Argentina’s Philo-Semite-in-Chief, and Would-Be Convert

On Monday, the Argentine president-elect Javier Milei made a surprise trip to New York City to visit the grave of the late Lubavitcher rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of whom he is an admirer. This is just one of many surprising things about Milei, from his prominent sideburns, to his flamboyant speeches, to his commitment to economic liberalism. Ben Cohen explains the Argentinian politician’s Jewish fascinations:

A populist maverick who defines himself as an “anarcho-capitalist” and has been dubbed El Loco (“The Crazy One”) by critics, Milei’s love of Judaism and strong support for Israel were central features of his campaign, demonstrated by the frequent appearance of Israeli flags at his campaign rallies. The new Argentine leader studies Torah with Rabbi Shimon Wahnish, who is based in Buenos Aires, and has openly talked on several occasions about converting to Judaism—adding the caveat that doing so would be impossible if he were elected president, as the demands of the office would be incompatible with observing core Jewish practices like Shabbat, when observant Jews do not use telephones and electronic devices.

Among the first individuals to meet with Milei following his triumph over his left-wing rival Sergio Massa—garnering 56 percent of the votes against 44 percent in the second round of the election—were the Israeli ambassador in Buenos Aires, Eyal Sela, along with a delegation from the AMIA Jewish Center in the Argentine capital.

Milei has also promised to move the Argentinian embassy to Jerusalem, and there is much hope that he will abandon the pro-Iranian policies of his predecessor Alberto Fernández. Fernández helped protect his vice-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner—who served as the country’s president from 2007 to 2015—from scrutiny over her role in obstructing the investigation into the Iranian bombing of the AMIA building in 1994.

Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Argentina, Conversion, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Philo-Semitism


What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security