(Washington, D.C., Feb. 4, 2020)—B’nai B’rith International President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
A focus on Iran had a rightful place in President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. Trump noted that sanctions against Iran were negatively impacting the Iranian economy. We continue to favor the approach of sustained pressure on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions and other malign activities.
We are encouraged by the Israel-Palestinian peace plan Trump reiterated in his State of the Union address. Unveiled last week, the plan provides some crucial measures: it takes into account Israel’s vital security needs and reaffirms Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, among other key provisions. Crucially, it also would not allow for the Palestinian “right of return,” which would end the State of Israel’s Jewish majority and, by extension, the state of Israel. We support this plan that is predicated on direct negotiations between the parties.
We were disappointed that the president did not acknowledge the alarming rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. With Jews under attack – physically as well as through relentless social media assaults – a plan to combat anti-Semitism would have fit in well with his overall themes of security and equality.
We commend the president for acknowledging Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó, who wishes to restore ties with Israel.
We support the energy independence Trump noted in his speech. Energy independence is vital to ensure the United States does not rely on oil from countries whose interests are not aligned with our own. While we affirm the need for energy independence, we are open to opportunities for clean alternative energy.
Immigration reform remains a troubling issue in the country. We are committed to comprehensive immigration reform that respects the need for border security while offering a compassionate system of legal immigration. The president did salute a border officer who worked to protect migrant workers. In sum, we support a bipartisan solution to combine border enforcement with a path to citizenship.
The president addressed gun rights and we continue to hope for sensible bipartisan legislation aimed at curbing gun violence.
We have a long history of advocacy on issues important to seniors, such as ensuring such social safety nets as Social Security and Medicare. We are interested to learn details about how the president will support these programs. We also support a bipartisan effort to lower prescription drug prices. We also were pleased to witness roaring support for a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act, the provision protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions.
The president supported freedom of religion with a passing reference to prayer in school. We urge adherence to the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause which prohibits the endorsement by school officials of one particular religion.
B’nai B’rith International will monitor details of some of the initiatives announced tonight as they become available.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit www.bnaibrith.org
B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
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.