To Read: George Friedman explains why he thinks this is a great time for a US-Iranian deal-
The Iranian and American realities argue for a settlement. The psyche of both countries is in the balance. There is clearly resistance in both, yet it does not seem strong enough or focused enough to block it. That would seem to indicate speed rather than caution. But of course, getting it done before anyone notices isn't possible. And so much can go wrong here that all of this could become moot. But given how the Iranians and Americans see their positions, the odds are, that something will happen. In my book, The Next Decade, I argued that in the long run Iran and the United States have aligning interests and that an informal alliance is likely in the long run. This isn't the long run yet, and the road will be bumpy, but the logic is there.
Quote: "As the President has said, we understand, and it is entirely justifiable, that Israel is skeptical about Iran and Iran’s intentions. After all, this is a country whose leadership, until recently, was pledging to annihilate Israel. So their security concerns are understandable. Their skepticism is understandable", WH Spokesman Jay Carni displaying some empathy towards Israel.
Number: 363, the number of flaws the Pentagon has found in the new F-35 joint Strike fighter.
Headline: Iran: Netanyahu speech 'inflammatory'
To Read: A NYT editorial uses some harsh language to describe Netanyahu's role in the US-Iranian affair-
Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani have hard-line domestic audiences and allies that they will need to consider and cajole as they undertake this effort to resolve the nuclear dispute and develop a new relationship. For Mr. Obama, that means working closely with Israel and helping Mr. Netanyahu see that sabotaging diplomacy, especially before Iran is tested, only makes having to use force more likely. That would be the worst result of all.
Quote: "A wolf in sheep's clothing', here are Netanyahu's words at yesterday's UN General assembly.
Number: 78, the percentage of Israelis who are skeptical about Iran's new President, according to a recent poll.
The Middle East
Headline: Weapons inspectors begin Syria mission
To Read: Hassan Hassan points out that not all Islamist rebels in Syria are the same-
The FSA is still salvageable as a moderate force. But the way the Syrian battlefield is shifting should be a wake-up call for the opposition and its backers: The project of establishing a counterweight to extremists, which will be necessary to salvage Syria's future, has so far been feeble. A true alternative would be the creation of a rebel organization that is not a club for vetted seculars, but a structure that includes all actors -- of varying levels of religiosity -- that can help to curb extremism. If the opposition continues to be disconnected from the dynamics on the ground, however, it will only lead more moderate forces into the extremists' orbit.
Quote: “Of the three dangers that threaten the Middle East — war, terror, hunger — poverty looms today over the others”, Israeli President Shimon Peres giving his analysis of the main threats in the Middle East.
Number: 7, The passports of seven Arab or Muslim states are among the 10 worst in the world in terms of free access to other countries, according to a recently published Henley & Partners Visa Restrictions Index.
The Jewish World
To Read: (Past Torah Talk guest) Rabbi Bradley Hirschfeld muses about what the Pew Survey says about the role of religion in America's Jewish identity-
Belief in God? When did that become a marker for who is “deeply” Jewish, or otherwise “less assimilated, as the experts are saying? Don’t get me wrong, I believe in God, and see it as central to my own Jewish identity. But a defining feature of Jewishness, the decrease in which spells are dissolution as a people? That is simply not the case.
Judaism, as we have known from the beginning, is not simply a religion, and the absence of God or uncertainly about God’s existence as a component in Jewish Identity, while upsetting for many of us, is neither a barrier to great Jewishness, nor a predictor of its weakening. Just ask Albert Einstein, Isaiah Berlin, David Ben Gurion, Primo Levi or Golda Meir. I could go on, but you get the point.
Quote: “If he wasn’t of Irish stock he would probably be Israeli”, former US ambassador to the UK Louis Susman presenting Vice President Joe Biden at J-Street (whom he referred to as someone "who shares your values").
Number: 42, the percentage of American Jews who think that having a good sense of humor was essential to their Jewish identity ('observing Jewish law' got a 19%).