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Sunday Reads: On Bush & Arafat, ‘Peace in the Middle East’, Social Orthodoxy in America

by Shmuel Rosner

April 6, 2014 | 3:57 am

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a news conference with Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar following a bilateral strategic dialogue at the Foreign Ministry in Rabat, April 4, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Stringer

US

FP’s Kori Schake tries to list the possible lessons that John Kerry and the White House could learn from their unsuccessful peace campaign –

It should (but probably won't) occasion a reconsideration by the Obama White House of what diplomacy can achieve on its own. It should (but surely won't) occasion a reconsideration by the Obama White House of how their choices have diminished American standing in the world -- we are not more respected because they eschew a forceful role. Instead, as the Middle East peace negotiations illustrate, hesitance and unreliability causes other states to reposition themselves in ways that reduce our ability to affect them. Call it insulation from our indifference. 

Elliott Abrams looks back at a couple of key speeches which President Bush gave on the ills of Arafat’s leadership –

The issue at stake in those speeches remains critical today. Is it the goal of American policy to create a Palestinian state regardless of what goes in within the borders of that state? Have we abandoned the goal, stressed by Bush twelve years ago, that a Palestinian state be “a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty?” So it appears, for the negotiations under way now appear focused on the shape of the Palestinian state–not its character.

Israel

David Horowitz gives his take on the recent collapse of the peace talks –

At the heart of the impasse, however, lies a fundamental asymmetry: Israeli Jews have come to believe that their own best interests, and specifically the imperative to retain a Jewish and democratic Israel, require an accommodation with the Palestinians. There is no comparable imperative on the Palestinian side — not, that is, so long as much of the international community persists in indicating to the Palestinians that they will be able to achieve full independence and sovereignty without the inconvenience of coming to terms with Israel.

The Washington Institute has already organized a roundtable about the matter (this one is a video)–

After months of laborious effort, U.S.-sponsored peace talks have hit an impasse, with the Palestinians seeking recognition from international agencies and Israel declining to release Palestinian prisoners. Is this the end of negotiations or just a short-term standoff?

During this Policy Forum, Washington Institute experts reflect on the current round of negotiations and discuss the future of Israeli-Palestinian peace. What went wrong? How can the obstacles be overcome?

Middle East

Mark Donig argues that using the words “Middle East Peace” in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian talks is quite deceiving –

What would true Mideast peace look like today? Would it take form in an Iran that ends its gross human-rights violations, historically compromises on its nuclear ambitions and no longer announces it has “the desire, capacity and force to annihilate the Zionist regime”—a fellow UN member state? A decimation of Hamas and Hezbollah? A just and lasting agreement to end the Syrian civil war? An Egyptian government that no longer stifles, oppresses, or sentences to death those who have ideological differences with state policies?

Semih Idiz is disappointed to see Erdogan continuing with the same old rhetoric following the recent elections in Turkey –

The criticism Erdogan has been getting from the United States and Europe mostly concerns his increasingly authoritarian and undemocratic tendencies, apart from his accusations about external forces, mostly in the West, trying to topple him and his government. Since the elections, Erdogan has shown no sign of abating his tendencies, as indicated by his remarks on the Constitutional Court's ruling that the government’s Twitter ban breaches freedom of expression.

Jewish World

Jay P. Lefkowitz offers some interesting personal musings about the ‘rise of social orthodoxy’ –

To be sure, many Modern Orthodox rabbis and some of their congregants are steadfast in their faith and look to halacha to guide all aspects of their lives precisely because they believe it is the revealed word of God. But if unwavering acceptance of the Torah as divine is the precondition for Orthodoxy, then the term “Modern Orthodox” may well be a misnomer for many Jews who identify as Modern Orthodox. They might more accurately be described as Social Orthodox, with the emphasis on “Social.”

The Forward's Nathan Jeffay writes about the trials and tribulations of Israeli Jews who aren't Jewish enough for the Chief Rabbinate -

The most surprising part of the saga is the attitude that drives the rabbinate’s opposition to the reform: It doesn’t trust its own rabbis around the country. Municipal rabbis are the face of the rabbinate to most citizens — the only state rabbis they will ever meet. They are responsible for registering weddings and running religious services in their regions. But there is a “concern” in the Chief Rabbinate that some of them couldn’t be trusted to perform conversions according to proper religious standards, a source in the organization familiar with the topic told the Forward.

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