A red carpet being prepared for Obama, photo by Reuters
Headline: Obama heads to Israel amid low expectations
To Read: Eliot Cohen believes that the price the US has to pay for living up to its word and preventing global chaos is definitely payable:
Americans take for granted the world in which they grew up—a world in which, for better or worse, the U.S. was the ultimate security guarantor of scores of states, and in many ways the entire international system.
Today we are informed by many politicians and commentators that we are weary of those burdens—though what we should be weary of, given that our children aren't conscripted and our taxes aren't being raised in order to pay for those wars, is unclear. The truth is that defense spending at the rate of 4% of gross domestic product (less than that sustained with ease by Singapore) is eminently affordable.
Quote: "And no solution for the time being may suit both sides…in preference to the kind of compromises and the hard decisions that have to be made in order to achieve a solution. We are fond of saying, and our leaders are fond of saying, the status quo is not sustainable. But if you go out there on both sides, especially compared to what is going on around them – in Syria to the north and Egypt to the south – the status quo, it's OK", former US Ambassador to Israel, Martyn Indyk about the limited urgency of the Israel-Palestine peace process.
Number: 48, the percentage of Americans who believe that putting pressure on the Palestinians is the preferred strategy for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Headline: Kerry expected to revive 2002 Saudi peace initiative
To Read: According to George Friedman, as both the US and Israel have lost much of their ability to move anything in the Middle east, it is unclear whether anything serious can be achieved in the Obama visit:
This is not a strain in the U.S.-Israeli relationship in the sense of anger and resentment, although those exist on both sides. Rather it is like a marriage that continues out of habit but whose foundation has withered. The foundation was the Israeli ability to control events in its region and the guarantee that where the Israelis fail, U.S. interests dictate that Washington will take action. Neither one has the ability, the appetite or the political basis to maintain that relationship on those terms. Obama has economics to worry about. Netanyahu has the conscription of the ultra-Orthodox on his mind. National security remains an issue for both, but their ability to manage it has declined dramatically.
In private I expect a sullen courtesy and in public an enthusiastic friendship, much as an old, bored married couple, not near a divorce, but far from where they were when they were young. Neither party is what it once was; each suspects that it is the other's fault. In the end, each has its own fate, linked by history to each other but no longer united.
Quote: “Yuval is basically acting foreign minister, so receiving the post would be a natural shift”, a source in the Likud basically implying that Israel has a secret FM.
Number: 66, the percentage of Americans who believe that Israel and Palestine "will not be able to settle their differences and live in peace"
The Middle East
Headline: Syrians trade blame over 'chemical attack'
To Read: In a new Strategic report for the Washington Institute, Dennis Ross and Jim Jeffrey try to analyze US strategic goals in different parts of the Middle East and offer insights about key regional players:
Given the MB’s views and values, there would be little or no prospect of their responsiveness to us if Egypt did not also need our help. While President Morsi and the MB will consistently try to expand the scope of their control, they seem to recognize at least in general terms that if they want to enhance their legitimacy in Egypt they must deliver the goods economically. The best indication of this was the choice that Morsi made during the Gaza conflict this past fall. Ideologically and emotionally, his instincts and those of the Brotherhood would be to break with Israel and end the peace treaty, particularly with Israel bombing targets in Hamas-led Gaza. Morsi and the MB are organically linked to Hamas, and yet Morsi’s Egypt brokered a ceasefire deal with Israel—and has maintained a dialogue with the Israelis on the ceasefire implementation. In this instance, Morsi had to choose between his ideological beliefs and his economic imperatives, knowing that if he revoked the peace treaty with Israel, it would likely spell the end of his ability to garner massive financial assistance and investment from the United States and the international community.
Quote: "So magical is the political prowess attributed to Mashaie and Ahmadinejad's populist appeal that Mashaie's prospective candidacy causes much concern in the Khamenei camp", Iran specialist Shaul Bakhash about the internal tensions between the Iranian government and clerics.
Number: 5-40, the number of lashes given as punishment in certain rebel governed Syrian city of Aleppo.
The Jewish World
Headline: Lifeline for US law that aided Soviet, now Iranian Jews
To Read: Less than a week before Passover, Johns Hopkin's Dorothea Wolfson takes a look at the early American interest in the Exodus story and in Zion:
This uniquely biblical self-understanding of America-as-the-New Israel was not only a manifestation of the Puritan psyche. It was also characteristic of America’s Founding Fathers, notwithstanding their deistic or secular bent. For example, at the Continental Congress, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams were appointed to a committee to design the great seal of the United States. Remarkably, Franklin and Jefferson, who were hardly religious fundamentalists, selected the Exodus story as emblematic of the nation’s story. The seal that they proposed had Moses standing at the shore with the Red Sea parting, and Pharaoh looming with a sword raised in his hand. Franklin instructed further that the design should have “rays from a pillar of fire in the clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by Command of the Deity.” The motto that would accompany the seal: “Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.”
Their seal was not, in the event, adopted; but it is highly noteworthy that the biblical story was found to be compelling to these leading minds of the early American republic. In May of 1776, John Adams wrote in a letter to Abigail Adams that he was reflecting on the “parallel between the Case of Israel and that of America, and between the Conduct of Pharaoh and that of George.” He concluded: “I feel an Awe upon my Mind, which is not easily described.”
Quote: “with great affection … you, my brothers and sisters of the Jewish people, to whom we are joined by a great shared spiritual heritage, one rooted in God's irrevocable promises", the new Pope's kind words for the Jewish people in his first mass.
Number: 38, the number of European physicians who wrote a paper claiming that the US pro-circumcision stance is due to 'cultural bias.'