To Read: According to Gil Troy 'Anti-Israel' is not a term that should be used in the Hagel discussion-
As preparations for Barack Obama’s first presidential visit to Israel proceed, we need some conceptual, and linguistic groundwork, not just the usual itinerary generating, security planning, and soporific statement-drafting. For too long, the debate about American-Israeli relations has been too polarizing. Let’s silence the sky-is-falling cries proclaiming crisis and predicting disaster. Americans and Israelis should celebrate their deep, enduring relationship, cemented by Obama’s foreign policy formula from his second inaugural address: “our interests and our conscience.” With most Americans being “pro-Israel,” using the language of “pro-Israel” and “anti-Israel” when discussing American politicians– including Obama and even Chuck Hagel -- is foolish and self-defeating.
The linguistic imprecision reflects conceptual sloppiness. Using the phrase “pro-Israel” invites discussion of its opposite, “anti-Israel.” But tagging someone who believes in a Jewish state, who supports Israel’s right of self-defense, who denounces attempts to delegitimize Israel, as “anti-Israel” is insulting and alienating. Regarding most Americans, such a characterization usually is an exaggeration. And sometimes, harsh characterizations turn wavering friends into implacable foes.
Quote: "nice seeing our Foreign Service on the big screen", John Kerry wishing Ben Affleck's Argo luck at the Oscars.
Number: 56, the percentage of Americans who believe that the US 'can trust Israel'.
To Read: Isi Liebler is highly critical of Netanyahu's ongoing coalition building antics-
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid seemed an obvious partner. Contrary to depiction by much of the media, Lapid is no leftist and is committed to an undivided Jerusalem and retention of the major settlement blocs, including Ariel. His parliamentary team of newcomers was far superior to the prevailing Knesset members, many of whom were elected through corrupt and dubious primaries.
To bring Yesh Atid into the government, all that was required was a formula ensuring that the ultra-orthodox “share the burden” in terms of the draft or national service and become productively engaged in the workforce rather than subsisting on welfare. Lapid’s proposal on the draft was a graduated increase of conscripts over a five year period with exemptions for a limited number who could remain in full-time Torah study. Had Netanyahu moved in this direction, he would have enjoyed the enthusiastic support of most of the nation.
Instead, he suggested an essentially cosmetic arrangement which imposed no limit to the number of haredi exemptions – a proposal which Lapid refused to accept.
Quote: ““We told the Jewish Home people that if they are indeed in a close alliance with Yesh Atid, we should sit together in coalition talks too. It’s a waste of time to meet separately with representatives of both the parties. If there is a pact in place and a joint veto on the inclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties in the government, we might as well all meet together”, a senior Likud official addressing the Bennett-Lapid pact.
Number: 4,500, the number of security prisoners in Israeli jails who sent their food back this morning
The Middle East
Read: FP's Marc Lynch believes the wisest thing the US could do in Syria is to deliver large scale amounts of humanitarian aid through opposition forces-
Direct humanitarian aid to local organizations, channeled through Syrian opposition institutions, would not only alleviate immediate suffering, but would also be a major step toward the development of meaningful and effective alternative governance. The institutional capacity for delivering aid, which is now unfortunately lacking, is the same institutional capacity needed to effectively govern. Pushing the humanitarian assistance through opposition channels is the best way to strengthen them, to show progress toward improving conditions in rebel-controlled areas, and to give the opposition something to demonstrate its relevance on the ground.
What about the war? The best way for the United States to affect the course of the conflict is not to arm the rebels. Instead, it is to more forcefully coordinate the military and civilian aid that Syria is already receiving. Since the conflict has already regrettably been militarized, and there's clearly no going back, a coordinated flow of arms is better than an uncoordinated flow of arms.
Quote: “This was a difficult year for our economy”, Iranian President Ahmadinejad making a rare admittance.
Number: 16, the number of new nuclear power plants the Iranian government has declared it plans to open.
The Jewish World
To Read: Rabbi Marc Schneier points out the growing number of Muslim leaders who have been denouncing attacks on Jews-
The encouraging reality is that in the past several years, many top Muslim leaders in France and across Europe have been speaking out against anti-Semitic attacks, even when carried out by fellow Muslims, and vowing to stand together with their Jewish counterparts in opposing anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry. Many Jews are unaware that in the wake of the killings in Toulouse, large numbers of French Muslims took part in interfaith demonstrations and candlelight vigils in Paris, Marseilles, Nice, Lyon, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Dijon, Lille and other cities. Major French Muslim organizations, including the French Council of the Muslim Faith and the Great Mosque of Paris strongly condemned the attack as being antithetical to the fundamental precepts of Islam.
Quote: “Circumcisions which are applied with the consent of parents or custodians are not subject to criminal liability”, a German prosecutor after dropping charges against a mohel.
Number: 30, the percentage rise of anti Semitic incidents in Belgium