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Sunday Reads: On Economic Interests Vs. Geostrategy, Bibi’s Curious Interview, NYT’s Jewish Identity

by Shmuel Rosner

May 25, 2014 | 4:06 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo: Reuters/Gali Tibbon

US

Eric Edelman, Dennis Ross and Ray Takeyh believe the White House should strive for a wide bipartisan coalition on Iran –

As the negotiations between Iran and the United States enter critical stages, Washington needs to develop a bipartisan consensus about parameters of an acceptable agreement. No such consensus can come about without the two branches of government and the two political parties working together. This will require the White House to take into account Congress’s perspective and heed its warnings. The failure to do so could mean that any agreement negotiated by Obama will not survive his presidency.

According to Vali Nasr, the recent Ukraine crisis signifies a dissonance between America and Europe's 'economic interests first' mindset and the pressing need to engage in power politics –

 In other words, many of America’s troubles with Russia and China stem from the dissonance between America’s wish to let economics drive foreign policy and America’s need to confront those powers’ embrace of old-fashioned strategic posturing. Ironically, it is Europe that most shares America’s new faith in economics as the essence of geostrategy, but it is America’s shrinking interest in Europe that tempts Russia to think it can divide the Atlantic alliance.

Israel

Gary Rosenblatt raises some doubts about the Israeli government’s diaspora engagement initiative –

The Prime Minister's Initiative is significant, and potentially historic, in that it seeks to be a true partnership in expanding and creating programs to educate diaspora Jews about Jewish identity and strengthening the ties of Jewish peoplehood worldwide.

But as the JPPI report indicates, the initiative needs to define partnership beyond dollars and programming. The more Israeli society reflects and responds to the democratic impulses of young diaspora Jews — while educating them about the reality of life in the Mideast and the limits it creates — the more hope there is for strengthening the Israel-diaspora bonds that have become frayed.

Jeffrey Goldberg held a curious interview with Benjamin Netanyahu in which Netanyahu, among many other things, surprisingly declared his support for Obama’s Syria deal –

 The chemical weapons of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime have posed a murderous threat to Israel, and there is broad relief in Jerusalem that this particular menace appears to be dissipating. Obama actually gets more credit for the deal in Israel -- particularly among leaders of the country's national-security apparatus -- than he often does in Washington.

Middle East

Paul Salem examines what the upcoming elections in Egypt might mean for the man who will win them (General Sisi) –

Once Sisi wins the election he will enter a new and challenging period of his so far meteoric political career. He will own the Egyptian crisis, be responsible for all the state’s successes and failures, and have to make very difficult choices in regard to his three priorities of security, stability, and economic development. Sisi has asked the Egyptian public for a grace period of two years for his actions and initiatives to bear visible fruit in these arenas.  There is no doubt that stability is necessary for development. He is betting that stability can be achieved by security measures alone; critics argue that stability must also include a reopening of political space and an easing up of across-the-board repression.

Veteran Israeli war correspondent Ron Ben Yishai writes about the growing involvement of Russia and Iran in the training of Bashar Assad’s army –

There are several reasons behind these achievements, among them the loyalty of the Syrian army to its president, and the fact the country's minorities are afraid of the radical Sunni Muslims. But Western intelligence believes that the main reason is an increasing involvement of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah in the civil war raging in Syria.

Arab media has recently quoted credible sources as saying that for the first time in over a decade, Russian consultants have been seen among Syrian army units in the midst of actual fighting. The Russian consultants aide the different units' commanders, all the way up to the battalion commanders level.

Jewish World

Samuel Freedman writes an interesting piece on Arthur Gelb, the Sulzbergers, and the NYT’s past struggles with its Jewish Identity–

Maybe the greatest testament to what Gelb accomplished at the Times is that the battles he implicitly or explicitly fought—against inherited privilege, against Jewish self-hate, against any elitism except the elitism of artistic brilliance—seem distant now. On second thought, perhaps not entirely. Arthur Gelb may have had little use for identity politics in the left-wing meaning of the term, but by his example he showed the value and virtue of being at home within your own skin.

Andrew Silow Carroll points out that some of the questions in the ADL’s Anti-Semitism survey are actually quite tricky to answer, even for Jews –

By my count, seven of the index questions are unambiguously anti-Semitic…. But other questions, even if they are markers for anti-Semitic attitudes, also mirror uncomfortable debates within the Jewish community itself — not just about how the world sees us, but how we see ourselves. These are propositions for familiar, if not happy, Jewish discussions — or should be.

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