U.S. Briefs 2-7-12

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Obama freezes Iranian assets in the U.S.

After months of postponing measures against Iran’s central bank, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Monday freezing all Iranian assets in the U.S., including those of the central bank.

In a letter to Congress, Obama wrote, “I have come to the conclusion that the additional sanctions are warranted, particularly in light of the deceptive practices of the central bank of Iran and other Iranian banks,” citing hidden transactions and other loopholes that are exploited.

Commenting on the new sanctions, a U.S. Treasury official said, “Iran will face increasing economic and diplomatic pressure until it addresses the well-grounded concerns of the international community relating to its nuclear program.”

The new, stricter sanctions, authorized in legislation that Obama signed in December, will be enforced under an order he signed only now. They give U.S. banks new powers to freeze assets linked to the Iranian government and close loopholes that officials say Iran has used to move money despite earlier restrictions imposed by the U.S. and Europe.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

U.S. closes Syrian embassy and urges nations to act

The Obama administration said that it is a “losing bet” to side with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, urging other nations and groups to act “before the violence puts a political solution out of reach,” Fox News reported.

After China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution sanctioning Syria and the continuation of violence in the country, the U.S. government also closed its Syrian embassy, recalling Ambassador Robert Ford and 17 officials.

In the meantime, the Obama administration believes it’s still too early to intervene militarily. “I think it is very important to try to resolve this without recourse to outside military intervention and I think that's possible,” President Obama told NBC last week.

—JointMedia News Service

Jewish leaders commit to reduce energy consumption and C02 emissions

The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) announced that a versatile group of Jewish leaders has pledged to lower greenhouse-gas emissions, advocate for energy independence and security, and reduce the Jewish community’s energy consumption 14 percent by 2014.

Several rabbis of all denominations and other Jews leaders signed the “Jewish Environment and Energy Imperative” declaration, part of the Jewish Energy Covenant Campaign. According to the declaration, “the need to transform the world's energy economy while addressing global climate change is not only a religious and moral imperative, it is a strategy for security and survival.”

“Each of us—as Jews, people of faith and Americans—has a personal responsibility to work toward lowering greenhouse-gas emissions and decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, COEJL co-chair, and president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

—JointMedia News Service

ZOA says attorney general should prosecute terrorists freed in Shalit deal

Click photo to download. Caption: U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. Credit: Department of Justice.In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) wrote that despite the presence of U.S. laws enacted to hold terrorists and their co-conspirators accountable for their actions, the laws aren’t being enforced for Palestinian terrorists who have killed American citizens in Israel.

ZOA noted the 1,000 criminals recently freed in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, including the likes of Ahlam Tamimi. In 2001, Tamimi drove a suicide bomber to the Sbarro's restaurant in Jerusalem, where the bomber murdered 15 people and wounded 130, among them several Americans. 

Holder should “indict Tamimi and other newly-freed criminals who have American blood on their hands, to seek their extradition, and to ensure that they are held accountable for their murderous conduct,” ZOA President Mort Klein said in a statement. 

—JointMedia News Service

JFNA meeting calls for more Israel engagement by federations 

The Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) held a winter meeting in Orlando to discuss leadership, Israel-Diaspora relations and the Jewish Federation’s Israel advocacy role, a press release announced.

Held on Jan 22-23, the meeting included a presentation by Larry S. Moses, who spoke about the importance of activism within the Jewish community. Knesset member and former senior JFNA Israel director Nachman Shai said, “[we] cannot do the job by ourselves—we need you too. I invite you to get involved.”

Barry Rosenberg, president & CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis also called for more federation engagement in social issues in Israel. “What kind of state do we want Israel to be? Is Israel more democratic than Jewish, or more Jewish than democratic?” Shai added.

—JointMedia News Service

Founder resigns as CEO of The Israel Project

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi will step down as CEO of The Israel Project (TIP), a press release announced last week. TIP is an independent, non-partisan organization that offers information about Israel and the Middle East to the media, policy makers and the public.

Mizrahi founded and developed the organization, and now plans to work in communications consultancy, advocating for special needs children. TIP is already working to select a new CEO.

“The Israel Project is well poised for a new CEO who will take it from strength to strength. Anybody familiar with our work knows that TIP is much more than just one person,” Mizrahi said.

—JointMedia News Service

Israel could attack Iran this spring, Panetta claims

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said last week that there is a strong likelihood of Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities as soon as this spring, Fox News reported. A former national security government official also told the news outlet that “the likelihood of an attack is high, and the timing seems about right.” However, he also added that the public statement on the issue by the secretary “may have interrupted and delayed the timing.”

Since news outlets quoted Panetta on the issue, he has refused to comment, signaling a possible distancing strategy on the part of the Obama administration if it fails to dissuade Israel from such a strike. “Whoever attacks Iran's nuclear infrastructure is really making the decision to go to war with Iran,” said Richard Burt, a former chief U.S. negotiator at strategic arms reduction talks, according to Reuters.

Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied an intention to attack Iran, but Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said that any negative consequences that would result from an attack on the country “would be dwarfed in comparison to the danger of a nuclear Iran.”

—JointMedia News Service

Con man suspected of swindling synagogue

An alleged serial fraudster was arrested Saturday after allegedly bilking congregants at a New Hampshire synagogue out of $500, CBS reported Sunday.

Texas resident Alan Farha, 35, is accused of scamming a number of churches and synagogues across the U.S. He currently faces a theft by deception charge, according to CBS.

Farha reportedly attended the Friday service at the Temple Adath Yeshurun and told the congregation a sob story about the death of his parents, asking them to help him pay for their funeral in Israel.

Local New Hampshire newspaper the Union Leader quoted one of the congregants as saying “I must admit I had some misgivings, but I did contribute.”

Temple president Bob Katchen told the paper that the suspect had made his appeal after the rabbi asked the congregation to pray for those who had died. “He really took advantage of the situation,” the Union Leader quoted Katchen as saying.

—Israel Hayom/Exclusive to JointMedia News Service

Posted on February 6, 2012 and filed under Briefs, U.S..