To Read: Robert Kaplan believes that the constant and unbearable media pressure and scrutiny Obama has been under may very well be hurting the quality of US policy discussion about Syria (and about foreign affairs in general)-
A relentless media means policies have little time to mature before they are declared failures. It means there is less secrecy because of so many leaks. And because so much is leaked, government officials themselves have less incentive to be candid, even in private meetings, on account of the assumption that no transcript stays secret forever, whatever the security classification given it. So the quality of discussion inside government deteriorates, even as the public policy climate outside also worsens. In sum, the semi-anarchic, post-Cold War world narrows the space for foreign policy success at the same time that the quality of foreign policy itself wanes.
Quote: “As long as Iran tries to evade our sanctions, we will continue to expose their deceptive maneuvers”, David S. Cohen, the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, about the new measures the US has taken to tighten the sanctions on Iran.
Number: 79, the percentage of Palestinians who view the US unfavorably.
To Read: A comprehensive PEW survey examines different attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and offers a vast number of interesting figures-
The U.S. is the only country surveyed where a majority expresses positive views of Israel: 57% of Americans have a favorable opinion and 27% have an unfavorable view of one of their country’s closest allies in the Middle East. Russians also express more favorable than unfavorable views of Israel (46% vs. 38%).
In predominantly Muslim countries, as well as in France, Germany, Britain and China, majorities or pluralities express negative opinions in Israel. At least eight-in-ten in Lebanon (99%), Jordan (96%), the Palestinian territories (94%), Egypt (92%), Turkey (86%), and Tunisia (86%) offer unfavorable views. Majorities in China (66%), France (65%) and Germany (62%) also express negative opinions of Israel, as does a 44%-plurality in Britain.
Quote: "Removal of women from the public sphere is damaging not only to their dignity, but also to a society that aspires to equality, and it has no religious or moral justification", Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, upon announcing she will be promoting legislation that would make the gender-based segregation of women illegal.
Number: 42, the percentage of Israelis who believe that the continued building of settlements hurts Israel's security.
The Middle East
To Read: An interesting piece about Erdogan's role in Turkey's fascinating age-old battle between the country's secular institutional tradition and the general public's demand for Islam-
By making religion a touchstone for political performance, Erdogan has opened himself up to conservative criticism of a particularly sticky sort. The difficulty citizens have in finding jobs, the failure to curb price hikes, the struggle with the Kurds, foreign policy toward Israel and the United States, the use of Patriot missiles to guard against mayhem in Syria—all these furnish platforms for judging him by a harsher standard than he might have liked. God’s law, as implemented by man, abhors a middle ground.
If that happens, Turkey could face a situation where divergent interpretations of Islam come into conflict. Ideas of religious duty could combine with a deep patriotism to tear the body politic apart. A half decade or so from now, Erdogan might well find that, having unleashed religion into the public sphere, he will have to fight forces armed with a harsher, more extreme view of Islam than his own.
Quote: "for the first time we feel that both they (Hezbollah) and we live in the same situation and they are not only allies that we aid with the resistance. We decided that we must approach them and turn into a nation of resistance like Hezbollah, for Syria and for future generations", Bashar Assad praising Hezbollah for their help.
Number: 69, the percentage of Palestinians who have a favorable view of President Abbas' Fatah Movement.
The Jewish World
To Read: The Telegraph's Jack Wallis Simons criticizes Stephen Hawking's Boycott decision-
…it is sad that Stephen Hawking, the eminent physicist, has decided to contribute towards the closing of the debate by supporting the academic boycott of Israel. It is understandable that he has a pro-Palestinian perspective. Yet this partisan, reductive move has moved him from the realms of objective, concerned observer to an instrument of one particular side against the other.
Moreover, it displays a certain blindness to the complexity of real life in the region. Some years ago, I was at a literary event in Tel Aviv featuring writers from around the world, as well as from Israel. I can still remember the excruciating embarrassment in the room as a German author took to the stage and lambasted Israelis about West Bank checkpoints. The audience, which was predominantly Israeli, were living this stuff every day, and many of them were prominent on Israel's left wing. Many had campaigned for Palestinian rights. To see them lectured by a foreigner, who had spent all of three days in the country, was shameful. When the German writer finished his speech, they clapped him politely and welcomed the next writer to the stage.
Quote: “[They] do not belong at a place such as the Kotel. Their monthly activism threatens to turn this holy place into a site for a media circus rather than prayer, and is disruptive for all that come there to pray peacefully and connect to God”, Ronit Peskin, co-founder of 'Women for the Wall' an opposition group to 'Women of the Wall', criticizing WOW's very public events at the Western Wall.
Number: €316, the sum of the legal costs a Jewish leader in Rome was ordered to pay after a Nazi war criminal had unsuccessfully sued him.