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Sunday Reads: Iran & Obama’s Syria Policy, Replacing Abe Foxman, On Haredis and Smartphones

by Shmuel Rosner

February 16, 2014 | 5:35 am

Abraham Foxman in 2011. Photo by Justin Hoch/Hudson Union Society

Here is our weekly roundup of opinion pieces you might find interesting:

The US

Aaron David Miller explores the notion that Obama's avoidance of any serious assistance to Syria's opposition is the result of his Iran strategy –

Simply put, to have any chance of getting things done with Iran, America needs to be talking with the Iranians -- not shooting at them in Syria or anywhere else. Indeed, the last thing Obama wants or can afford now is direct military intervention in Syria that would lead to a proxy war; kill Iranian Revolutionary Guard units assisting Assad‘s forces; or convince Tehran that U.S. policy is designed to encircle Syria's Shia regime with a U.S.-backed Sunni arc of pressure.  

Michael Rubin writes about the downside of engaging with 'bad guys' –

While Obama’s embrace of negotiation with America’s enemies seems to have become the norm in U.S. foreign policy circles, it represents a sharp departure from past administrations and from generally accepted statecraft. History shows that this approach offers very high, if unintended, costs.

Israel

Amnon Abramovich begins his piece about the Israeli government's disrespectful attitude towards the Obama administration with a nice little anecdote –

Ariel Sharon used to recount, with a bit of mockery, how the late Menachem Begin, when he received a phone call from President Ronald Reagan, would get up from his seat, stand up in the room, lean on his stick and talk to the president. Sharon would tell him: Sit down please, don't make an effort. The president can't see you. Begin would reply: With the president of the United States one must speak standing up!  

Alan Dershowitz gives his ten reasons why supporting BDS is immoral –

All decent people who seek peace in the Middle East should join together in opposing the immoral BDS movement. Use your moral voices to demand that both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority accept a compromise peace that assures the security of Israel and the viability of a peaceful and democratic Palestinian state. The way forward is not by immoral extortionate threats that do more harm than good, but rather by negotiations, compromise and good will. 

The Middle East

Hussein Ibish takes a look at the big choice facing Egypt's General Sisi-

A wise advisor might, at this crucial stage, be whispering in the Field Marshal's ear that perhaps the burden of the highest office in the land ought be better left to someone like Mr. Mansour, his Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, or any number of other plausible civilians, while it is in the best interests of both Sisi personally and the military as a whole – for which he has become an icon and a synecdoche – and its current enviable position in Egyptian society, that he be content to remain defense minister and commander in- chief… But such wisdom in Egypt, and much of the rest of the Arab world these days, is often in disturbingly short supply.

Gareth Smyth examines the tough time President Rouhani has been having with the Iranian public –

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s honeymoon with his countrymen may have ended with a box of rice, chicken and cheese. A blazing row over the distribution of free food parcels has seen him apologize on state television after opposition media pictured people queuing for hours in subzero temperatures. Reportedly, three died waiting in line. The furor shows the mountain Rouhani faces in challenging a populist political culture where Iranians see the state as a fount of goods and welfare. Advocates of market reforms suddenly find themselves questioning whether his administration is serious about reducing the role of government and encouraging the private sector.

The Jewish World

J.J Goldberg writes about the impossibility of finding a replacement for Abe Foxman –

He’s the one that the newspapers call when they want to know what American Jews are thinking. He’s the one political junkies attack at dinner parties when they’re mad at Jewish lobbyists. His is the name that makes ordinary Jews in Houston or Atlanta or Cleveland nod and say, Oh, I get it, that’s what Those People in New York are thinking, or saying in my name, or doing for me (or to me). Most folks have heard of AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee (though they’re usually not sure what it does) but very few could tell you who runs them. Foxman is the guy they’ve heard of. He’s that guy who attacks the anti-Semites.

Nachum Barnea believes that the biggest threat on Israel's ultra-orthodox ghetto is actually not the much talked about IDF draft law –

The thing undermining the walls of the haredi ghetto these days is neither the draft law in its Yaakov Peri version nor the draft law in its Ayelet Shaked version. The ghetto's enemy is a gadget made of plastic and metal, 12-13 centimeters long, 6-7 centimeters wide, which is as thick as a little finger and weighs 100-150 grams. It's called a smartphone. Every self-respecting yeshiva student purchases two devices – a kosher one, for the supervisor, and a regular one, for real life. The devil wears pixels. 

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