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Sunday Reads: Abbas’ Victory, Obama’s PR War in Syria, Is Jewish American Culture Really Dead?

by Shmuel Rosner

June 8, 2014 | 4:19 am

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, photo by Reuters.

US

Michael Weiss examines the comments of former US envoy Robert Ford about Obama’s Syria policy and about how it is presented to the American public –

Evidently very free indeed to speak his mind, Ford told both Amanpour and Warner something that has been an open secret in Washington for quite a while – namely, that the US State Department, from its current secretary on down to its lowliest Mideast analyst, believes Barack Obama is not only wrong about Syria but supremely disingenuous in arguing for why he is right. And yet, the reign of bullshit continues.

Aaron David Miller writes in favour of the controversial Bergdhal deal and uses Israel to illustrate his point –

We are not the Israelis. We do not live in an environment of threat and insecurity, one in which our citizens serve in the military and that service is inextricably linked to our culture, values and perception of the world. We do not face existential threats. Nor is our political establishment conditioned to accept asymmetrical trades with terrorists that can reach such proportions as the prisoner deal with Hamas for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit, who was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. But we claim to be a moral nation with values and principles that coexist alongside our interests… Indeed, many argue that our values are our interests. I cannot think of many foreign policy actions in recent years in which the United States acted principally for moral, ethical or humanitarian considerations. This is one of those rare occasions.

Israel

Ben Dror Yemini points out that Mahmoud Abbas has been doing remarkably well, despite Israel’s continuous efforts to undermine him –

It's doubtful there's been a Palestinian leader that has been dismissed so much and so often by Israel as Mahmoud Abbas has been. He's the "leader of the Mukataa," he's weak, he doesn't even rule over half his people, he's not charismatic, he is incapable of delivering the goods.

But Abbas is schooling us all. He made a decision to reject violence, and he has been upholding it for years.

Avi Issacharoff criticizes Netanyahu’s government for its attitude towards the new Palestinian government –

Who exactly did Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett and co. want Abbas to reconcile with? The Likud’s youth wing? How did our respected leaders expect Abbas to regain control of Gaza if not via the elections that this Palestinian unity process is intended to yield? And why is it fine for Israel to make deals with Hamas (such as the arrangement that ended 2012′s Operation Pillar of Defense), but when Abbas does so, Israel rejects all interaction with the new Palestinian government.

Middle East

David Pollock takes a look at a series of Palestinian public opinion polls and reaches some pretty optimistic conclusions –

These data demonstrate that a U.S. policy of holding the new Palestinian government to previous commitments regarding nonviolence and negotiations with Israel would enjoy majority acceptance at the Palestinian popular level. Moreover, looking forward, the West Bank and Gaza publics both appear more receptive to the Fatah than to the Hamas side of their new national unity arrangement. This could offer U.S. policymakers some prospect of working to preserve the option of a two-state solution, despite Hamas's continuing rejection of that ideal.

Paul Pillar responds to an attack from the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies’ Ali Alfoneh about his comparison between Obama’s negotiations with Iran and Nixon’s negotiations with China –

One can read between the lines about what is going on here. The folks at FDD do not want any agreements with Iran, they want Iran to continue to be ostracized, and they are trying to torpedo the nuclear negotiations. The China opening is today widely and rightly seen as a significant and positive achievement by Nixon. So FDD endeavors to beat back any tendency to think of agreements or rapprochement with Iran in the same light as the China opening.

Jewish World

Abraham Socher offers an interesting response to James Loeffler’s essay about “the death of Jewish culture” in America –

The occasion for Loeffler’s reflections is the demise over the last few years of several high-profile projects aimed at promoting Jewish culture to young (or at least youngish) artsy American Jewish hipsters. However, as Loeffler’s choice of presiding spirits— he quotes Ahad Ha’am, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, and  S. An-sky—shows, the Jewish culture he is really eulogizing is not only high and secular but distinctly Eastern European—and it has been gone for three-quarters of a century.

Ruchama King Feuerman writes a vivid personal recollection of her Shavuot celebration at a hippie Yeshiva in Jerusalem –

My friend stayed on at the Diaspora Yeshiva for many years, marrying, having children, living for a time in one of those caves. I visited her there. (That’s where I broke bread with the Led Zeppelin drummer—in her kitchen, which was outdoors.) I never envied her. I never felt that same intense tug to throw off all convention and join the funky, off-limits Yeshiva. I guess that was something I only felt once, briefly, when I was 18, when I was young and seeking on a Shavuot night in Jerusalem.

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