U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew arrives to brief members
of the U.S. Senate on talks with Iran during a closed-door
meeting at the Capitol in Washington, December 11, 2013
Headline: Pro-sanctions U.S. lawmakers will introduce new Iran bill soon
To Read: Jeffrey Goldberg believes that John Kerry's speech at the Saban Forum shows how pro-Israel Kerry is-
Kerry proved a couple of things. First, while he is more than capable of loose-cannoning his way across the Middle East, and while he is on occasion alarmingly optimistic about a range of issues that don't warrant optimism, he is also committed, in a bone-deep way, to Israel’s well-being. He is an exemplar of a slowly vanishing type of Democratic Party leader, someone with great, and uncomplicated, affection for the promise of Zionism.
Quote: “I will assure our partners that we’re not going anywhere”, a statement made last Friday by Chuck Hagel about US presence in the Middle East (one that is verified, according to Walter Pincus, by the following numbers)
Number: 43, the percentage of Americans who disapprove of the Iran deal according to a Pew/USA Today poll.
Headline: Kerry back to Mideast to push peace talks
To Read: According to TNR's John Judis, the language used by the Americans suggests that they are no longer aiming for a final agreement between Israel and Palestine like they originally promised-
In a press conference after the Saban speeches, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki denied that there had been a change in the American position on a final status agreement, but the reports of Kerry’s acceptance of the Israeli insistence that its troops remain in West Bank—which Psaki neither affirmed nor denied—along with the subtle changes in language in Kerry’s and Obama’s presentations last weekend suggest that the current negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians may be in trouble.
Quote: "This is the big question of the day, whether Netanyahu has come to the conclusion that there has to be change", Israel's new opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, talking about Netanyahu in an interview.
Number: 480, the number of prisoners who will be moved to Israel's new 'open detention facility' for African migrants in the desert.
The Middle East
Headline: Russia wants ‘speedy’ end to Gaza blockade
To Read: According to this short FP piece, which cites the State Department's next top Middle East official, Israel is no longer America's top priority in the Middle East-
The United States may be heavily engaged in shepherding peace talks between Israel and Palestine, but according to Anne Patterson, who has been nominated as the State Department's next top Middle East official, the issue just isn't a top priority for the United States any more.
In an exchange Wednesday with Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Patterson chimed in to agree with the former Obama administration official that Israel-Palestine has moved away from its central place in U.S. policy toward the region. "It's certainly not the most urgent problem that we face now in the Middle East, but it's one that could have enormous long term consequences," Patterson said.
Quote: "We are worried, because it is really cold in the Bekaa region, and we're extremely worried about the refugees living in makeshift shelters, because many are really substandard", UNHCR spokeswomen Lisa Abou Khaled expressing concern about the effect winter conditions will have on Syrian refugees.
Number: 30, the number of people evacuated to hospitals in Gaza due to heavy rain and floods.
The Jewish World
Headline: Fischer set to be tapped as vice chair of US Federal Reserve
To Read: Allan Arkush writes about Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver's vital contribution to the inception of the Jewish State-
At a time of great crisis, Abba Hillel Silver saw very clearly that the immediate imperative was Jewish independence, and that in the absence of this, all dreams of Jewish cultural renewal in Palestine, let alone the fates of untold numbers of Jewish survivors and refugees, would go forfeit. He set aside everything else—everything—in order to fight tooth and nail for that overriding imperative. Only after independence had been won did he return to his earlier preoccupations as a rabbi and scholar, concerning himself in his later years with what he never ceased to see as Zionism’s task of preserving “the integrity of our spiritual heritage,” and transmitting it to the rest of the world.
Quote: “It was, obviously, more than just a tree for us. We grew it with the help of a landscape architect and with the loving care of several classe,” a spokesperson for Frankfurt’s Anne Frank School commenting on the theft of the Anne Frank tree in Frankfurt.
Number: €26,000, the sum of an award given by the Council of European Rabbis to a company which produces an application that helps users keep track of blood donations