Christian Coalition

During a radio interview with The Gospel Station Network headquartered in Oklahoma, International Christian broadcaster and journalist, Earl Cox, said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's criticism of European hypocrisy exhibited by the EU’s decision this week to remove Hamas from the terror blacklist and to symbolically recognize a Palestinian state was right on target. Cox went on to say, “It is a travesty that a Hitler mentality is again being exhibited by many European countries. The EU’s decision to remove Hamas from being listed as a terrorist organization and to reward these barbarians with legitimate-state-status is not only insane but sends a horrendous message to civilized people around the world that it is better to pacify violent, radical Islam than to confront it for the evil it is.  To elevate the very people who have committed countless atrocities against humanity, engaged in war crimes, continue to embrace jihad and call for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people and place them on equal footing with the civilized world clearly demonstrates the power of the radical Muslim propaganda machine to create myths and distort and alter the facts and somehow dupe the media, governments and people of the world into buying into their fabrications.”

“It’s plain and simple,” Cox said.  “Hamas terrorists are experts at manipulation and deception. They are committed to the total destruction of Israel, a legitimate democratic state recognized by the United Nations.  Yet, the EU, by its latest action in favor of Hamas, has fully demonstrated its own anti-Semitic attitude against peace-loving Israel. Every Christian and every person who values freedom and democracy has a moral obligation to speak out loudly against anti-Israel European countries who have forgotten the shameful past of the Holocaust where six million Jewish people were slaughtered. While many who participated in those horrors called themselves Christians, they could only have been under the control of Satan himself and not really Christians at all.  As the Bible says,‘wolves in sheep’s clothing.’”

Cox concluded his remarks by suggesting that Christians around the globe should come together in unity to speak with one collective and loud voice against all people and nations that side with Hamas and other radical Islamic organizations and countries. “Any organization, people, group or country that calls for the destruction of another, and which openly engages in acts of terror, and which sanctions hate-speech by its religious and government leaders must be listed as terrorists.  There is simply no room at any peace table for those who refuse to embrace peace.  You can’t give what you don’t have.  Hamas and the Palestinians cannot give peace in exchange for land because they do not possess any peace.  Their intentions toward Israel and the Jewish people are nothing but calls for annihilation and destruction.”  

 

Saeed Abedini has penned a Christmas letter to his family and supporters from the confines of the brutal Rajai Shahr Prison in Iran.

The American pastor was jailed by the Iranian government two years ago for refusing to recant his faith. In his letter, he notes this is the first time he'll be spending the holiday without his family.

"These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me," he wrote.

But for Abedini, his brutal circumstances have only served to drive home the meaning of the holiday.

Read Pastor Saeed's full letter below:

Merry Christmas!

These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don't like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can't even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior's birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me.

These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why God chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did God choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? Why did God choose to be born in a manger in a stable, which is very cold, filthy and unsanitary with an unpleasant smell? Why did the birth have to be in such a way that it was not only hard physically, but also socially? It must have brought such shame for Mary and her fiancé that she was pregnant before marriage in the religious society of that time.

Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the Gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today we like Him should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world. Then we are able to give the fiery love of Christ to the cold wintery manger of those who are spiritually dead. It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy.

Christmas is the manifestation of the radiant brightness of the Glory of God in the birth of a child named Emmanuel, which means God is with us.

Christmas is the day that the heat of the life-giving fire of God's love shone in the dark cold wintry frozen hearts and burst forth in this deadly wicked world.

The same way that the heat from the earth's core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary's womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life. In the same process, the work of the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God's Holiness and Mercy that flows into our body, soul and spirit and brings the light of Christ into us and through us making this dark, cold, wintry world into radiant burning brightness. He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different than the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in. Hallelujah!

So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.

Pastor Saeed Abedini

Soaking in the lava love of Christ

'When Saturday is gone, one will find Sunday,' is an old, Christian Arab proverb that expresses their fear of sharing the terrible fate that has befallen the Jews. In other words, “when the Jews are persecuted, it is as inevitable that the Christians' turn will come next, as it is that Sunday will follow Saturday.”

This proverb has also been used to threaten both Jews and Christians, such as on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War with Israel when Muslims chanted “First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.”

A Prophecy Fulfilled

There is no longer a need for this proverb. It has become a prophecy fulfilled. Just as the Jews were driven out of Muslim lands in 1948, Christians are now suffering the same fate.

The only difference is that the Jewish refugees had a place to go: the newborn state of Israel. Iraqi and Syrian Christians are the second largest Christian population in the Middle East after Egyptian Copts. They are now fleeing the barbaric forces of various Islamist factions and have nowhere to go.

When the Saturday People Fled

The Jewish population in the Middle East (outside Israel) and North Africa has declined from some one million in 1945 to less than five thousand today. While not all of them fled their homes as refugees, there were plenty of them who did. The situation was so bad that the front page headline of the New York Times on May 16, 1948 read: “Jews in Grave Danger in all Moslem Lands.”

Many of these Jewish communities had existed for some 2,600 years since the exile of the Israelites by Assyria in 722 BC. Over the centuries they moved throughout the region with the largest communities existing in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and Libya. In the 1920s, 40% of Baghdad was Jewish.

Even so, Jews in the Middle East were often treated as second class citizens under Islamic laws of dhimmitude—the physical, economic, and societal submission of Jews and Christians to Islam. This submission of minorities permeated Muslim culture, so when the Nazi movement swept the area in the 1940s it was a deadly combination resulting in brutal pogroms and massacres in 1945.

It all came to a climax when the sovereign Jewish state of Israel was created in 1948, on land that had previously been under Islamic rule. Jews were seen as traitors, many had to flee, and others were expelled. Houses, businesses, and valuables were left behind and plundered. But at least they now had a place to flee.

Some 680,000 Jews fled Arab lands and lived in tents and huts in Israel. Israel had little money and infrastructure to care for the immigrants, but after a few years they were not only able to build a new life, but they helped develop the Israeli Defense Forces to defend themselves and generations to follow.

Saturday is Gone

It is now Sunday in Iraq and Syria where many churches lie empty and destroyed. Thousands of Christians have been massacred; hundreds of thousands have fled. The ancient remains of the tombs of Daniel and Jonah have been destroyed by the jihadist group ISIS that is carrying out a barbaric campaign of ethnic and religious cleansing.

The Book of Acts tells us that there were Christians living in Damascus before the Apostle Paul had converted to Christianity. The Apostles Thomas and Thaddaeus brought Christianity to Iraq, making these Christian communities among the oldest in the world. Many Iraqi Christians are ethnic Assyrians who still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

However, for the first time in 2,000 years, the city of Mosul—encompassing the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh where the Prophet Jonah preached—now has no Christians. It is safe to estimate that at least two thirds of Iraqi and Syrian Christians are now displaced and in need of urgent assistance.

First, 2,600 years of Middle Eastern Jewish civilization was destroyed. Now, 2,000 years of Christian history in Iraq and Syria is being erased, with very little hope of a future.

The biggest question on the mind of these Middle Eastern Christian communities is not the typical “why is this happening?” It is “why are the Christians in America not helping us?” They feel very alone, and abandoned by the western Church.

Refugee Tent for Jesus

A recent picture of a refugee camp in northern Iraq showed one tent with Arabic writing on the top of it. The translation reads: “Jesus is the Light of the world.”

Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, has another picture of a refugee camp in northern Iraq where some of the members of his congregation are now camped. Knowing it is the Christmas season, his congregants have erected a refugee tent for Jesus.

Refugees are near to Jesus’ heart; He and His parents were refugees in Egypt when He was a baby. But, these refugees are especially dear to Him because they are suffering persecution for their faith in Him.

While Jesus is busy comforting and encouraging the refugees, where is the western Christian world? It seems to be fat and happy, in a very deep winter’s sleep.

What You Can Do

At the very least, families and churches should make donations towards food and blankets for the refugees. The ICEJ is collecting donations for reputable ministries working on the ground, if you do not already know of one. The ICEJ also issued a letter to over 90 heads of state around the world urging them to speak up and to take action to help the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.

That letter as well as this article should be circulated to all elected officials representing you in Washington, DC. Few of them know what you now know. The ICEJ is happy to speak with anyone to brief them on the situation. Put yourselves in the refugees’ place. You would also be praying for food, a blanket, and a place to go. Be an answer to someone’s prayer today.

Susan Michael is the US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. Donations for Christian refugees can be made at www.icejusa.org/aid/mideast-christians

 

The Senate on Monday approved President Obama's nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as U.S. surgeon general, despite opposition from Republicans and some Democrats over his support for gun control and past statements that gun violence is a public health issue.

Murthy, 37, a physician at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School, won confirmation on a vote of 51-43. He's a co-founder of Doctors for America, a group that has pushed for affordable health care and supports Obama's health care law.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said most of Murthy's career has been spent as an activist focused on gun control and other political issues, rather than on treating patients. "Americans don't want a surgeon general who might use this position of trust to promote his own personal campaign against the Second Amendment of the Constitution," Barrasso said.

Supporters said Murthy is well-qualified and noted his promise not to use the position as a bully pulpit for gun control.

The nation has been without a Senate-confirmed surgeon general since July 2013. The surgeon general does not set policy but is an advocate for the people's health.

Murthy's confirmation "makes us better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home," President Barack Obama said in a statement. Murthy "will also help us build on the progress we've made combatting Ebola, both in our country and at its source" in West Africa.

Murthy's confirmation represented a rare defeat for the National Rifle Association, which told senators that a vote for Murthy would be scored against them when they rate lawmakers' votes during election campaigns.

Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said Murthy has been "pilloried and excoriated" by the NRA and its supporters for his backing of stricter gun laws, including an assault weapons ban, and statements that gun violence is a public health issue.

Murthy has made clear he is not "aspiring to be the leading doctor in America to engage in a political debate, but rather to engage in public health debates about obesity and tobacco and things that make a dramatic difference to the lives of so many people who live in this country," Durbin said.

Murthy expressed support for gun control in a letter to Congress after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting.

His nomination was endorsed by more than 100 health organizations, including the American College of Physicians, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a staunch supporter of gun rights, did not mention guns in a statement opposing Murthy but said he does not believe it's appropriate for America's top doctor to participate in political activism.

While he does not question Murthy's medical qualifications, Manchin said he wonders whether the public will believe that Murthy "can separate his political beliefs from his public health views."

Before founding Doctors for America, Murthy created a nonprofit that focused on HIV/AIDS education in India and the U.S. And he co-founded a technology company, TrialNetworks, that helps drug developers collaborate on clinical trials.

At a Senate hearing in February, Murthy said he wouldn't use the position to push gun control. He said his priorities include fighting obesity and helping communities promote healthier living.

The son of immigrants from India, Murthy told senators he was inspired to become a doctor while helping out on weekends at his father's family medicine clinic in Miami.

The House narrowly approved a sweeping spending bill Thursday night despite deep misgivings among liberals and conservatives alike, sending the measure to the Senate as lawmakers averted a partial government shutdown.

The bill passed on a 219-206 vote, following an intense lobbying effort by House Republican leaders and the White House.

Current government funding technically runs out at midnight Thursday, but lawmakers late Thursday approved a stopgap measure to keep the government running through midnight Saturday as the Senate considers the main $1.1 trillion spending package. That debate could last through the weekend and potentially into Monday.

"We will not have a government shutdown," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., pledged.

Passage in the House followed hours of urgent appeals from an unlikely alliance: President Obama and House GOP leadership.

Obama and Vice President Biden worked the phones to sway Democratic lawmakers. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also met on the Hill with the Democratic caucus. Despite sources inside the meeting initially saying he did little to persuade lawmakers, a rift emerged in the Democratic leadership late Thursday. As House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi continued to oppose the bill, her deputy, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., urged passage.

Meanwhile, House GOP leaders did what they could to sway conservative members who, for different reasons, were opposed to the package.

In the end, 67 Republicans defected, but 57 Democrats voted for it.

Many conservatives opposed the bill because it does not attack Obama's immigration executive actions, while liberal Democrats were angry over provisions dealing with campaign spending and financial regulation.

The debate saw Pelosi flexing her clout, recognizing that House Speaker John Boehner needed Democrats to pass the bill.

She pushed back not only against GOP leaders but Obama's lobbying effort.

In a rare public rebuke of the president,  Pelosi said she was "enormously disappointed" he had decided to embrace the bill, which she described as an attempt at legislative blackmail by House Republicans.

Pelosi, D-Calif., sent an email note to colleagues in the afternoon saying they had "leverage" to make demands -- namely, to remove two provisions her party doesn't like. They are: a provision rolling back one of the regulations imposed on the financial industry in the wake of the economic collapse of 2008, and one that permits wealthy contributors to increase the size of their donations to political parties for national conventions, election recounts or the construction of a headquarters building.

Right before the vote, according to a source in the room, Pelosi told lawmakers: “We have enough votes to show them never to do this again.”

But perhaps an overriding desire on both sides not to risk another government shutdown prevailed.

The current plan would fund the government through September 2015, but immigration services only through late February, teeing up a battle over immigration for early 2015.

Earlier in the day, the bill narrowly cleared an important procedural hurdle, on a 214-212 test vote. But the tight vote, which almost failed, exposed serious problems. GOP leaders then delayed a final vote and spent hours trying to round up support, as the White House did the same with Democrats.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said earlier that Obama supports the bill and would sign it -- despite having reservations about certain provisions.Hoyer ultimately took a similar position.

The bill’s fate in the Senate remains unclear.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., now a member of leadership, has fought the bill in an effort to preserve the financial regulatory policy known as Dodd-Frank. Debate in the Senate on the main spending bill could easily last several more days.

The Thread of Life...

By Garret Hashimoto

Each of our lives can be thought of as a fragile thread suspending the experiences of our life journey from conception to death. A tiny thread that may be cut at any time in a dizzying number of ways. Regardless of where on our journey through life this thread is cut, death is the inevitable result. Beginning with the day of our birth, a monumental effort is put forth by those that came before us to ensure our safety and well-being. We are nourished and protected, loved and admired, the very embodiment of hope for the future.

Our family, our society, and our laws work hard to keep our thread intact following our birth in an effort to ensure we have every opportunity to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. As we continue our journey, we become more and more capable of assuming responsibility for our own thread. We are driven by an innate desire to survive in this world, to find our place and to make a contribution.

In time, we gain the responsibility to not only protect our own thread, but the threads of those who follow us into this world. To provide them the opportunity to experience the miracle of life. As parents, we would trade our own lives for those of our children, break our own thread so that theirs may remain unbroken.

So why is this thread so easily cut in the first six months of life following conception? Under certain circumstances, through the first nine months of life? In the United States, we are only truly safe after our heads penetrate the birth canal. If you ponder these questions without bias, you will realize that regardless of where along our life journey this thread is broken, our life is ended. If our thread is broken by abortion after 23 weeks of life, our death is just as real as if our thread were broken after our 23rd year  - our life’s journey is ended. We will never have the future opportunity to experience love, beauty, or friendship following that moment.

 

This is a 23 week old baby girl - completely legal to destroy in the womb as a matter of convenience in the United States of America.

Only a shift in culture toward the recognition that our journey begins at conception and ends at our natural death will save these lives and our collective humanity. A shift to the idea that all that can be done to protect the thread of life should be done.

Garret Hashimoto is the State Chairman for the Hawaii Christian Coalition.

Top Republicans are warning that the "unconscionable" release, by order of Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, of a report on CIA interrogation techniques used on Al Qaeda suspects in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks could "endanger the lives of Americans" all over the world. 

The report on the techniques, which some officials credit with helping track down Usama bin Laden and other terror leaders, is expected to be released late Tuesday morning. The White House and President Obama are backing the decision to release the report, despite warnings from lawmakers and some inside the administration that it could lead to a backlash against Americans. 

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, in a statement late Monday, called the move a “partisan effort” by Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. They said the report is not “serious or constructive.” 

“We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies,” the senators said. “Simply put, this release is reckless and irresponsible.”

The lawmakers spoke out as new details of the report began to emerge. The 480-page report, a summary of a still-classified 6,000 page study, amounts to the first public accounting of the CIA's alleged use of torture on suspected Al Qaeda detainees held in secret facilities in Europe and Asia in the years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Reuters reported Monday night that the report contains graphic details about the techniques, including sexual threats made to detainees.

According to Reuters, the report describes how at least one detainee was threatened in a sexual manner with a broomstick. In another example, Reuters reported, a detained Al Qaeda operative was threatened with a buzzing power drill.

U.S. officials who have read the report say it includes disturbing new details about the CIA's use of such techniques as sleep deprivation, confinement in small spaces, humiliation and the simulated drowning process known as waterboarding.

A former CIA officer told Fox News on Monday that the agency's techniques led to helpful intelligence. The former officer noted that once accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's will was broken, he generated more than 2,000 intelligence reports.

In addition, three former CIA officers from the program told Fox News that they believe the Senate report seeks to minimize intelligence that led the U.S. to Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti-- Usama bin Laden's trusted courier.

Another former officer told Fox News that the CIA was encouraged by lawmakers "to do whatever it takes" to prevent another attack on the scale of Sept. 2001.  The former officer said that Hill leadership was briefed more than three dozen times before the program was shuttered.

The White House on Monday reiterated its support for the report’s release, despite the warnings it could provoke violence. Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration has been preparing "for months" for the report's release.

However, Secretary of State John Kerry last week asked the Senate Intelligence Committee to "consider" the timing of the release.

The administration's stance was criticized by GOP Sen. Richard Burr, the prospective new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Burr, R-N.C., said that Kerry's suggestion that the report be delayed didn't jibe with Earnest's comments.

“It’s dumbfounding they can call and ask for it to be delayed and then say they want it out. You can’t have it both ways,” Burr told Fox News.

U.S. officials have confirmed to Fox News that an advisory has been sent urging U.S. personnel overseas to reassess security measures in anticipation of the release. The message directs all overseas posts, including those used by CIA personnel, to "review their security posture" for a "range of reactions that might occur."

A similar statement was being sent to military combatant commands to assess their readiness. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Monday the combatant commands have been urged to "take appropriate force protection measures within their areas of responsibility."

In Washington, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said America's allies are predicting "this will cause violence and deaths." He said U.S. intelligence agencies and foreign governments have said privately that the release of the Senate intelligence panel report on CIA interrogations a decade ago will be used by extremists to incite violence that is likely to cost lives.

It is official.  The current government in Israel is dissolving.  An early election has been set for March 2015.  As one of the tens of millions of Evangelical Christians who stand fervently with Israel and her citizens, it brings much relief to finally see Prime Minister Netanyahu fire the two leading left-wing ministers, who continually and loudly oppose him, in his cabinet – Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.  These two have appeared to want their names in the headlines more than establishing unity within the coalition.  The Prime Minister’s firing of Lapi and Livni sends a loud and clear message that he is more determined to tackle issues facing Israel than in pacifying media seekers within his coalition.

There are many examples of how both Lapid and Livni attempted to undermine Netanyahu’s position on Iran, opposing the PM’s position on declaring Israel a Jewish state, and building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem that are over the pre-1967 border.

Livni went so far as to violate a security cabinet decision by meeting in secret with PA chairman Abu Mazen following his agreement to form a unity government with the terrorist organization Hamas.  Her anti-Israel actions did not stop there.  Livni opposed the PM’s position on the Iranian nuclear negations, criticized the PM for agreeing to housing construction beyond the Green line and vehemently opposing the PM as he called for a bill in the Knesset to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.  Like clockwork, Livni would rush straight to the media to voice her opposition rather than trying to quietly resolve her concerns with the Prime Minister. Since the coalition was formed two years ago, Livni’s contribution to the coalition has amounted to nothing more than loudly creating dissension. Clearly she is a loose cannon and an embarrassment to the State of Israel.

One would think with practically the entire world against Israel, Livni and Lapid would have been more discreet in airing disagreements with the Prime Minister.  It appears they were using their portfolios to advance their personal agendas.  Being a member of the coalition does elevate one’s stature with the press and both Lapid and Livni have taken full advantage of their positions to attempt to discredit Netanyahu and advance their own agendas.  It is time for the world to see a strong  coalition standing as one under G-d, undivided. 

While we Evangelical Christians don’t vote or pay taxes in Israel, we passionately support Israel because of our Biblical roots.  We infuse millions of dollars into Israel to support various projects and we speak out loudly to the international community in defense of Israel.  We believe that what the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob says in the Bible and Torah should be the foundation upon which the government of Israel stands.  Those serving in the coalition should know that. 

G-d gave the land of Israel to the Jew and not the Arabs.  Dissenters in the coalition who disagreed with the Prime Minister’s position that Israel should be a Jewish state need to brush up on what the Word of  G-d says. The Bible is the greatest history book available of Israel and the Jewish people. If they still disagree, then they should resign. 

Where are the people like Ben Gurion who stood up and demanded a state for the Jews?  Right now the only ‘Ben Gurion’ we Christians see is BiBi Netanyahu.  G-d bless Israel.

The Obama administration is refusing to discuss reports that emerged early Thursday claiming that the White House is considering imposing sanctions on Israel for continuing construction on Jewish homes in Jerusalem.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf dodged several questions on Thursday when confronted with reports that the administration had held secret internal meetings to discuss taking action against Israel for its ongoing building in East Jerusalem.

The classified meetings were reportedly held several weeks ago and included officials from both the State Department and White House, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, which first reported on the meetings.

The possibility of sanctioning Israel for its ongoing construction sends a signal that the Obama administration is willing to go further in its denunciations of Israel then any previous White House.

At the same time, the White House is vigorously pushing Congress against passing new sanctions on Iran.

Former Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in a recent interview, tried to downplay the role of controversial MIT professor Jonathan Gruber in the crafting of ObamaCare.

Gruber, often called an ObamaCare “architect,” came under fire recently for videos where he claimed the law passed thanks to the “stupidity of the American voter.”

Sebelius, who herself faced a backlash last year for the glitchy rollout of HealthCare.gov, said that despite being hired as a consultant for the bill, Gruber did not play a very important role in its creation.

In the interview with USA Today, she also claimed they never personally met to discuss it.

“Maybe he was in a large room; he could have been on a phone call, but in terms of small meetings, discussing policy, that never happened,” she said.

The former Kansas governor worries that Gruber’s political “misstep” will detract from the ACA’s positives.

“He was not author of the bill itself. He did not influence the members of Congress who actually wrote the legislation. He is making some headlines, which is unfortunate because I think he’s harming the very product that he helped to push forward.”

Nevertheless, Sebelius seemed to echo some of Gruber’s views about the financial aptitude of Americans.

She said terms like “deductible” and “co-pay” are “complicated” terms for a lot of Americans, and cited that confusion in the response to the law.

“A lot of Americans have no idea what insurance is about,” Sebelius said. “I think the financial literacy of a lot of people, particularly people who did not have insurance coverage or whose employers chose their coverage and kind of present it to them, is very low—and that has been sort of a stunning revelation. It’s not because people hide it from folks. It’s because this is a complicated product.”

Still, she said she is confident that focusing on universal health care was the right move.

Gruber is set to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next week.

On that hearing, Sebelius told USA Today, “I have no idea what Gruber is going to say, but frankly, I don’t think that it’s relevant in terms of what happened.”