To Read: According to Leon Wieseltier, there is an unacceptable gap between Obama's words on foreign affairs and his actions-
By doing nothing in Syria, Obama ensured that there is nothing we can do. It worked! When Assad falls, as assuredly he will fall, he will be replaced by an extremist Sunni government, because no significant help came for the rebels who represented an alternative. American action may have mixed results, but the absence of American action will have unmixed results. Meanwhile a headline in The New York Times the other day declared that “chemical arms inspectors say Syria has destroyed all declared sites.” Whoop-dee-do. Assad still controls many metric tons of toxic agents, and there is the indelicate matter of Assad’s undeclared sites. At the United Nations, Obama adduced the “searing memories . . . [of] Jews slaughtered in gas chambers” in support of his gun-controller’s—I mean arms-controller’s—approach to mass slaughter. Never mind that in the war against Hitler we did not limit our aims to the confiscation of Zyklon B.
Quote: "The Obama administration has two missions. One is the humanitarian impulse to save the lives of innocent civilians. The other is to provide aid to the opposition to show it has the roots of governance in these ungoverned spaces. It’s got a very different purpose, and different partners are carrying it out. We’re working with humanitarian groups that do not want to choose sides in a battle and do not want to be mistaken for having chosen sides”, US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Ann Richard talking to Barbara Slavin about the Syria crisis.
Number: 22%, the US used to provide 22% of the UNESCO budget before withdrawing its financial support to the organization as a response to a vote which gave Palestinians full membership.
To Read: Former Shin Bet chief Amy Ayalon and high-tech entrepreneur Oren Petruschka suggest lowering the bar in the Israel-Palestine negotiations-
But decades of failures must mean something. And what that should teach us is not to abandon the goal, but to find a better path.
In addition, we have failed because we set the bar too high.
We have set it at a full-fledged, permanent solution. But that requires courageous and honest negotiations, and leaders, which evidently is not possible in today’s domestic and regional political environment. Negotiations between parties suspicious as to the other’s intentions and hamstrung by domestic constraints cannot yield an agreement.
Quote: "We have no such thing. If you mean what I think you mean – then no. Thank God, this city is holy and pure", the new Mayor of Beit Shemesh denying the existence of homosexuals in his city.
Number: 12,500, Israel has one public company for every 12,500 citizens (the US has one for every 47,000)
The Middle East
To Read: The Washington Institute's Simon Henderson takes a look at the Saudis' nuclear ambitions-
But all the frank talk in the world may not convince Riyadh to back down if it believes Iran is on the path toward a nuclear weapon. The best the Obama administration can probably hope for at the Geneva talks is to convince Iran to place restrictions on its nuclear program -- actually stopping it seems increasingly unlikely without the use of military force. In these circumstances, the Saudis may well judge that the years of preparation they have devoted to going nuclear were well spent.
Quote: “We have said to the negotiating sides that we will not answer to any threat, sanction, humiliation or discrimination. The Islamic Republic has not and will not bow its head to threats from any authority. For us there are red lines that cannot be crossed. National interests are our red lines that include our rights under the framework of international regulations and (uranium) enrichment in Iran" Iranian President Rouhani making a 'red line' statement.
Number: 52, the number of journalists who have been killed in Syria since 2011.
The Jewish World
To Read: A new survey of Europe's Jewish population features some disturbing statistics-
Two-thirds of respondents (66%) said that anti-Semitism is a problem in Europe, and over three-quarters (76%) noted that there had been an increase in anti-Semitic hostility in their home countries over the last five years.
Close to half of respondents (46%) are afraid of being verbally attacked or harassed in a public place because they are Jewish, while a third (33%) worry that such attacks could turn physical.
Quote: “Leaders of the United Nations...in reviewing the past year emphasized the fact that one half of [the four million] civilians killed were 2 million Jews. The number of persons massacred by the Nazis in occupied countries is larger than the number of men killed on the battlefields”, an excerpt from a 1943 document from the Council of Jewish Federations' General Assembly which took place soon after news of the extermination of Jews became public.
Number: 88, Michael Stein, one of the founders of the Washington Institute, passed away last week, one day before he turned 88.