To Read: Aaron David Miller examines the challenges facing Obama at home and abroad through the prism of one of his (Obama's) favorite philosophers, Reinold Niebuhr-
The good news is that Obama has learned much in his first four years in office. He isn't going to be a transformative president who transcends partisan politics and changes the world at home and abroad. The fact is, he's really been a Niebuhrian all along. And there's evidence that the president knows it. Here's what he told New York Times columnist David Brooks that he learned from the man that he described as one of his favorite philosophers:
"I take away," Obama said, "the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief that we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away ... the sense that we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naive idealism to bitter realism."
Obama is neither a utopian idealist nor a cynical realist. He's constantly striving for rationality in a political world that doesn't always offer it up, and searching for some kind of elusive golden mean.
Quote: “We’ve lost track of lots of this stuff. We just don’t know where a lot of it is”, a US official, talking about the Syrian Chemical weapons situation.
Number: $400 million, the amount spent by the Defense Department on the development of bunker bombs which would enable the destruction of Iran's heavily fortified nuclear facilities.
To Read: Military correspondent Yaakov Katz was surprised and disappointed to hear Ehud Olmert and Alan Dershowitz booed at the recent Jerusalem Post annual conference-
The first to get booed was Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister.
Next was Harvard Law School Prof. Alan Dershowitz. The booing took some people there by surprise since the conference, they had thought, was supposed to be a place where fellow pro-Israel activists could exchange ideas and where people would be allowed to speak freely.
Instead, I was reminded at one point of some of the college campuses I have spoken at over the years where anti-Israel students often heckle, hiss and boo when I try to get across a point in Israel’s defense.
Quote: “Our long experience with the Zionist enemy has taught us that the enemy searches for more concessions on our rights and national principles. The occupation does not want peace, but merely wishes to impose surrender on our people and nation. It attempts to buy time by speaking about the illusion of peace while imposing a policy of fait accompli”, The Hamas website dismissing the recent news from the Arab league.
Number: 18.9 trillion, the revised estimated number of cubic feet of gas in Israel's Leviathan gas field.
The Middle East
To Read: According to Thomas Carothers and Nathan J. Brown of the Carnegie Endowment for International peace, tough love and a firm stand for democracy are the best way for the US to show respect to Egypt and the Muslim world -
This tougher line should not be coupled with an embrace of the opposition. U.S. policy should be based on firm support of core democratic principles, not on playing favorites.
Recalibrating the current policy line will require careful nuance. It has to be clear that the United States is not turning against the Brotherhood but is siding more decisively with democracy. The Obama administration must also make it well known to all that it adamantly opposes any military intervention in Egypt’s politics. The United States is understandably sensitive about being accused of an anti-Islamist stance in an Arab world roiling with Islamist activism. Yet showing that Washington is serious about democratic standards with new Islamist actors in power is ultimately a greater sign of respect for them than excusing their shortcomings and lowering our expectations.
Quote: "President Obama says chemical weapons are a red line. Then he is in direct accordance with President Assad who also thinks that chemical weapons are a red line", Omran al Zoubi, Syria's information minister, explaining how Assad actually agrees with Obama.
Number: 700, the number of people who died in bombings in Iraq last month, the highest numbers in almost five years.
The Jewish World
To Read: Alan Jotkovitz takes an interesting look at the changes in the attitudes of Orthodox Judaism to homosexuality-
Following in the footsteps of Rabbi Lamm’s attempt at an inclusivist approach and with a modern understanding of homosexuality, can there be a new halakhic perspective on the issue? One can certainly argue that there is no such thing as new halakhic perspective because halakhic is unchangeable. However, we have certainly witnessed a progression in the halakhic approach of Rabbi Feinstein to Rabbi Lamm to Rabbi Rapoport. Of course, there is no comparing Rabbi Rapoport to Rabbi Feinstein but one could suggest that each decisor was influenced by the times in which he lived and his interactions with gay Jews.
Quote: “There aren’t many Jewish organizations that have reached 100 years. You make it to 100 because you’re able to adapt, and I think the ADL has adapted”, Professor Jonathan Sarna about the ADL's 100th anniversary.
Number: 90, the percentage of parents of disabled kids at Jewish camps across the US who were satisfied with their children's experiences.