How Two Wars in Lebanon Changed, But Didn’t Break, Israel’s National Spirit

July 14 2016

After the frustrations of the first and second Lebanon wars, and the failures of various attempts in the interim to bring peace through negotiation and compromise, something changed about Israel’s ethos, writes Matti Friedman. (Excerpted from his recent book, Pumpkinflowers.)

People in Israel didn’t despair, as our enemies hoped. Instead they stopped paying attention. What would we gain from looking to our neighbors? Only heartbreak, and a slow descent after them into the pit. No, we would turn our back on them and look elsewhere, to the film festivals of Berlin and Copenhagen or the tech parks of California. Our happiness would no longer depend on the moods of people who wish us ill, and their happiness wouldn’t concern us more than ours concerns them.

Something important in the mind of the country—an old utopian optimism—was laid to rest. At the same time we were liberated, most of us, from the curse of existing as characters in a mythic drama, from the hallucination that our lives are enactments of the great moral problems of humanity, that people in Israel are anything other than people, hauling their biology from home to work and trying to eke out the usual human pleasures in an unfortunate region and an abnormal history. . . .

When Hizballah attacked a border patrol inside Israel in the summer of 2006, triggering a month of fighting, my parents’ town was hit by several hundred rockets and was nearly deserted. I reported the war and remember the sinister sight of traffic lights blinking yellow along a main street devoid of pedestrians or traffic. The day after the shooting stopped, the town filled with people as if nothing had happened. Less than a year later I counted eight new cafes and restaurants on the same street.

Making do in this way is perhaps a fundamental national ability, something Jews have done throughout the centuries no matter how inhospitable the soil.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: First Lebanon War, Israel & Zionism, Israeli society, Matti Friedman, Second Lebanon War

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy