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Sunday Reads: On Israel’s unilateral decision, Oz on Hamas, The forgotten Jewish soldiers of WW1

by Shmuel Rosner

August 3, 2014 | 4:26 am

Israeli soldiers cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Photo by Jerry Lampen/Reuters

US

Denis Ross lists the things that the Obama administration doesn’t understand about the new Middle East –

While perhaps logical, the president’s guidance failed to take account of several new realities. First, the 2012 agreement had done nothing to prevent Hamas from building up an elaborate network of tunnels to launch rockets and infiltrate Israel—and Israel is not about to live with tunnels that penetrate the country and constitute, in the words of one Israeli, “a loaded gun at our heads.” Second, this is a different Egypt today, under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and it views Hamas as a threat rather than a potential ally. It has no interest in saving Hamas or allowing it to gain from the current conflict. Third, the Saudis, Emiratis and Jordanians see the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Hamas sprang, as just as threatening as Iran. Like Egypt, these moderate Arab states want to see Hamas lose and not win.

Michael Gerson criticizes President Obama’s performance in all stages of the Syria disaster –

The Syrian conflict will be remembered as a strategic watershed for American foreign policy. When the rebellion was a broad, non-radical uprising — the dead in Caesar’s photos — President Obama did almost nothing to help. When radical groups gained momentum, it became an excuse for further inaction, because America didn’t want to create jihadists. We got the jihadists anyway, who are now causing regional havoc. At every stage, Obama defended his policy with false choices and flanking attacks on straw men: Any critics of his minimalism wanted Marines in Damascus.

Israel

Nahum Barnea gives his thoughts on the decision to unilaterally withdraw forces from Gaza –

The cabinet convened on Friday after the Rafah incident. There was a lot of anger, great frustration, but in the end the majority decided to contain the incident. The IDF would prepare for a unilateral pullout. There would be no agreement with Hamas: The calm would be based on deterrence.

This is exactly what I suggested that the cabinet should do 11 days ago, in my column published July 24. When I heard Netanyahu on Saturday night using the exact same words to describe the advantages of deterrence without an agreement, I thought about the 33 fighters, good Israelis, who could have still been alive today if Netanyahu hadn't been so afraid of making a decision; I thought about the hundreds of Gazan residents killed in vain; and I thought about the damage inflicted on Israel in the international arena, which will continue to escort us even after the operation.

Famous Israeli author (and representative of the Israeli left) Amos Oz talks Hamas and Israel's "lose-lose" situation with Die Welt –

This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas. It says that the Prophet commands every Muslim to kill every Jew everywhere in the world. It quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion [anti-Semitic diatribe - the ed.] and says that the Jews controlled the world through the League of Nations and through the United Nations, that the Jews caused the two world wars and that the entire world is controlled by Jewish money. So I hardly see a prospect for a compromise between Israel and Hamas. I have been a man of compromise all my life. But even a man of compromise cannot approach Hamas and say: 'Maybe we meet halfway and Israel only exists on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.'

Middle East

David Kenner examines the rising tension in the West Bank and muses on Mahmoud Abbas’ ability to contain it –

If protesters were allowed to go wherever they wanted, in other words, they would inevitably confront Israeli soldiers -- causing a spiral of violence that would quickly escalate beyond anyone's ability to control. That's not Abbas's game plan: He's the Palestinian president, after all, who has promised that there will be no Third Intifada as long as he is in power.

Arab World specialist Yaron Friedman takes a look at a curious Saudi call for ‘peace with Israel’ –

Saudi Arabia is interested in ending the "small conflict" between Israel and the Palestinians in order to have Israel on its side in the "big conflict" against the Shiite world and the growing Sunni terror threat.

Today Israel and Saudi Arabia have more shared interest than ever, including a struggle to stop the Iranian nuclear program, a war against the Muslim Brotherhood movement and its affiliates (Hamas), support for the al-Sisi regime in Egypt, maintaining the stability of the Jordanian kingdom, standing against the Assad regime in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, a war on al-Qaeda – and the list goes on.

Jewish World

Adam Kirsch reviews a newly reissued collection of Henry Roth’s novels –

Modernism believed in the triumph of art over life, the redemption of life by art, and when he wrote Call It Sleep, so did Henry Roth; that is why he was able to produce a masterpiece. By the time he wrote Stream, Roth had become a postmodernist—distrustful of artistic transformation, blurring the gap between fact and fiction, a maker who needed to leave his human trace on what he made. The result was that he could no longer produce a masterpiece. Instead he wrote something much stranger, and possibly more unique—a human document without parallel in American Jewish literature, without which the full story of that literature cannot be told.

As Tisha B’Av is coming, this moving piece takes a look at the Jewish soldiers in WW1 –

The total number of combatants in World War I was 65 million. Nearly 1.5 million Jews fought comprising 2% of the total. Among the 42,000,000 fighting men for the allies, 2.5% were Jews, of the 23,000,000 troops in the Central Powers, 450,000 or 2%, were Jews. Of the 8.5 million men killed in combat, the number of Jews who fell in action was 170,825- of that number were 116,825 in the allied armies, otherwise known as the Entente, and 54,000 were killed in forces for the Central Powers. Over 400,000 were wounded in action. The proportion of Jews who died on the battlefields approximated their percentage in the armies.

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