September 17, 2013

Obama to host Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu at the WH

President Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House on Sept. 30, press secretary Jay Carney said today.

The visit comes as Secretary of State John Kerry has engaged Israelis and Palestinians in an effort to restart peace talks and Carney said Obama "looks forward to discussing with prime minister Netanyahu the progress on final status negotiations with the Palestinians as well as development in Iran, Syria, and elsewhere in the region."

August 28, 2013

Boehner, in letter, wants answers from the White House on Syria

House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday wrote President Barack Obama a lengthy letter seeking detailed answers on the Syria mission, asking how military action will further U.S. objectives.


Here's his letter:

"I deeply respect your role as our country’s commander-in-chief, and I am mindful that Syria is one of the few places where the immediate national security interests of the United States so visibly converge with broader U.S. security interests and objectives.  Our nation’s response to the deterioration and atrocities in Syria has implications not just in Syria, but also for America’s credibility across the globe, especially in places like Iran.  

Even as the United States grapples with the alarming scale of the human suffering, we are immediately confronted with contemplating the potential scenarios our response might trigger or accelerate. These considerations include the Assad regime potentially losing command and control of its stock of chemical weapons or terrorist organizations – especially those tied to al Qaeda – gaining greater control of and maintaining territory.  How the United States responds also has a significant impact on the security and stability of U.S. allies in the region, which are struggling with the large exodus of Syrian refugees and the growing spillover of violence feeding off of ethnic and religious tensions.  The House of Representatives takes these interests and potential consequences seriously in weighing any potential U.S. and international response in Syria.

Since March of 2011, your policy has been to call for a stop to the violence in Syria and to advocate for a political transition to a more democratic form of government.  On August 18, 2012, you called for President Assad’s resignation, adding his removal as part of the official policy of the United States.   In addition, it has been the objective of the United States to prevent the use or transfer of chemical weapons.  I support these policies and publically agreed with you when you established your red line regarding the use or transfer of chemical weapons last August. 

Now, having again determined your red line has been crossed, should a decisive response involve the use of the United States military, it is essential that you provide a clear, unambiguous explanation of how military action – which is a means, not a policy – will secure U.S. objectives and how it fits into your overall policy.  I respectfully request that you, as our country’s commander-in-chief, personally make the case to the American people and Congress for how potential military action will secure American national security interests, preserve America’s credibility, deter the future use of chemical weapons, and, critically, be a part of our broader policy and strategy. In addition, it is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.

Continue reading "Boehner, in letter, wants answers from the White House on Syria" »

July 31, 2013

Senate kills effort to cut off aid to Egypt

The Senate Wednesday resoundingly rejected, 86-13, an effort by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to cut off American aid, most of it military, to Egypt.

Paul's proposal would have ended the aid until Egypt holds democratic elections, and redirected the money to bridge building in the United States.

He asked colleagues if they would rather spend the money in Egypt or in this country? The answer was a resounding "Egypt."

"We tell other countries to follow the rule of law, yet our own Administration fails to do so. Sending money to Egypt under their current military coups is illegal," Paul said. "Instead of illegally sending that money overseas, we are better off spending that money at home."

Continue reading "Senate kills effort to cut off aid to Egypt" »

July 29, 2013

Obama hails start of Israeli-Palestine talks

President Barack Obama is hailing the resumption of talks between Israelis and Palestians, calling it a "promising step forward, though hard work and hard choices remain ahead."

His remarks come as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted Secretary of State John Kerry's invite to formally resume negotiations and have sent senior negotiating teams to Washington for the first round of meetings.

Obama noted that during his March visit to the Middle East he "experienced first-hand the profound desire for peace among both Israelis and Palestinians, which reinforced my belief that peace is both possible and necessary."

Continue reading "Obama hails start of Israeli-Palestine talks " »

July 22, 2013

White House on Middle East peace talks: "Very cautious optimism"

The Obama administration is working on a date for Israelis and Palestinians to come to Washington "in the coming weeks" to begin negotiations on peace talks, press secretary Jay Carney said -- adding that the White House remains aware that the situation poses "an enormous challenge."

"But the fact that it has been such a difficult challenge does not mean it should not constantly be addressed," Carney said, adding Obama believes "it's an essential thing to do, to continue to try to bring the parties together in direct negotiations, to try to resolve what divides them."

Obama met Monday with Secretary of State John Kerry who has been leading the effort to get the two sides back to the table and Carney said the White House has "very cautious optimism" about the chances for success.

"This is an issue that has been a very difficult one for years and years and years," he said. "But the imperative for trying to resolve it remains as powerful today as it has for the last many years, as successive leaders of the Palestinians and the Israelis, and successive administrations here in the United States, as well as our partners and allies around the world and region have engaged in the effort to try to bring about negotiations that produce a lasting agreement."

July 09, 2013

Reid has little to say about aid to Egypt

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is keeping in touch with the White House on aid to Egypt, and that's as much as he'll say.

At a news conference Tuesday, Reid, D-Nevada, was asked if he believed there had been a coup in Egypt, and how the U.S. should proceed.

"Here's how I feel about what's going on in Egypt.  I don't think there's anyone that's not concerned about what took place in Egypt. It's critical that we acknowledge that part of the Arab Spring, that Egypt moves forward in the democratic process," he said.

"On aid to Egypt, the administration's taking a look at the question of continuing aid to Egypt, and they're keeping us informed as they move through the process.  And that's all I'm going to say today on that."

Miami Beach native named new Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

A Miami Beach native and son of a Miami Beach mayor has been named as the new Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday he's appointed Ron Dermer to succeed the outgoing Michel Oren. Dermer has most recently served as Netanyahu's senior adviser and previously served as the economic attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Dermer is 42, married and the father of five children. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, he and holds a master's degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford.

Netanyahu said in a statement that Dermer "has all the qualities necessary to successfully fill this important post. I have known him for many years and I know that Ron will faithfully represent the State of Israel in the capital of our greatest ally – the USA. On behalf of the citizens of Israel, I wish him great success."

July 05, 2013

Israel's ambassador to leave after 4 years; a successor from Miami Beach?

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, today announced the (expected) end to his term this fall after more than 4 years on the job.

In a Facebook posting, Oren writes he's was "grateful for the opportunity to represent the State of Israel and its Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the United States, President Barack Obama, the Congress, and the American people."

He said in the posting that Israel and the U.S. "have always enjoyed a special relationship and, throughout these years of challenge, I was privileged to take part in forging even firmer bonds."

U.S and Israeli press have speculated that Oren's successor may be Ron Dermer, a Miami Beach native dubbed "Bibi's Brain" -- as Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's master strategist.

Dermer, now an Israeli citizen and the son of one Miami Beach mayor and brother of another, for months has been said to reportedly be Netanyahu’s choice for Israeli ambassador to the United States to replace Oren.

The Miami Herald notes Dermer, a political conservative with close ties to powerful U.S. Republicans, would become Israel’s top diplomat in the United States, a position requiring the ability to represent his country’s interests across U.S. party lines.

May 06, 2013

Menendez: Assad regime has "crossed a red line" and all options must be considered

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is moving quickly on legislation that would provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people and "limited lethal and non-lethal weapons to vetted Syrian groups."

“The Assad regime has crossed a red line that forces us to consider all options,” Menendez said. “The greatest humanitarian crisis in the world is unfolding in and around Syria, and the U.S. must play a role in tipping the scales toward opposition groups and working to build a free Syria.”

He insisted "there will be no greater strategic setback to Iran than to have the Assad regime collapse, and cause a disruption to the terror pipeline between Tehran and Hezbollah in Lebanon."

Here's his office's summary of his bill, which the full committee plans to begin considering next Tuesday:

Continue reading "Menendez: Assad regime has "crossed a red line" and all options must be considered " »

March 21, 2013

Obama in Israel: More Bibi jokes

President Obama is keeping up the bonhomie with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling a crowd at a Jerusalem convention center, that he knew in Israel "every word and gesture is carefully scrutinized.

"But just so you know," he added, "Any drama between me and my friend Bibi over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet."

Obama's crowd at the Jerusalem Convention Center -- more than 2,000 Israeli citizens -- were mostly students from Israeli universities and colleges that partner with the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Twenty attendees were selected from more than 1,600 entries to the embassy's Facebook contest that asked participants to submit entries explaining why they should win a ticket.

The White House said civil society leaders, representatives of the Israeli government, and international media were also among the invitees.


"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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