Monday, September 3rd, 2018
Trump the Shibboleth Marauder: On August 31st, the State Department announced that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNWRA, the UN agency that has served to perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Wednesday, August 29th, 2018
Spotting the Golden Ratio in the wild: At the end of their hairbrained Federation Plan for Israel and the Palestinians (minus Gaza, which would spoil the math), the authors state: “Jews and relatives of Jews, in this estimate, would comprise 62% of the population, while Muslim and Christian Arabs would total 37%.”
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018
Pinhas Inbari sheds new (to me) light on the roots of Palestinian nationalism, arguing that the similarities to Syria’s schisms are more than parallels but in fact the same issue: pan-Arabism (Fatah, Ba’athists) vs pan-Islamism (Hamas, ISIS).
Tuesday, August 21st, 2018
Sunday, August 19th, 2018
On nationalism old and new. In Tablet, the prophetic columnist David P. Goldman discusses Yoram Hazony’s new book The Virtue of Nationalism.
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.
Tuesday, May 29th, 2018
Newsweek excerpts Ronen Bergman’s upcoming book about the Mossad, Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations. The chapter recounts an Egyptian missile program being developed by ex-Nazi engineers (comic-book nefarious!).
After failing to subvert it with mail bombs and intimidation, Israel recruited a high-living Hitler favorite and produced enough evidence — echoes of Netanyahu’s recent evidence cache on Iran’s nuclear program — to persuade the German government to take benign steps to intervene and halt the program.
The institutional fallout included Isser Harel’s ouster, the IDF coming in to rebuild, and it seems the resignation of Ben-Gurion himself.
Sunday, May 20th, 2018
Caroline Glick praises the genius of Trump’s recognition of Israel’s capital. I’d go further: its most important function is as the crowning piece of pressure on the Palestinians to finally strike a deal with Israel and end the existential conflict; it transforms East Jerusalem from a given they have pocketed into a prize they can win.
What a bonanza it will be when the Palestinians, like the surrounding Arab nations, finally acknowledge they are licked, and accept what they can get from intense genuine negotiations. There should be little shame in admitting defeat — after all, the combined armies of the Arab nations repeatedly failed to defeat Israel. The ideal models here are Japan and Germany, which, after defeat by the United States and the Allies, reconstituted themselves, moved on, and with their national genius become formidable in their own realms. The Palestinians too can become formidable, well positioned to become at very least the eternal prospering middlemen between powerful Israel and the wider Middle East.
70 years after independence, Israel is flourishing in nationhood and statecraft, with a burgeoning birthrate, economy, set of alliances; it has likely possessed nuclear weaponry since 1963, an ICBM global delivery system since 2008. Indeed, Israel under-projects its power; David Goldman accurately coined her a “pocket superpower”. All this means that as Israel strengthens and they weaken, the longer the Palestinians continue to hold off the less they will eventually get.
Up to now, the only pressure the Palestinians faced to encourage them to make a deal was Israeli settlements in the West Bank, bargaining chips being built in front of their eyes. Now under Trump, the USA has changed its approach and added its own diplomatic pressure to bear — epitomized by the Jerusalem recognition. More fundamentally, the region has changed; the Palestinians’ traditional patrons and enablers — Egypt and Saudi Arabia — have at the very least lost interest in their perpetual campaign against Israel.
This sea-change will hopefully lead the next generation of Palestinian leadership to realize that there is no longer any benefit to holding out (not that there ever was) and succeed in conveying this to the people. Here’s hoping, and to fruitful and harmonious דו-קיום (co-existence) sooner than we think possible.
Friday, May 11th, 2018
It’s ominous yet futile, the Western media’s circumlocutions to avoid the traditional names of the various wars between Arabs and Israel. Here’s an example from today, “1 Gazan killed, 49 wounded by Israeli fire in border protest” by the Associated Press and posted at Yahoo (currently owned by Verizon). The paragraph in question:
Another large-scale protest is planned for Tuesday, when Palestinians mark their “nakba,” or catastrophe, referring to their mass uprooting during the Mideast war over Israel’s 1948 creation. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven out or fled homes in what is now Israel. More than two-thirds of Gaza residents are descendants of refugees.
I can’t remember when I last saw the capitalized term “Independence Day” in any international media news reports, nor the term “War of Independence”. Ditto for the Yom Kippur War, the Six Day War and the somewhat less heroic Sinai War.
I understand that these are inherently pro-Israel terms, told from an Israeli point-of-view. But they are vivid, concise, accurate, individuated terms. I’d also have thought that if they were transliterating Nakba they’d also be doing Yom Ha’atzma’ut in the vaunted name of balance. Moreover any war from which a nation-state arises deserves the term War of Independence.
Wednesday, May 9th, 2018
In the wake of America’s withdrawal from the Iran deal, an Israel-Iran war is unlikely but still…
Tuesday, May 1st, 2018
Ehud Yaari in The American Interest: “Israeli inaction came face-to-face with Iranian proactivity, and Israel now finds itself counting its losses even as the Syrian war winds down.” It seems we have been fighting the last war.
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.
Saturday, April 7th, 2018
Covering Hamas’s border assault, The New York Times has run two rather spectacular photos by Gazan photographer Mohammed Salem. I realize that such imagery is what this whole nasty malarkey is for, but a great pic says many things.
Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
Saudi heir to throne: “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”
Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018
Twice entranced: Finlay of Arabia. These guys seems to be the Banksy Neturei Karta.
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.”
Friday, March 30th, 2018
What a refreshing perspective in this must-read piece: “Israel is a democracy because democracy was the only mechanism that was available to mediate and settle the fierce debates about what it meant to be the Jewish state.
Therefore: “Just as having no choice in war has meant that Israel had to win, having no choice but to be a democracy has meant that over time, Israel has become one of the world’s most successful and effective democracies.”
Saturday, March 24th, 2018
Two British Jewish boomers, Simon Schama and Martin Goodman, write new histories of Judaism, Schama focusing on individuals, Goodman on ideas and practices.
Friday, March 23rd, 2018
If you’re worried about Facebook, just take a look at WeWork.
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.”
11 years on, Israel’s military censor is permitting interviews with participants in the attack on Syria’s clandestine nuclear facility.
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.
Tuesday, February 13th, 2018
In “Syria – From a State to a Hybrid System: Implications for Israel” by the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), authors Carmit Valensi, Udi Dekel and Anat Kurz write: “The problem can be managed but no solution can be expected … Syria will not revert to what it was … By means of coordinating with third parties, Israel will be able to influence trends…”
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.
Thursday, December 28th, 2017
Read “Antisemitism in contemporary
Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel“ [PDF] by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, published September 2017. The study demonstrates a correlation between anti-Jewish and anti-Israel attitudes.
Thursday, December 14th, 2017
Who showed up, who stayed home, and who broadcast a weather program while Erdoğan spoke at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit condemning America’s recognition of Israel’s capital. Jordan was there but Saudi, Egypt and the UAR weren’t.
Tuesday, December 12th, 2017
Tom Gross lays out the case for optimism over an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal happening sooner rather than later. To me this is utterly obvious and almost straightforward but as usual it’s the precise opposite of how the Western media portrays things to be.
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.
Also Abraham Ben-Zvi briefly compares Trump’s defiance of his own government regarding Israel to that of Truman and Kennedy, rather propelling The Donald into the pantheon.
Marcus Pretzell is one German member of the EU Parliament who supports the declaration and says other do too but fear to speak up.
Finally, Rashid Khalidi’s response illustrates the unhappy thrashings-about of the opposing side.
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.
Tuesday, December 5th, 2017
The guys at The Soul of Enterprise podcast interview George Gilder. I guarantee you he’ll bring you at least some new perspective. It’s about time.
Tuesday, October 24th, 2017
Spengler (David Goldman) on the irony that Europe’s new rightwing nationalists admire Israel.
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.
Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
From Dore Gold’s JCPA: The Jews are among the oldest of indigenous peoples.
Sunday, July 30th, 2017
Slant Magazine is once again in Jerusalem, this time for Jerusalem Film Festival 2017. By Greg Cwik.
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.
Thursday, July 20th, 2017
Modi and Netanyahu, India and Israel’s prime ministers, are a match made in history. By Jonathan Spyer in The American Interest.
Monday, July 3rd, 2017
Efraim Inbar provides the background to the hugely significant first-time-ever visit to Israel by an Indian Prime Minister.
Monday, June 26th, 2017
“A wordy kind of Kardashian Instagram feed, without the self-awareness.” In this perfectly pitched skewering of Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman & Dave Eggers et al’s confrontation of the Occupation in the West Bank, Matti Friedman wonders what it’s all actually about. All this, plus: I don’t think I’ve ever seen such skilful use of the exclamation mark!
Wednesday, June 21st, 2017
“Gazans today are more moderate than West Bankers on the key question of permanent peace with Israel,” reports David Pollock at The Washington Institute based on what he calls “reliable data from a new survey conducted there May 16-25 by a professional, independent Palestinian pollster.” I thought it might augur hope for an eventual end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but 44% of Gazans and 55% of West Bankers still believe the conflict “should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated”. And 46% of Gazans blame Israel for their economic woes while only 4% blame Egypt. [via dailyalert.com]
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.
Friday, May 5th, 2017
A modest photoblog of a 5-day trip across Israel by Daniel Tchetchik, Haaretz Photography Blog editor.
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.
Friday, January 6th, 2017