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Sunday Reads: Who Do the Americans Blame?, Syrian Opposition Leader Seeks Israeli Alliance

by Shmuel Rosner

May 11, 2014 | 4:16 am

Secretary of state John Kerry, Photo by Reuters

US

Jeffrey Goldberg points out that American officials blame everyone, not just the Israelis, for the recent failure of the peace talks –

This week, perhaps in reaction to the reaction to Barnea’s article, American officials I spoke to were careful to apportion blame in a way that was slightly more evenhanded (to borrow a loaded term from the annals of American peacemaking). There is no doubt that the underlying message is the same: The Netanyahu government’s settlement program, in the officials' view, is the original sin committed in the nine-month process (the original sin of the Middle East conflict is located elsewhere). But officials I spoke to said that they are peeved -- a word one of them actually used -- at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for, in essence, checking out of the peace process as early as February.

According to Bruce Stokes, the American public simply doesn’t care about peace in the Middle East –

Americans simply do not believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitutes a major threat to the United States. In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in October-November 2013, only 3 percent of the public expressed the view that the Middle East and Israel represented the greatest danger to America. China (16 percent) and Iran (16 percent) registered as much bigger concerns.

Israel

Aaron David Miller gives his explanation for the failure of the Kerry peace talks –

Simply put, the maximum that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is prepared to give on the core issues that drive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can't be aligned, let alone reconciled, with the minimum that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is prepared to accept. You want to know why every effort in the last decade has failed? That's why.

The gaps on Jerusalem, borders, security, refugees and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state are simply too big to bridge. They are not amenable to being resolved gradually and not feasible as a package of trade-offs that both sides can accept. We can rationalize, and blame one side or the other. But the price for a conflict-ending agreement is simply too high for each side to bear.

Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg exposes some seriously flawed reporting about Israel in the Economist, which implies that people named Yair are named after a controversial right-wing Jewish terrorist –

In other words, The Economist‘s assertion unfairly tars contemporary individuals with the sins of another. That this may not be an innocent overreach is suggested by the way the writer explicitly impugns Yair Netanyahu, without any actual evidence that his parents–both renowned secular bibliophiles–took his name from Stern as opposed to the Torah. The typical reader of The Economist piece will walk away thinking that anyone they meet named “Yair” might be named after a terrorist, with no inkling that this is a common biblical name.

Indeed, Stern’s Wikipedia page has already picked up this falsehood without qualification: “Stern’s nickname, Yair, is still chosen by many Israeli’s [sic] as a name for their sons.” The claim is sourced to The Economist.

Middle East

Prominent Syrian opposition member Kamal Labwani believes that the Syrian opposition should join forces with Israel in its struggle against Assad (the possibility of this is slim, of course, but the sentiment behind the suggestion is intriguing) –

Once, Israel was blamed for everything. But Israel is not our enemy anymore. We see how Israel opened its doors to our injured. We see how Syrian children are treated in Assad’s prisons and how they are treated in Israeli hospitals. Israel gave food while Assad starved his own people. Syria has only one enemy now: the Assad regime backed by Iran and Hezbollah. I meet with Syrian dissidents and military leaders daily and have seen how, after decades of brainwashing, their mentality has begun to change.

Semih Idiz examines the current state of Turkey’s Syrian quagmire –

Assad’s intention to run in these elections also indicates he has no plans to disappear from the scene anytime soon, especially since he continues to be backed strongly by Russia and Iran. All of this is bad news for Turkey, where the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has banked on a total defeat for the Assad regime and has also been pushing futilely for a Western-led military intervention in Syria.

The Jewish World

Leon Wiseltier voices his disappointment about the J Street decision –

Quarrel has always been a Jewish norm, and controversy a primary instrument for the development of Jewish culture and Jewish religion. But there are those, the heresy hunters and the truancy hunters, the real Jews, the true Jews, the last Jews, who refuse to accept the community as it empirically is, to engage with the cacophony and its causes, and instead they haughtily promulgate definitions of inclusion and exclusion, certifications of authenticity and inauthenticity. Most of their fellow Jews are, for them, for one reason or another, traif. What sort of expression of peoplehood is that?

Rabbi Irwin Kula gives his opinion on the recent school prayer ruling –

We need a debate that transcends both religious fundamentalists and their arrogance in imagining they know exactly what God wants for us, and secular fundamentalists and their arrogance in thinking they know exactly what the God they do not believe in wants for us. America is neither France where religion is rejected nor Muslim countries where religion is oppressive. We are a unique experiment in religious liberty. But religious liberty assumes a robust religious life in which people can and will draw on their wisdom to contribute to the public square.

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