November 21, 2018

Sunday Reads: The effects of the Kurdish referendum, The Jew who saved Monticello, Is Hamas tired of governing?


John Kerry tries to explain how the Iran deal is working:

Some ask why our agreement didn’t stop Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its support of Hezbollah and the brutal Assad regime in Syria. It’s a good question with good answers: We were not going to bargain away certainty on the nuclear issue for anything else; as France said, there would be no “quid pro quo.” … The world was united on one issue alone — Iran’s nuclear capability. We could not have achieved unity or held the sanctions regime together if we added other issues. But we believed it would be easier to deal with other differences with Tehran if we weren’t simultaneously confronting a nuclear regime.

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick discuss how the American presidency has never fully recovered from Vietnam:

On april 30, 1975, when the last helicopter lifted off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, the Vietnam War, the most consequential event in American history since World War II, ended in failure. More than 58,000 Americans and as many as 3 million Vietnamese had died in the conflict. America’s illusions of invincibility had been shattered, its moral confidence shaken. The war undermined the country’s faith in its most respected institutions, particularly the military and the presidency. The military eventually recovered. The presidency never has.


Ben Dror Yemini thinks that increased separation between Israel and the Palestinians (with Israeli control over the West Bank) is currently the only way to go:

But one thing is clear: The more we mix hostile populations, like outpost residents and Hamas supporters, the higher the level of violence is going to be. Whoever wants more terrorism should approve more outposts next to more and more villages. Separation doesn’t eliminate terrorism, it only reduces its level. But there is no partner today for separating through an agreement. And even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offers the Clinton Parameters to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tomorrow morning—and it’s a shame he isn’t doing so—we already know Abbas will say no.

Mazal Mualem explains why the IDF chief commuted the Hebron shooter’s sentence:

In an era in which politicians on the right have abandoned all restraints when reacting to important legal institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Azaria affair afforded the chief of staff, the army and its judges with an opportunity to show the moral superiority of the system. They walked away from the military, public and political uproar with their heads held high. The military advocate general proved that the army is stronger than that and that it has a spine.

Middle East

Avi Issacharoff reports on how Hamas seems to be sick of running Gaza:

The willingness to dismantle the management committee unconditionally, and to hand over the keys to Hamdallah’s government where civilian matters are concerned, is tantamount to an open public admission of failure.

Hamas tried in every way possible for a decade to hold on to its control of Gaza, but now is showing clear signs of willingness to step aside, at least in the civic sphere.

Michael Knights explains what the Kurdish referendum results mean for US interests in the Middle East:

If the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] is subjected to a de facto economic blockade, the negative impact on U.S. interests could be severe. The campaign against IS would suffer, including the ongoing Hawija operation, which aims to reduce the group’s largest and most dangerous pocket in northern Iraq. Coalition artillery, intelligence, and logistical efforts based in the KRG could be halted if the Kurds react badly to the blockade. Unless the potential losses in oil and customs revenue were rapidly replaced by Baghdad, they would bankrupt the KRG within weeks or months, resulting in instability, protests, and factional fighting. The Peshmerga units that hold long stretches of frontline against IS would immediately lose their pay, and many would be compelled to leave in order to support their families.

Jewish World

Gil Troy tells the story of how America’s first Jewish commodore saved Monticello:

It’s fashionable today to reduce Monticello to a white monument celebrating white hypocrisy, a place haunted by slaves, and now by the humiliated Jew Uriah P. Levy. But that’s not how Levy saw himself. He defied anti-Semitism but wouldn’t be defined by it. He would insist that we acknowledge the horrors, stand up for justice, not whitewash the past—but also acknowledge his hero Thomas Jefferson’s legacy in helping America flourish democratically. Finger-pointing history, and either-or partisanship are too easy. In our flawed but ever-improving democracy, we should remember the bad, acknowledge the good and demand the best in the future. 

Devorah Baum believes that everyone in America is somewhat Jewish these days:

While modernity promised Jews and other minorities that they could move from the margins to the center, it’s the reverse that may have actually occurred. In the era of radical globalization and the internet, it doesn’t matter who you are — even if you’re male, white, straight, middle-class — you’re probably feeling that your group or identity has been, if not existentially threatened, then at the very least marginalized. These days we’re all mobile and unsettled, even if we stay put. We’re all hyper-connected but insecure. So you’re liable now to be somewhat Jewish even if you do live in Butte, Mont.