The Widening Gap between American and Israeli Jews Is about Far More Than Politics

Much has been written, including in Mosaic, about the divergence between American Jews and Israel. To Elliot Jager, the reasons are not hard to identify:

Why should Israelis and American Jews see eye to eye? Americans and Israelis are not alike. They have different concerns, interests, lifestyles, and even a different calendar. Most American Jews do not speak Hebrew. Nor do they treat Friday night as special, whereas more than 60 percent of Israelis observe Shabbat by lighting candles or reciting a benediction over wine before sitting down to a family-centric dinner. With all these differences and more, it’s not surprising American Jews do not make Israel a high priority when they go to the polls to vote. . . .

To remedy the situation, thousands of young people have been brought to Israel through a Jewish program intended to connect them to their heritage. . . . Even visitors with the best intentions, [however], fail to grasp Israel’s precarious topography. It is doubtful they realize the hills overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport are in the “occupied” West Bank and that a single terrorist armed with an Iranian-supplied surface-to-air Stinger missile could shut down the country’s main airport. . . .

To be fair, Israel bears some responsibility for the estrangement between American and Israeli Jews. Israel has forgotten that the diaspora has been crucial to building the country—from museums to hospitals to the Knesset [building] to the new national library. Increasingly, this devotion is not shown respect. Jews in the United States want to see non-Orthodox Judaism strengthened in Israel. They want non-Orthodox rabbis to be permitted to officiate at Israeli weddings. They want an area adjacent to the Western Wall where families can pray together, rather than be segregated by sex, as is the Orthodox practice. . . .

Of course, it does not help that a plurality of Israelis—many of whom are as ignorant about the non-Orthodox streams in the United States as U.S. Jewry is about Israel—opposes setting aside any space near the Western Wall for non-Orthodox prayers. . . .

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Read more at Israel My Glory

More about: American Jewry, American Judaism, Israel and the Diaspora, Judaism in Israel

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy