To Read: Joel Rubin thinks that talks with Iran are an opportunity for Congress to shine-
By pursuing a deal, Obama can provide Congress with an escape hatch, where it won’t have to end up supporting unpopular military action or have to explain to its constituents why it failed to block an Iranian bomb. A verifiable deal with Iran that would prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon would require sanctions relief from Congress. But that’s an opportunity to claim victory, not a burden. And it would make Congress a partner with the president on a core security issue. Congress could then say, with legitimacy, that its tough sanctions on Iran worked — and did so without starting another unpopular American war in the Middle East.
Isn’t it time Congress had a win, for once?
Quote: “Israel really only has one option. The chance it will act alone after the Americans make a deal is miniscule”, Yoel Guzansky, an Iran expert at the institute and a former national security aide in the prime minister’s office, commenting on the implications of a US-Iran deal on Israel.
Number: 461,000, the estimated numbers of Iraqi deaths in the Iraq war, according to this study.
To Read: Dan Diker writes about Israel and Jordan’s common security concerns in the strategically invaluable Jordan valley-
Jordanian security concerns may help explain why various senior Jordanian officials have told their Israeli counterparts regularly over the past decade that if a Palestinian state is established, it must be demilitarized, and the Palestinian leadership must agree that the Israeli and Jordanian security forces will be the only two armies between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Quote: “[a strong earthquake in Israel could] lead to thousands of deaths. From experience, we know that everything depends on the time of day an earthquake occurs. The cities of Safed, Tiberias, Kiryat Shemona, Beit Shean and Eilat, unfortunately, are all built above the Syrian-African fault-line", Amotz Agnon, a Geology and Geophysics expert working at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, commenting on a series of minor earthquakes that took place in the past few days in Israel.
Number: 30, the number of Palestinian prisoners who are to be released, according to this report.
The Middle East
To Read: Michael Singh argues in favor of a “maximalist” approach to nuclear negotiations with Iran-
The unlikelihood of a change of heart by Iranian leaders suggests a second, more straightforward path to an agreement: requiring Iran to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for any relief from sanctions, which would be increased should Tehran refuse to yield. In this model, Iran would have to suspend enrichment- and reprocessing-related activities as demanded by the U.N. Security Council, dismantle its underground enrichment facility at Fordow and export its stockpiles of enriched uranium, among other steps.
The obvious objection to such a deal is that it may be too difficult to achieve; even U.S. negotiators have characterized this stance as “maximalist.” But any deal must be evaluated in comparison to plausible alternatives, not in isolation, and Iran’s alternatives are bleak. Iran’s economy is under severe strain because of the sanctions. If Iran tried to “break out” for a nuclear weapon, the United States and Israel have made clear that they would strike a devastating military blow.
Quote: "Such terrible acts will not succeed in dividing Muslims and Christians", Hazem Beblawi, Egypt's interim prime minister, condemning an attack on an Egyptian Coptic Church during a wedding.
Number: 25%, the percent increase in Lebanon’s population due to the influx of Syrian refugees.
The Jewish World
To Read: Israeli Ultra-Orthodox MK Dov Lipman explains that the demand that Ultra-Orthodox males should make a living is by no means incongruous with Jewish tradition-
I grew up in the United States of America where the ultra-Orthodox did not experience the spiritual world of their counterparts in late 18th and 19th century Palestine. They had to work to earn a living and so they found a way to build institutions which taught Biblical and Talmudic texts on the highest of levels while also teaching general studies and preparing the young men for entry into the work force. I know firsthand from my years studying in one of those institutions while also attending graduate school that one can become a tremendous religious scholar while studying Maths, English, and Science and working to support a family.
Interestingly enough, Jewish tradition is replete with sources which teach the importance of earning a living; the Talmud says parents are obligated to teach their children a trade and that studying religious texts without earning a living leads to sin! Throughout our history our greatest rabbis achieved the highest of levels in professional careers.
Quote: “It has definitely shaken a lot of people’s confidence. The response clearly needs to be greater controls and better training,” Rabbi David Teutsch, who heads the Center for Jewish Ethics at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, commenting on the intolerable number of scandals the Jewish charity world has knownin the past year.
Number: 36 million, the number of people who have visited the Holocaust museum in Washington in the past two decades.