November 21, 2018

Sunday Reads: Trumpism vs. Merkelism, Is repentance possible?, The West Bank’s post-Zionist religious right


Eliot Cohen believes that Trump is bringing about the end of the American era:

In short, foreign leaders may consider Trump alarming, but they do not consider him serious. They may think they can use him, but they know they cannot rely on him. They look at his plans to slash the State Department’s ranks and its budget—the latter by about 30 percent—and draw conclusions about his interest in traditional diplomacy. And so, already, they have begun to reshape alliances and reconfigure the networks that make up the global economy, bypassing the United States and diminishing its standing.

Jochen Bittner writes about the Trumpism vs. Merkelism debate on the nature of globalization:

Merkelism, in short, draws a very different conclusion from Trumpism about globalization’s unsettling effects. Mr. Trump wants to disrupt and destroy, Ms. Merkel seeks to continue but correct. If the free world is best led by success, with step-by-step repair preferable to scrapping, then the German chancellor seems to be the right woman, at the right moment, for the job.


Shaul Magid writes a curious piece about the culture and ideology of what he refers to as the “post-modern post-Zionist religious right” in the West Bank:

Religious Zionism is defined by power and sovereignty over the land. Rav Shagar’s Religious Post-Zionism is defined by intimacy with the land. Religious Zionism in Rav Shagar’s view is a product of modernity, a belief in the absolute and unalienable Jewish right to the land. In his Religious Post-Zionism there is no absolute unalienable right. Or alternatively, there are many such rights, and all are expressions of truth that rise from the fragments of a ruptured world. The Realpolitik does not concern him, what concerns him is the soul of the people. And that soul, he argues, is being diminished every time it tries to prove its case or exert its force over the other who also has an experience of intimacy with the land. In some way, Religious Zionism as presently construed is preventing the Judaism he seeks to cultivate in a postmodern era.

Colonel (res.) Eldad Shavit thinks that President Trump’s “disappointing” Middle East policy is harming Israel:

As far as Israel is concerned, even if the two countries share the same goals and interests in some of the issues, the establishment of a narrative that the American administration is weak and hesitant could harm crucial Israeli interests in the long run and maybe even an important component in the Israeli deterrence, which relies—among other things—on the way its ally’s policy is interpreted by its rivals in the region.

Middle East

Omer Carmi writes about what Iran has learned from a decade of nuclear talks:

It seems that Iran will try – at least in the short-term – to refrain from steps that will isolate it or assist the United States in strengthening the case for revoking the JCPOA, even if Tehran perceives the United States as blatantly violating the deal. This provides the U.S. government with an opportunity as well as a challenge. On the one hand, it will offer Washington a window to increase its pressure on Iran’s missile program and malign regional activities. Tehran might decide to stick to the deal as the “lesser evil” and instead would attempt to retaliate in the region against U.S. interests.

On the other hand, increasing the pressure on Iran might play into Iran’s hands and widen the gap between Europe and the United States. Thus, whatever the United States does should be coordinated with its allies, most notably the Europeans, in order to avoid Tehran’s trap and sustain a unified Western front against Iran’s regional activities.

Adam Szubin, a former undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, sees the current debate on the Iran deal as “perplexing”:

Great nations do not play games when it comes to their international agreements. Doing so would be especially short-sighted when we are trying to convince the world to join us in a North Korea sanctions campaign whose stated objective is nuclear diplomacy.

The Jewish World

Rabbi Rick Jacobs uses some strong language in his open letter to PM Netanyahu:

Our love for Israel transcends governments and harsh policies against us. Our You keep trying to tell us that having a second-rate, hidden, prayer space controlled by the ultra-Orthodox and ultra-hostile Rabbi of the Wall, Rabbi Rabinovitch, is good enough or the best that can be achieved. But we don’t buy it. The Jewish people deserve better. The Jewish people demand better.

Abraham Socher discusses virtue ethics, Maimonides and possibility of repentance in this interesting essay for the Jewish Review of Books:

What then of Maimonides’s virtue ethics? Perhaps his inconsistent—or at least tension-ridden—system in which our moral lives are described in terms of both virtues to cultivate and commandments to be obeyed is closer to our felt experience than either is alone. Moral thinking, it turns out, was always messy.