The Power of the American Idea Comes from Its Synthesis of Classical Liberalism with the Hebrew Bible

Dec. 29 2020

For much of the post-World War II era, many U.S. conservatives have seen it as their mission to conserve the classical liberal ideas of such thinkers as John Locke, which are embedded in the American founding: the inviolability of private property, freedom of speech and conscience, limiting governmental overreach, and so forth—all principles under attack from Fascism, Communism, the New Left, and now “the Great Awokening.” But the past few years have seen the rise of a movement to reenergize conservative thinking by an appeal to ideas outside the liberal tradition. Taking aim at both proponents of a conservative “postliberalism” and partisans of the secular Enlightenment, Meir Soloveichik argues that the American founding is built on a “double helix” of classical liberalism and biblical thought. In First Things’s annual Erasmus Lecture, he explains that this potent blend gives the U.S. a unique purpose in world history. He finds this synthesis embodied above all in that great “theologian of the American idea,” Abraham Lincoln, who over the course of his life moved to embrace religion, inspired, in no small part, by a Jewish abolitionist. (Video, 84 minutes.)

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More about: Abraham Lincoln, American founding, Hebrew Bible, Liberalism, Post-liberalism, Religion and politics

President Biden Should Learn the Lessons of Past U.S. Attempts to Solve the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Sept. 21 2023

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Joe Biden addressed a host of international issues, mentioning, inter alia, the “positive and practical impacts” resulting from “Israel’s greater normalization and economic connection with its neighbors.” He then added that the U.S. will “continue to work tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples.” Zach Kessel experiences some déjà vu:

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and review how past U.S.-brokered talks between Jerusalem and [Palestinian leaders] have gone down, starting with 1991’s Madrid Conference, organized by then-President George H.W. Bush. . . . Though the talks, which continued through the next year, didn’t get anywhere concrete, many U.S. officials and observers across the world were heartened by the fact that Madrid was the first time representatives of both sides had met face to face. And then Palestinian militants carried out the first suicide bombing in the history of the conflict.

Then, in 1993, Bill Clinton tried his hand with the Oslo Accords:

In the period of time directly after the Oslo Accords . . . suicide bombings on buses and in crowded public spaces became par for the course. Clinton invited then-Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat and then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000, hoping finally to put the conflict to rest. Arafat, who quite clearly aimed to extract as many concessions as possible from the Israelis without ever intending to agree to any deal—without even putting a counteroffer on the table—scuttled any possibility of peace. Of course, that’s not the most consequential event for the conflict that occurred in 2000. Soon after the Camp David Summit fell apart, the second intifada began.

Since Clinton, each U.S. president has entered office hoping to put together the puzzle that is an outcome acceptable to both sides, and each has failed. . . . Every time a deal has seemed to have legs, something happens—usually terrorist violence—and potential bargains are scrapped. What, then, makes Biden think this time will be any different?

Read more at National Review

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Joe Biden, Palestinian terror, Peace Process