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Jerusalem: The Eternal City of Jewish Longing

Dec. 18 2017

In a 2016 speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), then-candidate Donald Trump stated his intention to “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.” Eric Cohen, looking beyond recent policy debates, examines the meaning of the phrase “eternal capital” itself, and the ways in which Jerusalem has represented the aspirations of Jews both ancient and modern, both religious and secular:

We should have respect for the capital cities of the world, in nations large and small. Yet we would describe very few of them as “eternal.” Ottawa, Amsterdam, Caracas—most modern capitals cannot carry the civilizational weight of such a phrase. But Jerusalem is no ordinary capital. It is a political center with theological significance. . . .

For two millennia, the Jewish people were in exile. Jerusalem remained a real place—often a bloody crossroads of God, war, and politics—but it was also a dream in the Jewish mind, sustained across the generations through prayer: “Next year in Jerusalem!” . . .

The mystery and pain of Jewish history should keep us theologically modest in claiming to know God’s will or to understand the full meaning of the Jewish journey through time. But we can say this: the resurrection of Jerusalem—after centuries of wandering and after the near-death experience of the Holocaust—eludes simple rational explanation. It so defies the odds that one might understandably believe that the divine dealer knew the cards all along, even if we can never fully grasp the rules of God’s providential game.

To say that Jerusalem is the “eternal capital” of the Jews is not merely to say that it is, in this temporal world, always and forever the Jewish capital city. It is to stake a larger claim: Jerusalem is where the Jew most directly experiences eternity. In walking where the biblical ancestors walked, in praying where the ancient Israelites prayed, in governing where they governed—the Jew in a sense leaves time itself. He transcends history. Abraham and his descendants stand equidistant together before the eternal. Then becomes now, now becomes then, and the eternal mystery of God’s election of the Jewish people is experienced in the flesh.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: AIPAC, Israel & Zionism, Jerusalem, Jewish history, Judaism

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen