February 15, 2013 | 4:30 am
To Read: Lee Smith believes that it may be too late to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capability-
The White House and President Obama’s supporters insist that he’s making his first trip to Israel next month to assure the Jewish state that if push comes to shove with Iran, he’ll have Israel’s back. But North Korea’s nuclear test Tuesday morning could indicate that it’s already too late for that. If North Korea has the bomb, then for all practical purposes Iran does, too. If that’s so, then Obama’s policy of prevention has failed, and containment—a policy that the president has repeatedly said is not an option—is in fact all Washington has.
Quote: “It’s just unfortunate that this kind of politics intrudes at a time when I’m still presiding over a war in Afghanistan and I need a secretary of defense who is coordinating with our allies… What seems to be happening, and this has been growing over time, is the Republican minority in the Senate seems to think that the rule now is that you need to have 60 votes for everything. Well, that’s not the rule”, President Obama responding to the GOP filibustering of the Hagel nomination.
Number: 158, the number of US diplomatic posts around the world which do not meet security rules.
To Read: Elliot Abrams doesn't think that grand efforts and gestures towards the peace process are what Obama should focus on during his upcoming visit-
It seems unlikely, for all the “peace plans” have in common a squeeze on Israel while they ask little from the Palestinian Authority and PLO. In another context this was called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Even more important is whether the president aims at realistic progress or wants another conference and another glamorous effort at a comprehensive final status negotiation. The lesson of the Obama first term, and indeed of the Clinton and Bush years, remains unlearned in Paris, London, Berlin, and perhaps in Washington as well: Grand efforts at a comprehensive peace fail, when the Palestinians in the end balk.
The difficult, slow, and steady effort to build up Palestinian institutions that are free of corruption and terrorism is undramatic: no handshakes on the White House lawn, no Nobel Prizes. Yet there is good reason for Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate over incremental, practical steps, and there are steps that can be taken to improve the standard of living in the West Bank, reduce the Israeli footprint there, and build toward Palestinian statehood. Any approach that ignores the current Hamas-Fatah negotiations and the sad history of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, while it demands that Israel cease all construction in Jerusalem and every single settlement, is bound to fail. Again. Will the Obama visit move away from past failures and try a new and pragmatic approach? Now that would be hope and change.
Quote: “I am not even considering entering a government with Shas. If I will be in the traditional photograph at the President’s Residence the day the government is sworn in standing next to a minister from Shas, my political career is over”, Yair Lapid stating his main reason for not joining a coalition with shas (according to Israeli channel 10).
Number: 51, the percentage of Israelis who decided which party to vote more mainly based domestic issues.
The Middle East
Read: According to FP's Marc Lynch, not arming the Syrian rebels was actually a good call made by President Obama amidst quite a lot of pressure-
Last week's revelations that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey had supported a proposal by then CIA Director David Petraeus and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to arm moderate Syrian rebels have galvanized the Syria policy debate. The Syria policy community, which for the most part these days yearns for more aggressive American action, is outraged that the White House overruled this plan. But the real story is that, for once, the inter-agency process actually worked: It vetted and discarded a scheme which rigorous analysis concluded wouldn't work.
Quote: "On behalf of the Iranian nation, I say that whoever thinks that the Iranian nation would surrender to pressure is making a huge mistake and will take his wish to the grave", Iranian President Ahmadinejad being loud and clear as usual.
Number: 90, 000, the death toll in Syria according to the Saudi foreign minister.
The Jewish World
To Read: Forward's Elana Sztokman writes about a new kind of Jewish female leadership that has arrived at the Israeli Parliament:
Dr. Ruth Calderon is starting a revolution in Israel.
The new Knesset member on Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party is a Talmudic scholar who built two secular batei midrash (houses of learning), Elul and Alma, both of which are among the most significant educational institutions at the center of the Jewish secular renewal in Israel. And this week, in her introductory speech at the Knesset, she did something astonishing: She taught a passage of Talmud.
Quote: “How do we persuade the non-Jewish world to see antisemitism not just as a Jewish problem, but as their problem? A civilisation or a country that has no room for Jews has no room for humanity”, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, talking about Rupert Murdoch and anti-Semitism in his last official trip to Israel as Chief Rabbi of the commonwealth.
Number: 3000, the real number of Jews turned away by Switzerland during WW2 (much lower than previously estimated).
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