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entries tagged with: Lockerbie

 

Changing Englewood’s house of terror into a home of Jewish values

 

Lockerbie bomber case not closed

 

Inside the Beltway

The Israel advocate’s guide to politics

As tensions continue to rise in the Middle East, New Jersey’s members of the House of Representatives took action last last month to support Israel’s military superiority in the region and enforce sanctions against Iran.

Israel’s missile defense

The Appropriations Defense Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives has appropriated $217.7 million — the highest amount on record, according to Washington sources — in funding for joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs. The appropriation — the highest on record for such projects, according to Washington sources — is $95.7 million more than the original request.

According to Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), a member of the Appropriations Committee, the Defense Subcommittee has allocated more than $750 million in federal funds for the Arrow and David’s Sling anti-missile systems since 2007.

“Chairman Norm Dicks, myself, and all the members of the Defense Subcommittee understand how important it is to be at the cutting edge of anti-missile technology, both to safeguard our own citizens and troops, but also those citizens and troops of our allies and friends, such as the people of the Jewish State of Israel,” Rothman said in a statement to this newspaper.

“Given the concern and attention that we are focusing now on every dollar we are expending on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer for all purposes, including the defense of the United States and its allies,” the statement continued, “it is a mark of the importance of these projects that they were all funded so robustly and fully by our subcommittee.”

The subcommittee has also allocated $205 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which the Jewish state expects to deploy in the fall.

The Defense Subcommittee has allocated nearly $1 billion toward these three programs since 2007.

“The growing proliferation and increasing deadliness of missiles around the world pose a direct threat to the U.S. and our allies, making funding missile defense systems vitally important for America’s national security,” said Rothman.

Sanctioning Iran

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) last week wrote to President Obama urging him to withdraw the United States from the U.N. Human Rights Council because of the council’s anti-Israel bias and poor record.

Garrett put his pen to work again later in the week and fired off another letter to Obama and another to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chair of the House’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, urging follow-up action on Iranian sanctions recently passed in Congress.

The July 28 letter to Obama, who signed the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 in early July, requested a response from the president with a list of actions taken to implement the sanctions. The letter was signed by 38 Republican members of the House. The July 29 letter to Berman thanked the representative for his tough words on Iran but included a similar demand to know what action Berman would take. That letter was signed by 15 members of the House.

“Time is of the essence when you are dealing with a rogue state that poses a clear and present danger not just to the United States, but to our close ally Israel,” Garrett said in a statement to the Standard. “I want to ensure there is adequate oversight and robust accountability of the Obama administration’s efforts to implement the Iran sanctions legislation.”

A look at Lockerbie

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a FY 2011 State and Foreign Operations funding measure from Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) that would require a State Department report on the early release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi. The amendment requires the secretary of state to submit a report within 180 days of the legislation that describes the circumstances that led to al-Megrahi’s release.

Scottish authorities released al-Megrahi from his life sentence last year after doctors diagnosed him with cancer and estimated he had only a few months to live. He has exceeded that initial estimate, which has led to questions of the Scottish and British governments and BP as to whether a deal was made to free al-Megrahi in exchange for access to Libyan oil.

“A formal State Department review will help provide answers to the many troubling questions surrounding the early release of the Lockerbie bomber,” Lautenberg said in a statement. “Nearly a year after his release, al-Megrahi remains alive while the authorities responsible for his freedom continue to point fingers and dodge questions. We must continue our rigorous investigation of this travesty to learn the truth and send a message that terrorists do not deserve any compassion.”

A Senate hearing to examine the circumstances surrounding al-Megrahi’s release had been scheduled for last week but was postponed.

 
 

Fixing leaks and the Middle East

The United States continues to deal with repercussions of the WikiLeaks revelations, while the Israel-Palestinian conflict has taken a new turn.

WikiLeaks and Lockerbie

WikiLeaks revealed last week that Libya threatened Great Britain with “harsh, immediate” consequences if Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the sole person convicted in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, died in prison. Megrahi, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer while serving his life sentence, was released from Scottish prison in August 2009 after doctors said he had only months to live.

Inside the Beltway

Megrahi’s release sparked protests in the United States, especially from New Jersey’s representatives in Washington. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has repeatedly called for a Senate investigation into Megrahi’s release. Calls to Lautenberg’s office were not returned.

Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), told The Jewish Standard earlier this week that the latest batch of WikiLeaks documents contained “virtually no surprises” but the revelations have damaged the diplomatic flexibility of the United States and other nations.

“I find it ironic that a group that claims to be for peace would place a chilling effect on international diplomacy for the foreseeable future,” he said. “The United States government has taken immediate steps and begun long-range efforts to minimize the chances of such a massive leak of classified documents. There will never be any leak-proof system, but this latest round of WikiLeak releases has engendered the appropriate level of serious attention to these matters.”

Money for Iron Dome

The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution last week to fund the rest of fiscal year 2011 by a vote of 212 to 206. Included in the spending bill, which divided Democrats and Republicans, was $205 million for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which the Jewish state is developing to defend against kassam rockets.

In a statement to the Standard, Rothman said he was “extremely pleased and proud that President Obama’s allocation for Israel’s Iron Dome program was included in the House’s funding bill for the upcoming year.

“This was a priority of Congress and President Obama, and it is the first funding of its kind for this important short-range rocket and artillery shell defense system.”

The allocation is in addition to the more-than-$200 million already allocated for the Arrow and David’s Sling missile defense systems, jointly developed by Israel and the United States.

“This funding sends a strong message, to both our enemies and allies, by providing more total dollars than ever before toward these rocket and missile defense programs,” Rothman said.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-8) voted for the bill, but Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) joined with other House Republicans in opposing the bill because of other spending attached to it.

“At a time when American families are making personal sacrifices to reduce their family budgets and cut back expenses, I could not in good conscience vote for a federal spending bill that fails to do the same,” Garrett said in a statement to the Standard. “It’s unfortunate that the Iron Dome defense system had to be attached to such a controversial spending bill. I have long advocated separating U.S. funding assistance for Israel’s defense from contentious measures like the bill voted on last week.”

Palestine: To be or not to be

Two South American countries last month recognized the state of Palestine on the 1967 armistice lines. Increasingly, voices within the Palestinian Authority are calling for unilateral recognition by the United Nations of a Palestinian state, bypassing negotiations with Israel. The unilateral threats have been condemned in Washington, where members of Congress have begun to reconsider Palestinian financial aid.

Palestinian aid is important to U.S. and Israeli interests, as well as the Palestinians and peace process, Rothman said. “However, should the Palestinian Authority take unilateral actions, such as declaring itself a state without a prior agreement with the Jewish State of Israel, then the United States must seriously re-examine whether the Palestinian Authority is an appropriate recipient of U.S. foreign aid.”

Rothman called the South American recognition of Palestine “misguided and unhelpful” and said it would have “no practical effect” other than to draw negative attention from the United States.

“Instead of making pointless threats to unilaterally declare statehood, the Palestinian Authority must demonstrate its seriousness as a partner for peace with Israel and return to direct negotiations with Israel without preconditions and to resolve these matters in the interest of both parties,” he said.

Garrett also lashed out against Palestinian unilateral moves in a statement to the Standard, saying that such moves undermine the peace process and cause instability.

“This year, terrorists based in Gaza have fired hundreds of rockets and mortar shells into Israeli communities,” he said. “These human rights violations cannot be overlooked and I believe the P.A. has an obligation to discontinue attacks on Israel and affirm Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state.”

Garrett and Rothman joined 50 other House members in co-sponsoring a resolution, which passed a vote on Wednesday, in support of “a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and for other purposes.” The resolution also calls on President Obama to deny recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestine and oppose global recognition.

 
 

The father of a victim takes another look at Lockerbie

 
 
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