September 23, 2019

Sunday Reads: The new cold war, The rule of law in Israel, Iran’s North Korean playbook


Max Boot argues that while Trump got it right on Jerusalem, this is not the type of help that Israel needs:

Israel is the only country in the world whose self-proclaimed capital — the place where its seat of government is located — is not widely recognized by the international community. Much as I oppose President Trump on many issues, he got this one right. My only complaint is that this move is more symbolic than substantive.

Susan Glasser discusses the new cold war emerging between Putin’s Russia and Trump’s U.S.:

So make no mistake about it: A full generation after the first Cold War ended, we are back to buying time. Back to shrugging our shoulders about what happens on Europe’s eastern borders and consigning Russians to their fate. Integrating Russia with the West was the cornerstone of American policy since 1991. It has failed. There is no new plan.

Instead, there is a conflict that is everywhere and nowhere, and no one can say for sure that we are even in the fight.


Yoaz Hendel believes that the Israeli right should be out protesting in favor of the rule of law:

On regular days, I criticize everyone: Judicial activism, the police’s helplessness in dealing with agricultural crimes and the foot-dragging in the courts. These are not regular days. My criticism will continue, but it has nothing to do with the existential need for a repair. The national camp must now raise a moral voice. The war on corruption must not be left to the “opposition” people, to the “anti-occupation” protestors or to those who hope for a left-wing rule. That’s an ethical mistake, and not just because of the benefit considerations and the loss of Knesset seats—but, first and foremost, because we must look in the mirror.

Retired Brigadier General Michael Herzog analyzes the growing risk of an Israel-Iran confrontation in Syria in a new Washington Institute report:

The push by Iran to fill the void created by the defeat of the Islamic State looms large in Israel’s strategic landscape. If the current trajectory persists, these two determined regional actors could increasingly face each other in Syria and eventually slide into confrontation. Tehran seeks to create an enduring military presence in Syria that it can turn into a front with Israel by sponsoring permanent proxy forces such as a “Syrian Hezbollah,” building a Mediterranean naval base, and establishing indigenous industries for accurate rockets. This is part of a broader strategic move to consolidate a contiguous sphere of direct influence—a “land corridor” that stretches through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean. Whereas Israel views such moves as a long-term strategic threat, the United States and Russia appear reluctant to confront Iran in Syria. So Israel is expanding—and increasingly acting on—its redlines in this theater.

Middle East

John Hannah is worried about how Iran has been “following the North Korea playbook” and arming Hezbollah:

Stopping Iran’s mullahs from eventually following in the footsteps of North Korea and acquiring nuclear weapons will be hard enough as is. But it will almost certainly be impossible if Iran, through its continued arming of Hezbollah, is effectively permitted to take a U.S. or Israeli military option off the table. Israel is saying with increasing clarity that it will not allow such a balance of terror to consolidate. It will do whatever is necessary to prevent it — even if it risks triggering a broader war with Hezbollah and Iran. Better to face that conflict now, as horrible as it no doubt would be, than to face it later when the Iran/Hezbollah accuracy project is completed and Israel’s well-being, in the most fundamental sense, could be put at risk.

Shlomi Eldar explains why the leaders of Hamas handed Gaza to President Abbas on a silver platter:

Today, over a decade after the coup — a period that seems like an eternity to the people of Gaza — Sinwar admits wholeheartedly: We made a mistake. We lack the ability and means to govern almost 2 million people, and in our arrogance we cast them into a state of indigence, hunger and desperation.

Jewish World

Leonard Saxe discusses recent findings about the successful impact of Birthright (you can find the full report here):

Birthright’s success highlights what should be obvious about Judaism, that developing Jewish identity requires not only knowledge but also experiences. The long-lasting impact of Birthright is hard to explain without taking account of the central role of being part of a Jewish group and experiencing life together in the Jewish homeland. Judaism is a “contact sport” and only by directly connecting with other Jews can one fully understand what engaging with one’s Jewish identity means.

Zack Beauchamp tells the story of how he, a committed Jew, started celebrating Christmas with his fiancée:

Christmas is the biggest thing separating American Jews from mass American culture. It’s the biggest holiday of the year, made inescapable by decorations and seasonal music. It’s also inescapably Christian, as much as the holiday has commercialized and secularized over the years. The nativity scenes, “Joy to the World,” even Santa — we don’t have saints in Judaism — are all reminders to us Jews that we aren’t in the majority here.

So for many Jews, skipping Christmas — even hating it — is an essential part of our Judaism. That was me, up until now.