October 24, 2018

Sunday Reads: Tillerson’s understanding of America, Hamas’ new leader, The struggle of Israel’s French Jews


Eliot Cohen writes about Rex Tillerson’s idea of what America’s interests are:

Tillerson’s idea that in foreign policy American interests and American values are two separate things, the first mandatory, the second optional, reflects a misunderstanding of our past (not uncommon in this administration) and of the essence of our national character. The United States is surely the Manhattan skyline, the Kansas plains, the redwood forests, the Mississippi river. But it is, far more importantly, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address.

Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky explain why the US shouldn’t get its hopes up about cooperation with the Gulf states:

The United States needs to keep its expectations low for working closely with the Sunni Gulf states… If we let them, our Gulf Arab friends will drag Washington into costly and risky commitments the United States will not be able to meet, further undermining our leadership and reputation. And if Sunni Arab governments are true to form, the United States will do most of the heavy lifting while they cheer us from the sidelines and then heap blame on Washington when things go wrong.


Mazal Mualem tells the story of PM Netanyahu’s “Shabbat crisis” with the ultra-Orthodox parties:

Despite all their attempts to use the media to send a message to the prime minister, the ultra-Orthodox will not walk away from this crisis with any real gains. Netanyahu rejected their demand for a law to circumvent the Supreme Court, though he did agree to petition the court to hold another hearing on the matter before an expanded panel of judges. Another achievement was the transfer of authority over enforcement of the Sabbath Rest Law from Katz to Deri.

The bottom line is that it looks like Netanyahu has managed to contain the current Sabbath crisis by giving the ultra-Orthodox a few token achievements to show their constituents before the next election, which is right around the corner.

Yaniv Pohoryles talks to French-Israeli sociologist Shmuel Trigano about the French olim’s struggle to integrate into Israeli society:

“The immigrants have ideals and thoughts about the Jewish state—ideas that are not realized in Israel. Israel is very dear to the immigrants’ hearts. They don’t describe to themselves the real situation. They have an idea in their hearts in terms of a Jewish people, and the Israelis do not connect to it. Many Israelis don’t make an internal determination about their identity. It’s enough for them that they are Israelis, Jews and that they live here. For those who come from abroad, carrying a much more complex identity, this country doesn’t always suit their idea.”

Middle East

Avi Issacharoff gives his take on Hamas’ new leader:

The decision by Hamas’s leadership to tap Haniyeh for the group’s top post is part and parcel of its recent unveiling of its new political program. Both mark an attempt to broadcast to the Palestinian, Arab and Western publics that Hamas, which oversees a collapsing Gaza besieged on both borders, has become more moderate, more pragmatic and more practical. The Hamas of 2017 may not have undergone any real change — it has not actually amended or canceled its original, viciously anti-Semitic charter, and it remains avowedly committed to the destruction of Israel — but it is trying to tell the world otherwise. The strategy is clear: to turn itself into an alternative to the Palestine Liberation Organization and eventually to replace the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians.

Mehdi Khalaji describes an interesting decrease in the importance of clergy in Iranian politics:

The clergy’s decreasing role in Iranian politics is becoming more visible than ever in the current presidential campaign. Two major clerical institutions issued their candidate endorsements much later than expected this year, and the relevance of their advocacy is questionable… Since 1997, however, all of the presidential candidates endorsed by these associations have lost, including to current incumbent Hassan Rouhani in 2013. Furthermore, they appear to have only limited influence over the regime’s most committed hardliners, while other key religious authorities tend to refrain from public endorsements altogether.

Jewish World

Orlando Radlce reports about the fears facing France’s Jewish community in today’s election:

Antoine Levy, 24, a PhD candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is voting by proxy, told the JC: “I feel people are not as stressed as they should be about Le Pen getting in, she appears to be trying to win the Jewish vote by saying that Islamist extremists are the real problem. For my Jewish friends, voting ‘blanc’ is not an option. They are essentially afraid of Le Pen.”

And Tia O’brien takes a look at the problematic reality of the Jews living in Erdogan’s Turkey:

Jewish institutions are heavily guarded, with stepped-up security after the bombing of two Istanbul synagogues in 2003 that left 20 dead. Members of the community live under the radar, and children are taught to ignore harsh criticism of Israel.

The average Turk doesn’t always make the distinction between Israel and Jews, and in a country of 80 million, most have never met a Jew, leaving them vulnerable to unfounded attacks and negative portrayals. “Social media reaches millions in a minute. It affects the younger generation,” said one prominent community leader who didn’t want his name used.