Israel’s Jewish Majority


Far from threatening Israel’s survival as a Jewish state, long-term demographic trends point to a strong Jewish majority not just in the state of Israel, but also in the land of Israel.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

More about: Demography, Israel, Palestinians, West Bank


Iran Negotiations Will Fail, Even If They “Succeed”

December 18

The current goal of the American-led negotiations is to create a situation where the Islamic Republic is but one year away from developing an atomic bomb, supposedly leaving enough time to detect the violation and act before Iran achieves full nuclear capability. The problem, writes Emily B. Landau, is that one year is not nearly sufficient time:

[T]he quick “detection-decision-action” process envisioned by [the negotiators] will not be as smooth, problem-free, and timely as they think. In fact, there are likely to be problems of interpretation, and other political constraints at every turn. Let’s begin with presentation of evidence of a violation. Once an agreement with Iran is achieved, after so many years of difficult and time-consuming negotiations, it will no doubt be accompanied by great fanfare and praise to Iran for its cooperation. The negotiators will be ecstatic with their success, and eager to proceed with economic and political cooperation and new ties. The last thing they will want is to find evidence that the agreement is not being adhered to. In fact, the instinct of the [the U.S. and its allies] will be to look the other way if faced with evidence, and they will certainly have no incentive to actively seek it out.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Iran, Iranian nuclear program, U.S. Foreign policy


Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Mizrahim Return to Politics

December 18

Since its establishment in the 1980s, the Mizrahi ultra-Orthodox party Shas has become a powerful player in Israeli politics. It presided over a religious revival among Jews of North African and Middle Eastern origin and a revolt against the Ashkenazi elite that dominated both Labor and Likud. Now the party has been split in two by its two leading politicians. In effect, argues Haviv Rettig Gur, Shas voters, instead of giving priority to their specific religious concerns, are dividing along conventional left-right lines:

It would be a mistake to believe that the schism in Shas is driven entirely by personality. The egos of the two leaders may shape the way the schism expresses itself, but these are ultimately symptoms. Shas is being rent apart . . . by larger, more substantive disagreements, the very disagreements that are shaping the new political architecture of the Israeli body politic writ large.

Israel’s political system is in chaos. A new order is materializing, and its shockwaves are being felt in nearly every corner of the political map. The left has returned in force as dovish Labor swells in the polls. So has the annexationist right, with a growing base of support for Jewish Home and growing power for the Likud’s right flank. And as the center shrinks, sectoral politics, too, are dramatically responding to the change. The Arab parties are uniting their squabbling lists in a bid to appeal to, and help shape, a more assertive Arab voice and identity.

For some time now, and largely hidden from view, these deep shifts in the public mood have been making themselves felt within the insular world of ultra-Orthodox politics. The change is coming from the street, say Shas officials. In a sense, the [two] ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism have represented an anomaly in Israeli politics. Their devotion to their spiritual leaders subsumed the usual divisions that define Israeli politics. . . . Shas was more or less insulated from the left-right divide of mainstream politics. . . .

[But] even Shas, once the bastion of a narrow haredi-centric, Sephardi-focused politics, is cleaving in two along the new fissure that increasingly defines mainstream Israeli politics, a new-old divide between left and right on generations-old questions of economic policy and, of course, what to do with the Palestinians.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Eli Yishai, Israeli politics, Mizrahi Jewry, Ovadiah Yosef, Shas, Ultra-Orthodox

Veto, Don’t Amend, a UN Resolution on Palestinian Statehood

December 18

French and American diplomats have spent the last week negotiating with the Palestinian Authority over a Security Council resolution calling for the creation of a Palestinian state within two years. France and the U.S. have pressed for reasonable, fair, amendments to the original version of the proposed resolution. But, argues Jonathan Tobin, no amendment will make this resolution a good idea; the U.S. is best off vetoing it:

[E]ven if the draft produced by the French and the Obama administration were to include language about mutual recognition of “Palestine” and a specifically Jewish state of Israel and stating that a withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem would have to be preceded by talks between the parties, that wouldn’t motivate the Palestinians to negotiate peace. Indeed, once they have the force of a UN resolution mandating Israel’s complete withdrawal from the territories, they would be officially absolved of any need to talk. They would then merely sit back and wait until the two-year deadline expired and then demand, with the support of the rest of a world that is irredeemably hostile to Israel, a complete Israeli withdrawal from all of the land including Jerusalem without paying for any of it in terms of mutual recognition, security guarantees, or any real assurance that they are prepared to end the conflict.

Read more at Commentary

More about: France, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations

Was the Israelite Kingdom Older Than Previously Thought?

December 18

It is generally agreed that, if Kings David and Solomon were historical personages, they would have lived in the 10th century BCE. But some scholars doubt that an organized kingdom existed in the land of Israel at the time, meaning that King David was either some sort of tribal chieftain or the mythical founder of a real dynasty. The recent discovery of clay seals (bullae) at Khirbet Summeily in the Negev suggests, however, that some sort of kingdom existed there much earlier than previously thought:

Jimmy Hardin, associate professor in the MSU Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, said these clay bullae were used to seal official correspondence in much the same way wax seals were used on official documents in later periods. . . . “Our preliminary results indicated that this site is integrated into a political entity that is typified by elite activities, suggesting that a state was already being formed in the 10th century BCE,” Hardin said, . . . “which lends general support to the historical veracity of David and Solomon as recorded in the Hebrew biblical texts.”

Read more at Mississippi State University

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Book of Kings, King David, King Solomon, Negev

The Paranoid Style in Russian Politics

December 18

Russian leaders have a long history of employing bizarre and elaborate conspiracy theories, often involving Jews, to explain their country’s problems. Such theories have resurfaced with vigor of late. Walter Laqueur tries to explain the origins of this fantastical understanding of world affairs:

[N]ot all statements, ideas, and theories which are manifestly absurd are deliberately fabricated and cynically exploited as part of a wider propaganda campaign. Some, as in contemporary Russia, are genuinely believed for reasons that have been insufficiently investigated. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a product of deliberate fabrication, and the same is true of the “Doctors’ Plot” in Stalin’s final year. But both the Protocols and the story of the Jewish “killer doctors” were believed by many, and the question of why they were so widely believed is not easy to answer.

There is a widespread tendency . . . to believe in occult, hidden forces which are the real shakers and movers in world politics, whereas those about whom we read and hear in the media are merely their puppets. . . . This belief in the hidden hand and the forces of evil tends to be particularly strong in times of great upheaval. The Protocols were not really influential during the first two decades of their existence. But after World War I and the Russian Revolution, events of world-historical importance which could not easily be explained, the Protocols were widely read and often believed because they seemed to offer a key to otherwise inexplicable events.

Read more at Standpoint

More about: Anti-Semitism, Doctors' Plot, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Russia, Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin