched the date to January 20, except in years such as this one when that date falls on a Sunday. In these cases, the president is sworn in with a private ceremony on Sunday and then takes a public oath on the next day. The event has changed with the times in some ways and held to tradition in others, not to mention the mishaps that have occurred along the way.

George Washington: Sealed with a Kiss

1889 oil painting of George Washington's first inauguration. Via Wiki Commons.

George Washington's first inauguration was held on April 30, 1789, on the balcony of New York City's Federal Hall. Washington kissed the Bible used to swear him in, which set a precedent for future inaugurations. This tradition was broken, however, in 1853 by Franklin Pierce, who merely placed his left hand on the Bible.

Now known as the George Washington Inaugural Bible, the Bible originally used by Washington was borrowed from St. John's Lodge. Future presidents, including Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush, also used the very same Bible, which is still in the ownership of the Masonic lodge.

The inaugural address has been an important staple of the ceremony, although the speech Washington delivered for his second term is on record as the shortest inaugural address at only 135 words. Apparently not one to be redundant, Washington's first address was nearly ten times as long.

Fireworks bought by many of the citizens in attendance lit up the sky to celebrate the first inauguration. The inaugural ball was held later on May 7, but Martha Washington was too busy overseeing the Washingtons' move to New York to make the celebration.

John Adams: “The most affecting and overpowering scene”

John Adams, sworn into office on March 4, 1797, enjoyed a fairly understated inauguration. He was the first president to receive the oath from the Chief Jutice of the Supreme Court, who at the time was Oliver Ellsworth. Adams confessed to his wife, Abigail, that it was “the most affecting and overpowering scene I ever acted in.” Adams wore a modest grey broadcloth suit, unadorned by showy buttons or buckles. He found himself outdone by George Washington, who appeared in a velvet suit, and Thomas Jefferson, who wore a long coat in a striking shade of blue.

Jefferson and Madison: The First Parades

Banner celebrating Thomas Jefferson's inauguration. Credit: Smithsonian.

In 1801 Thomas Jefferson was the first president to take the oath in the new capital city in Washington, D.C. His inaugural speech was the first to be reprinted in a newspaper, the National Intelligencer. He also set a new precedent by arranging the time of the inauguration via written correspondence with Congress. The standard time for the inauguration to begin, however, is now set at noon.

Jefferson's second inauguration in 1805 concluded a grand inaugural parade. During the spontaneous parade, Jefferson walked from his boardinghouse to the Capitol building. James Madison's was the first official parade in 1809. Madison was marched to the Capitol by a cavalry troop from Georgetown. The official parade has since been a highlight of Inauguration Day. In 1837 Martin Van Buren was the first president to have floats at his parade. The parade became more inclusive over time Abraham Lincoln's second inauguration in 1865 was the first time African Americans participated in the parade, while women joined the celebration in 1917 at the beginning of Woodrow Wilson's second term.

Madison's first inauguration was also the first time the event was held in the Hall of the House in the Capitol. His ball, which was the first to include music by the US Marine Band, was also the first to be held on the same day as the inauguration. Madison accomplished a less celebratory first during his second inauguration in 1813, which was the first time a president was sworn in during a war.

William Henry Harrison: A Fatal Inauguration

William Henry Harrison's 1841 inaugural parade. Credit: Wiki Commons.

The inauguration of William Henry Harrison in 1841 proved to be a an event with fatal consequences for the president. Harrison issued the inaugural address outdoors during a snowstorm without hat, coat, or gloves. He went on for nearly two hours, sealing the record for longest inaugural speech. His address was so long that he started speaking, paused to take the oath, and then finished his speech. The consequence of his verbosity and his long night at the balls was a deadly case of pneumonia. Harrison passed away a month later on April 4, 1841.

Andrew Johnson, when he was Lincoln's vice president, was told to have a strong drink at the president's 1865 inauguration because he wasn't feeling well. He might have felt better once he did, but he also went on to deliver a rambling and incoherent speech. When Ulysses S. Grant's inaugural ball was held on a cold night, the venue was unfortunately unheated. This time, however, the only casualties were the canaries that were brought in for the party and ended up freezing to death. James Buchanan was also ill at his inauguration in 1857, but from a different sort of condition: he had diarrhea.

Towards the Digital Age

The Obamas on inauguration day, 2009. Credit: U.S. Navy.

Technological advances have also shaped the nature of Inauguration Day as an occasion that seeks to include the entire public. Buchanan was the first president whose inauguration was photographed, while William McKinley's inauguration was the first to be recorded by a motion picture camera three decades later in 1897. The first time the inauguration was broadcast over the radio was in 1925 at the start of Calvin Coolidge's term.

The television age also led to two important firsts for the inauguration in the media. Harry S. Truman's inauguration address was the first to appear on TV in 1949. The first color broadcast was in 1961 with John F. Kennedy. Now the inauguration streams live over the internet as well, which happened for the first time in 1997 for Bill Clinton's second inauguration.

President Obama's second inauguration promises to be another memorable start to a presidential term. He has released a Spotify playlist featuring some of his favorite artists, including many who will perform for Inauguration Day. There's even an Inauguration Ceremony app for the iPhone that includes, among other features, a port-a-potty map for the big day.

Old Pol, New Tricks

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden never had a seat at the cool kids’ table at the Obama White House.

Heading into 2016 and 2020, if you told the hotshots from Obamaworld that you thought Biden would be a good candidate, they would uniformly offer a look of infinite patience, tolerance and condescension and say something like, “Well, I could understand how someone would think that.”

The message was unmistakable: Biden was not part of the Obama entourage. He was sort of a goofball and windbag. He was a member of an older, outmoded generation. In other words, uncool.

The West Wing attitude was that Biden should simply be grateful that the Great Obama had handed him a ticket to ride. Biden was viewed as a past-his-sell-by-date pol who needed the president’s guiding hand to keep Uncle Joe from making a fool of himself as vice president.

In 2012, Biden faced “friendly fire” from the West Wing, as one outraged Biden family member put it to me back then. Obama aides were furious when Biden went on “Meet the Press” and made a glorious gaffe, blurting out support for gay marriage while his boss was still dragging his feet. They trashed him anonymously to reporters, froze him out of meetings and barred him from doing some national media.

“Being managed into a box by Obama’s cocky campaign team only exacerbated Biden’s innate insecurity and drive for independence,” Glenn Thrush wrote in Politico in 2014.

In eight years, Biden said in a recent reveal that stunned Anderson Cooper — and left Washington gasping — he and Jill were never invited by the Obamas to their private digs in the White House.

Despite a secret poll to see if he should be dropped as veep in favor of Hillary in 2012, despite being pushed aside by Barack Obama for Hillary in 2016, and despite not getting an endorsement from his erstwhile partner in his uphill primary fight in 2020 until he was the last candidate standing, Biden refused to go gentle into that good night, to quote one of his favorite lines of poetry.

With a boost from Black Democrats, if not the most famous one, Biden achieved what pretty much no one — especially bratty Obama disciples — had thought possible. At 78, nearly half a century after he arrived in D.C. as a senator, he became the oldest man ever sworn in as president.

So now comes a delicious twist: President Biden is being hailed as a transformational, once-in-a-generation progressive champion, with comparisons to L.B.J. and F.D.R. aplenty, while Obama has become a cautionary tale about what happens when Democrats get the keys to the car but don’t put their foot on the gas.

The collective smirk was wiped off the face of Obamaworld this past week, as former aides expressed their irritation at the retrospective dissing, and while Biden’s inner circle enjoyed an unfamiliar sensation: schadenfreude. Now the friendly fire once aimed at Biden is coming toward Obama.

All month long, Democrats have been trashing Obama for the size of his itty-bitty 2009 stimulus bill — Chuck Schumer called it “small” and “measly” — and his refusal to sell it to the public.

Now, after President Biden passed the $1.9 trillion cornucopia of liberal delights, Democrats are thinking that if he keeps it up, they’ll soon be picking up their chisels to carve his face on Mount Rushmore, right in the spot Obama must have been picturing for himself.

Creaky, old-fashioned Joe moved fast and broke things. Unlike the sleek, modern Obama, who kept trying to work with obstructionist Republicans, Biden blew them off, calling it “an easy choice.”

Progressives, who had fretted that Biden would govern in a centrist hell, trapped in a sepia, split-the-difference Washington where Mitch McConnell would eat his lunch, were pleasantly surprised.

The lackluster Democratic response to the Great Recession, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told The Times’s Astead Herndon, “created so much damage economically, for people, but it also created a lot of political damage for the party.”

Obama’s failure to go big and to send the tumbrels rolling down Wall Street certainly greased the runway for Donald Trump. The paradox of Obama is that Americans embraced radical change by electing him but then he held himself in check, mistakenly believing that he was all the change they could handle.

As vice president, Biden worried that the Obama and Valerie Jarrett crowd at the cool table were too cerebral sometimes, that they’d rather be right than win.

Once Obama had spoken, he expected others to come along. If the policies were good, they’d sell themselves. The president, as it turned out, hated politicking. The idea that he had to sell his agenda was so anathema to him that — shockingly — he had to get Bill Clinton to do it for him at the 2012 Democratic convention. Obama joked that his predecessor would be the new “Secretary of Explaining Stuff.”

Obama seems more comfortable as Netflix talent, sitting pretty with celebrities and chit-chatting with Bruce Springsteen in their new Spotify podcast, “Renegades: Born in the USA.”

Biden, by contrast, is a natural-born salesman, the son of a salesman, who loves nothing more than to mingle with the masses.

Israel-Egypt peace agreement signed

In a ceremony at the White House, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign a historic peace agreement, ending three decades of hostilities between Egypt and Israel and establishing diplomatic and commercial ties.

Less than two years earlier, in an unprecedented move for an Arab leader, Sadat traveled to Jerusalem, Israel, to seek a permanent peace settlement with Egypt’s Jewish neighbor after decades of conflict. Sadat’s visit, in which he met with Begin and spoke before Israel’s parliament, was met with outrage in most of the Arab world. Despite criticism from Egypt’s regional allies, Sadat continued to pursue peace with Begin, and in September 1978 the two leaders met again in the United States, where they negotiated an agreement with U.S. President Jimmy Carter at Camp David, Maryland. The Camp David Accords, the first peace agreement between the state of Israel and one of its Arab neighbors, laid the groundwork for diplomatic and commercial relations. Seven months later, a formal peace treaty was signed.

For their achievement, Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize for Peace. Sadat’s peace efforts were not so highly acclaimed in the Arab world𠄾gypt was suspended from the Arab League, and on October 6, 1981, Muslim extremists assassinated Sadat in Cairo. Nevertheless, the peace process continued without Sadat, and in 1982 Egypt formally established diplomatic relations with Israel.

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The act, which Congress passed a week ago, will be signed by the U.S. president at a White House ceremony on Friday.

The republican candidate for the U.S. president will arrive in Israel on Saturday afternoon and will meet in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Romney will visit the Western Wall, and will also give a speech about foreign policy and Israel-U.S. relations.

In the evening, Romney and his wife Ann will visit the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, for an evening meal with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. On Monday morning, before he travels on to Poland, Romney will carry out a fundraising event in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Entry to the event will cost $50,000 per participant.

According to an Israeli official, the White House decided to carry out the signing ceremony of the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act as a counterweight to Romney's visit to Israel, and the criticism that Romney has expressed of the Obama's relationship to Israel in general, and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, over the past three years.

An Israeli official said that U.S. Jewish leaders and a long list of Democratic and Republican congress members and senators have been invited to the signing ceremony of the act, which will take place in the White House.

Obama is interested in highlighting, through the signing of the act, the unprecedented upgrade of Israel-U.S. security cooperation during his term, the Israeli official said.

Obama and Romney are currently fighting over the votes of Jewish Americans. Jewish votes in a number of key states, such as Florida, are likely to influence the final result of the upcoming elections, and the fact that Obama did not visit Israel during his first term, and his shaky relationship with Netanyahu, are serving the Republicans in elections and campaign broadcasts to gain the votes of the Jewish community.

Obama’s Parting Betrayal of Israel

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power abstaining, Dec. 23.

John Bolton

Last Friday, on the eve of Hanukkah and Christmas, Barack Obama stabbed Israel in the front. The departing president refused to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334—a measure ostensibly about Israeli settlement policy, but clearly intended to tip the peace process toward the Palestinians. Its adoption wasn’t pretty. But, sadly, it was predictable.

Mr. Obama’s refusal to use Washington’s veto was more than a graceless parting gesture. Its consequences pose major challenges for American interests. President-elect Donald Trump should echo Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s defiant and ringing 1975 response to the U.N.’s “Zionism is racism” resolution: that America “does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.”

Mr. Obama argues that Resolution 2334 continues a bipartisan American policy toward the Middle East. It does precisely the opposite. The White House has abandoned any pretense that the actual parties to the conflict must resolve their differences. Instead, the president has essentially endorsed the Palestinian politico-legal narrative about territory formerly under League of Nations’ mandate, but not already under Israeli control after the 1948-49 war of independence.

Resolution 2334 implicitly repeals the iconic Resolution 242, which affirmed, in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War, that all affected nations, obviously including Israel, had a “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” It provided further that Israel should withdraw “from territories occupied in the recent conflict”—but did not require withdrawal from “the” or “all” territories, thereby countenancing less-than-total withdrawal. In this way Resolution 242 embodied the “land for peace” theory central to America’s policy in the Middle East ever since.

Obama signs law increasing aid to Israel day before Romney trip to Holy Land

A day before Mitt Romney's much-anticipated arrival in Israel, President Obama jumped ahead of his Republican rival Friday by signing legislation that strengthens ties with the United States' longtime Mideast ally.

The timing of the new law, which will increase U.S. military aid to Israel, seemed intended to upstage Romney's visit to the Holy Land - and muffle the GOP candidate's claims that Obama has undermined relationships with Jerusalem.

The bill, which underscores the United States' special bond with the Middle Eastern country, offers $70 million in funding for Israel's missile defense system, dubbed Iron Dome.

"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," Obama said during the White House bill-signing ceremony.

Obama touted America's "unshakable commitment to Israel," and praised the Iron Dome defense system as "critical" in defending the nation's citizens from missile strikes.

"We are standing by our friends in Israel when it comes to these kinds of attacks," said Obama.

The bill passed the Senate and the House earlier this week with broad bipartisan support - though Romney has said it does not go far enough.

Romney, who is set to arrive in Israel late Saturday, has blasted Obama's treatment of Israel as "shabby" and had pledged to deploy aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf as an American show of force.

The Republican has also highlighted Obama's sometimes frosty relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an effort to woo Jewish voters - particularly in the key swing state of Florida.

Romney, who will meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Sunday, will likely be happy to leave his gaffe-filled stop in London behind.


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