January 16, 2019

Sunday Reads: On ‘getting a great deal’ from the Gulf states, Saving Conservative Judaism


Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky believe that Trump shouldn’t raise hopes about the Gulf states serving American interests in the Middle East:

The United States needs to keep its expectations low for working closely with the Sunni Gulf states. There are areas of possible cooperation — maritime and ballistic-missile defense and protection of critical infrastructure in the Gulf against Iranian and terrorist attacks — but the vision of a new U.S.-Sunni alignment that seems to be animating the United States’ broader Middle East strategy is flawed. It could enmesh us further into conflicts, such as the one in Yemen, that do not affect vital interests. 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.

A new Washington Institute report tries to figure out how to more effectively combat ideologically inspired violent extremism:

To be sure, Islamist extremism poses an immediate  threat  to  U.S.  security, but any serious and  effective effort to counter the extremist ideology driving groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda must be part of a larger strategy to prevent and counter the full range of Islamist and other extremist ideologies posing security threats to the United States. And the reason is not  ideological; it is practical and programmatic and has to do with how good-governance and public safety programs actually work on the ground in local communities across the country. Communities are our first line of defense  against violent extremism, so empowering and incentivizing communities to become more active in this space is in the local and national interest.


Einat Wilf believes that in order for the occupation to end, the Arab states need to go through a paradigm shift and accept Israeli presence:

How can a temporary 50-year military occupation of most of the West Bank by Israel come to an end, if the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian view of history is that 50 years of Israeli occupation matters significantly less than the countdown of the remaining 19 years on the crusader clock? It is necessary to demonstrate to the Muslim-Arab world that their view of history is wrong, and that rather than constituting a second crusader state, Israel is the sovereign state of an indigenous people who have come home. This can only be achieved through Jewish power and persistence over time. And given the vast numerical imbalance between Jews and Arabs, it can only be achieved if those who truly seek peace support the Jewish people in sending the message to the Arab world that the Jewish people are here to stay.

J.J. Goldberg takes a look at the role of Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt in the Middle East:

And while Greenblatt’s background, environment and reading choices all trend rightward, he appears to be approaching his current assignment not as a chance for self-expression but in his professional role as Donald Trump’s lawyer. That became clear when he and Netanyahu tried and failed during their first meeting to find a common language on the question of continued Israeli settlement construction, which Trump wants to rein in. The Israeli right, after years of clashing with ex-president Obama, was expecting to find an ally in the Orthodox, right-leaning Greenblatt. Rightists were disappointed to find that the visiting envoy was speaking on behalf of the president of the United States, not the Israeli settler movement.
Middle East

Avi Issacharoff sees the waning of ISIS as the rise of Iran as a regional superpower:

Thus Iran, as it takes advantage of the civil war in Syria and Islamic State’s takeover in Iraq, is looking more and more like the big winner of the Arab Spring in the region stretching from Tehran to Latakia and southward to Beirut. The Shiite crescent, which King Abdullah of Jordan warned about more than a decade ago, is amassing unprecedented power in the region even without possessing an atomic bomb and with its nuclear program frozen. If the saying “Islam is the solution” was common in the past, particularly among the Sunnis (in reference to groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas), perhaps the saying from now on should be that Shiite Islam is the solution.

Adnan Abu Amar writes about Hamas’ plans to rebrand internationally with a new policy document:

With Hamas expected to hold elections in the coming weeks to select new leaders, media attention has turned to the movement releasing a new policy document in the near future that will reflect its current stance toward political events and lay out a road map for its foreign relations. Al-Monitor shed light on the document’s development last October, but it remains unclear to observers — and is thought to be a topic of debate within Hamas — whether it is simply a policy statement or an amendment of Hamas’ founding principles laid out in its 1988 charter.

Jewish Journal

Roberta Rosenthal Kwall examines how Conservative Judaism can survive as a separate movement:

Given the convergence between the movements, the real question is whether Conservative Judaism can maintain and further a religious identity and mode of observance distinct from that of Reform. The matter is critical, because according to the 2013 Pew Report, while Reform Jews now constitute 35 percent of the overall American Jewish community, practicing Conservative Jews in the United States make up 18 percent, which represents about a one-third drop over the past 25 years.

If Conservative Judaism becomes one with Reform in both theory and practice, how can it survive as an independent movement?

James Kirchik writes about Hungary’s ugly state-sponsored Holocaust revisionism:

By obscuring Jewish victimhood entirely and ascribing total innocence to Hungarians and total evil to Germans, the memorial is as factually deceptive and politically exploitative as any Stalinist icon. Just as communists downplayed or ignored the anti-Semitic intent of the Holocaust in order to claim the Nazis’ victims as martyrs to the cause of “antifascism,” the Hungarian right asserts that all Hungarians were equal victims of a foreign-imposed tyranny. Characterizing opposition to the memorial as deriving from “the pub counter of cheap political pushing and shoving that is practically unavoidable these days,” Orbán implied that complaints about historical truth are in actuality fig leaves for domestic political opponents intent on delegitimizing his government abroad.