Jewish Journal


Sunday Reads: Netanyahu’s Important Challenge, Saddam Vs. Assad, Remembering Schachter-Shalomi

by Shmuel Rosner

July 6, 2014 | 4:05 am

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a news conference in Jerusalem on Feb. 22. Photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun


According to Eli Lake, the Obama administration ignored quite a few warnings before the fall of Mosul to hands of the ISIS –

At the time, senior Obama administration officials went out of their way to proclaim just how impossible-to-predict the collapse of Mosul was. But interviews with a dozen U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials, diplomats, and policy makers reveal a very different story. A catastrophe like the fall of Mosul wasn’t just predictable, these officials say. They repeatedly warned the Obama administration that something like this was going to happen. With seemingly no good choices to make in Iraq, the White House wasn’t able to listen.

Ali Khedery, a US official who knew Nouri al-Maliki up close, explains why the US chose to support him (and lost Iraq in the process) –

By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.

America stuck by Maliki. As a result, we now face strategic defeat in Iraq and perhaps in the broader Middle East.


Here is a piece I published in the NYT today about the great challenge facing Netanyahu amid the explosive atmosphere Israel has been experiencing in the past few days –

It is a well-established fact in Israeli politics that it is easier for the left to make war, and easier for the right to make peace or show restraint — as the public will be less inclined to see the right as weak. During cabinet deliberations over Israel’s response to the three murders, Mr. Netanyahu was a voice for restraint amid a barrage of bombastic vows of retribution by officials like the deputy defense minister, Danny Danon, and the economy minister, Naftali Bennett.

Dov Friedman and Gabriel Mitchell write about the possible meaning behind an intriguing (alleged) Israeli-Kurd oil deal –

It is implausible that Israel believed it could lead international opinion on Kurdish independence; more likely, Israel aimed its statements at the U.S. When the 80,000-ton SCF Altai docked in Ashkelon, it remained in port for more than two and a half days—a moderately protracted stay for a tanker of that size unloading a shipment. Did Israel face U.S. pressure not to receive the Kurdish crude, with the tanker idling in port? It is one plausible explanation. If so, the dual Peres-Netanyahu statements constitute a sharp riposte. Israel proclaimed its support for a longtime covert friend. With so few reliable friends remaining, it seems to have publicly challenged the U.S. to do the same.

Middle East

Robert Kaplan rejects the comparison between Saddam and Bashar Assad –

Lately I have seen writers, who are in favor of intervening in Syria but were opposed to intervention in Iraq, argue that while Saddam was brutal, he wasn't as bad as Bashar al Assad. This is nonsense. Intervening in Syria in 2011 might have made more sense than intervening in Iraq in 2003. I'll admit that. But that does not give anyone the right to distort the internal reality of the two countries.

Egyptian journalist Joseph Fahim writes believes Egypt’s Copt Christians may soon regret having supported General Sisi –

Most Coptic Christians will tell you that anything is better than the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the unequivocal support for current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi among Copts was no surprise. But now with the devastating curb of freedom of expression and the widespread crackdown on journalists and activists, the Coptic Orthodox Church’s support for the government’s post-June 30 Revolution policies may prove to be a grave miscalculation.

Jewish World

Shaul Magid remembers Rabbi Zalman Shachter Shalomi –

Not since Mordecai Kaplan’s founding of the Reconstructionist movement has an American Jewish spiritual leader offered as detailed and as systematic a vision for Judaism in the twentieth century. Part of Schachter-Shalomi’s project is founded on his belief that exploring the untapped commonalities between religious traditions and spiritual practices would both enhance Judaism and move human civilization further toward overcoming oppositional barriers.

Rabbi Michael Melchior denounces the ‘biblical and poetic’ language used by the leader of the Bnei Akiva movement following the death of the three Israeli youths –

The secretary General of the World Bnei Akiva, Rabbi Noam Perel, formerly a head of a high-school yeshiva, a leading educator in the mainstream of religious Zionism, wrote Tuesday on his Facebook, and to all the shlichim emissaries of Bnei Akiva worldwide, inciting and defamatory words that encourage violence against innocent people. “By the blood of our enemy this disgrace will be absolved, not by our tears,” Perel wrote.

Perel explained that he uses what he calls “biblical and poetic style.” Woe to us if we accept such “style” as a moral edict for the education of our children or as a directive for the Israel Defense Forces. No such black flag can be permitted to fly over the Torah of Israel or the ethical code of the one who leads World Bnei Akiva.

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