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February 24, 2012

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Ii I! :i i,i !' !!, i00iii PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 24, 2012 Ef'ort to change U.S. red line on Iran nas Senate Dems worried about war By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)--Is America's red line on Iran moving? A new bipartisan resolution introduced Thursday on Capitol Hill is part of a growing effort to shift the longstanding U.S. red line from Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon to having the capability to build one. Such a shift would bring U.S. policy in line with Israel's approach. The resolution---a nonbind- ing Senate statement backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee--calls on the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring even the capability to build nuclear weapons. It was introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jo- seph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.) and has 32 co-sponsors, roughly evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. In order to garner Democratic support, the resolution's authors had toned down its original language. "I'm trying to build a bipar- tisan consensus around some- thing-we all believe in," Graham said when asked by a reporter why he had removed language that seemed to threaten Iran with military force. But the bill is already pro- vokedjittersamong Democrats anxious over the specter of war. As it now stands, the resolu- tion "affirms that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the govern- ment of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability." The language that was Courtesy U.S. Embassy, Kabul Sen. Lindsey Graham has authored a resolution that would make an Iranian nuclear capability a "red line." removed would have affirmed "that it is within the power and capabilities of the United States Government to prevent the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability." Noting the "power and ca- pabilities" of the United States seemed too close to saber rattling for some Democrats, insiders said.Anumber of sena- tors asked Graham to include an explicit denial that the resolution authorized military action; he flatly refused. Capitol Hill insiders say that if Graham had not changed the language at all he likely would have failed to garner more than nominal Democratic support. "They couldn't find any Dem- ocratic co-sponsors until they addressed those concerns," said Heather Hudburt, executive di- rector of the National Security Network, a think tank allied with foreign policy realists and liberals, and one of a number of groups that made representa- tions to Democratic senators in recent weeks to tone down the resolution. The threat of military ac- tion is key to the resolutions potency, Lieberman said, but he emphasized that the resolu- tion did not seek to authorize such action. "We 32 original sponsors of this U.S. Senate resolutionwant to say clearly and resolutely to Iran: You have only two choic- es-peacefully negotiate to end your nuclearweapons program or expect a military strike to end that program," Lieberman said at a news conference Thursday. Were it not for the back and forth over the language, the resolution would have been in- troduced a week ago. The delay and the sensitive negotiations over language may presage tensions with Democrats as AIPAC leads the drive among pro-Israel groups to ratchet up pressure on Iran this year. Jewish Democratic insiders note that the Democratic party remains spooked over the po- litical fallout of its acquiescence a decade ago in the buildup to the Iraq War. "There are clearly plenty of people, especially in the Demo- cratic Party, who are reluctant to drive to war with great rapidity," a Jewish Democratic activist said. AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an "ask" in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying. As it is, the resolution has failed so far to attract the sup- port of some key Democrats on the committees critical to its passage, Foreign Affairs and Armed Services. Among those missing are pro-Israel stalwarts like Sen. Cad Levin (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on the ForeignMfairs Committee. Fifteen of the resolutions 32 backers are in the Democratic caucus, a figure that includes Lieberman, who caucuseswith the party. An official with a pro-Israel group said that more senators are expected to sign on in com- ing weeks. The resolution's sponsors seemed eager to suggest that the resolution reinforces Obama administration policy. Graham began the news con- ference by sounding a note that others among the eight senators present would repeat: "President Obama has stated that it's unacceptable for Iran to obtain a nuclear capability." In fact, Obama has never used the "nuclear capability" phrasing, speaking instead of Iran "getting," "obtaining" or "acquiring" a nuclear weapon as a red line. "America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options offthe table to achieve that goal," Obama said last month in his State of the Union address. There have been instances where nations like Brazil and South Africa have earned plaudits for renouncing weap- ons even though they likely retained capability to develop them quickly. Senators sponsoring the bill said capability is the more sen- sible red line when it comes to a belligerent regime like Iran's. Casey said that an Iran with a nuclear capability would drive nuclear proliferation and could hand off know-how to terrorist proxies. "The fact that they could give it to a terrorist and that it would lead to proliferation in that region is reason alone to support this resolution," he said Thursday. Israeli Prime MinisterBenja- min Netanyahu's government reportedly has pressed the Obama administration to adopt Israel's "capability" standard. According to media reports, Netanyahu refuses to give the United States advance warn- ing of an Israeli strike unless the Obama administration agrees to make capability its red line--to strike before Iran enters an "immunity zone," in the words of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Graham suggested the util- ity of adopting Israel's red line would be to keep Israel from going it alone. He noted that he soon would be visiting Israel and meeting with Netanyahu. "I will convey to the Israeli prime minister: We expect you never to lose control of your own destiny, but you need to understand there has been asea change in Washington. Please understand that we share your view that Iran should not have a nuclear weapons capability," Graham said. In recent weeks, there have been signs that the Obama administration has moved toward Israel's posture; De- fense Secretary Leon Panetta now speaks of the "develop- ment" of a nuclear weapon as a red line. Still, there are signs of gaps remaining between the Obama administration and Congress members. In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Com- mittee earlier Thursday, the di- rector of national intelligence, James Clapper, made clear that the administration contin- ues to perceive a substantive strategic difference between capabilities and acquisition. "We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so," he said in written testimony. "We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons." Graham, in an exchange, pressed him on the point. "You have doubt about the Iranians' intention when it comes to making a nuclear weapon?" Graham asked. "I do," Clapper answered. "So you're not so sure they're trying to make a bomb?" Gra- ham asked. "I think they're keeping themselves in a position to make that decision, but there are certain things they have not yet done and have not done for some time," Clapper said. "I guess my point is that I take a different view," Graham concluded.'Tmvery convinced they're going down the road of developing a nuclear weapon." Ahead of ench elections, Sarkozy makes pitch to Jews By Devorah Lauter of Jewishvoters feel "close to" Palestinians that there is a PARIS (JTA)--Trailing in the polls and with elections just 10 weeks away, French President Nicolas Sarkozy went to one of his most reliable bases of support-- French Jews--to drum up enthusiasm. On the morning of Feb. 8, Sarkozy met at Elysees Palace with released Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who holds dual French-Israeli citizenship. And later that day, the presi- dent addressed the annual dinner of the main French Jewish umbrella organization, the CRIF. "France won't compromise on Israel's security because Israel is a miracle," Sarkozy said. "France will never accept the questioning of Israel's security." But with the French econ- omy stumbling and some Jews less than thrilled with Sarkozy's record on Middle East-related issues, he may not find the same kind of backing in the community as he did when he won the last French presidential election in 2007. "A lot of Jews who voted for him are disappointed today," said Ralph Bohbot, who was one of 1,000 Jewish commu- nity members at the CRIF dinner and identified himself as a member of the Alliance Centriste political party. "He didn't know how to handle the economic crisis." Sarkozy has not officially Erez Lichtfeld courtesy of CRIF French President Nicolas Sarkozy. declared himself a candidate in the elections, which has its first round of voting set for April 22. Polls show him trail- ing the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, by 32 per- cent to 25 percent. Hollande also was in attendance at the CRIF dinner. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right, anti- immigrant National Front, is polling at approximately 15 percent. Despite the decline in sup- port for the president among Jews, Sarkozy's conservative Union for a Popular Movement party still remains far more popular among the country's 600,000 Jews than among the general French population of 60 million. Jerome Fourquet, analyst for the French Ifop polling center, says that 40 percent the UMP, versus just 26 per- cent for the French in general. Another 40 percent of French Jews are associated with the political left, compared with 48 percent in the general population. "A part of the Jewish com- munity is pretty worried about its security, and that's a plat- form that is pretty favorable to the right," Fourquet said. Sarkozy as interior min- ister during the second inti- fada was widely credited for cracking down on the wave of anti-Semitic attacks in France at the time--a national ef- fort that continued into his presidency. He remains an outspoken supporter of Israel. In a sometimes emotional speech to a crowd of ap- proximately 1,000 at the CRIF event, Sarkozy called for Israeli-Arab peace, talked of the importance of sanctions against Iran and extolled the Jewish state. But his speech wasn't all pandering. He said the solution to the Iran prob- lem should be diplomatic, not military, and expressed sympathy for the Palestin- ian cause. Sarkozy's deci- sion last October to vote in favor of Palestinian state recognition in UNESCO, the Paris-based U.N. cultural and science organization, riled many in the Jewish community, and Sarkozy addressed the issue in his speech. "We also wanted to tell the light at the end of the tun- nel, that they too could be taken into consideration and listened to," he said. "I know that by taking that position I could have troubled some of you, but if a friend of Israel doesn't do it, who will?" One Sarkozy supporter who asked not to be named said that Sarkozy "didn't do everything perfectly, but the reality is that the alternative would be worse." Perhaps more than his record on Israel, France's economic woes are diluting support for the president among Jews. Sarkozy has been criticized for his handling of the European debt crisis, his deference to Germany on eco- nomic issues and the prospect of austerity measures, which are cutting into consumer spending here. Jewish critics of Sarkozy also note his inability to significantly influence the Israeli-Palestinian peace pro- cess and the failure of his Mediterranean Union project, which he envisioned as a new coordinating body for the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. While many Jews may grav- itate to the Socialist candidate in the upcoming elections, few are likely to vote for Le Pen, whose far-right party is seen as hostile to Jews despite her attempts to distance the party from its anti-Semitic past and its founder, her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Le Pen, Erez Lichtfeld courtesy of CRIF French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, with CRIF Presi- dent Richard Prasquier, center, and the Socialist Party front- runner for the French presidency, Francois Hollande, at the CRIF dinner, Feb. 8. who wants to outlaw public Muslim prayer, has tried to court Jewish voters, but Jew- ish community leaders say they won't bite. "We won't vote for the Na- tional Front," CRIF President Richard Prasquier said flatly at his group's dinner. Frida Zeitouni, 62, a mem- ber of the Women's Interna- tional Zionist Organization, says that judging from the chatter at the dinner and among her friends, most French Jews will vote for Sarkozy. But in the south of France, where there are more tensions between Jews and immigrants of North African and Muslim backgrounds, Le Pen's pitch may actually ap- peal to Jewish voters, Zeitouni said. "There are a lot of immi- grants, and the Jews there have had enough," she said. "That's why Prasquier says over and over, 'Don't vote le Pen!' because some Jews will because there are so many Arabs." The leading opposition candidate, Hollande, is con- sidered a supporter of Israel, and he recently metwith CRIF leaders. Robert Hue, a left-leaning senator and Hollande support- er, acknowledges that many Jews have viscerally positive feelings about Sarkozy. But he says that Hollande can do more for the community. "Hollande has a steady position. It might evoke less of the emotional discourse that was heard tonight" from Sarkozy, he said, but Hollande "is more into factual reality, so that we can advance and get somewhere."