Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’


An edited version of this article appeared first at LobeLog.

They were dueling op-eds, one in the New York Times and the other in the Jewish communal magazine, Tablet. The question being

Nationalistic signs at Salute to Israel Day in New York, July 2006 Photo by Rabih/Public Domain

Nationalistic signs at Salute to Israel Day in New York, July 2006
Photo by Rabih/Public Domain

bandied between them was whether Israel is becoming a theocracy. Not surprisingly, both pieces missed the mark. It’s not theocracy but unbridled nationalism that is the threat in Israel.

The Times piece was authored by Abbas Milani, who heads the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University and Israel Waismel-Manor, a lecturer at Haifa University who is currently a visiting associate professor of Political Science at Stanford. Their thesis is that Iran and Israel are moving in opposite directions on a democratic-theocratic scale, and that they might at some point in the future pass each other. Milani and Waismel-Manor are certainly correct about the strengthening forces of secularism and democracy in Iran, along with a good dose of disillusionment and frustration with the revolutionary, Islamic government that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ushered in thirty-five years ago. But on Israel, they miss the mark by a pretty wide margin.

Waismel-Manor and MIlani posit that the thirty seats currently held in Israel’s Knesset by religious parties shows growing religious influence on Israeli policies. But, as Yair Rosenberg at Tablet correctly points out, not all the religious parties have the same attitude about separation of religion and the state. Where Rosenberg, unsurprisingly, goes way off course is his complete eliding of the fact that the threat is not Israel’s tilt toward religion, but it’s increasingly radical shift toward right-wing policies, which are often severely discriminatory and militant. (more…)

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We won’t miss Michael Oren, an Israeli ambassador to the US so in thrall to the Israeli right he actually considers J Street anti-Israel. But the rumored replacement, Ron Dermer is even farther to the right. He is, at least, more forthright than Oren. I explore at LobeLog.

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Once again, John Kerry heads to the Middle East. In just the brief time since his last trip, we have seen still more evidence of the futility of his efforts. At what point does Kerry’s behavior become the very definition of insanity? I explore at LobeLog.

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I continue to believe that Obama correctly does not want to escalate US involvement in Syria. But the geo-politics are robbing him of options very quickly. I explore at LobeLog.

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This article originally appeared at LobeLog

The new Israeli government features a security braintrust that might be a bit more reasonable on Iran, but is likely to be even more hawkish both in the immediate region

Netanyahu has a new and untested cabinet

Netanyahu has a new and untested cabinet

and within the country itself. Gone are voices from the Israeli right who favored a more reasoned and diplomatic approach to their right-wing agenda. They have been replaced by figures who want more direct action and refuse even the pretense of a two-state solution.

On Iran, the retirement of Ehud Barak removes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leading supporter in his effort for a strike on Iran sooner rather than later, whether that be carried out by Israel or, preferably, the United States. He is replaced by Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon. Bogey is also an Iran hawk, but is not in favor of Israel launching an attack other than as a last resort. He is far more content than Barak to allow the United States to take the lead and wants Israel to act only if it becomes apparent that the US will not. That puts him pretty well in line with the Israeli military and intelligence leadership in practice, though he sees Iran as more of a threat than they do.

In fact, no one in the current or even the outgoing inner circle came close to matching Barak’s eagerness for military action against Iran. Only Netanyahu himself could match him, and he remains daunted by the lack of support for his position in Israel. The ongoing hawkishness in the US Congress and President Barack Obama’s repeated statements holding firm to a military option and refusing a policy of containment also blunt Netanyahu’s resolve. It would seem that, at least for the time being, the calls for war on Iran will be fueled more in the United States than in Israel.

Ya’alon is a former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, but he did not have a distinguished term of service there, was not well-liked and returns without a great deal of good will among the military and intelligence services’ leadership. In fact, colleagues in Israel tell me there is a good deal of consternation in those services regarding Bogey’s appointment. But for now, they will wait and see how he acts. For a deeper look at Ya’alon, see my recent piece on him here. (more…)

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In Souciant this week, I examine the weakness of the Left in the US despite numbers that should mean it is much stronger. In times of economic stress like these, the left should be able to provide alternatives, and make them actionable. While liberals fight to hold the center and Tea Partiers push the country to a radical and self-destructive right, the left continues to eat itself. It need not be.

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I don’t often use this space for recommending articles by other writers. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook for that. But these two bear special mention.

The more recent one is Tom Friedman’s piece in the Times today, “Why Not In Vegas?” where Friedman exposes the pathetic farce that was Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel, a voyage which was not about US interests but about Bibi Netanyahu’s designs on getting his friend in the White House and Romney’s shameless shilling for Sheldon Adelson’s money. It’s the kind of piece we need to see more of from Friedman and others among his cadre.

The second is an outstanding piece by Noam Sheizaf about the awful tactics being used by the National Jewish Democratic Council, which, in attacking Romney as not being pro-Israel enough, sounds more right wing and hawkish than the worst neoconservatives. It’s a classic example of how liberals sell out all of their values when it comes to Israel, and Noam examines it most deftly. Please check it out.

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