The Party Line
April 07, 2010
Russia and the Arabs: Behind the Scenes in the Middle East from the Cold War to the Present By Yevgeny Primakov Translated by Paul Gould (Basic Books, 418 pp., $29.95) Over the decades, many people in the West, and certainly most Israelis, came to view the Soviet Union and then Russia as a force for ill, if not evil, in the Middle East, and perhaps farther afield as well.
January 29, 2010
“The cruel God of the Jews has you beaten too.”--Racine An interview by Joe Klein in Time magazine is hardly a historical event. But, when the interview is with Barack Obama, it lays claim to some newsworthiness. This is especially true when it is ballyhooed as a firstanniversary event. Since, moreover, (right after awarding himself good grades on Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia) it’s clear that Obama wanted to make a point: “The other area which I think is worth noting is that the Middle East peace process has not moved forward.
November 18, 2009
Click here to read Steven A. Cook on why we should expect the Palestinians to launch a third intifada. Israeli officials and experts were initially reacting to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's promise not to seek re-election in one of three ways: They believed him and didn’t really care; they believed him and worried about the possible vacuum following his disappearance from the political scene; or they didn’t believe him. Last week, the third option seemed to be the most common read in Jerusalem.
October 06, 2009
Toughened by their frontier ethos, steeled by serial wars, Israelis are not prone to flattery. Most, in fact, eschew using the closest equivalent to the Hebrew word for flattery--chanupa--in favor of the derisive Yiddish-derivative, firgun. An Israeli joke holds that the word, slashed by a red diagonal line, graces the exit from Ben-Gurion Airport, together with the warning, "You are now entering a Firgun Free Zone." Not surprisingly, then, several Israeli commentators reacted unflatteringly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
The End of the Beginning
September 28, 2009
With apologies to Winston Churchill, President Obama may not have presided over the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week in New York, but he seems finally to have marked the end of an embarrassing beginning to his Middle East diplomacy. The president and his senior advisors came to office nine months ago eager to say and do what George W. Bush didn’t.
Back to Reality
August 31, 2009
President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are reportedly planning to meet next month on the sidelines of a UN conference in New York. An international Arab-Israeli peace summit might follow, which Israeli diplomats have already nicknamed “Obamapolis” after the most recent failed attempt to re-launch negotiations, the Annapolis Summit.
August 26, 2009
On August 4, Haaretz reported that Benjamin Netanyahu called Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod self-hating Jews. A spokesman for the prime minister later denied this, but I have heard from Israeli friends that this conspiratorial explanation is quite popular in the prime minister’s office. I have no reason to believe otherwise. The accusation of ethnic infidelity is an old feature of the political culture of the Likud. The defenders of Greater Israel have values, but the critics of Greater Israel have motives.
Dennis Ross On Bibi: "an Impulsive Lack Of Judgment"
August 03, 2009
Obama's point man on Iran, Dennis Ross, recently visited Israel, just one among a cadre of Obama officials to trek there this summer in an effort to get the peace process moving. As Bill Clinton's chief Middle East peace negotiator, Ross is no stranger to Jerusalem, and his visit inspired me to check his 800-page account of those years for insights about the current Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Ross's book, The Missing Peace, paints a rather unflattering portrait of Netanyahu, whose first term as prime minister ran from June 1996 to July 1999.
At the Window
April 15, 2009
Of three or four in a room there is always one who stands at the window. He must see the injustice among the thorns and the fires on the hill. So wrote Yehuda Amichai in 1958, and I have been feeling rather like the morbid observer who has wandered away from the warm company. The glass through which I gaze is far from the place that I lovingly and disquietedly see; I have to squint past the coercions of the media, and correct also for the distortions of solidarity. But in Israel now I see fires on the hill.
A Decent Respect To The Opinions Of Mankind
March 17, 2009
These were the words of the Signers, and perhaps of one man, Thomas Jefferson. And I commend them to Benjamin Netanyahu.No, I do not expect or, for that matter, desire that Israel design its politics to the opinions of an increasingly maddened mankind. So I would amend the injunction of July 4, 1776 to "a decent respect to the opinions of decent mankind." That is not an enormous cohort, and it seems to become smaller, despite Ambassador Rice's delusions, with every session of the United Human Rights Council.There is still a large part of the world and a goodly number of nations that remain