Sunday Reads: Trump’s mysterious Iran strategy, Palestinian reconciliation, Netanyahu’s engineered image
Aaron David Miller and Ricard Sokolsky take a look at President Trump’s mysterious goals for the Iran deal:
Friday’s speech was an effort — as with so many other initiatives in the Trump administration — to develop a solution to a problem the United States does not have. Make no mistake, the Iran deal is flawed; and many of Iran’s policies in the region are inimical to US interests. But the so-called new approach seems to follow a pattern set from the beginning of the Trump administration: policy driven largely by Trump’s campaign commitments and the peculiarities of his own ego and persona.
Evan Osnos writes about the problems with Trump’s move on the Iran deal:
A nation’s credibility is the type of asset that is easy to overlook, until an emergency makes it precious. During the Cuban missile crisis, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy dispatched former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Paris to inform President Charles de Gaulle that the Administration had decided to stage a naval blockade of Cuba. Acheson offered to show surveillance photographs of the island’s missile sites, but de Gaulle waved them away, saying, “The word of the President of the United States is enough for me.” History suggests that President Trump’s disdain for even the achievements of his predecessor is most damaging not in the eyes of America’s enemies but in the eyes of its friends.
Nahum Barnea believes that Trump’s Iran move presents Israel with new challenges:
Over the years, Israel has learned to deal with critical American administrations and neutralize their criticism. Donald Trump is presenting Israel with a new kind of challenge—dealing with an American president who repeats all of Israel’s claims unconditionally. On Friday, in his speech, Trump gave us a big embrace as far as Iran is concerned. The challenge is to prevent his embrace from turning into a bear hug.
Mazal Mualem discusses PM Netanyahu’s carefully-engineered image:
With the passage of time, the public image that Netanyahu strives to present has overshadowed his real-life story. The difficulties and downfalls he experienced as a child, youth and politician have been wiped out of his biography, clearing the stage for pathos-filled memories, symbolism and nationalism. With every such interview, Netanyahu manages to sear himself into the collective consciousness as the ultimate Jewish-Israeli icon. Harnessing his rhetorical abilities and carefully choosing his interviewers, Netanyahu tries to shape his life for posterity as a one-in-a-generation leader, educated from the moment he was born to sacrifice his life for his country. Therefore, he invariably does everything possible to minimize the significance of the police investigations swirling around him, of his human foibles and especially the hedonism with which he conducts himself as prime minister.
Eli Lake writes about the complicated behind-the-scenes dynamics of the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation:
At first glance, the different reactions from Israel and the U.S. looks like a return to the fraught relationship under President Barack Obama between the two allies. But there is more going on. Both U.S. and Arab diplomats told me that Israel has been briefed on the status of Hamas-Fatah negotiations since they began over the summer and privately has not objected in the same harsh tones as Netanyahu’s statement Thursday.
Haissam Hassanein believes that President Obama’s Middle East policy aligned the interests of Arab leaders with that of Israel:
Arab leaders have realized the urgency of engaging Israel directly instead of relying on the U.S. as a meditator. Their sense of urgency stems from a deep feeling of betrayal by Mr. Obama. Even with President Trump in office, the dangers of Iran and terrorism to the Arab states continue, so that the Arab states see better relations with Israel as necessary for long-term stability. The Arab openness to Israel is irreversible. It is hard to put the genie back into the bottle.
Ron Kampeas lists three supreme court cases that Jewish groups are looking closely at:
The return to a conservative majority, with Kennedy an occasional swing vote, worries liberal Jewish groups and heartens right-leaning ones, mostly Orthodox — especially in the case of a baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. Civil liberties groups are also closely watching a case of what they see as gerrymandering by the Republican-led State Legislature in Wisconsin.
Robert Satloff tells the story of Operation Torch in WW2 Algeria, a milestone in Jewish resistance and a turning point in U.S. Middle East policy:
While the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and other Jewish resistance efforts may have been more significant politically and psychologically, especially in helping to refute the image of Jewish passivity, the Algiers resistance was the most consequential in helping to change the course of the war—and, in the process, was the only Jewish resistance movement to save American lives.