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Sunday Reads: On President Wiesel, Iran’s Use of Arab Chaos, The Netanyahu-Pope Francis “Spat”

by Shmuel Rosner

June 1, 2014 | 4:11 am

Elie Wiesel, Photo by Reuters

US

FP’s Gordon Adams is quite skeptical about Obama’s plan to give allies around the world $5b to fight terrorism–

Announcing a global mission supported by $5 billion in resources could very easily lead to the opposite of what is intended. Instead of strengthening U.S. partners, such programs could drag Washington into the internal affairs of an ever-expanding series of relationships with troubling governments abroad, whose weaknesses and failures could entail further, and deeper, U.S. involvement. This trend is already emerging in the rapid growth of U.S. involvement in the internal security situations of more than 20 African countries.

Emanuele Ottolenghi writes about a world which doesn’t expect an American cavalry to come to the rescue if needed –

When cops leave the street to thugs, two things always happen. Those who are vulnerable prevaricate, while the others take the law into their own hands. In international politics, this means that those who are weak and vulnerable will come to terms with the new neighbourhood bullies — the Gulf principalities may seek accommodation with Iran, for example. But others will conclude that they have to fend for themselves. If America can't prevent a nuclear Iran, what's to stop Israel or Saudi Arabia ignoring America's pleas and acting unilaterally?

Nothing. And as its retreat from the role of global policeman allows the world to descend slowly into chaos, America will reap the whirlwind.

Israel

Nahum Barnea talks to Elie Wisel about Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to convince him to become Israel’s next president –

"He telephoned me three times," Wiesel said. "When he failed to receive a favorable answer, he pressured me through mutual friends. The pressure was heavy, you have no idea how heavy, but I know how to face pressure. One of those who pressed me said, 'Your father in Heaven will see you being elected as the president of the State of Israel. Don’t you want to make him proud?"

"It went that far," I said.

"That far," he said.

We laughed.

Peter Berkowitz discusses the prospect of a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank –

Partial unilateral withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank represents a highly imperfect response to the conflict with the Palestinians. It is all the more worth taking note, therefore, of the increasing number of eminent Israelis—left and right—who seem to think that it has emerged as the least imperfect answer to the question “What next?”

Middle East

Michael Young writes about Iran’s strategy of exploiting chaos across the Arab world in order to gain more influence –

Whether the Iranian approach has been an effective one is a different question altogether. Certainly, it has given Tehran considerable latitude to be a regional player and obstruct outcomes that might harm its interests. But there is also fundamental instability in a strategy based on exploiting conflict and volatility, denying Iran the permanence it has historically achieved through its creation of lasting institutions.

Ironically, the United States may help Iran in this regard. If a nuclear deal is reached this year, it could prompt the Obama administration to engage Iran in the resolution of regional issues. This recognition of Iranian power will reinforce those in Tehran who seek a greater say in the Arab world. But if what we have seen until now is anything to go by, it may not necessarily lead to a more settled Middle East.

RAND’s Alireza Nader takes a look at Iran’s maximalist demands in its negotiation process with the US –

The Iranian negotiators may be presenting their maximalist demands while hoping to achieve something below that threshold—if not 9,000 centrifuges, then perhaps 4,500. But if this is not their intention, then they better get real. Iran’s economy and the Islamic Republic’s future will not improve until the major U.S. and international sanctions are lifted. And this is not only a dilemma faced by the Rouhani government; Khamenei and his allies need sanctions relief just as badly. The Supreme Leader may speak of an economy of “resistance,” but his regime remains desperately addicted to oil money.

Jewish World

Yair Rosenberg muses on the alleged “spat” between Pope Francis and Benjamin Netanyahu –

The playful chat about Jesus between Francis and Netanyahu, then, is more than just a momentary media story. It underscores just how far Jewish-Catholic relations have come. Today, the Prime Minister of a reconstituted Jewish state can rib good-naturedly about Jesus with the Pope, and the only fallout is a few hyperbolic headlines. No longer subject to the whims of Christian rulers in Europe, compelled to participate in a theological game they cannot win, Jews can now dialogue with Christians as peers, not adversaries. Seen in historical context, the Francis-Bibi exchange is a heartening sign of interfaith progress and reconciliation, and a testament to the transformative success of the Zionist project in elevating Jews as religious and political equals.

Adi Schwarz writes a curious piece about a fervent anti-Zionist who changed his mind after his research about the history of Arab Jews -

“In the course of my research,” he continues, “I found out that the story we had been told – that the Jews left the Arab countries because they were Zionists – was for the most part wrong. True, they had an affinity for the Land of Israel – that is certainly correct – but the organized Zionist movement was very weak in the Arab countries. The great mass of Jews left under duress. They were expelled. They were subjected to such enormous pressure that they had no choice but to leave.”

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