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Ron Kampeas
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Who’s giving?

Republican candidates and their Jewish backers

WorldPublished: 24 April 2015

WASHINGTON — Election Day is 19 months away, but the campaign already has begun. Aside from Democrat Hillary Clinton, three Republican candidates with reasonable chances at the nomination have declared and several others are on the cusp.

The Republican Party says it’s been making inroads with Jewish voters, who traditionally have favored Democrats by 2-to-1 margins.

Here’s a rundown of the views of three declared Republican candidates — and two likely candidates — on issues of Jewish interest, and their connections to the community.


Competing views of Iran deal highlight challenges ahead

WorldPublished: 17 April 2015

WASHINGTON — Now that the outline for an Iran nuclear agreement has been released — or, more precisely, two outlines, one by Iran, the other by the Obama administration, have been released — major gaps have emerged.

They will have to be resolved before June 30. That’s the deadline for a final deal, which includes the agreement about when sanctions on Iran are lifted.

President Barack Obama and Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, issued conflicting statements on the sanctions issue in the past week, with Obama suggesting sanctions would be relaxed only once Iran begins to implement its obligations and Khamenei demanding that all sanctions be suspended upon signing an agreement. Khamenei also vowed that military sites would not be open to nuclear inspectors. That clashes with the American text, which says that inspectors have the right to visit suspicious sites “anywhere in the country.”


Obama meets Jewish leaders and donors

Works hard to show them how much he cares

WorldPublished: 17 April 2015

WASHINGTON — Jewish leaders expected President Barack Obama to sell them hard on the Iran nuclear deal.

Instead, participants in two White House meetings on Monday said he offered a softer pitch on how deeply he cares for Israel and the Jewish people.

“He tried to explain he understands Jewish trauma, history, the Jewish feeling of being alone in a bad neighborhood,” said a participant in the first meeting, which was attended by 15 top officials from Jewish organizations.

Another described the meeting as “intense.”

“There was an openheartedness, there were some deep reflections by the president,” this participant said.

Sources said the second meeting, for Jewish fundraisers for the Democratic Party, had a similar cast. “He said, ‘I consider it a moral failure if something happened to Israel on my watch,’” a participant in the fundraisers’ meeting said. “He said, ‘I feel like I’m a member of the tribe.’”


Hillary’s dilemma

Clinton weighs loyalty to Obama with distinctions on Israel issues

WorldPublished: 17 April 2015

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton does not appear until 90 seconds into the two-minute video rolling out her campaign.

No one among the bright and diverse array of everyday Americans in that video mentions foreign policy. Or Barack Obama.

Jewish Democrats say the video released last weekend is emblematic of the approach that Clinton is likely to take as she tries to balance her loyalty to Obama with the perceived need to distance herself from the tensions that have characterized his administration’s relationship with Israel.

That tack is embedded in a statement from her, issued March 29 through Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“Secretary Clinton thinks we need to all work together to return the special U.S.-Israel relationship to constructive footing, to get back to basic shared concerns and interests, including a two-state solution pursued through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” Hoenlein said, describing a phone conversation he initiated with Clinton.


Netanyahu facing challenges, criticism from Jewish liberals

WorldPublished: 27 March 2015

WASHINGTON– With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing escalating criticism and pressure from the White House, he could use some help from Israel’s erstwhile allies in the American Jewish community — especially those with sway in liberal and Democratic circles.

But several leading Jewish liberal critics of Netanyahu are working to rally American Jewish opinion against him by stepping up their condemnations of the prime minister and calling on the United States to ratchet up the pressure on Israel.

The epicenter of this liberal Jewish push is the annual J Street conference in Washington, where, in a Saturday night speech to 3,000 attendees, the group’s executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, accused Netanyahu of harming the U.S.-Israel relationship through “partisan gamesmanship” and called on the Obama administration to put forth the parameters for a resolution to the conflict at the U.N. Security Council.


Hillel’s Fingerhut pulls out of J Street forum over Erekat

WorldPublished: 13 March 2015

WASHINGTON — Hillel International said that its president, Eric Fingerhut, was pulling out of J Street’s upcoming annual conference because of the scheduled appearance there of Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.

But J Street isn’t buying it.

In a statement Monday, the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace group said that Fingerhut had known about Erekat’s participation in the March 21-24 conference when he agreed to appear at a public forum with students from J Street U, the lobby’s campus affiliate. J Street says it made Erekat’s participation public on March 3 and Fingerhut confirmed on March 6.

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No to speech, not to Israel

Black lawmakers vow to stand by Israel despite sitting out Netanyahu

WorldPublished: 13 March 2015

WASHINGTON — It was not the first time John Lewis had invoked the Jewish-black alliance that fought for equality during the civil rights era. But it was the first time that the Georgia congressman, a civil rights hero, invoked it to explain why he was skipping a speech by an Israeli prime minister.

“In many occasions we have worked side by side to strengthen our democracy and fight for equality and justice in this country,” Lewis (D-Ga.) said at a news conference on March 3, where several Democrats who had boycotted Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech earlier in the day explained their absence.

But like many of the 60 lawmakers who chose to sit out Netanyahu’s appearance before a joint session of Congress, where the prime minister railed against the deal the Obama administration is negotiating over Iran’s nuclear program, Lewis saw House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to appear on Capitol Hill as a partisan ploy that trumped his traditional support for Israel.

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Report on the speech

Netanyahu slams ‘bad deal’ with Iran

WorldPublished: 05 March 2015

WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech, in the end, was about reminding Americans that the enemy of your enemy may still be your enemy.

He may have lost some friends in the process.

Netanyahu spoke before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, after a six-week buildup that spurred questions about the propriety of an Israeli prime minister using Congress as a platform for his views two weeks before elections in his country, and resulted in a rupture, for now, between the Obama and Netanyahu governments.

“To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle and lose the war,” Netanyahu said during his 45-minute address, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group targeted by a U.S.-led coalition. “That is exactly what would happen if the deal currently being negotiated is accepted by Iran.”

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His own man?

Jeb Bush navigates between brother, father on foreign policy

WorldPublished: 27 February 2015

WASHINGTON— As clearly as Jeb Bush has said that he does not want his foreign policy decisions assessed against those of his brother — or his father — his choice in advisers has only made things murkier.

Of 21 advisers to the former Florida governor and putative presidential candidate named last week, only two did not work for President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1993 or for George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009. And one of those, former Secretary of State George Schultz, was close to Bush’s father when they both were in the Reagan Cabinet.

And because the Georges Bush, father and son, have such disparate records on the Middle East, pro-Israel groups already are picking through the choices and trying to assess which way Jeb Bush leans.

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Beyond sanctions and kerfuffles

A look at the Iran deal Netanyahu wants to avoid

WorldPublished: 05 February 2015

WASHINGTON — When Benjamin Netanyahu faces the Congress next month, two things are unlikely to come up in his speech: a consideration of diplomatic protocol and an analysis of the efficacy of sanctions.

Media attention before the speech has focused on the diplomatic crisis set off by the invitation to the Israeli prime minister from U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who kept President Barack Obama in the dark, and the ensuing political tussle between backers and opponents of new sanctions on Iran.

But Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington who coordinated the invitation with Boehner, has made it clear that Netanyahu’s focus on March 3 will be on the bigger picture: what Netanyahu thinks will be a bad nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the sobriquet for the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany, and Britain.

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