Monday, April 24th, 2023
Increasingly, Dan Senor’s weirdly-named podcast Call Me Back is becoming my favorite due to frequent regular output on topics close to my heart with authoritative guests. This is Micah Goodman on the Israel protests. He’s more sympathetic than I am towards the
elitist tantrums protests but has the perspicacity to step back and view things historically.
Tuesday, March 28th, 2023
A couple of worthwhile recent podcast episodes: Dan Senor on Israel at the Commentary podcast and Kevin Kelly at Russ Robert’s EconTalk [both links via Overcast].
Monday, March 13th, 2023
Bar Ilan University’s BESA Center is optimistic after two years of Israel being in USCENTCOM.
Friday, March 10th, 2023
In Rome, Netanyahu speaks to La Repubblica. “What we can do is protect our freedoms,” he says, “using force if necessary, for as long as possible…” This is the second time in recent weeks I’ve heard the great man introduce this concept of existence as temporary. Not that it’s not true, but it’s unusual to hear a national leader speak that way. Intimations perhaps of his own mortality. Anyway, I love that he is coming with a vivid clear ask: Roma, recognize Yerushalayim.
In Mosaic Magazine, the redoubtable Evelyn Gordon lays out the issue of Israel’s judicial reform.
Tuesday, March 7th, 2023
What a vile and unserious letter to Binyamin Netanyahu from members of the Entebbe commando squad. They write:
You compared us to those who carried out the pogrom in Huwara, and your son, who has not held a rifle in his life, calls us ‘terrorists’…
Perhaps I’m touchy about this because a friend recently dismissed my view on Israeli matters because when we served in the IDF some over 30 years ago he was in a combat unit and I was not, but really, does Yair Netanyahu’s military service or lack thereof belong in a serious discussion on national affairs? They go on:
You called us ‘conditional Zionists.’ You, whose father, left Israel in 1939 and returned only in 1949 when the Independence War ended. And then a second time left the country in 1962 and returned after his son fell [in Entebbe].
Now after insulting his son they’re after his father. Never mind that the senior Netanyahu was also the father to the son Yoni whom they valorize earlier in the letter…
The increasingly indispensable Michael Doran points out that:
If the goal of the Biden administration were to work with Israel to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, then Nides would either avoid any intervention whatsoever in Israeli domestic politics, or he would urge Lapid publicly to put forth practical proposals that could lead to a constructive compromise. Nides has demonstratively done neither.
Sunday, March 5th, 2023
Prof. Nir Keidar, legal historian and President of Sapir College, appears on the predictably leftist podcast The Tel Aviv Review ostensibly to discuss his book David Ben Gurion and the Foundation of Israeli Democracy but the conversation is mostly about today’s judicial reform, and he is reasonable and helpful.
Saturday, March 4th, 2023
As interviewed by Netael Bandel in Israel Hayom, Professor Yoav Dotan opposes judicial activism:
The High Court took the accepted understanding of reasonableness – intervening when a government authority harms the citizen in an absurd and capricious manner – and turned it into something else entirely. Everyone must be reasonable, the government and the prime minister, except that they always think they are acting reasonably. The court’s reasonableness approach states that the government will balance its own considerations and that the court will reverse-engineer the government’s determination. In effect, the court becomes a second government that oversees the elected government, and in instances that have no bearing whatsoever on personal liberties.
Thursday, March 2nd, 2023
Thursday, January 19th, 2023
Righteous Rishi will visit Israel for her 75th.
Tuesday, January 10th, 2023
Senior Saudis tell an American delegation they are ready for normalization with Israel, but first they want normalization with the United States, writes JINSA’s John Hannah in The Jerusalem Post after the visit.
Saturday, January 7th, 2023
A story most emblematic of Israel’s governmental switchover: Finance Minister Smotrich’s cancellation of Liberman’s tax on plastic plates, as sympathetically reported by JTA.
Thursday, January 5th, 2023
After the Six Day War victory, Moshe Dayan decided the Waqf should retain control over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The op-ed writer calls it “progressive hubris”; similarly, I take it as a lesson that, like premature optimization, excessive magnanimity can be a root of much evil.
I’m sad to discover that Carol Gould, my father’s American neighbor and friend during his decade in London, died in late 2021. She wrote a concise memoir of her life and times in London, “42 years in Britain – 37 years in broadcasting”:
One of the most nerve-wracking broadcasts in which I ever participated was a two-hour special produced by [Iran’s] Press TV about Israel’s illegitimacy as a state, anchored by Alan Hart, a former ITN presenter. Though never substantiated we heard through the industry that his blatant anti-Semitism eventually led to his departure from ITV. This special was devised to illustrate that Israel was not a sovereign state, but illegitimate — a bantustan created by unwelcome Zionist invaders who used the Shoah as an excuse to displace and massacre Arabs who had lived there for centuries. … I tried to keep my cool and defend the aspirations of the Jewish people to have a homeland, going back to the era of the Dreyfus trial, Emile Zola, ‘J’accuse,’ Theodor Herzl and Ahad Ha’am, but the head of the Muslim Brotherhood UK got so angry at me that he fell off his chair in the front row of the audience and hit his head; the recording had to be suspended whilst we waited for him to be taken away in an ambulance.
Carol notes that she experienced much more anti-Semitism from conservatives than liberals in London.
Wednesday, January 4th, 2023
In The Algemeiner, Adam Levick takes the time to comprehensively Fisk a Sky News broadcast for children aired May 13, 2022 entitled “FYI: Special Report From Both Sides of The Wall”. It’s pretty egregious. I noticed a year or so ago that Sky News’s political slant had become pretty indistinguishable from the BBC’s.
I recommend this tour de force on Israel’s recent election by the excellent Haviv Rettig Gur in The Times of Israel.
[The left and Balad] spoke of Netanyahu’s imminent return to power as a vast danger, but then did everything required to make that outcome more likely.
The Israeli left didn’t collapse in a sudden, recent rightist lurch of the electorate. It has been in a tailspin for three decades. And three decades of failure suggest a simple, unsparing conclusion that hovers over the anxiety about the election results and the patina of moral panic that accompanies it: The left that just collapsed, in terms of raw political strategy, doesn’t deserve to exist.
If the left does not fundamentally redraw the Israeli political map — that is, fundamentally reconceive itself — then Tuesday’s result will be more than a single painful failure. It will be a harbinger of the foreseeable future. It is this reality that drives the “end of the country as we’ve known it” panic.
From here, Rettig Gur starts to build a case for a revived Israeli Left. What a piece!
Thursday, December 29th, 2022
As Netanyahu retakes the reins of Israel, Caroline Glick, excitable as she may be, lays it out, as far as I can tell, pretty darn accurately: the main difference between this government and the previous is that Israel will now stand up to the erratic and mostly misguided Biden Administration.
Tuesday, December 20th, 2022
Binyamin Netanyahu is interviewed at wonderful length by, wonderfully, Al-Arabiya. One question he addresses is the maritime agreement that the previous Lapid government made with Lebanon:
Look, my concern is that the revenues that come out of the sea that I think heavily favored Lebanon, do not favor Lebanon. They favor Hezbollah. And Hezbollah has not been a force for peace. So you may just be funding Hezbollah’s military arsenal that could be used not only against Israel, but against many others in the Middle East. You have to think about that very carefully. But that is already done. As I said, I’ll see what I can do to moderate any damage or to secure Israel’s economic and security interests.
Netanyahu articulates what I believe the clear-eyed majority of Israelis saw (and as I posted on October 14th before the election): that having the Yesh Atid camp in power is a burgeoning danger to Israel’s national security due to their willingness to make visibly unfavorable diplomatic deals, which not only are harmful to Israel’s interests in themselves, but signal weakness that invites further depravations.
It’s also interesting to witness Bibi weave in constant complimentary references to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and address their concerns without compromising the Israeli perspective. I know what they say about Netanyahu’s untrustworthiness, but all this reeks of integrity.
That said, it’s clear what he wants to get across: the key word is “reaffirm”, that he’s heading to Washington to argue on Saudi’s behalf.
Saturday, December 3rd, 2022
A History of the Israeli Army
Author Ze’ev Schiff provides a matter-of-fact overview, probably not too different from many other books of Israeli military history, though I did learn that it was probably Arafat who precipitated the Six Day War. The edition I read was published a decade after the first publication, in the midst of the Lebanon War, about which the author is caustic and upset yet manages to end the book on an optimistic note, wishing Lebanon serve at least as a lesson for future non-endeavors.
Friday, October 14th, 2022
Tony Badran explicates the terrible maritime deal that Israel signed with the Lebanese. It seems to me they just locked in Bibi’s reelection.
Monday, October 10th, 2022
To form an opinion on the wedge of maritime territory wedged between Israeli and Lebanon, some googling revealed:
- “Lebanon-Israel maritime border dispute” at Global Security with a nice map
- “Lebanon-Israel maritime border dispute picks up again”, June 16th, 2022 by the Atlantic Council
- “Lebanon’s Maritime Boundaries: Between Economic Opportunities and Military Confrontation” by Daniel Meier at St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford [pdf]
- “Revealed: Lebanon, Israel considering ‘gas resource swap’ to settle sea border dispute” by William Christou
at The New Arab
- “What’s at stake in the Lebanon-Israel maritime dispute?” by William Christou at The New Arab
Sunday, October 2nd, 2022
The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People
Walter Russell Mead
Mearsheimer and Walt — three words that do not appear once in this 1045-page book but are clearly its raison d’etre. John Mearsheimer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago; Stephen Walt is Professor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School; together they are the respectable face of American anti-Semitism, reputable enough that Walter Russell Mead seems unwilling to criticize them by name, despicable enough that their book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy infuriated our southern-born dean of foreign relations to work on this book for a dozen years or so.
The Wikipedia article on the Lobby book illustrates Mead’s Southern Gentleman approach; whereas Israeli historian Benny Morris says “their work is riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity,” Mead applauds the authors for “admirably and courageously” initiating a conversation on a difficult subject, but more in sorrow than in anger laments that while their intentions are surely strictly honorable, they commit “easily avoidable lapses in judgment and expression.”
Making multiple approaches from multiple angles, Mead demolishes their central notion, giving it the withering moniker of Vulcanist thinking. (Actually I take issue a little with this label, because since the book is so long I forgot the elegant historical anecdote that originates it — a theory of astronomy that attempted to explain celestial workings by means of an undetected planet that doesn’t actually exis. Instead I mentally defaulted to popular culture, where Star Trek’s Vulcan is a stand-in for excessive logic — a characterization quite antithetical to his notion of Vulcanist thinking. This is a shame because the term therefore probably won’t catch on, which it could have perhaps as a shorthand for tendentious yet respectable and therefore ultimately even more ridiculous thinking.)
Especially enriching are his fleshing out of the geopolitical maneouverings among the US, Britain and Russia at the time of Israel’s founding. Important here for Mead’s thesis is that the legend of Truman’s Jewish friend from back in Missouri inveighing on the flummoxed President to recognize Israel be relegated to Queen Esther-echoing myth. For it is WRM’s contention in his chapter “Cyrus Agonistes” that American support for Israel is endemic to the United States, rather than due to the influence of the American Jewish lobby qua Walt and Mearsheimer — moreover it’s despite American Jews, whose leaders have for most of Israel’s history been actively working against a Jewish state, their energies only turning once America as a whole pursued full-throated support for Israel after it became the Middle East’s unambiguous Six Day War strong horse.
It’s also a helpful historical insight that WRM groups 19th century American support for Jewish return to Israel with support for the birth of the Italian and Greek nationstates:
In the ancient world, as Americans saw it, the Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews had been much like Americans of the nineteenth century. They were mostly agrarian people, nations of family-owned farms. They had free institutions and their societies were grounded in virtue. But corruption, urbanization, and monarchy had wreaked their ugly work; in time, all three of the ancient peoples fell from their virtue and freedom into slavery, superstition, and oppression.
As the nineteenth century progressed, and the Greek and Italian independence movements advanced, the possibility of a restored Jewish commonwealth also began to gleam on the horizon.
In fact the discussion of nationalism’s birth pangs from the empires of eastern Europe, the chapter entitled “Maelstrom”, is perhaps the richest part of the book.
As a columnist I have been irritated by what I perceive as WRM’s intellectual mealy-mouthedness. But as a full-throated podcast guest I realize this is merely his print persona, a tic I suppose similar to what he probably views as his Straussian icy politeness regarding Mearsheimer and Walt. That said, I took umbrage when in the book he referred to the Second Intifada, a wave of despicable terror attacks against Israel in the wake of the Oslo Agreements, using the BBC-like passive even-handed term: “violence flared”. I instantly recalled eyewitnessing the shellshock in the hours after the Dolphinarium suicide bombing that killed and maimed dozens of partying teenagers. I was only somewhat mollified later in the book when he mentioned this particular bombing by name, without mentioning that the victims were teenagers.
This is a book about America not Israel, and as well as constituting a scathing retort to Mearsheimer and Walt, is a continuation by other means of his 2001 book Special Providence that classifies the various streams of America’s foreign policy; in portraying America’s relationship with Israel, Arc explicates the fullest expression of the Jacksonian stream, a Meadian classification that, unlike Vulcanism, does seem to be sticking.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2022
He of the Cottage Cheese protests, now sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair, finally did it, as Israel applies EU standards for foodstuffs. Lapid’s statement: “The move will lower the cost of living and open the market to competition” — and what a great pic in his office with the Israeli flag and an array of foodstuffs.
Sunday, September 25th, 2022
If “the Jews” ran America, immigration would not have been restricted and Israel would likely not exist.
Walter Russell Mead, The Arc of a Covenant (p. 251)
Thursday, September 22nd, 2022
Israel’s patience and humility is rewarded first by Trump and now by Truss: the UK may follow the US in relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv the seafront metropolis to Jerusalem the capital.
Tuesday, September 6th, 2022
The Mufti, Qadaffi, King Hussein — I’m vastly enjoying season 2 of the Israeli TV documentary series Enemies (streaming requires an Israeli IP). One thing I can’t help but notice is the impressive living rooms in which the interviewees — mostly military intelligence vets — sit. None of them are in apartments, all have leafy window views, there’s a lot of wood, and most of them aren’t furnished like typical Israeli dwellings. I guess these aren’t military men, they’re men and women of the world.
I can’t tell if I enjoy Israeli docs because they’re so good, or merely because I’m the target audience. If it’s the former, and I think it is, they really should be selling them subtitled to wider audiences, say to Netflix and Amazon Prime.
It’s great, this pounding away at Israeli history, each episode a different prism.
Friday, August 12th, 2022
Hamas stays out of the fray in Israel’s latest Gaza blow-up, further fractalizing the Palestinian movement.
Tuesday, August 9th, 2022
I agree with the sentiment in this Haaretz op-ed piece “It’s Time for Israeli Media to Start Calling Gaza Victims by Their Names”, an issue I blogged about during a previous Gaza altercation back in 2014 and haven’t changed my mind. What regular folks here in Israel care about are the disruptions caused due to incoming rocket fire — and that’s totally legit. But for the record the media should be noting whom Israel kills in order to ameliorate the aggression — especially when they are non-combatants. Perhaps one argument against doing so is that we must rely for the facts on the Palestinians themselves, for whom facts seem to be malleable instruments. If credibility is truly Israel’s issue, then we should enlist the aid of credible third-parties organizations for corroboration.
Thursday, July 21st, 2022
On Israeli Policy Pod, Ehud Yaari for the (more or less) hour. When asked who is the greatest of the many great men he met, he is unequivocal: Sadat.
Tuesday, July 19th, 2022
Haaretz travel writer Moshe Gilad writes of hiking Israel’s abandoned Jerusalem line and how it could be put to use but is being stymied by Israel Railways — a reminder of the typical national dysfunction.
Saturday, July 16th, 2022
At the Washington Institute, they note that popularity among Arab populations for the Abraham Accords remains low and that — surprisingly — it’s highest among… Palestinians!
Tuesday, June 14th, 2022
Dr Quentin Tarantino of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Friday, June 10th, 2022
Good for him: the great Guy Zohar quickly demolishes a climate alarmist report on Israeli TV [Hebrew video]. From here in the UK, it puzzles me why Israel also jumps on the bandwagon of American neuroses. But everybody does it — we can’t just switch off what has until 5 minutes ago been a salutary cultural parent for over a century.
Tuesday, May 17th, 2022
Not only is it newsworthy that Israeli company Watergen is installing its drinking water generators in Syria, but that (opposition web site) Syria TV reported the fact.
Tuesday, May 10th, 2022
What a penetrating look at an earlier Israel by the recently-departed neoconservative scion Midge Decter. A paragraph chosen truly at random:
How was I to be prepared for the discovery that a kibbutz, salvation or damnation, transcendent new society or dustbin of failed transformations, was . . . a farm? I was, to be sure, quite aware that the kibbutzim engaged primarily in farming—that, too, was crucial to their ideology and mine—but from such awareness I had not even come near the image of those flat monotonous fields, unbroken by any visual mark of the drama that had created them, stretching to their termination at a dusty road or property line—the same as must be required anywhere in the world for the growing of cotton or corn or wheat. Degania Aleph, weeping Rachel of the whole movement, sits somnolently by the side of the road (for some reason, I can never envision History as taking place alongside an ordinary thoroughfare, accessible to any passing mortal; History must be climbed up to or stumbled down upon) near the Sea of Galilee, giving no physical hint of anything but a usually drab farm life—with neither marker nor monument to set her apart.
Thursday, April 14th, 2022
In an interview on Israel’s national broadcaster Kan, this is a fair-minded well-informed backgrounder on Temple Mount tensions.
Monday, March 28th, 2022
It’s time to catch up: the UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed (a son of the UAE’s founder) speaks in his rather nice English accent at the close of the Negev Summit in Sde Boker.
Friday, March 25th, 2022
Top-flight series of Hebrew animated shorts חדר וחצי about a bachelor clown and his home.
Tuesday, March 8th, 2022
Full transcript of Mohammed bin Salman’s interview with Graeme Wood of The Atlantic — and JCPA’s take on it:
This is the first time the Saudi crown prince has publicly referred to Israel as a “potential ally.” He also spoke about Iran in a different tone. In an Atlantic interview four years ago, Bin Salman compared Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to “Hitler” and said Iran was leading the “axis of evil.” This time such talk was replaced by calling the Iranians “neighbors” of Saudi Arabia.
Monday, February 28th, 2022
Israel’s Channel 12 News has tweeted out this video of an Israeli Ukrainian soldier, saying in Hebrew:
It’ll be ok. All the world is with us. They are finished regardless. And Putin won’t be able to do anything with this. This was his last war. And that’s it, we will win regardless. We already beat them actually, even if we die, we beat them. It’s incontrovertible.”
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022
He really was the best: P. J. O’Rourke on Israel. I could excerpt any damn paragraph, but here’s just one:
There was no sign of war. Plenty of soldiers were to be seen, carrying their weapons, but this is no shock to the frequent traveler. For all that the world looks askance at America’s lack of gun control, foreigners love to wave guns around. Nothing about the Israeli Defense Forces is as odd as Italian carabinieri brandishing their machine pistols while grimly patrolling that flash-point Venice.
Friday, February 11th, 2022
Radical Protestantism leads the pilgrim from the “howling wilderness” and the “enchanted ground” of the Old World and leads him to the Canaan of the spirit. The question is addressed to, and answered by, the individual pilgrim. The Jew is born into the people of Israel; the Christian seeks adoption into the Israel of the Spirit. American Christianity retains the radical individualism of its Protestant forebears, who chose as individuals to become Americans. We have become Americans by adoption, and we have adopted the history of Israel as our national common memory. A profound parallelism is involved. The biblical Election of Israel was not a prize that God awarded to an unlikely nation of shepherds, but rather the outcome of Israel’s free choice to accept the Torah and the responsibility of election. It is our free choice to become Americans that is the cornerstone of our culture.
Saturday, February 5th, 2022
Friday, February 4th, 2022
Israel’s US Ambassador Michael Herzog responds to Amnesty International’s ”Apartheid” report [tweet].
Wednesday, January 26th, 2022
JINSA pleads with Biden to accept the gift of much Middle East peace bequeathed him:
Now is the time for Biden to up his game and remove all doubt that widening the circle of Arab-Israeli peace is one of his highest priorities. How? Name a special presidential envoy for normalization. Next, convene a summit meeting at Camp David with the leaders of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan to establish an ongoing forum for building a new regional security architecture with Israel as an integral member.
Militarily, take advantage of the almost limitless opportunities now available to slowly but surely build Arab-Israeli defense ties as the result of Trump’s decision a year ago to move Israel into U.S. Central Command’s area of operations, alongside the armed forces of almost all of the United States’ Arab partners. Make last November’s naval exercises in the Red Sea the first in a regular series that draws in more Arab states over time and involves air, sea, land, and cybersecurity domains. Integrate Israeli forces and capabilities as much as possible into the multinational task forces that the U.S. Navy already leads to uphold freedom of navigation in the region, defend its vital maritime chokepoints, and combat the malign activities at sea of Iran and its network of terrorist proxies.
Sunday, January 23rd, 2022
Just a reminder of Walter Russell Mead’s wise words from 2012 regarding anti-Semitism:
The rise of anti-Semitism is a sign of widespread social and cultural failure. It is a leading indicator of a loss of faith in liberal values and of a diminished capacity to understand the modern world and to thrive in it. Societies that tolerate anti-Semitism take a fateful step toward the loss of both freedom and prosperity.
Thursday, January 20th, 2022
The most important Abraham Accords peace dividend so far: the beautiful Dubai, Dubai, Dubai by Israeli comedienne Noam Shuster-Eliassi. Israel’s biting satire — mocking Arabs and Israelis alike, and in Arabic leavened with Hebrew (or is it vice versa) — has more of a chance of freeing the Middle Eastern masses than in retrospect the US Armed Forces and State Department ever had. As Frank Herbert kind of say: he who control the comedy control the universe.
Friday, December 24th, 2021
UNRWA is the real Palestinian Nakba, Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch writes in The Jerusalem Post:
UNRWA is not intended to help the refugees but to preserve them as refugees serving the PA’s goals. The world saw a tragic example of the PA’s ideology during the Syrian civil war. Palestinians in refugee camps were being killed and Israel offered to allow them into PA areas on the condition that they be taken off the UN refugee lists. Shockingly, Mahmoud Abbas refused. The PA preferred that they be killed as refugees than live as free people in the PA areas. Estimates are that as many as 4,000 camp residents were killed during the fighting.