Obama to meet with Ehud BarakNATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (JTA) – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will meet with President Obama on Friday morning, acording to sources.
The meeting will come shortly before President Obama's address Friday afternoon to the biennial conference of the Union for Reform Judaism, which is being held in nearby National Harbor, Md.
In an address Thursday night to the organization, Barak said it’s important not to remove any option from the table when it comes to Iran. Barak also praised Obama for opposing Iran’s quest for nuclear capability and said U.S.-Israel defense cooperation is stronger than ever.
"The unshakable bonds between Israel and America and their respective defense establishments under the guiding hand of President Barack Obama are stronger and deeper than ever and we are very thankful and appreciative of that," he said.
Barak also alluded to the controversy over proposed Knesset bills that critics say would undermine Israeli democracy by targeting certain NGOs and minority groups.
“Homefront peace includes the maintenance of our liberal democracy where the rule of the majority will never be at the expense of the rights of the minority,” Barak said.
“I will stand rock solid against any attempt to curb freedoms or undermine our democracy,” he said. “The only Jewish democratic state in the world must remain exactly that, a Jewish and a democratic state.”
He also said American Jews should not shy away from expressing their opinions about internal Israeli matters. “Your presence and voice is essential to our decision-making. It gives us all one more perspective,” Barak said. “We welcome the debate and highly value your input in our internal debate in Israel.”
During the visit Barak and Netanyahu were accompanied by Judea and Samaria Battalion commander Shai Avital and Ephraim Brigade commander Colonel Ron Kahane.
The event – staged for the media – comes after last Monday's riot at the base in which angry Jewish youths clashed with soldiers after hearing reports the brigade had been ordered to demolish Jewish in Ramat Gilad during the night - which later proved accurate. According to security officials the youth threw stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF vehicles.
A report in the Hebrew Makor Rishon on Friday, Minister Benny Begin had worked out the deal to avoid the demolitions, but Barak had decided to reject it – and raced to demolish the site.
After last week’s tensions the deal – which would move the disputed structures several dozen meters in exchange for government recognition as a new neighborhood of Karnei Shomron - is reportedly once again in the works.
Before meeting with the brigade’s soldiers for the lighting ceremony Netanyahu was briefed on several incidents in which sector commanders and soldiers have allegedly been attacked by – in the words of senior officers and security officials – “Israeli outlaws.”
Netanyahu told the officers present he was trying to make it easier for them to cope with disturbances in Judea and Samaria and reiterated he approved a series of security protocols targeting nationalist protesters in the region.
He also repeated his now honed mantra, "unless we stop it now, it will spread."
"Even a small spot can stain a white shirt," Netanyahu said. "This was a stain on democracy and the rule of law. But it was also a stain on a great public - the residents here - who are hurt by this lawlessness."
"I am glad to oppose this lawlessness," he added.
Meeting with the soldiers of the brigade Netanyahu said, "we can not accept casualties - not among the IDF, border police, Arabs, or Jews."
A senior official in Samaria who asked to remain anonymous expressed concern over Netanyahu's remarks to Arutz Sheva.
"Netanyahu and Barak are joining the festival of incitement against the entire settlement community, as was done recently by the leftists and the media," he said. "It only makes matters worse."
Netanyahu previously stated he did not believe the riot at the Ephraim Brigade headquarters was representative of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, saying those behind it represented "an extremist fringe."
Community leaders and rabbis in Judea and Samaria broadly condemned the incident calling it "shameful and disgraceful," but some say the residents of Judea and Samaria were not responsible and have nothing to apologize - and are falling into a media trap by doing so.
A delegation of rabbis from the Samaria Rabbinical Council led by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar last week issued a statement that harming IDF soldiers was "a grave sin." They also called on the government to stop using the IDF - the people's army - to settle domestic political disputes where no national consensus exists.
However, while the incident itself has been almost universally condemned by leaders in Judea and Samaria, there have also been accusations security officials have blown the incident out of proportion for cynical ends.