Read: Jonathan Schanzer believes that the White House can't have it both ways on Iran-
Last week’s Treasury actions punctuate the impossible position the White House has embraced. On the one hand, the administration wishes to convey to the Iranians that it is creating favorable conditions for a mutually beneficial deal. On the other, it seeks to convey to members of Congress and their constituents (polls show that Americans roundly distrust Iran’s intentions) that the administration will remain tough and enforce the existing sanctions.
Quote: “Our nation is morally compromised when it contemplates allowing a country calling for the destruction of the State of Israel to remain within reach of nuclear weapons”, Ellie Wiesel urging the US to do its best to dismantle Iran's nuclear program.
Number: 26, the number of senators who have introduced the new Iran bill.
To Read: David Brooks shares his thoughts on Israel's 'tragic situation' (the dissonance between its needs/ideals and its circumstances)-
Over the decades, Israelis have wobbled through error, uncertainty and moral ambiguity. But, collectively, they have adapted to their tragic circumstances with some reasonable degree of success. They didn’t recoil from the drama they were caught in. They are nothing if not critical of one another. The society moves forward on a great wave of fevered argument. There are always new parties, as old messy improvisations — the semi-socialist economy, the Oslo process, the security fence — become obsolete.
Quote: "I think there is a general understanding among all 28 states that settlements are illegal under international law as long as there is no agreement on the border", the outgoing EU Envoy to the Middle East on the prospects of an EU ban on settlement products.
Number: 36, the percentage of Likud Beytenu voters who want Likud to separate from Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beytenu, according to Panels Politics.
The Middle East
Headline: Syria Geneva preparatory meeting opens
To Read: Michael Kelly reports on the tensions between al Qaeda and Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria-
President Bashar Assad must be delighted. Reports this week indicate that the Syrian National Coalition has been told by Western governments that the Montreux conference in January should not lead to the removal of the Syrian president, for fear that jihadists would exploit the ensuing vacuum. The SNC had said that it would not attend the conference unless it led to a transition away from Assad, so what this will mean for its participation remains unclear.
Ultimately the political mess in Syria benefits both Assad and Al-Qaeda in the medium term. The paradox is that Hezbollah, the Assad regime and the United States are all, implicitly, on the same side – which is precisely the conclusion the Assad regime wanted everyone to reach when it allowed the jihadists to thrive.
Quote: “[Iran] has to surrender immediately or face war”, Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani commenting on the choices facing Iran prior to the Geneva convention.
Number: 100, the number of people who have been killed in the Lebanese town of Tripoli (30 km from Syria) in the past year.
The Jewish World
To Read: Marc Tracy writes about the joy of celebrating Christmas as a Jew-
Christmas envy? Christians should envy me. December 25 is one of my favorite days of the year. I don’t have to work. I eat a fun ethnic meal (the cliché is true: It’s sometimes Chinese). I see a movie. And I celebrate my own heritage: Being Jewish on Christmas is like having one’s Jewishness traced in bright, red-and-green ink.
Quote: “not something that can take place within our synagogues”, Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis calling to ban partnership minyan services, where women can lead services and read from the Torah
Number: 77, Jewish pornographer Alvin Goldstein died yesterday in Brooklyn, aged 77.