To Read: David Rothkopf doesn't see Kerry's appointment as 'the beginning of an era', seeing that Foreign policy will continue to be determined by Obama-
Kerry has already given some clues to the kind of secretary of state he will be. His first speech suggested that at least for a while, the United States' new top diplomat would sound rather like the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That speech was very much directed to a domestic audience. For the public at large, it made the case that diplomacy was relevant. For Washington, it made the case that it needed to be funded. For the world, it didn't really suggest a new vision.
There is a reason for this. The primary foreign-policy maker in this administration remains the president. The primary location for the shaping of major policy decisions remains the White House and the National Security Staff. Of the most influential foreign-policy makers in this administration, most of the important ones are remaining right where they were: in the White House. That includes not only the president but also Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and Donilon's former deputy and now Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. McDonough's replacement, Tony Blinken, didn't have to carry his boxes very far either as he already was the VP's national security advisor in the last term. So continuity should be expected.
Quote: "The window for a diplomatic solution simply cannot by definition remain open forever. But it is open today. It is open now", John Kerry about the negotiations with Iran.
Number: 11, the percentage of Americans and Mexicans who would like to leave their respective counties.
To Read: Marty Peretz doesn't like President Obama's attitude towards Israel-
The irony of Obama’s confidence in his mission of peace for the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs is that he has been proven demonstrably ignorant of the region. The irony of his hauteur toward Netanyahu is that it is applicable to the Israeli center, as well, and even to parts of the left, which also is not eager to open the country to new rounds of terror. The mass of Israelis do not want to govern Arab life. They do not want to run Palestinian foreign policy, if the other Arabs will allow such to be. But neither are they ready to admit unto Zion untold numbers of “refugees” into the fourth generation, and they won’t. Nor can they pretend that Arab insistence on a return to the armistice lines of 65 years ago is realistic or just. The march of time now runs faster than ever before. The “Arab state” envisioned along side the Jewish state by the General Assembly in 1947 is no more.
Barack Obama will be welcomed in Israel, for the pro-American sentiments run deep in that country. But if he comes to Israel to save it from itself or to browbeat its governing coalition, he is sure to return empty handed. Israelis know their neighborhood, and they can see laid before them the erosion of American power and authority in a region they understand much better than foreign visitors in a hurry.
Quote: “I hope that Yesh Atid’s decision to team up with Bennett will not sabotage the diplomatic process”, new member of the coalition, Tsipi Livni, raising concerns about the Lapid-Bennett pact.
Number: 1000, the number of Sudanese refugees the Israeli government secretly repatriated.
The Middle East
Read: Flynt Leverett and Hilary Man-Leverett believe that Washington's Iranian sanction policy may very-well backfire-
Western policymakers and commentators wrongly assume that sanctions will force Iranian concessions in nuclear talks that resume next week in Kazakhstan - or perhaps even undermine the Islamic Republic's basic stability in advance of the next Iranian presidential election in June.
Besides exaggerating sanctions' impact on Iranian attitudes and decision-making, this argument ignores potentially fatal flaws in the US-led sanctions regime itself - flaws highlighted by ongoing developments in Europe and Asia, and that are likely to prompt the erosion, if not outright collapse of America's sanctions policy.
Quote: "We are concerned that these euro conversions in turn free up significant funds to finance Iranian imports, stabilize Iran's monthly budget and allows the regime to continue to engage in sanctionable and illicit activities", a letter signed by many US Senators urging the EU to plug loopholes in Iranian sanctions.
Number: 19, the number of fatalities in a hot-air balloon accident in Egypt.
The Jewish World
To Read: Chief UK Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes about the first atheist church in Britain from a Jewish perspective-
It is, so the reports say, the first atheist church in Britain. Set in a former church in Islington, hymns include Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" and Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." The altar is surmounted by an image of saintly former pop star turned physics professor, Dr Brian Cox. In place of a sermon there is a stand-up comic routine, and instead of readings from the sacred texts, there is a power-point presentation on the origin of dark matter.
It sounds terrific, though as a Jew I have to advise the organizers: If you want to flourish, make sure there are whisky and fishballs after the service. Let's be serious here: Theology is one thing, food another altogether. I also have to congratulate them on their ingenuity in introducing power-point presentations, the only phenomenon thus far known to science capable of rivaling sermons for sleep-inducing properties. There is, I seem to recall, a Swiss political party whose entire platform consists of a pledge to ban power-point presentations.
Quote: "To many who know little or nothing about Hollywood or the falsity of such Jewish stereotypes, there’s a much higher potential for the ‘Jews control Hollywood’ myth to be accepted as fact", the Anti-Defamation League decrying an allegedly anti-Semitic sketch at the Oscars.
Number: 80, the number of women who attended the Megillah reading at the western wall.