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RJC Mourns Passing of Ariel Sharon

Washington, D.C. (January 11, 2014) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition released a statement from RJC National Chairman David Flaum on the passing on former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon:

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Ariel Sharon. He was a great warrior who fought wholeheartedly for Israel’s existence, security, and well-being from the very beginning of the State of Israel. He was willing to take risks and to lead from the front – on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.

"In 1998, the RJC had the privilege of taking four U.S. governors to Israel; one of them was then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush. Then-Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon took the governors on a helicopter tour of Israel that opened their eyes to the size of Israel, the proximity of her enemies, and the dangers she faces on all sides. That ride was also the beginning of a friendship between Bush and Sharon, two men who would soon become the elected leaders of their respective countries. This trip formed a strong bond between these leaders and fostered an historic strengthening of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

"Ariel Sharon’s strength and insight have been sorely missed in the years since his devastating stroke. We join with the people of Israel in mourning the loss of one of the true giants of Israel."


*The date of the governors' trip to Israel has been corrected.
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RJC Applauds Senate Support for Kirk/Menendez Iran Bill

Washington, D.C. (January 10, 2014) -- Today the Republican Jewish Coalition applauds the strong support among GOP Senators for the Kirk-Menendez bill, bipartisan legislation that would bolster ongoing diplomatic efforts to stop Iran's progress toward obtaining nuclear weapons capability by clarifying that sanctions will be strengthened if Iran fails to comply with international demands. To date, 95% of GOP Senators (43 of 45) have cosponsored S. 1881, the Nuclear Weapons Free Iran Act.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated:

"The Kirk/Menendez bill is an expression of urgent concern from the representatives of the American people. It gives our negotiators the necessary tools to stop operating from a posture of weakness and start demanding that the regime in Iran end its nuclear program - period.

"This legislation has been at the forefront of the RJC’s legislative agenda. We are proud of our efforts and those of our grassroots members who have made the case for S. 1881 and worked hard to attract cosponsors. We are proud of the results: by the end of the sixth day of legislative business after S. 1881 was introduced, 43 of 45 Republican Senators had signed on as cosponsors of the bill. We are disappointed that two GOP Senators have thus far failed to join their colleagues as cosponsors and we hope they will yet agree to sign on.

"In contrast to the Republicans, 16 of 55 (29%) Democrat Senators have cosponsored the bill, which speaks volumes about the tensions within their caucus about the necessity of confronting a serious threat affecting the U.S. and our allies. Nevertheless, it is clear that this bill commands broad bipartisan support in the Senate. All that remains is for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fulfill his pledge to allow the Senate to work its will."
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Obamacare Woes Brighten GOP Outlook for 2014 Elections

Monday, January 6, 2014
By: RJC Congressional Affairs Director Noah Silverman

One observer who wasted no time beginning to prepare for the 2014 House and Senate elections is President Obama.

Within days of Obama's second inauguration, Democrat sources announced that the President had pledged to hold at least fourteen major fundraising events for his party's congressional candidates. “Maintaining a Democratic majority in the Senate and picking up Democratic seats in the House will be crucial to Obama as he seeks support for his second-term agenda,” a February Associated Press report noted.

Expectations for Democrat gains faltered quickly. Obama was battered by scandals and embarrassed by his erratic handling of a foreign policy crisis in Syria. Republicans were increasingly confident of their hold on the House and determined to make a strong run to take over the Senate.

The 17-day government shutdown in October changed the outlook dramatically. Polls showed a quick 10 percent decline in the share of voters rating the Republican Party positively and a dramatic gain for Democrats on the 'generic ballot' poll question.

More concretely, Democrats showcased striking gains in candidate recruitment, in some cases landing candidates who had rebuffed previous entreaties to run. And Democrats' political committees raked in record fundraising hauls during the shutdown.

Once the shutdown ended, though, the spotlight was on Obamacare - and Democrat prospects have been reeling ever since.

As 2014 begins, Republicans have surged back into the lead on the generic ballot. Democrat recruiting efforts have stalled. Some of the Democrat candidates who announced bids in October had folded their tents altogether by December.

Hopeful Republicans still have a great deal of work to do – especially with respect to fundraising – but the outlook for taking the Senate and bolstering the GOP majority in the House looks better than ever.

Senate

After falling to take the Senate in 2010 and losing seats in 2012, Republicans believe that it's now or never in 2014. Because Democrats made major gains in 2008, there are many more electoral opportunities for Mitch McConnell's team than there are for Harry Reid's.

Ironically, one of the only Republican Senate seats at risk is McConnell's. If the GOP is to retake the Senate, it’s essential that the five-term party leader repel a strong challenge from Kentucky's liberal Secretary of State, 35 year-old Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The other potential GOP trouble spot is Georgia, where the vacancy resulting from two-term Republican Saxby Chambliss's retirement has drawn a large field of Republican candidates that includes three sitting members of the House of Representatives. The winner of an eventual run-off will face off against political newcomer Michelle Nunn, the daughter of the former Senator who held this seat for decades.

Republican opportunities begin with five seats left open by the retirement of veteran Democrat Senators Tim Johnson (SD), Max Baucus (MT), Jay Rockerfeller (WV),Tom Harkin (IA),and Carl Levin (MI). The GOP holds the advantage in the South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia races. And increasingly, Republicans in Iowa and Michigan are convinced they have a chance to 'steal' purple-state seats by challenging Democrat standard-bearers who voted to subject their constituents to Obamacare.

Even if Republicans protect all their own seats and sweep the open seats, though, they'd need to knock off at least one incumbent Democrat Senator to gain a Senate majority. Strong candidates have emerged to take on 'red-state' Democrats Mary Landrieu (LA), Kay Hagan (NC), Mark Begich (AK) and Mark Pryor (AR).

And GOP operatives are maneuvering to corral capable candidates who can take advantage in the increasingly likely event that an anti-Obamacare backlash leads to sustained trouble for 'purple state' Democrats such as Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Mark Udall (CO), Al Franken (MN), and Mark Warner (VA).

House of Representatives

In the House, as many as 90 percent of the seats are so securely within the grasp of one party or the other that there is no prospect of a change in party control.

Of the remainder – the 40 to 45 House seats that will see genuinely competitive races – slightly more are controlled by the Democrats. That means that Democrats would have needed to 'run the table' and then some to take a majority.

Democrats' hopes that the government shutdown would create the 'game-changing' dynamic that could make a Democrat takeover possible have been dashed. A December Washington Post analysis calculated that Nancy Pelosi's squad had a one percent chance of returning to power in 2014.

That said, Democrats have had success in the fundraising battle and expect to make a strong bid for control in 2016. Republicans can take nothing for granted as they prepare for intense battles to dislodge the few remaining Democrats holding on in GOP-leaning districts and to protect GOP stalwarts Democrats have targeted for political elimination.
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Brooks: Obamacare Comes Into Painful Focus

Thursday, December 26, 2013
By: RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks

Like one of those Polaroid instant photographs developing slowly in your hand, the details of Obamacare are coming into focus bit by bit. With each week, we learn more about the serious problems that Obamacare is causing for millions of Americans.

First hit were those whose individual insurance plans purchased in the private market did not meet Obamacare’s definition of “comprehensive.” President Obama said that only a small percentage of people would lose their old insurance plans this way. In reality, HHS estimated that 40-67 percent of individual policy owners would lose their coverage.

Next came tens of millions of people employed by small businesses. Their old insurance plans are being cancelled and the new plans have higher premiums, higher deductibles, and narrower provider networks. An estimated half to two-thirds of the people who get their insurance through their employer’s small group plan will have lost their current insurance by 2015.

As Obamacare forces insurance companies to cancel policies and replace them with more expensive alternatives that conform to government criteria, more people are forced out of the private market and into the Obamacare exchanges.

President Obama said that the plans available in the exchanges would be better and more affordable. Under Obamacare, all insurance plans must offer the same basic set of benefits, including maternity care, pediatric benefits, and addiction services. That makes all of the plans more expensive. Many middle class families, who don’t qualify for premium subsidies, will pay more for the plans in the Obamacare exchanges than they were paying before.

There is another side to health care costs that is just coming into focus now, too: high deductibles and high out of pocket costs. Many people choosing new plans from the Obamacare exchanges or from their employer’s offerings are finding that their insurance won’t begin paying for care until they’ve spent $5,000, $10,000, or more of their own money toward the deductible first. And once the deductible is met, the coinsurance (the amount the plan pays) may be as low as 60 percent, leaving the individual to pay the rest of the bill for their care. Most plans today have an “out of pocket” cap to prevent people from losing everything in the event of a serious health problem. But in the exchanges, some plans are offered with out of pocket protection only for care provided in-network. If you go to a doctor or hospital outside of your network, your insurance plan may pay nothing.

The President promised you can keep your doctor, but you might have to pay a lot more to see him or her. To keep costs down, insurers are cutting back their provider networks. People are finding that the doctors and hospitals they rely on are not part of their new network. In Georgia, one of the five insurers offering plans on the exchanges has just one hospital in the entire state in its network. In California and New York, major plans exclude the world-class Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles and New York City's Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

These narrower networks mean that millions of people, including those with serious illnesses, will lose access to the pediatricians, family doctors, specialists, and hospitals they trust. So while people with serious illnesses or chronic conditions can indeed buy insurance plans in the exchanges at the same rate as anyone else and cannot be turned away, whether they can keep their doctors as the President promised is a different question.

Many people with serious and chronic illnesses will also be shocked to learn that drug costs are much higher under Obamacare. Lower premium plans have higher out of pocket costs for medications, and insurance may pay as little as 50 percent of drug costs after the higher deductibles are met. The retail price of some medications used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV and other conditions can be thousands of dollars per month. Patients may pay considerably more for drugs under Obamacare plans than they paid under previous plans.

Low-income individuals and families face a different access issue: the single option available to them on the Obamacare exchanges in many states is Medicaid. In fact, the vast majority of those who have enrolled via the exchanges so far have actually enrolled in Medicaid, not an insurance plan. In many places, doctors are refusing to see new Medicaid patients because of the drastically below-market payments they receive for their services to those patients. Coverage without access is not the good health care uninsured Americans were promised.

One of the most visible signs of trouble with Obamacare was the disastrous rollout of the web site portal that was supposed to make learning about and buying insurance plans in the exchanges as easy as shopping at Amazon.com. While it’s now possible for more people to access the web site, many very serious problems remain. The site still has extremely poor security, endangering the private information of users. The back-end of the site (really the most important part) sends garbled information to the insurance companies for nearly a third of all applications. Medicaid applications are not being sent to state authorities properly. The payment system, where individuals pay their premiums and the government pays the subsidies, hasn’t even been built. Because insurance companies and states have bad data, no payments, and no way to verify information about applicants, a significant percentage of people who think they’ve enrolled in an Obamacare plan or Medicaid will find themselves without insurance coverage on January 1.

As the true picture of Obamacare becomes clearer, Americans are responding with some of the lowest approval ratings the President and his health care plan have seen to date, notably among women and younger voters, key Democrat constituencies. Most Americans, according to recent Gallup polls, believe that Obamacare should be repealed or scaled back. An AP/GfK poll showed that nearly half of those with employer-provided insurance said their plan was changing and getting more expensive – and three-quarters of those said it was because of Obamacare. As the truth about Obamacare become clearer, it will be Democrats at the ballot box next year that really feel the pain.

Matthew Brooks is the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. This article was published in the Washington Jewish Week, December 26, 2013. 
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RJC Welcomes Bipartisan Iran Sanctions Measure, Urges Quick Senate Action in 2014

Washington, D.C. (December 19, 2013) — The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) released a statement today in response to the introduction of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated, “We congratulate Senators Kirk and Menendez and their colleagues on their bipartisan achievement and we call on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring this bill to the Senate as the first order of business in 2014."

Brooks continued: "It's no secret that a large majority of Senators have been ready for months to do what the House did in July: pass a strong, sensible Iran sanctions measure. While hopes were raised by the administration's triumphalism after the announcement of an interim accord between Iran and the P5 + 1 nations, the threat of a nuclear Iran still grows daily.

"As regrettable as it is that President Obama has threatened to veto this sensible, bipartisan measure, we are hopeful that the Senate, like the House, will support Iran sanctions by a margin sufficient to overcome a presidential veto."
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Hear Matt Brooks interview on TLV1's "Politely Rough"

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks was a guest on TLV1's Politely Rough, an Israeli radio show. His segment covers the hot issue of Iran and the Interim Agreement, as well as a discussion on the past, present and future of the Republican Party in the U.S. and its relationship with American Jews and the State of Israel. Listen here!

 

[audio mp3="http://www.rjchq.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/MattBrooksInterviewTLV1PolitelyRough121213.mp3"][/audio]
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RJC to Senate Democrats: Stop Blocking Iran Sanctions

Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2013) -- The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) released a statement today regarding efforts by top Senate Democrats to block consideration of stronger sanctions against Iran.

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson are preventing the Senate from considering legislation to impose stronger sanctions on Iran. In August, the House passed a bill that would impose stronger sanctions on Iran’s energy sector and limit Iran’s access to money in overseas accounts, among other provisions, to reduce the funds Iran has available for its nuclear program. Senate action on similar language has been promised but has been delayed repeatedly by the senior Democrat Senators who control the agenda.

“Determined to prevent consideration of a bipartisan amendment strengthening sanctions, Senator Reid has delayed the Defense authorization bill until the last minute and is now trying to ram the bill through the Senate without allowing any amendments at all. Senator Johnson has stalled action on the sanctions bill before his committee.

“We call on the Senate Democrats to allow Senators to vote on Iran sanctions legislation. Sanctions are the most effective method so far for bringing pressure to bear on the Iranian regime. They brought Iran to the negotiating table and they are our best means of keeping the pressure on Iran to stop their nuclear program. It is time for the Senate to take action on tough Iran sanctions.”
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RJC: Congress Must Speak Out Against Obama's Iran Deal

Washington, D.C. (November 23, 2013) - Responding to President Obama's announcement of a flawed deal with Iran, RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

"Tonight, Americans saw how much damage a President with naive, misguided ideas can do to our nation's security and reputation. No matter which of the conflicting reports are correct as to the deal's specific provisions, the whole world can see the very alarming bottom line: President Obama's diplomacy is giving cheer to Tehran's rogue regime and causing alarm among our friends in the region - including Israel, Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf states. Congress and the American people need to speak out against this flawed deal."
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RJC: White House is Naive about Iran, Wrong on Israel

Washington, D.C. (November 21, 2013) -- A White House official is quoted as making inaccurate and inflammatory statements about Israel during a conference call yesterday with think tanks and advocacy groups sympathetic to President Obama’s Iran proposal.

According to a report in JTA, the official agreed with a conference call participant’s statement that Israel’s position regarding the P5+1 negotiations with Iran - demanding a total halt to enrichment and the dismantling of all of Iran’s centrifuges - was a path to war. The official said that insisting that Iran take concrete steps to halt its efforts toward a nuclear weapon would “close the door on diplomacy” and “essentially lead to war.”

RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks said:

“This White House misunderstands completely the intentions and determination of the mullahs who rule Iran. President Obama assumes that the Iranian leaders negotiate in good faith and will respond to positive incentives. That has never been the case.

“The Iranians want nuclear weapons and they have been working toward that goal with stealth and subterfuge for many years. Severe economic sanctions have had the most success in limiting Iran’s ability to move their nuclear weapons program forward. Sanctions must be tightened, not relaxed, to force Iran to end its development of nuclear weapons. President Obama’s plan will leave Iran with the time and the materials it needs to covertly continue its efforts and to break out a nuclear weapons capability in the near term.

“The White House must stop blaming Israel for speaking the truth to the international community about Iran. Yesterday’s comments from the administration official show again that this administration is naïve about Iran and putting daylight between the U.S. and Israel at a critical time.

“Israel has bravely taken a firm position on this question because the Israelis understand very clearly the existential threat that a nuclear Iran poses to them. Other American allies, including the Saudis and the French, also believe that Iran cannot be permitted to reach its nuclear weapons goal. A nuclear Iran would be a vastly destabilizing actor in the region, a direct threat to our Mideast and European allies, and a threat to energy resources upon which the entire Western world relies.

“Anything short of a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program is what will lead to war.”
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Book Review: "State of Failure" by Jonathan Schanzer









State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State
Jonathan Schanzer
Palgrave/MacMillan, October 2013
Reviewed by Shari Hillman
State Of Failure_150w

Last November, 138 members of the U.N. General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinians’ presence in that body from “observer entity” to “non-member observer state.” (Germany, Australia, and the U.K. were among the 41 abstentions. The U.S., Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, and Micronesia were among the nine “no” votes.) This unilateral push in the U.N., rightly condemned by the U.S. and Israel, was the latest effort by the Palestinian Authority to move forward the issue of Palestinian statehood.

In State of Failure, Jonathan Schanzer has written the first in-depth examination of a question that badly needs asking: Are the Palestinians prepared for statehood? Or more specifically: Is the PA “an efficient, transparent, or financially viable authority that is prepared to function as a government for the Palestinian people?”

Clearly it is not, as news reports from time to time demonstrate, but that hasn’t deterred international donors and supporters of the PA.

One example: a leaked European report revealed in October that the Palestinian Authority squandered nearly $2.7 billion in European aid between 2008 and 2012. Less than a week after that news broke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Mahmoud Abbas and reiterated Europe’s commitment to pouring yet more aid into the PA.

Such policies only encourage the corruption and dysfunction in the PA and ultimately hurt the Palestinian people.

Schanzer provides us with a detailed history of the Palestinian Authority that examines how its leaders have failed their people by not developing the infrastructure and political culture that could support an independent state. He holds the U.S. and Europe accountable for their contributions to these failures. (The idea that the PA was the antidote to the even more terrible Hamas did not move Palestinian state building forward.) And while the author does not minimize the difficulties that Israeli occupation and security needs posed and continue to pose for the Palestinians, his focus in this unique book is on the internal issues that have kept the Palestinians stateless and suffering.

First among them is the fact that the Palestinian Authority was born out of the PLO, a terrorist organization. Led by Yassir Arafat from 1969 until his death in 2004, the PLO was built on deception, corruption, secrecy, violence, and fierce loyalty to the leader, not exactly the characteristics needed for efficient government administration. As head of both the PLO and the PA, Arafat kept control through short chains of command that all led back to him, chains that were based on family ties, tribal alliances, patronage, and force. All money flowed through his hands to those he favored, all power was granted by him.

That singular control over money has been one of the most serious problems for the Palestinians and for the donor countries that have supported them. Top PLO leaders have been fantastically enriched while the average Palestinian got nothing. Salam Fayyad, who served as finance minister and later as prime minister, tried earnestly for years to find and account for Arafat’s assets, to set up a national PA treasury, and to bring PA finances up to accounting standards. The U.S. and other donor states were reassured by his efforts and by his personal integrity. Ultimately he was defeated by the PA’s political culture and Arafat’s monopoly on power, and later by Abbas’ enmity.

Schanzer offers some recommendations that perhaps should be obvious to an objective observer of Palestinian history: don’t expect terrorists to turn into administrators; develop private enterprise to replace foreign aid; require the Palestinians to allow a free press, to establish an independent judiciary, and to allow real economic development not dependent on patronage relationships. The Palestinians need not only a functioning government and a viable economy, he writes, but a legitimate public administration and an active civil society. None of these are currently in place.

As long as the U.S. and Europe continue to send billions in aid to the PA while failing to hold the Palestinians accountable for state-building, for ending incitement and terrorism, and for responsible financial practices, the Palestinians will be left either stateless or with a failed state. Their story will continue to be one of corruption and human misery instead of development and peace.

This review first appeared in the September-October 2013 issue of the RJC Bulletin, our bi-monthly newsletter for contributing RJC members who are current in their dues. To receive the Bulletin, please make your membership contribution or renew your membership here.
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