Headline: Jack Lew sworn in as Treasury secretary
To Read: Our Israel Factor panelist Alon Pinkas is optimistic about Israel's new friend in the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel-
Let's begin by making it clear that new US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is a friend of Israel and is attentive to the Jewish state's vital security and diplomatic interests.
His voting record as a Nebraska senator during the years 1996-2008 on issues directly or indirectly related to Israel was impeccable. His support for the military aid packages, as well as other aid packages to Israel was absolute. His statements regarding the need to exhaust the diplomatic efforts before threatening to use military force against Iran are no different than remarks made by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry on the matter.
Most importantly, his position on Iran is, in essence, no different than that of President Peres, Defense Minister Barak, former Prime Minister Olmert and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan. Since these four prominent figures are obviously pro-Israel, the accusations made against Hagel by a few eccentric Republicans during the bizarre and absurdly political confirmation hearings at the Senate Armed Services Committee are false.
Quote: “This is not a green light to Israel to do anything other than defend itself (and a promise that) we will be there”, Senator Lindsey Graham about a Senate legislation proposal to promise US support in case Israel takes action in Iran.
Number: 56, the percentage of Americans who believe that the sequestration will hurt the economy.
To Read: Ari Shavit believes that the Lapid-Bennet union is far more pernicious to Israeli society than people think-
The Lapid-Bennett alliance is a win-win-lose situation. The big winner is Naftali Bennett: By joining with Yair Lapid, the leader of the new settlers forced Benjamin Netanyahu to accept him, won legitimacy and emptied the Israeli political center of all content.
A smaller victory belongs to Yair Lapid: By joining with Bennett, the leader of the new bourgeoisie has become a big opponent of the Haredim who attracts anti-Haredi people from all parts of the spectrum.
But the loser is the State of Israel: The Yesh Atid-Habayit Hayehudi alliance is making Israel miss opportunities to deal with the settlement problem. Simultaneously, it intensifies the danger that sovereign Israel will finally be defeated by the Israel of the settlements.
Quote: “This is a sinister and mendacious statement the likes of which we thought had disappeared from the world”, PM Netanyahu's response to Erdogan's controversial remarks.
Number: 16.6, the percentage drop in Israeli exports in January.
The Middle East
Headline: New Syrian Aid Slammed by Rebels
Read: Daoud Kuttab takes a look at the dilemmas facing Mahmoud Abbas in the recent round of Palestinian protests-
But while Palestinian officials are publicly aligning themselves with the protests, it remains unclear whether they favor or oppose an escalation in the violence leading up to Obama's visit. Unlike his predecessor, Abbas has consistently been opposed to what is often referred to as the "militarization" of the intifada. He favors nonviolence and has always opposed violent protests, which he argues are counterproductive.
Abbas, whose team has been working hard to prepare for the Obama visit, is aware that if the level of violence escalates dramatically, it could lead to the cancellation of his expected short three-hour visit to occupied Palestine. But at the same time, Abbas is unwilling to be seen by his people as actively involved in repressing the demonstrations through mass arrests and a direct crackdown by Palestinian security.
Quote: "Even today, some of our members are refused admission into the Military Academy because they are known Brotherhood members", Brotherhood secretary general, Mahmoud Hussein, about the delicate relations between Egypt's army and government.
Number: $200 billion, the estimated revenue Egypt expects to receive if it rents out its Pyramids for five years.
The Jewish World
To Read: Rabbi Jeremy Rosen thinks that the Jewish world has something to learn from the Pope's resignation-
All this reminds me of why we should take a leaf out of the pope’s book. Who are the leaders of the Jewish religious world today? One thinks of the late Rav Shach and Rav Elyashiv, and Rav Ovadia Yosef and Rav Shteinman today, to mention only the most prominent. They are a gerontocracy of men who, in their nineties, might still have amazing brains, honed on years of study and analysis. They might also be the most pious of men. Yet it is also clear that they are tired and weak and out of touch with the world around them. Rav Shteinman refuses to make any compromise on allowing those Charedi young men who do not want to sit and study to go into the army. Rav Yosef calls Naftali Bennett worse than a non-Jew because he refuses to abide by Charedi authority. Because of their infirmity, they are surrounded by warring family heirs, political fixers, gatekeepers, and secretaries who shelter them and filter through what they want to let the great man see and hear. These men have been and are national treasures. But just as Benedict will now relinquish the burdens of leadership to younger, stronger men and devote himself to study alone, so too ought these wise men in Judaism.
Quote: “Frankly… we are deeply disappointed that the UN Secretary General, the world’s leading diplomat, sat through the attack in silence”, Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, attacking Ban-Ki Moon's for sitting in silence during Erdogan's hateful Zionism comments.
Number: €60, the sum of a fine against a Dutch Orthodox Jew who refused to show police an identity card, citing religious reasons.