In his 50 years of fieldwork among Bedouin in the Negev and the Sinai Peninsula, Clinton Bailey has become one of the leading experts on their law, culture, and poetry. His most recent book argues that these Arab nomads have preserved a way of life that shares much with the cultural milieu of the Hebrew Bible, and can help to understand its text. Moreover, he suggests, Bedouin-like pastoralists were the “key audience” of those biblical books composed before the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE. In conversation with Dru Johnson, Bailey explains how he came to this subject of study through the help of Paula and David Ben-Gurion, how his research sheds light on the stories of Abraham and Lot, and why he thinks a dominant academic theory about Judaism’s origins is wrong. (Audio, 53 minutes.)
How the Culture of Modern-Day Bedouin Illuminates the Bible
Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden
Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:
Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.
In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.
Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.