January 17, 2019

Sunday Reads: Is the Iran deal working?, On Netanyahu & Orban, The liberation of Mosul


Patrick Smith believes the Trump administration’s “non-existent foreign policy” has been costing the US both money and influence:

Trump and many of his advisers don’t seem to understand the speed at which other nations are moving forward. Neither America’s allies nor its adversaries are waiting around to see what Trump’s policy priorities are and how he plans to pursue them. A string of events since Trump took office already indicates that the U.S. is starting to fall behind because it’s basically standing still.  

Ash Carter writes about the liberation of Mosul and how to make ISIS’ defeat last:

The liberation of Mosul and the inevitable, approaching liberation of Raqqa in Syria will not be the end of the Islamic State and its evil ideology. But they crush the group’s pretense to having an actual “state” based upon it. As its surviving leaders scurry to the corners of the desert, no longer can they claim to head a winning movement. Their defeat diminishes the inspiration for violent extremists, or simply lost souls on social media, to attack Americans and our friends. This is a necessary step forward in combating terrorism. Americans are safer for it.


Shlomi Eldar reports on the recent water cooperation deal between Israel and the Palestinians:

It is hard to remember the last time that official representatives of Israel and the Palestinians sat together in such a festive setting to celebrate the turning of a new page in their relationship. “I hope that this is an indication of what is to come,” said Greenblatt. Perhaps he was referring to the renewal of negotiations to reach a permanent resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…

As far as the Palestinians were concerned, it was important to emphasize that this water agreement will not impact any other future political negotiations. 

Rafael Ahren reports on the controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s visit to Victor Orban’s Hungary:

Under Netanyahu, Israel’s realpolitik trumps the concerns of local Jewish communities, lamented Adi Kantor, a research associate at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies.

“That’s a clear case of a double [standard],” she told the Times of Israel on Thursday. On the one hand, the prime minister recently disinvited German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel because he met with a leftist Israeli human rights group. But then he gladly visits Hungary’s right-wing prime minister, Victor Orban, who backs problematic billboard campaigns and praised Miklos Horthy, the Hitler ally, as an ‘exceptional statesman,’” she argued.

“Israel’s reaction should have been a lot more severe. Where are the government’s moral red lines? Are we willing to speak to someone who praises a man on whose watch half a million Jews were sent to their deaths?” Kantor asked.

Middle East

Phillip Gordon and Richard Nephew revisit the two-year-old Iran deal, which they believe has been doing what it was meant to do:

In fact, the deal is doing exactly what it was supposed to do: prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, demonstrate to the Iranian public the benefits of cooperation with the international community, and buy time for potential changes in Iranian politics and foreign policy.

And Aaron Stein takes a look at the failed Turkish coup  that took place one year ago:

The increased authoritarianism in Turkey builds on the post-coup fallout and efforts taken to collectively punish anyone linked to the Gulen movement, regardless of whether they had a role in the coup or not. The post-July 2016 purges are simply a continuation of action taken in January 2014, just after the release of the recordings on YouTube. The recordings, in turn, came about after the breakdown of a political alliance, aimed at politicizing and making loyal senior officers in the Turkish military. This same military, in turn, had elements revolt against the state, and in doing so, killed 248 of their fellow citizens.

Jewish World

Eliott Abrams believes that American Jews should be more humble when advocating for change in Israel:

So American Jews—whom Gordis describes as not citizens of Israel but also not entirely non-citizens—are for the most part people who have never been there. Moreover, and without casting aspersions on the faith of non-Orthodox American Jews (among whom I count myself), there’s no denying the survey data showing that about a quarter of American Jews say they have no religion at all, fewer than a third belong to a synagogue, a mere 4 percent of Reform Jews and 13 percent of Conservative Jews attend synagogue regularly, intermarriage rates run around 60 percent for the non-Orthodox, and very large majorities hold that the key elements of being Jewish are remembering the Holocaust and leading an ethical life.

The moral basis on which the leaders of this community can place demands—not make arguments, but place demands—on Israelis to adjust to our religious practices is not exactly obvious.

Marc Weitzman examines the discussion French Jews had following Simon Veil’s funeral:

The kerfuffle over Veil’s funeral, however, is about more than just the place of women in religious life, which is ironic considering Veil’s standing as a feminist icon. It’s also about the Holocaust, and what it means or doesn’t mean to French Jews. As a secular ashkenazi Jew, Veil was one of the last representative of the European Jewry that was Hitler’s main target, and that the French revolution had helped to turn into citizens. By asking that the Kaddish be read at her funeral, she was acknowledging that she was a part of that particular Jewish history. France’s religious Sephardic Jews, however, understood the request very differently: to them, it was about repentance, about Veil finally embracing religion and coming back home.