President Obama threatens to veto sanctions bill, offends bill's Democratic supporters

During a press conference today, President Obama vowed to veto the conditional sanctions put forward by the renewed Kirk-Menendez bill, a law that would place increased sanctions on Iran’s economy if there is no final nuclear deal by June 30. The president declared that he is “not suggesting that we are in immediate warfooting should negotiations with Iran fail,” further undermining his promise to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.  According to a NY Times report, during the Senate Democratic Issues Conference, the President implied that Democratic lawmakers who were considering supporting the new sanctions bill were motivated by pressures from donors and the prospect of short-term political gain rather than long-term interests. The statement offended Senator Menendez, who stood up and said he “took personal offense” to those comments.  Senator Menendez told the president that he had worked for more than 20 years to counter Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and had always been focused on long-term consequences. Congress has been increasingly concerned that sanctions relief and concessions provided to Iran by the current interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) have bolstered the Iranians’ negotiating position in nuclear talks with the West. In addition to the sanctions bill, lawmakers in Congress are planning a bill that would require congressional approval of any final agreement reached by negotiators. During the press conference President Obama also claimed that the interim deal “froze progress on their nuclear program” and that “Iran has not accelerated its program during the time these negotiations have taken place.” However the interim deal ignored centrifuge R & D and ballistic missile development, and allows uranium enrichment to 3.5%. Furthermore, the JPOA did not cover potential military dimensions of the program, so it can be assumed that these are continuing as well. On Tuesday, Iranian President Rouhani announced that Iran is planning to build two additional reactors in Bushehr, which will further advance Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.  The State Department claimed that although they are concerned, the construction of two new reactors does not violate the JPOA.


The Times of Israel on Thursday published a feature on The Israel Project (TIP), praising the organization’s work on pro-Israel messaging and its impact on the “war of ideas” being waged in traditional and social media outlets. The article describes TIP, led by its President & CEO Josh Block, as “a fast-paced, single-minded war room pumping out pro-Israel memes, fighting Israel’s detractors in cyberspace, conducting polling and research, and helping to arm what Block calls ‘a pro-Israel social media army.’ To equip this virtual militia, The Israel Project has a rapid response team dedicated to producing infographics, videos, and other shareable products that are suited to modern channels of communications.” Block says that this is needed to counter the infrastructure of the forces opposed to Israel.  “Israel’s detractors have built a very sophisticated ecosystem that produces an echo chamber effect,” he says. “They’ve built a system that can build and sustain a meme – a group of ideas that become a cultural fact. For example, how does something so false and ridiculous like the idea that Israel is an apartheid state become something that the US Secretary of State uses as a lazy aphorism?” The way it works, he says, is that the interconnected “self-referential network” of anti-Israel bloggers introduces a piece of information online, and then moves it across the system closer to the mainstream, where it will get “laundered” by the UN, an NGO, or think tank. Eventually, Block says, even the most vile and absurd accusations against Israel will be considered legitimate discourse. The article also notes that TIP has “affected over 100 stories in The New York Times this year, 99 in the Washington Post, and 75 in the Associated Press” through its press outreach efforts. Leaders in the pro-Israel and Jewish communities praise TIP’s influence and role. “There is lots of wonderful, passionate pro-Israel work out there. . . But no one except The Israel Project focuses exclusively on pro-Israel messaging, particularly responses to false and misleading anti-Israeli messages, and the ability to spread their responses through appropriate social media,” said Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.


'Aya’ set a precedent in Israeli cinema as the first short film released as a standalone in theatrical screenings. There’s an Israeli film in the running for the Academy Awards this year: Aya in the Best Live Action Short category. The 40-minute drama by Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun and starring Sarah Adler and Ulrich Thomsen, had been among 10 films shortlisted for the 87th Academy Awards. Another Israeli film, Summer Vacation, was also on that list. Aya tells the story of a woman who picks up a complete stranger — a Danish music researcher visiting Israel as a judge for the Rubinstein Piano Competition — at the airport and mischievously sets off with him for his destination. The final five nominees were announced on Thursday in Los Angeles. The Oscars will be held on February 22, 2015. (via Israel21c)

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