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Posts tagged ‘Nobel Peace Prize’

Lech Walesa: Obama Has Failed, ‘America no Longer Leads the World’.

Image: Lech Walesa: Obama Has Failed, 'America no Longer Leads the World'

By Cathy Burke

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning former president of Poland, Lech Walesa, says President Obama has failed to reclaim America’s role as a world leader.

In an interview with CNN aired Wednesday, the 70-year-old Walesa — who supported Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 election — said the Obama administration has been a dangerous disappointment.

“When he was elected… there was great hope,” Walesa said. “…. we were hoping Obama would reclaim moral leadership for America,” adding: “That failed.”

“…. in terms of politics and morality, America no longer leads the world,” he said. “…America did not regain its leadership status. We were just lucky there were no big conflicts in the world,” saying the world has relied on a strong America to maintain the balance of power around the globe.

“… It’s a dangerous situation so we are awaiting a president who will understand that,” he said.

Walesa went from a shipyard electrician to a union leader who helped overthrow the communist government in Poland, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and seven years later, becoming the first democratically elected president in Poland.

“I managed to destroy a bad system,” he told CNN in the interview in Washington. “…. now we must be excellent at building new things. It doesn’t take that much.”

In 2012, Walesa effectively endorsed Romney in his bid for president.

“I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” Walesa was heard after meeting Romney in Poland, the Weekly Standard reported at the time.

“Gov. Romney, get your success — be successful!”

Walesa is the subject of a documentary that will be considered for an Academy Award this year, “Walesa, Man of Hope.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

South Africa Buries Mandela Amidst Military Pomp and Traditional Rites.

(Reuters) South Africa will bury Nelson Mandela on Sunday, closing one momentous chapter in its tortured history and opening another in which the multi-racial democracy he founded will have to discover if it can thrive without its central pillar.

flower4mmandelaThe Nobel peace laureate, who suffered 27 years in apartheid prisons before emerging to preach forgiveness and reconciliation, will be laid to rest after a state funeral mixing military pomp with the traditional rites of his Xhosa abaThembu clan.

The ceremony in the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape has drawn 4,500 guests, from relatives and South African leaders to foreign guests including Britain’s Prince Charles and American civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The anti-apartheid leader died in Johannesburg on December 5 aged 95, plunging his 53 million countrymen and millions more around the world into grief, and triggering more than a week of official memorials to the nation’s first black president.

As many as 100,000 people paid their respects in person to his lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was inaugurated as president in 1994, an event that brought the curtain down on more than three centuries of white domination.

When his body arrived on Saturday at his ancestral home in Qunu, 700 km (450 miles) south of Johannesburg, it was greeted by ululating locals overjoyed that Madiba, the clan name by which he was affectionately known, had “come home”.

“After his long life and illness he can now rest,” said grandmother Victoria Ntsingo, as military helicopters escorting the funeral cortege clattered overhead. “His work is done.”


Source: African Examiner.

World Leaders, South Africans Remember Mandela.

Image: World Leaders, South Africans Remember Mandela

SOWETO, South Africa — President Barack Obama implored thousands gathered in a cold, rainy stadium and millions watching around the world on Tuesday to carry forward Nelson Mandela’s mission of erasing injustice and inequality.

In a speech that received thunderous applause at FNB stadium and a standing ovation, Obama called on people to apply the lessons of Mandela, who emerged from 27 years in prison under a racist regime, embraced his enemies when he finally walked to freedom, and ushered in a new era of forgiveness and reconciliation in South Africa.

“We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace,” said Obama, who like Mandela became the first black president of his country. Obama said that when he was a student, Mandela “woke me up to my responsibilities — to others, and to myself — and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.”

Addressing the memorial service for Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95, Obama pointed out that “around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.”

Among the nearly 100 heads of state and government were some from countries like Cuba that don’t hold fully democratic elections.

On the way to the podium, Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, underscoring a recent warming of relations between Cuba and the United States.

In contrast to the wild applause given to Obama, South African President Jacob Zuma was booed.

Many South Africans are unhappy with Zuma because of state corruption scandals, though his ruling African National Congress (ANC), once led by Mandela, remains the front-runner ahead of elections next year.

The weather and public transportation problems rain kept many people away. The 95,000-capacity stadium was only two-thirds full.

Some of the dozens of trains reserved to ferry people to the stadium were delayed due to a power failure. A Metrorail services spokeswoman, Lilian Mofokeng, said more than 30,000 mourners were successfully transported by train.

The mood was celebratory. A dazzling mix of royalty, statesmen and celebrities was in attendance.

Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president who succeeded Mandela, got a rousing cheer as he entered the stands. French President Francois Hollande and his predecessor and rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, arrived together.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon waved and bowed to spectators who sang praise for Mandela, seen by many South Africans as the father of the nation.

“I would not have the life I have today if it was not for him,” said Matlhogonolo Mothoagae, a postgraduate marketing student who arrived hours before the stadium gates opened. “He was jailed so we could have our freedom.”

Rohan Laird, the 54-year-old CEO of a health insurance company, said in the stadium that he grew up during white rule in a “privileged position” as a white South African and that Mandela helped whites work through a burden of guilt.

“His reconciliation allowed whites to be released themselves,” Lair said. “I honestly don’t think the world will see another leader like Nelson Mandela.”

Workers were still welding at a VIP area as the first spectators arrived amid an enormous logistical challenge of organizing the memorial for Mandela, who died Dec. 5 in his Johannesburg home at the age of 95.

Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, and former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were at the stadium, and gave each other a long hug before the ceremonies began. So were actress Charlize Theron, model Naomi Campbell, and singer Bono.

Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of the day when Mandela and South Africa’s last apartheid-era president, F.W. de Klerk, received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to bring peace to their country. De Klerk, a political rival who became friends with Mandela, was also in the stadium.

Mandela said in his Nobel acceptance speech at the time: “We live with the hope that as she battles to remake herself, South Africa will be like a microcosm of the new world that is striving to be born.”

The sounds of horns and cheering filled the stadium. The rain, seen as a blessing among South Africa’s majority black population, enthused the crowd.

“In our culture the rain is a blessing,” said Harry Tshabalala, a driver for the justice ministry. “Only great, great people are memorialized with it. Rain is life. This is perfect weather for us on this occasion.”

People blew on vuvuzelas, the plastic horn that was widely used during the World Cup soccer tournament in 2010, and sang songs from the era of the anti-apartheid struggle decades ago.

“It is a moment of sadness celebrated by song and dance, which is what we South Africans do,” said Xolisa Madywabe, CEO of a South African investment firm.

The soccer venue was also the spot where Mandela made his last public appearance at the closing ceremony of the World Cup. After the memorial, his body will lie in state for three days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, once the seat of white power, before burial Sunday in his rural childhood village of Qunu in Eastern Cape Province.

Police promised tight security, locking down roads miles around the stadium. However, the first crowds entered the stadium without being searched.

John Allen, a 48-year-old pastor from Arkansas, said he once met Mandela at a shopping center in South Africa with his sons.

“He joked with my youngest and asked if he had voted for Bill Clinton,” Allen said. “He just zeroed in on my 8-year-old for the three to five minutes we talked.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Madiba’s Long Walk To History: Lessons In Leadership For African Leaders By Bayo Oluwasanmi.

Life is suffering.

There is no alternative means of confronting and solving life’s problems than through a painful process. Discipline is the basic tool we require to solve life’s problems.

Life’s problems evoke in us frustration, or grief, or sadness, or loneliness, or guilt, or regret, or anger, or fear, or anxiety, or anguish, or despair. The paradox of life is that life has meaning through the process of meeting and solving problems.

As the world mourns President Nelson Mandela, the words of author Gary Wills rings true of “the radical leader” in his book Certain Trumpets. Wills describes such leaders as people who vote with their life. Others follow them because they are ready to die for their cause.

In his opening statement before the Pretoria Supreme Court in April 1964, Mandela said: “The time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices – submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means in our power in defence of our people, our future, and our freedom.”

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, I have fought against black domination,” Mandela told the judge.  “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic rule and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” the anti-apartheid leader defiantly assured the world.

Such leaders who are prepared to die so that others could be free are rare, but we see them throughout history. The power of example is the greatest motivator there is. In the past century, no one can match the value and the profile of an individual like Mandela. His middle name Rolihlahla which is Xhosa for “troublemaker,” ironically turns out to mean peace maker.

It was the decision of the ANC to sponsor military action that started his long walk to history. In his interview in 1961, he categorically and unequivocally stated that “There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenseless people,” argues Mandela. “And I think the time has come for us to consider, in the light of our experiences at this day at home, whether the methods which we have applied so far are adequate.”

As the head of the armed wing of ANC, Mandela was arrested, charged, tried, and jailed for life. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems calls forth our courage and our wisdom, indeed they create our courage and our wisdom.

It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems. It is through pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.

Mandela spent 27 years in South African prisons before his release in 1990. A worldwide campaign against apartheid pressured the regime into releasing Mandela in 1990 at age 71. He was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994, serving one term.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with South Africa’s president at the time, F.W. de Klerk.

Mandela’s 27 years at Robben Island Prison provided the much needed tools of confronting and solving problems: delayed gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to the truth, and balancing. They are tools with which pain is confronted rather than avoided. It took 27 years for him to mellow from an angry man, better still, a troublemaker to a peacemaker and apostle of forgiveness.

The role of the wilderness in the preparation of a leader cannot be overemphasized. Quality leaders can almost always point to a wilderness experience as part of their leadership preparation.

The Robben Island Prison served as Mandela’s wilderness where he fought spiritual battles and overcame temptations to take shortcuts, where he learned discipline and the art of depending on God, where self-sufficiency and self-promotion were broken, where he solidified his sense of mission, and where he gained his perspective.

While at the wilderness – his Gethsemane – he felt loneliness, he expressed honesty, he became humbled, and he received strength. Every leader who does something significant for his people like Mandela, experiences a Gethsemane.
A man with a deep sense of destiny, he refused to be released on conditions and without the release of other comrades. He had always fought for inclusion. He was released on his own terms.

He campaigned for the presidency in his now familiar manner of stressing reconciliation and forgiveness: “Never, Never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another,” Mandela told South Africans.

Never has a politician remained so popular in his life time. Mandela was the first ex-prisoner to stay at Buckingham Palace. He even ‘flirts’ with Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls the British pop girl group. He immortalized the film “Invictus” directed by Clint Eastwood and insisted that he chose Morgan Freeman to play him.

His life was littered with tragedy: one of his sons died of Aids, another died in a car crash while he was still in jail, and 13-year old Zenani Mandela his great, great grand daughter was killed in car crash on her way back from a World Cup opening party. Through it all, Mandela has demonstrated that every time he was under the weight of adversity, he was being prepared to better serve God and lead people.

He chose to suffer in the now in the hope of future gratification rather than choosing to continue with immediate gratification in the hope that future suffering will not be necessary. He came to accept the necessity of suffering and to embrace the paradoxical nature of co-existence. Mandela taught us by example that the life of wisdom must be a life of contemplation combined with action.

Mandela exemplified the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. By his life, we know that among humanity, love is the miraculous force that defies the natural law of entropy. His life informs us that our personal involvement in the fight against evil in the world is one of the ways we grow, we live, and to be remembered.

To win trust, a leader must exhibit both character and competence. Mandela’s charisma, stoic optimism and reconciliation toward adversaries and oppressors endeared him to the world as the world’s most respected statesmen of the 20th century and a hero of South African democracy. He not only liberated a nation from oppression, but he forgave the men who stole his life. He seemed to be saying, “We swim, we sink, we fall, we take our fate together.”

Mandela, helped interpret the times by using three key tools of navigation: lenses-he modeled the right attitude to approach the future, road map – he warned us about the rough roads ahead, and a barometer – he helped us navigate the future conditions.

Mandela provides a textbook example of lessons in leadership to African rulers. His life should remind them in terms of stewardship that leaders are brokers of resources they have been given. Those resources may include people, budgets, time, wisdom, talents, natural resources, etc. How well have African rulers (they are not leaders) broker those resources? Through corruption, pilfering, swindling, squandering, and brazen stealing by the rulers, Africa remains one of the poorest continents on earth.

African rulers have been unrighteous managers of the continent’s vast resources. Indeed, the cruelty and injustice in African countries are underwritten by economic apartheid. Africa has been cursed with lousy leaders whose leadership is used for personal benefit,  not proactive in facing and solving problems,  doesn’t understand the value of relationships between the leader and the led, and  doesn’t understand the nature of influence.
African rulers are like the Biblical Esau whose stomachs are larger than their eyes who live in the present, and repeatedly failed to clearly see the future. Like Esau, they focused solely on the here and now, convinced that tomorrow never comes. Like Esau, their shortsightedness makes them give up the ultimate to get the immediate. And Like Esau, they are self-centered with faulty vision.

It is not good enough to declare a 3-day mourning or deliver oratorical eulogy full of flowery imagery and eloquence. As long as the continent is being ruled by the Jonathans, Mugabes, Nguema Mbasogos, Eduardo dos Santos’, Blaise Compaores, and other incompetent rulers, Africa would remain behind human race and civilization – forever!

With immense popularity, Mandela was forced to retire from retirement. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” Mandela politely and respectfully pleaded with the people.  Madiba, your wish is granted now. We wished we could call you but not anymore.

Madiba, when you were born you cried and the world rejoiced. But when you died, you rejoiced and world cried. This is the essence of life – to live for others!

Tata goodnight and enjoy your rest!


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

George O. Wood: Nelson Mandela Represented Christian Virtues.

Nelson Mandela
Former South African President Nelson Mandela died Thursday. He is pictured at a hotel in central London in this photo from June 24, 2008. (Reuters/Dylan Martinez)

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela—the South African statesmen, Nobel Peace Prize winner and the nation’s first black president who became renowned for leading South Africa out of the bonds of apartheid—passed away Thursday. He was 95.

Mandela, often referred to as “Madiba” (his clan name) in South Africa, spent nearly three decades of his life as a political prisoner and was admired throughout the world for his passion to seek unity rather than revenge.

“Nelson Mandela represented the Christian virtues of love instead of hate, reconciliation instead of enmity, and forgiveness instead of bitterness,” says George O. Wood, Assemblies of God general superintendent.

“Unjustly imprisoned for 27 years, he stepped into national leadership of South Africa and brought healing and hope. We express our heartfelt condolences to the people of South Africa and also to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ of the International Assemblies of God and Assemblies of God of South Africa, led respectively by Dr. Gordon Lebelo and Dr. Peter Watt.”

Greg Johns, South Africa area director for AG World Missions, expressed condolences on behalf of the Assemblies of God USA to the faculty and staff of the Global School of Theology in Cape Town. Johns says that in many ways the school represents what Mandela stood for, as it’s composed of every racial group—African, English, Afrikaner, Coloured (mixed races) and Indian, in addition to many international students.

“The feelings and thoughts expressed by all seemed to come back to the difference one life can make if lived by the right principles and values,” Johns says. “They all loved Tata [Father] Mandela deeply—white and black alike.”

This Sunday has been declared a national day of prayer and reflection in South Africa by President Jacob Zuma. Zuma has encouraged all South Africans to gather in places of worship, conduct prayer services and reflect on the life of Mandela.

The humanitarian work Mandela was famed for will be carried on by his three organizations: the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Mandela, who received the name “Nelson” from a preschool teacher, will be buried in a state funeral on Sunday, Dec. 15, in his ancestral hometown of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province.



The Legend Mandela dies at 95 ‘We’ll not see the likes of him again’.

nelson mandela dead.

“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela‘s life,” Mr Obama said.

“He did it all with grace, good humour and ability to acknowledge his own imperfections only makes his achievements more remarkable.

“As long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.”

South African president Jacob Zuma announced this morning that Mandela died on Thursday night local time.

He says their nation has lost its greatest son and flags across the nation will be lowered to half mast.

Mandela has been receiving around the clock intensive care from military and other doctors since September, when he was discharged from a stay of almost three months in hospital for a lung infection.

In a televised address, Zuma said: “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

“He is now resting,” Zuma said.

Flags across the nation will be lowered to half mast, he said.

Mandela had been receiving around the clock intensive care from military and other doctors since September, when he was discharged from a nearly three month hospital stay for a lung infection.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has this morning described Mandela as one of the great figures of Africa and of the last century.

“Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century,” Mr Abbott told Fairfax radio.

He was the father of modern South Africa, he said.

“A truly great man.

“And while I never met him I did read that book A Long Walk To Freedom and I guess the impression we get of Nelson Mandela is someone who suffered but was not embittered but ennobled through that suffering.”

Mandela was elected South Africa’s first black president after spending nearly three decades in prison.

Mandela, once a boxer, had a long history of lung problems after contracting tuberculosis while in jail on Robben Island.

His extraordinary life story, quirky sense of humour and lack of bitterness towards his former oppressors ensured global appeal for the charismatic leader.

Once considered a terrorist by the United States and Britain for his support of violence against the apartheid regime, at the time of his death he was an almost unimpeachable moral icon.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner spent 27 years behind bars before being freed in 1990 to lead the African National Congress (ANC) in negotiations with the white minority rulers which culminated in the first multi-racial elections in 1994.

A victorious Mandela served a single term as president before taking up a new role as a roving elder statesman and leading AIDS campaigner before finally retiring from public life in 2004.

“When he emerged from prison people discovered that he was all the things they had hoped for and more,” fellow Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said.

“He is by far the most admired and revered statesperson in the world and one of the greatest human beings to walk this earth.”

He was a global cause celebre during the long apartheid years, and popular pressure led world leaders to tighten sanctions imposed on South Africa’s racist white minority regime.

In 1988 at a concert in Wembley stadium in London, tens of thousands sang “Free Nelson Mandela” as millions more watched on their television sets across the world.

Source: Radio Biafra.

Nelson Mandela Burial Planned For December 15 – Huffington Post.


JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africans erupted in song, dance and tears on Friday in public and emotional celebrations of the life of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who bridged this country’s black-white divide and helped avert a race war.

Fellow anti-apartheid leaders like retired archbishop Desmond Tutu called for the 51 million South Africans to adhere to the values of unity and democracy that Mandela embodied. The tributes to Mandela that came from people across the spectrum showed that he had affected people deeply.

Read more at the Huffington Post website 


Nelson Mandela, Anti-apartheid Icon And Father Of Modern South Africa, Dies-CNN.

By Faith Karimi, CNN

Nelson Mandela endured 27 years in prison before becoming South Africa’s first president from 1994 to 1999. He remains an emblem of the fight against apartheid, the country’s system of racial segregation. Nelson Mandela endured 27 years in prison before becoming South Africa’s first president from 1994 to 1999. He remains an emblem of the fight against apartheid, the country’s system of racial segregation.



South Africa’s Nelson Mandela dies in Johannesburg.

The announcement of Mandela’s death was made by President Jacob Zuma

South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died, South Africa’s president says.

Mr Mandela, 95, led South Africa’s transition from white-minority rule in the 1990s, after 27 years in prison.

He had been receiving intense home-based medical care for a lung infection after three months in hospital.

In a statement on South African national TV, Mr Zuma said Mr Mandela had “departed” and was at peace.

Continue reading the main story

Nelson Mandela

1918 Born in the Eastern Cape

1943 Joined African National Congress

1956 Charged with high treason, but charges dropped after a four-year trial

1962 Arrested, convicted of incitement and leaving country without a passport, sentenced to five years in prison

1964 Charged with sabotage, sentenced to life

1990 Freed from prison

1993 Wins Nobel Peace Prize

1994 Elected first black president

1999 Steps down as leader

2001 Diagnosed with prostate cancer

2004 Retires from public life

2005 Announces his son has died of an HIV/Aids-related illness

“Our nation has lost its greatest son,” Mr Zuma said.

He said Mr Mandela would receive a full state funeral, and flags would be flown at half-mast.

BBC correspondents say Mr Mandela’s body will be moved to a mortuary in Pretoria, and the funeral is likely to take place next Saturday.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was one of the world’s most revered statesmen after preaching reconciliation despite being imprisoned for 27 years.

He had rarely been seen in public since officially retiring in 2004.

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves,” Mr Zuma said.

“Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell.”

US President Barack Obama said Mr Mandela achieved more than could be expected of any man.

He hailed him as “a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice”.

Continue reading the main story


image of Pumza FihlaniPumza FihlaniBBC News, Johannesburg

The greatest father there ever was: this is how South Africans will remember the man who brought an end to apartheid and delivered the nation from the brink of civil war.

Social networking sites are abuzz with messages of condolences and messages of gratitude to the late statesman. He had been in and out of hospital in recent years and had become increasingly frail but many South Africans had continued to express their unreadiness to lose him.

As he did in life, his passing has brought unity amongst South Africans as black and white speak of their love for him. Many here will be drawing on that same spirit for strength, that “Madiba magic” over the next few days and weeks as the nation left with the great burden of honouring Mr Madela’s legacy, mourns his passing but also celebrates his life.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to Mr Mandela, saying “a great light has gone out in the world”.

Since he was released from hospital, the South African presidency repeatedly described Mr Mandela’s condition as critical but stable.

Born in 1918, Nelson Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943, as a law student.

He and other ANC leaders campaigned against apartheid (white-only rule).

He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, but was released in 1990 as South Africa began to move away from strict racial segregation.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994. He stepped down after five years in office.

After leaving office, he became South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV/Aids and helping to secure his country’s right to host the 2010 football World Cup.

He was also involved in peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries in Africa and elsewhere.

A look back at the life of Nelson Mandela.


Possibility of Less Sanctions Has Iran Spinning Out of Control.

Israeli and US flags
Backdoor negotiations between the U.S. and Iran have Israelis on guard. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Sometimes when friends call or write from overseas to ask what Israelis think about a certain current event, it gives me pause to step back and consider what things we are seeing, feeling or taking for granted in Israel. This has been happening increasingly with the issue of Iran sanctions and the threat of war before us.

As fast as the Iranian centrifuges are spinning, by estimations in excess of 18,000 of them, keeping Iran one step from the breakout point of becoming a nuclear state, the most dangerous and erratic of them in the world, so, too, is the political spin dizzying. Negotiations with the Iranians to set back their nuclear ambitions and abilities continue apace, as it was revealed that the Obama administration has been holding secret back-door negotiations with the Iranians. The White House has pulled out all stops to lobby and twist arms of congressional leaders to back its position and even tried to coax AmericanJewish organizations to do so as well.

France has emerged as Israel’s strongest ally on maintaining a firm stance on sanctions—an odd-couple pairing, given France’s past relations with Israel being less than supportive of Israel’s positions. Other strange alliances are rumored to be forming as well. And more and more Israelis are aware of the very simple fact that no matter who may appear to be standing firmly with Israel in its position that Iranmust be stopped at all costs, we cannot rely on others to guarantee our safety and security, and Israel can and should do whatever is needed to ensure its national interests which, vis a vis Iran, are existential.

On the negotiations with the Iranians involving the P5+1, a trusted friend with many more political and diplomatic contacts than I have summed it up like this: “Can you believe BHO and the Iranian nonsense? He is willing to give a suspension of sanctions in return for Iran not demanding that the international community acknowledge its right to develop a nuclear capacity!” More colorful remarks followed, but in essence, that sums up the situation.

In short, somehow the Obama administration sees appeasing Iran as its national interest and a strategy that makes sense globally. However, the Iranians have lied repeatedly, made their intentions known clearly, and have no history of any reliability in international politics or diplomacy, other than being the world’s leading backer of terrorism. Is this someone to make such a deal with? I don’t think so, and most Israelis don’t either. It’s really not rocket science, pun intended.

It’s hard to say why the French have taken a principled stand against such a deal, as France is not particularly known for its principled stands. Vichy comes to mind, but there are many more recent examples. While clouded in some early conflict, the French president’s visit to Israel this week was like a heroic homecoming of close friends. He had some tough things to say regarding peace talks with thePalestinians building in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), which was largely wrong, but his visit was feted as being a heroic welcome of our new friend du jour. It remains to be seen how principled and firm the French position will remain regarding Iran, but despite the fanfare, Israelis are mindful the tide can change at any moment and we’ll be standing alone again.

Some people more closely attuned to domestic American issues have noted that the naïve (at best) Obama push to relieve sanctions on Iran is as much to do with his false belief that the Iranians are a reliable and trustworthy partner, possibly colored by the fact that it wouldn’t look too great for a Nobel Peace Prize recipient to initiate a military action against Iran, and that he is using the Iranian issue as a smoke screen to appear rational and appeal to Americans’ anti-war sensibilities while deflecting attention from the unraveling of his flagship legislation, Obamacare.

There’s another strange parallel in Obama’s full-court press on Congress, and it’s equally and eerily uncomfortable that the case being made is like the verbal equivalent of Three-Card Monte. In this case, Obama has chosen to take his case to the Congress directly, using some of his best assets to make his case and prevent Congress from throwing a wrench in his appeasement of the Iranians. It almost seems that he’s given his word to the Iranians and is afraid to be seen as lacking integrity to one of the countries in the world that most embodies a lack of integrity. It’s widely known that in seeking to build a congressional backing for the administration’s positions, the White House has turned to leading American Jewish organizations to get their backing, or at least to get them not to lobby against the administration. Thankfully, most have politely but firmly declined the White House requests.

However, when it came to Syria just a few months ago, the Obama administration was perceived as punting and fumbling miserably, less lobbying Congress and more opening it up for a congressional free-for-all. Then, whether Obama had established a red line regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons, Congress was not too interested in the president’s integrity or his word.

Also differently, the White House successfully appealed to some American Jewish organizations to back his words and lobby Congress for a limited military response in Syria, albeit while putting these organizations in the unbearable position of backing a president’s position that he himself didn’t really back and about which he seemed all too happy when it died from successive knockout punches of Congress and the Russians.

All this to say that sitting in Jerusalem, it’s very hard to feel much comfort from an administration that seems confused at best, whose policies make no sense, one person of which comes into this lacking credibility and integrity, and the implementation of whose policies make war in the Middle East more likely than less likely. Remember this when gas hits $10 a gallon!

Not to be a total pessimist, there is one potential silver lining to all this—an unintended consequence that the Obama administration may not be sophisticated enough to understand, but if it does, it may not like: Reports are flying that Israel is quietly engaging the Saudis and other (moderate) Arab Gulf states who are equally concerned over the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons.  Rumors abound that the Saudis and others might allow Israel to use their air space in order to facilitate a military strike on Iran, something entirely unprecedented. It’s strange that the U.S., which used to try to be a reliable neutral partner to bridge Arab and Israeli differences, may now have driven a wedge between itself and some Arab states, so much so that they are drawn toward Israel as a reliable ally. Go figure.

This shows that Israel is not only not the core of the problems of the Middle East but in fact part and parcel of the solution, and that many Arab states know this. It shows that peace is possible, but it takes a great deal more sophistication than the White House is demonstrating its capacity for.

What to do? Join me in calling upon your congressional leaders (after all, I am also a proud American citizen, paying taxes and voting) in no way to back the easing of sanctions against Iran unless and until they cease their drive for nuclear weapons altogether.

And pray.



Jonathan Feldstein is the director of Heart to Heart, a unique virtual blood donation program to bless Israel and save lives in Israel. Born and educated in the U.S., Feldstein emigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a column for Charisma’s Standing With Israel. You can contact Jonathan at

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