October 24, 2018

Sunday Reads: Israel’s Gaza dilemma, How the 67 war changed the Arab world, The fate of the Vilna Jewish Cemetery


Former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul wonders whether President Trump is learning or ad-libbing his foreign policy:

In the month of April, I found myself saying “I agree with Trump” more than anytime ever. On China, Russia, NATO and Syria, President Trump signaled radical changes in policy, nearly the complete opposite of what he said as a candidate. All were changes for the good — that is, new policy positions that advance American security, prosperity and values. The lingering question is whether these recent statements signal a fundamental change in Trump’s thinking about foreign policy or rather short-term reversals that could be reversed again. Is he learning or ad-libbing? It’s too early to tell.  

John Cassidy sees the reversal of Trump’s NAFTA position as a sign that globalist are now in charge of the White House:

Ultimately, this incident provides further evidence that the globalists in the Administration are taking charge of economic policy. The Bannon faction, which had already suffered a number of setbacks, seems to have lost another battle. And while Trump clearly still personally holds some instinctive enthusiasm for Bannon’s protectionist agenda, he’s yet to really act on it.


Shlomi Eldar takes a look at a moral and strategic dilemma facing Israel in Gaza, where alleviating a humanitarian crisis could effectively help Hamas:

Abbas has presented Israel with a major dilemma. Any move it makes to forestall a humanitarian crisis in the Strip will serve as a lifeline for Hamas. As it is, the Hamas government has already become Israel’s only option. After the 2007 revolution, Israel formulated a defense strategy that views the removal of Hamas by economic or military pressure as having graver consequences than keeping it in power. That’s why in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on the advice of defense officials not to target the collapse of Hamas but rather to create deterrence. Deterrence was achieved, albeit at a heavy loss of life. And the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas has been maintained for the past three years, though occasionally some renegade groups manage to fire off a few rockets at Israel and disrupt the peace.

The WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov talks to Israelis on the border of Syria, who muse on the civil war taking place right next door:

“The Golan is still the quietest place in the whole country,” said Yoni Hirsch, chairman of the municipal council of Nov, an Israeli community of some 800 people about 2 miles from Islamic State-held areas. “But we know what is happening across the border, and we are getting ready for what may happen,” he added. “We know that in one day with the decision of one person on the other side, our lives can change.”

Middle East

Hussein Ibish writes about how the 1967 war changed the Arab world:

There was a massive and crucial reversal in generalized Arab attitudes in the aftermath of 1967. Between the 1940s until 1967, as many countries in the region won independence from colonizers, the essential Arab attitude was one of optimism, determination, international engagement and hope. Afterward, the biggest single missing element, in many cases still unrecovered, is self-confidence. The collective deflation is hard to communicate. But since then, most of the Arab world has continually lacked a fundamental belief in itself.

Robert Frisk takes a look at the plight of Christians in the Middle East:

In the British mandate of Palestine, the Christian population was 9.6 per cent of the population. By 1999, it was 2.9 per cent. Meanwhile, 35 per cent of the Christians of the West Bank and Gaza left between 1967 and 1999. And Christianity is supposed to be one of the world’s great religions.

Jewish World

Yair Rosenberg introduces a short documentary about the Vilnius Jewish cemetery, which is currently in danger:

Before the Holocaust, Jews of all ideologies and backgrounds constituted half of Vilna’s population, but today they comprise less than 1 percent of it. As the cemetery is one of the last remaining testimonies to the city’s storied Jewish past, a group of scholars and locals rose to its defense. They drafted a petition that called on the Lithuanian government to relocate the center elsewhere in Vilna. Within weeks, the letter had garnered nearly 40,000 signatures, ultimately forcing a pause in the plans for construction.

Sarah Rindner tries to find out why the bible demands that mothers atone for the ‘sin’ of childbirth:

The Bible consistently frames the commandment to bear children in positive terms, as the sacred responsibility of all of humanity. In Genesis, God blesses Adam and Eve by telling them that they will be “fruitful and multiply,” and the spirit and language of this benediction inform the rest of the Bible as well as the rabbinic understanding of childbearing. So why does the new mother, who has just fulfilled this great commandment, need to atone? Unless we are to write off the commandment as entirely absent of moral content, or as some sort of inexplicable divine decree, there must be something more at work here.