The Pope, the Abraham Accords, and the Hope for a More Tolerant Middle East

On Monday, Pope Francis completed his four-day visit to Iraq, the first ever such papal visit. There he met with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the religious leader of the country’s Shiites, in the holy city of Najaf; visited Mosul, a city formerly occupied by Islamic State and home to a large Christian population; and also made a stop in Ur, the birthplace, according to the book of Genesis, of Abraham. Fiamma Nirenstein comments:

Although he repeated Abraham’s name during his visit, the pope didn’t mention the fact that Jews have also been persecuted by Muslims in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the peaceful tectonic upheaval that brought the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco to accept Israel and the Jewish people as indigenous to the region is still a train in motion. And it is producing results close to [Francis’s] description of Abraham as one who “knew how to hope against all hope,” and who laid the groundwork for “the human family.”

It’s a pity that the Iraqi government ignored the country’s Jews in this context, against Vatican hopes, by not inviting a Jewish delegation to the event. It was a dismissal of Jewish history and expulsion from Muslim countries, along with their synagogues and traditions, by the hundreds of thousands.

During his interreligious prayer for peace in Ur, the Pope thanked the Lord for having given Abraham to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, together with other believers. . . . Now, with the solidification of the Abraham Accords, the three religions have the opportunity to march together against the fierce opponents of peace, ranging from Islamic State to al-Qaeda, from Hamas to Hizballah, and to all the states that support them, first and foremost Iran.

Read more at JNS

More about: Abraham Accords, Iraqi Jewry, Jewish-Christian relations, Middle East Christianity, Pope Francis, Tolerance

Would an American-Backed UN Resolution Calling for a Temporary Ceasefire Undermine Israel?

Yesterday morning, the U.S. vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution, sponsored by Algeria, that demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. As an alternative, the American delegation has been circulating a draft resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released.” Benny Avni comments:

While the Israel Defense Force may be able to maintain its Gaza operations under that provision, the U.S.-proposed resolution also warns the military against proceeding with its plan to enter the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel says that a critical number of Hamas fighters are hiding inside tunnels and in civilian buildings at Rafah, surrounded by a number of the remaining 134 hostages.

In one paragraph, the text of the new American resolution says that the council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

In addition to the paragraph about Rafah, the American-proposed resolution is admonishing Israel not to create a buffer zone inside Gaza. Such a narrow zone, as wide as two miles, is seen by many Israelis as a future protection against infiltration from Gaza.

Perhaps, as Robert Satloff argues, the resolution isn’t intended to forestall an IDF operation in Rafah, but only—consistent with prior statements from the Biden administration—to demand that Israel come up with a plan to move civilians out of harms way before advancing on the city.

If that is so, the resolution wouldn’t change much if passed. But why is the U.S. proposing an alternative ceasefire resolution at all? Strategically, Washington has nothing to gain from stopping Israel, its ally, from achieving a complete victory over Hamas. Why not instead pass a resolution condemning Hamas (something the Security Council has not done), calling for the release of hostages, and demanding that Qatar and Iran stop providing the group with arms and funds? Better yet, demand that these two countries—along with Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon—arrest Hamas leaders on their territory.

Surely Russia would veto such a resolution, but still, why not go on the offensive, rather than trying to come up with another UN resolution aimed at restraining Israel?

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Gaza War 2023, U.S.-Israel relationship, United Nations