A Pharaoh’s-Eye View of the Exodus

April 20 2017

Nowadays one is constantly urged to see things through the eyes of the “other.” Liel Leibovitz, applying this logic to the Passover story, draws an unusual lesson from the holiday. At the outset of the Exodus story, he notes, Pharaoh’s efforts to subdue the Israelites prove successful: so demoralized are they by slavery and infanticide that they initially reject Moses’ mission to set them free. Only God’s most awesome miracles render them willing to leave Egypt—a point lost on many who wish to draw analogies from the Haggadah to contemporary politics:

Talk to any enlightened soul, and you’ll soon hear [that] Israel’s struggle against Palestinian terrorism is futile; America’s war on the marauders of Islamic State is a waste of time; Europe’s attempt to identify and arrest its homegrown Islamist fanatics is doomed. Why? Because our understanding of the world is weirdly Haggadic [in that] we believe that each oppressed people, whether afflicted by real burdens or by imagined slights, is destined to pull itself forth and march itself out of its own private Egypt. In this reading, any use of might is useless because the mighty, just like Pharaoh, can never really win: just as the Egyptians failed to crush the Israelites, so is the collective will of indigenous peoples and divergent religious groups bound to persist.

[But] if Pharaoh is any example, you can comfortably wage a gradually escalating war against your perceived foes and achieve a victory so crushing that the Lord of the Universe himself would have to emerge and speak and perform strange miracles in order to undermine your efforts.

If this possibility troubles you, try to imagine [its application]. What, for example, if our endlessly erratic president followed up his missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat airbase with increasingly robust measures aimed not only at the murderous Bashar al-Assad but at his enablers and financiers in Tehran? What if, after a decade of trying to appease the homicidal mullahs [of Iran] largely because we didn’t believe a military option could lead to concrete victory, we gave the Pharaoh Doctrine a go? What if we set out to eliminate those foes who endangered our strategic interests and inflicted untold pain and suffering on millions of innocent human beings? To read the Passover story literally, it’s quite possible that, crushed by might, our enemies would do what all humans do under similar circumstances and abandon hope for any resolution save for that which arrives from the heavens. And if might can be used for good, hallelujah!

Read more at Tablet

More about: Exodus, Passover, Pharaoh, Religion & Holidays, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Reviving the Peace Process Brings Great Costs and Little Potential for Success

June 26 2017

Now that President Trump has sent envoys to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, it seems clear that he will try to revive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which he has declared to be “maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years.” Even those less sanguine argue that there is little harm in trying. Not so, writes Elliott Abrams:

To begin with, it is always harmful for the United States to fail—and for a president to fail. Influence in the world is hard to measure, but when a president devotes himself . . . to any project and fails to pull it off, his influence and that of the United States are diminished. . . .

What’s more, the United States has been championing the “peace process” now for about 30 years. . . . On the Palestinian side many view the “peace process” as a formula for sustaining the occupation. Many Israelis see it as a shield protecting Palestinian malfeasance and worse: when they demand a stop to official Palestinian glorification of terrorism, they hear, “Don’t rock the boat now, negotiations may start.”

A further reason to be wary of another big peace effort is the opportunity cost. When each successive American administration works for a comprehensive peace deal, it tends to neglect the many opportunities to make less dramatic but still consequential real-world progress. . . .

During the George W. Bush administration, those of us on the American side often demanded concessions from Israel to “set the tone for talks” or to “get things moving in the talks.” These steps often gave Abbas symbolic victories, but they rarely contributed to state-building. For example, we were more concerned with getting Israel to release some Palestinian prisoners—who may have committed acts of violence—than we were about getting Israel to remove checkpoints or barriers that prevented Palestinian mobility in the West Bank and thereby made both normal life and economic activity harder. How returning convicted criminals to the streets contributed to building a Palestinian state was never explained.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process