November 19, 2018

Sunday Reads: A blueprint for minimizing Iran’s influence in the Middle East, The Conservative movement’s intermarriage letter


David Makovsky examines different possible roles the U.S. could play in Palestinian reconciliation:

More broadly, these considerations suggest that the United States will not be putting forward any peace plans or engaging in high-stakes Middle East diplomacy until the Gaza situation is clarified. No publicly discernable progress has emerged from U.S. envoy visits to Jerusalem and Ramallah this year. Prior to the Cairo talks, President Trump appeared to warn Abbas at the UN in September that his administration does not have an open-ended view of diplomacy. Furthermore, Trump did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian issue during his General Assembly speech. Whatever significance those gestures might hold for long-term peacemaking, U.S. officials have indicated that the Cairo talks will keep any U.S. effort on a very low flame for the time being.

Irwin Stelzer takes a look at the hysteria around Trump among serious people in Washington:

Serious people here in the capital of the free world are meeting to consider whether to rally support for impeachment, or trigger Article 25 of the Constitution. Which, broadly, provides that a majority of the cabinet can remove a president deemed unfit to carry out the duties of his office. Normally sensible friends here in Washington have become hysterics, convinced that unless the president is somehow removed from office, the nation, and perhaps the world, will not survive the next four years.


Former Shin Bet Chief Ami Ayalon gives his take on the challenge and opportunity behind Palestinian reconciliation:

On the one hand, the reconciliation agreement strengthens Fatah’s relatively moderate approach and weakens Hamas’s violent approach. On the other hand, Hamas is becoming a significant part of the united Palestinian leadership and may physically and ideologically take over that leadership one day. To prevent this risk, and to work firmly to disarm Hamas and counter the security threat on Israel, we must give the Palestinian public a reason to favor Fatah’s approach over Hamas’s approach, and see the Palestinian unity as an opportunity rather than just as a danger.

Mazal Mualem is not sure where the Israeli left is headed:

Now that it has reached such a low point, the left has the potential to extricate itself from this crisis. This does not mean abandoning the two-state solution. There is, however, room for making its ideology more current. In that sense, Gabbay was right to do what he did. The problem is that it seems obvious that he was really driven by calculated and momentary electoral considerations and little else. That’s precisely where the risk lies.

Middle East

John Allen and Michael O’Hanlon offer a blueprint for minimizing Iranian influence in the Middle East:

Both President Obama and President Trump have prioritized the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria over more comprehensive efforts to stabilize the two countries. Iran has profited from the security vacuum. The Yemeni civil war is yet another humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East. The Saudi-led Arab coalition is stuck there in a quagmire. The longer that goes on the greater the human cost that provides ongoing opportunities for not just Iran but also Al Qaeda and perhaps the Islamic State. The United States must begin to assert itself with the key actors to move the peace process forward. And Washington takes too minimalist of a role in helping strengthen key countries like Jordan and Egypt, which might be vulnerable to spillover effects from the region’s wars that Iran helps stoke.

James Stavridis tries to explain how the U.S. could pull Turkey away from the brink:

None of this will be easy or cost-free. But it would be a geopolitical mistake of enormous proportions to allow Turkey to drift away from the U.S., Europe and NATO. We are in danger of seeing that shift occur before our eyes, and we need a plan to prevent it. That will mean rising above some of the heated rhetoric in the relationship to keep our eyes on the strategic value of Turkey as a friend, partner and ally.

The Jewish World

J.J. Goldberg believes Jews should stop accusing Steve Bannon of anti-semitism:

But it’s a mistake. It dishonors the victims of anti-Semitism whose memory is exploited, and it dishonors the victims of present-day injustice whose suffering is devalued. The imperative to pursue justice is eternal. “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” we’re commanded in Deuteronomy. But the sages went on to teach: “Justice” is said twice so we’ll know to pursue justice justly.

And this should be obvious: The more we cry anti-Semitism when it’s not real, the more likely we won’t be believed when the danger is real.

Ben Sales reports on the reactions to a new letter against intermarriage by leaders of the Conservative movement:

“It doesn’t help,” said one rabbi.

“I don’t know how it happened or why it happened,” said another, while a third asserted that “the most common response I’m seeing is confusion.”

The letter, signed by the leaders of the centrist movement’s four major institutions and made public Wednesday, does not reflect a change in policy, but still was seen as major news, both for reasserting the ban and for urging its member synagogues to welcome interfaith couples in any and all ways before and after the nuptials.