December 14, 2018

Sunday Reads: Israel’s ‘red line’ in Syria, The Arab autocracy trap, The Shalom Aleychem debate


Aaron David Miller argues that judging by his foreign policy achievements, Trump’s deal making abilities are no more than an urban legend:

In an appearance with the Emir of Kuwait on Thursday, President Donald Trump, who styles himself a master negotiator, threw himself into the middle of the fight between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE by offering to mediate the dispute at the White House, if necessary. It was, to be sure, the triumph of ego over sound or wise policy. 

Eight months into his presidency, Mr. Trump’s self-touted negotiating skills are more urban legends than anything else.

David Ignatius examines Rex Tillerson’s quiet communication with Russia and China:

The Tillerson approach focuses on personal diplomacy, in direct contacts with Chinese and Russian leaders, and through private channels to North Korea. His core strategic assumption is that if the United States can subtly manage its relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin — and allow those leaders to take credit for successes — complex regional problems can be solved effectively.


Former chief of IDF intelligence Amos Yadlin explains the strategic thinking behind Israel’s alleged strike in Syria:

Israel knows the bitter truth of the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Deciding to take action before it is absolutely necessary is not easy, but Israel’s experience proves that it is far better in the long-term to confront budding threats rather than nuclear ones.  

Benny Avni believes that the Israeli action is an example of what a ‘red line’ is:

This week’s lesson for the knee-jerk “no military solution” crowd is clear: Daring, well-planned surgical attacks are a non-proliferation tool that should be considered where practical — especially when the alternative is a meaningless pact with an unreliable dictator.

Middle East

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami discusses the Arab Spring and the Arab autocracy trap:

It has been more than six years since the start of the Arab Spring, and life for most Arabs is worse than it was in 2011. Unemployment is rife in the Middle East and North Africa, where two thirds of the population is between the ages of 15 and 29. And throughout the region, regimes have closed off channels for political expression, and responded to popular protests with increasing brutality.

The governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and, to some extent, Morocco, epitomize Arab regimes’ seeming inability to escape the autocracy trap – even as current circumstances suggest that another popular awakening is imminent.

Eli Lake reports on where the Trump national security cabinet currently is on the Iran deal:

Since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, European allies have worried he will fulfil his campaign promise and pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump’s national security cabinet has a different idea. U.S. officials tell me that a new strategy on the agreement is ready for the president’s approval. Instead of blowing it apart, the plan is to make it stronger.

Jewish World

Atar Hadari explores the debates about the “Shalom Aleychem” song, which calls angels to the Shabbat table:

The deeper concern, for both Emden and Halbersberg, is that a man will put his faith in angels and incantations and pay insufficient attention both to Him and to her—the person waiting for him at home. The Sabbath is about rest, and you rest at home. You can pray until you’re blue in the face about Sabbath peace and domestic tranquility, and you can invite all the heavenly host home with you—you can even ask them to stay until the following nightfall—but peace will not come to the house unless the people who live there make sure to maintain it. Even if you truly believe in angels, they can’t help you in that department.

Armin Rosen writes about the controversy surrounding the Holocaust museum’s decision to pull a study that allegedly absolves the Obama from inaction in Syria:

The intervention of the Holocaust Museum in a hot-button political dispute—and the apparent excuse of official US government inaction in the face of large-scale mass murder, complete with the gassing of civilians and government-run crematoria—alarmed many Jewish communal figures. “The first thing I have to say is: Shame on the Holocaust Museum,” said Leon Wieseltier, the literary critic and fellow at the Brookings Institution, who slammed the Museum for “releasing an allegedly scientific study that justifies bystanderism.”