Read: Walter Russell Mead takes an interesting look at Robert Gates' new, much talked about book, which criticizes modern day White House opportunism-
Gates’s indictment of contemporary Washington (and both parties in his view contribute to the malaise) is weakest when he seems to be protesting against the natural and necessary conditions of democratic governance in a mass society. His indictment gains force, however, when he points to ways in which the short-termism and selfishness of retail politics and personal advancement has overwhelmed the pursuit of a larger national interest. It is one thing when a President sinks to indecorous political maneuvering for the sake of a larger project. If giving Congressman Blowhard a dam in his district will secure his support for the Marshall Plan, so be it. But what if the ends of policy are subordinated to the means? What if the goal of American foreign policy is to keep the President in power? What if the President makes a major foreign policy decision involving the lives of American forces in order to hold onto the power to give Congressman Blowhard and all his colleagues more dams?
Quote: “a warrior for the ages”, George W. Bush commenting on the passing of his close colleague Ariel Sharon.
Number: $600m, the size of the mega-lawsuit that the families of US Navy SEALS are planning to file against, among others, the Iranian regime.
To Read: According to Jeffrey Goldberg, Ariel Sharon never really changed-
What changed was not his heart, not his life’s aim, but his understanding of reality. In his heart, he understood Israel’s enemies to be implacable. His objective was unaltered: to defend the existence of the Jewish state by any means necessary. For many years, he believed that the existence of the Jewish state was dependent on the occupation of Gaza. But he then came to realize that the “occupation” of Gaza was undermining Israel’s democracy, international standing and security. And so he left. He left Gaza for the same reason he invaded Lebanon: He thought it would make Israel safer.
Quote: “He was the most present and influential person in the country in the past two generations. Lots of people wanted to influence and leave their mark, but nobody, for better and for worse, but nobody left such a deep mark in our history in the past few decades”, former left-wing politician and Education Minister Yossi Sarid commenting on Sharon's legacy.
Number: 1,700, the average Birthright participant brings in $1,700 to the Israeli economy.
The Middle East
To Read: James Traub writes about the precarious state of Turkish democracy-
Turkey is no police state, but criticizing the government, Erdogan, or the AKP is becoming more dangerous all the time. Last year, the state jailed 40 journalists, making it the world's leading jailer of the press for the second year in a row. Turkish journalists feel that the vise is steadily closing. After we spoke, Yavuz Baydar sent me the following email: "As we communicate, access to the video portal Vimeo is banned in Turkey. More censor assaults to Internet is to be expected, since it is the only free domain left under the circumstances. This horrible déjà vu never ends."
This is the kind of message one used to get from the Middle East before the Arab Spring. It's a vivid reminder that Turkey's democratic transition is both incomplete and subject to serious reversal.
Quote: “Sharon was a criminal, responsible for the assassination of Arafat, and we would have hoped to see him appear before the International Criminal Court as a war criminal,” Jibril Rajub, a senior official of the Fatah party, saying goodbye to to Ariel Sharon.
Number: 96, the percentage of Egyptians who believe that all women should dress in some form of religious garment, according to this curious survey.
The Jewish World
To Read: Adam Kirsch examines a new book on Philip Roth-
Pierpont quotes him telling an interviewer: “The epithet ‘American Jewish writer’ has no meaning for me. If I’m not an American, I’m nothing.” He says something similar in the bland PBS documentary about him that aired earlier this year, and in neither the book nor the movie is he challenged. But for Roth to say that he is not, or not primarily, a Jewish writer is absurd. It would be more accurate to say that the author of Goodbye, Columbus and Portnoy’s Complaint and The Ghost Writer and The Counterlife and Operation Shylock and even American Pastoral is a Jewish writer or he is nothing.
Quote: “This is chutzpah and a national scandal. We are talking about civil servants who receive a very handsome salary from the State of Israel, sit in their comfortable offices with their vehicles nearby, and announce their disapproval of girls serving in the mud and the cold”, Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid commenting on Israel's Chief Rabbinate's problematic decree concerning women serving in the IDF.
Number: 3, on Thursday three French Jewish websites were hacked by supporters of Anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne.