Saturday, October 19th, 2019
A Beginner's Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations
Written aphoristically, long-time Kyoto resident travel writer Pico Iyer provided me with a new view of a major people: that the Japanese exemplify Oscar Wilde’s catechism that style is substance, surface depth. One telling anecdote from his pal the Dalai Lama: when speaking to Western audiences, they perk up at the philosophy and tune out for the rituals; with the Japanese it’s the opposite. There are many more such reflections. One reviewer says the book is profound, and I guess that is the case, yes.
Wednesday, October 16th, 2019
Succession as comedy. Obvious, given its producers, but still, nicely written.
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
Meir Kraus, a fellow at the research center at the Shalom Hartman Institute, sets out challenges, lessons, options and insights for a balanced and feasible option on Jerusalem as part of a wider solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Monday, October 7th, 2019
“Guidelines for Israel’s National Security Strategy” by Gadi Eisenkot and Gabi Siboni [PDF] published October 2019 by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Sunday, October 6th, 2019
Erdoğan’s Turkey, once again neither winning friends nor influencing people, this time trying it on around the Eastern Med gas fields.
Monday, September 16th, 2019
George Friedman is impressed by Iran’s recent attack on Saudi oil infrastructure, which “imposed a price on the Saudis for their alliance structure that, if it continues, they cannot pay. The attack also drove home to U.S. allies that their interest and the United States’ interest on oil diverge.” Yes but conversely while they lash out violently and the US responds only economically, they appear increasingly desperate, a not-good look with real-world consequences.
Sunday, September 8th, 2019
Israel should finally be a part of CentCom, Caroline Glick argues. “A future [increasingly hostile to Israel] Democratic president faced with a reality in which Israeli officials cooperate openly with their Sunni Arab counterparts under the aegis of the US Central Command, and in which Israel serves as a key partner in the development of offensive and defensive systems that are critical to the US, will not rush to abandon the US alliance with Israel.”
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019
Recordings of Reagan on the phone with foreign leaders — Thatcher, Assad, Begin. Very cool [from 2014].
What a dreamteam of Übermenschen now leading my three countries: Trump, BoJo and Bibi. Not since Reagan, Thatcher and Begin have we seen the like. It demonstrates that these societies still function in that the leader is found.
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
Friday, April 19th, 2019
In Commentary, her deputy recounts Nikki Haley’s time at the UN.
Monday, December 31st, 2018
Tuesday, July 31st, 2018
“Shouting ‘Peace, peace’ may actually push peace away,” argues game theorist and Nobel Economics laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann, New York-born head of the Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality at Hebrew University.
This is just about common sense — by that I mean it’s only a single twist of what Edward Luttwak calls the paradoxical logic of strategy. Yet perhaps there are further twists; I suggested one back in 2003 in “Allah Help the Jackals”:
Perhaps Israel is following a subconscious national strategy of the strong, in which it behaves too meekly for a decade or so, emboldens its vicious but feeble enemies until they go too far, then lashes out in a now-obviously-justifiable response and gains untold assets in the process.
Not to mention that the more time goes by, the more Israel strengthens and the Palestinians weaken.
This subconscious national strategy of delay by dint of wanting too hard, if it ever were effective, seems to have played itself out now, as demonstrated by Israel’s shift of focus towards undermining UNWRA, which plays such an underlying role in prolonging the conflict.
What with the Sunni warming to Israel and the supremely sympathetic Trump Administration, Israel it seems believes that allowing the conflict to fester for gradual gain has now become counterproductive, and so seeks a new path to end it.
All that notwithstanding, nothing ends until the Palestinians begin educating their children towards co-existence alongside Israel.
Saturday, May 26th, 2018
Prince William will make the first ever official tour of Israel by a member of the British royal family (Jordan first though).
I think this is quite a big deal; Britain has complicated feelings towards Israel — to wit, the country’s non-appearance to date in 25 James Bond movies.
Wednesday, May 9th, 2018
In the wake of America’s withdrawal from the Iran deal, an Israel-Iran war is unlikely but still…
Friday, April 27th, 2018
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un enters South Korea for a summit with President Moon Jae-in. They jointly plant a tree and sign a friendly declaration.
Thursday, April 12th, 2018
Two pieces that capture the current state of play in the tinderbox that is Syria: “The Extraordinarily High Stakes in Syria” by Noah Rothman in Commentary (whom I usually find hard to read for some reason); and “How Putin’s Folly Could Lead to a Middle East War” by Jonathan Schanzer in Politico.
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018
Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn interviews Avi Gil, senior aide to Shimon Peres on his forthcoming book, The Peres Formula: Diary of a Confidant.
Gil: “Peres is a bitchonist. He sees first and foremost Israel’s interest, its existence, its survival. In terms of his life mission, to which he gave expression in no few conversations, he saw two mileposts: Dimona and Oslo.”
Sunday, April 1st, 2018
Michael Rubin at aei.org: Yes, Turkey has definitely become a rogue regime.
From my brief travels I came across the standard blue/red divide, but it’s more virulent in Turkey due to the revolutionary power of the local religion.
Wednesday, March 21st, 2018
In the wake of the White House conference on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which the Palestinians did not attend, Noah Feldman masterfully lays out the land regarding Jared Kushner’s diplomatic push between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Noah on Abbas’s leverage: “In the end, the Arab states can’t actually sign a peace agreement without a Palestinian state signing it, too.”
Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
On February 19th, Israeli natural gas companies announced a $15b contract with Egypt. These interlocking infrastructure interests enmesh Israel with her neighbors and provide for further possibilities.
Sunday, March 4th, 2018
Everything for the ride, the game, the thrill, perhaps the rugs. Paul Manafort, American Hustler in The Atlantic.
Tuesday, February 13th, 2018
As a warplane is downed for the first time since 1982, Israel reevaluates its strategy vis-à-vis Syria.
Wednesday, January 24th, 2018
Watching Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset [transcript and video at Haaretz], Prime Minister Netanyahu can’t jump to his feet fast enough.
The US Vice President draws parallels between America’s and Israel’s stories. He sets a 2019 deadline for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. And he recites Shehechianu in Hebrew.
This historic speech furthers the momentum of the new American way in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To paraphrase the Grateful Dead: More than this I will not ask.
Thursday, January 18th, 2018
Next step in the Trump strategy for wrapping up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: US cuts payments to UNRWA by about half.
Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018
The next step in the Trump shibboleth-marauding strategy for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal appears to have just happened: The President has threatened the Palestinians with withholding aid if they continue to refuse to come to the negotiating table.
These were merely tweets, a new lower level of presidential statement, but nonetheless they’re another demonstration to the Palestinians that they do in fact have things to lose by maintaining the conflict indefinitely. It seems a softening up before negotiations begin so that this time they will finally actually end with a deal.
Saturday, December 30th, 2017
In Mosaic, Martin Kramer tells the tale, set over lunch in Ein Kerem, of the closest Jerusalem ever got to internationalization. (At one point I found the internationalization of Jerusalem a heady and exciting notion—providing of course that the UN move its HQ there.) A most vivid history op-ed piece.
Monday, December 18th, 2017
This investigative piece by Josh Meyer in Politico depicts a DEA investigation into global Hezballah criminal activity undercut by an Obama Administration hell-bent on a deal with Iran.
Monday, December 11th, 2017
There has never been a West European post-Second World War policy in [the Middle East] except to await the American position and then stake out something more favourable to the Arabs.
Thursday, December 7th, 2017
On the eve of US recognition of Israel’s capital, very much in-the-loop Ambassador Ron Dermer speaks (three paragraphs at a time!) to the Global Politico podcast.
Monday, September 25th, 2017
Yes, yes, yes — another nice one by Evelyn Gordon. Unusually, Trump’s UN speech did not even mention the Palestinians. The omission is the first diplomatic suggestion to them that they may have something to lose by intransigence. To date, the only policy I can think of that has served this purpose is settlements.
Tuesday, July 25th, 2017
InspireConversation is the parenting blog of, together with his wife, Jason Greenblatt. He is the presidential envoy who accompanied Israel’s Head of Security Services to Jordan to defuse the recent Israeli embassy crisis there.
Monday, July 3rd, 2017
Efraim Inbar provides the background to the hugely significant first-time-ever visit to Israel by an Indian Prime Minister.
Saturday, July 1st, 2017
In a bookstore this thriller paperback jumped out at me due to its familiarity; I had read it or author Peter Niesewand’s previous thriller Fallback decades ago as an early teenager and remembered it positively.
It’s Americans versus Russians towards the end of the Cold War, and disarmament talks are going on, but the Soviets have been cheating and using secret weapons in Afghanistan. Turns out this author did indeed spend time in Afghanistan, hence the persuasive veracity of the book’s second half. He was a white Rhodesian, a political prisoner, who became a rather glamorous and celebrated foreign correspondent for The Guardian. Sadly he died at the very young age of 39 — Wikipedia says from a disease he contracted in Afghanistan.
It’s fun to read this sort of thing once in a while, even if the protagonists are a bit plasticky. The passage of time arguably gives it more value, as it captures the concerns and conflicts of a particular period.
Wednesday, May 17th, 2017
The Dispensability of Allies by George Friedman — probably the only required reading on President Trump’s upcoming visit to the Middle East, even if it is rather dismal.
Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
Albeit behind Iran, Israel squeaks onto Walter Russell Mead’s list of the Great Eight Powers of 2017. It’s amazing that only one European country makes it here.
Wednesday, January 18th, 2017
Good point, yes. If under Trump it’s between the symbol of a U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem or the reality of continued building throughout the city—as it may well come down to—then the choice is clear, writes Nadav Shragai.
Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
The world’s most (only?) prescient columnist takes a step back to show us where Russia and China are similar and different to America. This article is one for these new times, to be sure.
Ian Buruma on Brussels. I found it a pretty exciting city so when I saw this article I jumped on it (plus I vaguely remember being impressed by something else this fellow wrote) and it’s pretty sweeping and fun.
Saturday, December 17th, 2016
The New York Times attempts to embarrass Trump’s new appointment by linking to eight of incoming American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s columns in Arutz Sheva as if his words alone are enough to horrify. I for one though agree with everything he writes in these, except perhaps in “Time to Regroup on Iran” where he suggests hitting Hamas harder — not sure about that. I’m with him on J Street, and there’s great stuff on what he dubs the two-state narrative.
Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
New British prime minister Theresa May’s first major decision was the nuclear plant at Hinckley Point and it seems she took the easy way out.
Wednesday, August 24th, 2016
In Commentary Magazine Lazar Bergman summarizes Netanyahu’s cautious, patient geopolitical successes. And in the same issue, this more biographical piece by Seth Mandel.
Friday, October 23rd, 2015
Wednesday, July 15th, 2015
Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, talks to Die Zeit about Germany’s own debt relief and the proper way forward now.
Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Perhaps most useful for its fulsome array of interesting links, nonetheless this essay into the Anglo-American way of empire goes the furthest I know in explaining why they’re the worst except for all the others.
Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
Monday, March 16th, 2015
Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies summarizes its 8th annual conference. They seem in agreement with the international view that progress with the Palestinians is the key.
Saturday, August 2nd, 2014
In case it’s of interest/relevance, a translation of Hamas’s charter.
Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Monday, July 7th, 2014
By looking the other way and unconditionally supporting and arming Maliki, President Obama has only lengthened and expanded the conflict that President Bush unwisely initiated, argues — nay, explains — a US official who saw it all. A must-read.