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Sunday Reads: ISIS comes to Egypt, How Netanyahu can still lose

[additional-authors]
December 7, 2014

US

Michael Cohen takes on the idea that the US is ‘in retreat’:

A nation actively retreating from the global stage would, for example, withdraw from international organizations, shed defense alliances, and cede power and influence to potential rivals. Quite the opposite is occurring. In the wake of Russian aggression in Ukraine, the United States has worked to strengthen the NATO alliance. The US response to rising Chinese influence in the Far East is to reassert its support for military allies like Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. And in the Middle East, America is devoting its military resources to standing up the Iraqi and Afghan military — and defeating ISIS.

Adam Garfinkle argues that Iran, not ISIS, is the core of America’s problems in the Middle East:

Iran, not Da’ash, is at the core of our strategic problem set today. Iran has not created the weaknesses and failures of the Arab world, but it has set out to deepen and exploit them. Whosoever does not understand this, which may include the aforementioned President, resembles the reality-challenged individual who thinks that one can affect the position of a shadow by doing things to the shadow.

Israel

Ron Ben Yishai explains why it is in Israel’s interests to improve the living conditions of Gazans:

But even without a dialogue with Hamas, Israel has a strong and long-term interest in a quick restoration of the ruins and in creating a functioning economy in the Strip. Not for the love of Hamas or the Gazans, but out of a sober recognition that destruction and economic and social distress in the Strip will eventually work against us.

The majority of the desperate population in the Strip blames us rather than Hamas for its distress. That is why it takes pleasure-revenge in rocket fire on Tel Aviv.

Yonit Levi and Udi Segal take a look at a number of possible scenarios that can lead to Netanyahu losing power (JJ Goldberg addresses the same issue here):

The greatest threat to Netanyahu is for right-wing votes to split between Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi, or Jewish Home party), who is surging in the polls, his former partner Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), and Moshe Kahlon, the former Likud communications minister who is forming his own party. This is by far the worst-case scenario for Netanyahu, because it means he is no longer the right-wing camp’s leading representative.

Middle East

Khalil al-Anani discusses ISIS’ disturbing entrance to Egypt:

Moving forward, the Obama administration will be tempted to give Sisi a blank check to fight Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and ISIS. But if Washington is to have any hope of succeeding in the larger fight against ISIS and its affiliates, the United States must ensure that any military support does not solidify autocratic rule or target innocents. It goes without saying that Sisi, like his fellow Arab autocrats, will derive his own benefit from the new alliance, allowing him to justify his despotic policies against political activists and dissenters. Yet recent events suggest that such an approach could backfire, leaving the United States and its allies to pick up the pieces.

Palestinian Journalist Daoud Kuttab examines Mahmoud Abbas’ strides toward autocracy:

Palestinian civil society has for a long time given a pass to the Palestinian president and accepted that some of the controversial decisions made by the presidency come from a need to keep the situation under control while the future of Palestine is being decided. This leniency will not continue if the present violations of the Basic Law and democratic principles are not respected. Perhaps presidential and parliamentary elections are the fastest way to resolve this constitutional impasse, but in the meantime, Palestinians are calling for a stricter interpretation and application of the law and the democratic process.

Jewish World

Professor Leonard Saxe takes a generally optimistic look at the current state of American Jewry, one year after Pew:

Perhaps the fairest summary of social scientific data about contemporary American Jewry is that there is no simple narrative. Jews in America have not vanished as predicted by Look magazine’s article and the eponymous book by Alan Dershowitz. The population is, in fact, larger and more engaged in Judaism than in previous eras. At the same time, an increasingly large segment of the population now identifies in non-traditional religious ways. Jews could bemoan their fate and look wistfully at the past. But it turns out the past was not all that positive and that, in some respects, the newly discovered ways to provide education and support for Jewish identity development are more powerful. The challenge is to build on successful strategies and to discard those that are not working.

Shelly Salemensky muses on the possible effects of Warsaw’s impressive new Jewish museum on Poland’s Jewish community:

It is still possible to encounter medieval Catholic notions of Jews as Christ-killers and money-grubbers, and while it is nearly impossible under Polish law for Jews to reclaim property confiscated in the World War II era, news of revival activity in Warsaw prompts fear that descendants of Polish Jews will show up and take their homes and farmland back. However, so few natives who have stayed in the region have knowingly encountered Jews that it is less a matter of anti-Semitism than cultural insularity and ongoing misinformation.

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