Jordan

In the Jewish struggle around Zionism there were at least three strands in opposition so fierce that it was evident that the very meaning of “the people Israel” was at stake. The first of these was a vast religious cohort, at once immensely learned or purported to have such learning and having, as well, the authority of the sages. Or the ages. While ongoing study and “trust in the Lord” constituted their program, they practiced a politics that was fundamentally anti-political. God was both their instrument and their end.

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The Obama administration, after failing to head off a Palestinian request to the Security Council for United Nations membership, is prepared to use its veto against it. In an undistinguished address to the General Assembly on Wednesday, President Barack Obama advised the Palestinians to bypass the UN and to confine their campaign for statehood to negotiations with Israel.

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I take the liberty of suggesting that you read a speech given yesterday by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.N. General Assembly. Netanyahu has been unlucky in the treatment of his remarks for a quarter century. He has been even more unlucky in the treatment of his offers to the Palestinian people to start the peace process which they, alas, have refused to do. An article by Neil MacFarquhar and Steven Lee Myers in the Times projects Dame Catherine Ashton, the “foreign minister” of the European Union, as the leading light in the diplomacy of Europe towards Israel/Palestine.

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The 9/11 attacks catalyzed a tremendous shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East. Rather than prioritizing petrol, Washington targeted terrorist organizations, dethroned a dictator, and lobbied throughout the region for liberalization. Yet despite the billions of dollars spent policing Baghdad and protecting Benghazi, the unpopularity of the United States in the Arab world continues to be fueled by the belief that Islamist terrorists had nothing to do with 9/11, with many claiming the attacks were an American, Israeli, or joint American-Israeli conspiracy.

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There may be some bad feelings wafting across the Jordan River. But, even in a now more tense Middle East, the relationship between the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel is pretty well-tempered. There is constant contact between their intelligence services; there is cooperative work being done to rescue the Dead Sea from being no sea at all; the two countries coordinate research on the 500 million birds which migrate between them in the Jordan rift valley, the crossing from Asia and Europe to Africa ...

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Threading through the history of the United States is a long line of reviled newcomers. In the 1850s, Irish and German Catholics were vilified by the Know Nothing movement. In the 1890s, Italians were subjected to frequent lynchings. Jews of the 1930s were excoriated by Father Charles Coughlin, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, and the Ku Klux Klan. In the years following September 11, America’s 2.6 million Muslims have often found themselves facing similar kinds of hostility.

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The Arabs of Palestine have always nurtured a strategy to avoid negotiating a peace deal with the Israelis; and it is that they won’t negotiate at all unless Israel meets so many Palestinian preconditions that the map from which they and their Arab neighbors launched their wars would be completely restored in advance of talks. Poof: There was no Six Day War in 1967 and there was no Yom Kippur War in 1973. Forget both of these and smaller battles in between and after. Then, OK, let’s meet and see where we can go from here or actually there.

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Politicians in Washington are grappling with how to address rising gasoline prices, but most of their answers—from repealing tax breaks for oil companies to expanding offshore drilling—are unlikely to make much of a difference any time soon. The Arab awakening, coupled with Iran’s accelerated pursuit of nuclear weapons, ensures that energy prices will likely remain elevated for a long time. In the near- and long-term, those events are leading to less energy produced and exported from the Middle East and North Africa than there otherwise would be, as well as greater risk to their transport.

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In terms of Israeli politics, I have always been a left-winger. Or at least that’s what I thought before a Saturday in April, when I attended the TEDx Ramallah conference, which took place simultaneously in Bethlehem, Amman and Beirut. After a long day of listening to inflammatory polemics, I understood that I needed to re-identify, to add a small qualifier to my political affiliation: No longer am I simply a left-winger, but rather a Zionist left-winger.

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An Obama Doctrine?

When it came to foreign policy and national security, George W. Bush was a "big idea" president. Whether one agreed or disagreed with them, overarching concepts and a defined perspective on history drove his decisions. So far, Barack Obama has not been a big idea president, at least in foreign and national security policy. His instincts have been more those of a lawyer, charting a careful course through specific challenges and gravitating to a middle path which minimized risk.

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