To Read: Middle East expert Vali Nasr tells the fascinating tale of his disappointing time at Obama's State department:
But my time in the Obama administration turned out to be a deeply disillusioning experience. The truth is that his administration made it extremely difficult for its own foreign-policy experts to be heard. Both Clinton and Holbrooke, two incredibly dedicated and talented people, had to fight to have their voices count on major foreign-policy initiatives.
Holbrooke never succeeded. Clinton did -- but it was often a battle. It usually happened only when it finally became clear to a White House that jealously guarded all foreign policymaking -- and then relied heavily on the military and intelligence agencies to guide its decisions -- that these agencies' solutions were no substitute for the type of patient, credible diplomacy that garners the respect and support of allies. Time and again, when things seemed to be falling apart, the administration finally turned to Clinton because it knew she was the only person who could save the situation.
Quote: “President Barack Obama is not bluffing”, Joe Biden about Obama's resolve to prevent a nuclear Iran, yesterday at AIPAC.
Number: 41, the percentage of Americans who believe that the level of support for Israel has been about right, according to a pew poll.
To Read: Akiva Eldar questions the traditional labeling of every unsuccessful Israel-Palestine peace initiative as 'a missed opportunity':
Absent noisy surprises, Obama’s visit will be crowned “another missed opportunity”. But already now, before the guidelines of the new government have been finalized, and before we know what the American president is carrying in his bags other than a note to be stuck in the Wailing Wall and a wreath to be laid at [the Holocaust memorial] Yad Vashem, it appears one can take an additional step forward and determine that this time, too, the expected lamentation over “the opportunity that was missed” is baseless. Simply, because to begin with, there was no opportunity; therefore, it wasn’t missed.
What kind of diplomatic initiative is worthy of the title “opportunity”? Should every diplomatic move that does not result in agreement between the sides be considered “a missed opportunity”?
Quote: ‘You don’t want another war, understandably. But this is not a war, this is a one-night operation’, former IDF head of Intelligence Amos Yadlin addressing American concerns over a military operation in Iran.
Number: 17, the number of Israeli billionaires who made the Forbes billionaires list.
The Middle East
Read: David Bedein believes that as sympathy for Hamas has been on the rise in the Palestinian authority, arming and training the PA might not be as reasonable a policy as the US may think:
However, as we consider the situation now, we see that not only has that goal of providing PA Security Forces with the capacity to repel Hamas not been achieved; over the past year, the influence of Hamas within the PA security forces has grown significantly. This, in spite of all the funding, training and weaponry that has been supplied.
All other factors aside, there is an underlying cause that is routinely overlooked: the nature of traditional Arab (which includes Palestinian Arab) culture. Whatever the PR promoting a Palestinian state would have us believe, the reality is that for many Palestinian Arabs, loyalty does not rest with some abstract notion of a state that must be defended. Primarily, loyalty is to the extended family: the clan.
Quote: “All countries have relations with Iran except for Egypt, Israel and the United States. No problems have occurred because of any Iranian tourists in any country”, Egyptian tourism minister Hisham Zazou, about a possible boost of Iranian tourists to Egypt.
Number: 30 million, the number of locusts currently plaguing Egypt.
The Jewish World
To Read: Menachem Kaiser explores the many aspects of 'The Shiksa':
If you are not Jewish and know less than a dozen words of Yiddish and are nonetheless familiar with “shiksa,” then you yourself are an indication of how far the word has come. But unlike goy or shaygetz or yok — other Jewish terms for non-Jews, of varying nastiness — “shiksa” has been acculturated, appropriated, bent, misshapen, retrofitted, loved and reviled, but rarely understood.
The shiksa exists only insofar as the Jew is aware of her; she is defined relative to him. She occupies a hazy cultural nexus; the shiksa is not Jewish but is nonetheless only a shiksa on account of Jews calling her thus. Tracing the word is as much a history of the Jewish-Gentile dynamic as it is an etymological exercise. It’s a bridgeword whose history and development say volumes about the people doing the calling (usually, but not exclusively, Jews), the people being called (usually, but not exclusively, non-Jews), the language the calling is in (generally not Yiddish, at least not anymore), and all the complexities thereof.
Quote: “We must use the power we have, and as a major donor to the PA, we must fight fire with fire and say that we will stop the aid unless the PA takes immediate action to stop this type of hate message”, Morten Høglund, foreign policy spokesman for the Progress Party, raising concerns about Norwegian aid to the Palestinian authority.
Number: $450,000, the amount of money which the President of the Egyptian Jewish community was acquitted of embezzling.