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Sunday Reads: Is a Cease-Fire Good Enough?, Inside the Sunni-Shia Schism, Tevye’s Politics

by Shmuel Rosner

July 20, 2014 | 4:16 am

Palestinian members of the al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, photo by Reuters

US

Ray Takeyh believes that true engagement with the Middle East is the only way for a substantial deal with Iran –

The Obama administration faces a fork in the road. It can reengage in the Middle East with an eye toward tempering Iran’s power, but this would require making a substantial commitment to a region whose conflicts and tribulations it would prefer to leave behind. Or it can dispense with deadlines and grandiose objectives and settle for a diplomacy of incremental steps and limited gains. Interim agreements would thus no longer be a pathway to a final accord but an end in of themselves. Such are the travails of a superpower in an age of retrenchment.

David Ignatius would like to see a White House which is more serious in implementing its foreign policy decisions -

The delay in framing a credible plan for stopping the Islamic State is part of a larger worry about President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Even when this White House has good basic strategies, there is too often a lack of follow-through to coordinate the tools of national power. There is no prize for good intentions here. Performance is what matters. That’s as true of America’s relations with traditional allies, such as Germany and Saudi Arabia, as it is of combating adversaries.

Israel

According to David Horowitz, a cease-fire with Hamas at this point would not necessarily help Netanyahu’s stated goal of sustained long term quiet for Israel’s civilian population –

So is the prime minister fooling everybody when he indicates that his ambition here is not to reconquer the Strip, not to bring down Hamas, and when he says he won’t be influenced by the “background noise” supplied by the likes of Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who are pushing for the destruction of the Hamas regime? Or is he deluding himself? Or might he be satisfied with a ceasefire that, while leaving Hamas capable in theory of continuing to terrorize Israel, will see Hamas sufficiently deterred in practice by the Israeli military response as to eschew terror for the foreseeable future? We are about to find out.

Ben Dror Yemini uses the case of NATO’s bombing in Belgrade to debunk the arguments about the gross disproportionality of Israel’s response to Hamas’ fire –

NATO's planes, let me remind you, were not forced to deal with rockets fired at London or Paris from civilian population centers. The bombed entity did not threaten to destroy Germany or Holland. The official television channel in that entity did not call for the annihilation of the European, "to the very last one of them."

Among the NATO forces, it should be mentioned, there were zero casualties. Were you looking for proportion? Well, NATO has shown it to us.

Middle East

Have you always been curious to learn more about the Sunni-Shia divide? The CFR have created a well-made interactive guide

Islam’s schism, simmering for fourteen centuries, doesn’t explain all the political, economic, and geostrategic factors involved in these conflicts, but it has become one prism by which to understand the underlying tensions. Two countries that compete for the leadership of Islam, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, have used the sectarian divide to further their ambitions. How their rivalry is settled will likely shape the political balance between Sunnis and Shias and the future of the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain.

According to Patrick Clawson, Iran can actually afford to say no to a nuclear agreement –

Having taken the tough measures to adjust to the sanctions shock, Iran is relatively well positioned to resume growth even if the current sanctions remain in place. The IMF forecasts that growth in 2014/15 will be 1.5%, rising to 2.3% per year afterward if oil sales do not pick up and sanctions persist. And that is absent any substantial reform in the government's various growth-inhibiting policies, which are at least as much a burden on the economy as are sanctions. Put another way, Iran's economy under sanctions is poised to grow at about the same pace as the U.S. economy.

Jewish World

The son of the writer of Fiddler on the Roof writes about his political arguments with his father –

I love "Fiddler," and am intensely proud of my father's role in bringing it to the world, but it was only as a conservative that I realized how fully it reflected his worldview. He's there not only in Tevye — his playfulness and sardonic optimism, his habit (so irksome to Golde, as it could be to my mother) of kidding around even when the occasion calls for the utmost seriousness — but in the young revolutionary Perchick, in many ways the noblest character in the piece.

Tablet offer a disturbing firsthand account of the Anti-Semitic riots going on in France –

 In telling my father about the assault on La Roquette, I asked him if he had ever seen any such clashes.

He answered, yes…. In Algeria, before leaving it all behind… He added: but we were in Algeria, here we’re in metropolitan France!!

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