B’nai B’rith International welcomes President Obama’s attention to specific issues, domestic and international, that we view as priorities.
The president noted his commitment to pursuing diplomatic means to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons development program. We must make it starkly clear to Tehran that the expanded deadline for talks must not merely serve as an opportunity for Iran to continue to build its nuclear program and deceive the world about its weapons-making progress.
B’nai B’rith has consistently called for maintaining pressure on Iran and keeping all options open. We are pleased the president acknowledged that Iran's nuclear program has implications for the security of both the United States and Israel. But we remain concerned that removing sanctions as an option leaves an open door for Iran’s delaying tactics.
All options must remain on the table. Keeping up pressure on Iran reinforces a strong U.S. negotiating position.
B’nai B’rith commends the president’s vow to fight terrorism. In light of the recent terror attacks in Paris that left 17 people dead, we support an intensive and unflagging battle to defeat terrorism worldwide.
B’nai B’rith commends the president for noting the American culture of respect for “human dignity” and we were pleased when he went on to say of this respect: “It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world.”
The president acknowledged the long-standing stumbling block that is immigration reform. He noted: “it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.” B’nai B’rith has long supported comprehensive immigration reform. America is a country of immigrants. As such, we must embrace a reform plan. The White House and Congress must work together. Real cooperation between the two branches is what will lead to a lasting reform.
Social Security is a top priority for B’nai B’rith and we regret more detail on social security challenges were not included in this speech.
In this, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we were pleased that the president talked about the most basic of American freedoms. Some of the guarantees contained in that legislation have eroded over time; we need voting rights reform this year to restore full access to the ballot box.
We were pleased to see Alan Gross as an honored guest sitting with the first lady. Gross was freed in December after unjustly spending five years in a Cuban prison.
Of course the State of the Union address merely provides a peek at the president’s top priorities. But it does offer useful insight into where the president, and in turn, Congress, may focus. B’nai B’rith will study details of the president’s plans and will continue to advocate for our top priorities.