An Israeli General, a Saudi Scholar, and Shiite Clerics Walk into an Indian City . . .

Shiites, many of whom live in the city of Lucknow, make up 18 percent of India’s Muslim population. Shimon Shapira, a retired IDF general, recounts his experience at a conference there hosted by Amir Khan, a leader of the Indian Shiite community and a local noble:

The meeting in Shiite Lucknow with Saudi Sunnis from Mecca and Medina stimulated a delicate dialogue with restrained tension. [Khan] expressed his opinion that all religious extremism in Islam in this era began with the disintegration of the Ottoman empire and the creation of the Saudi Arabian kingdom. He contended that the Saudis supported Islamic movements that became extremist and violent over the years.

Anwar Majed Eshki, the chief Saudi guest, respectfully contended that as a devoted Muslim, he saw great importance in bridging the Islamic sects. Indeed, he believed that the presence of Jewish guests from Israel was evidence of a huge advancement in the mutual understanding necessary for solving the many problems in the Middle East. One morning, Sunnis and Shiites gathered as one for a joint morning prayer, without allowing the religious differences between Sunnis and Shiites to interfere. The commitment to Allah dominated all differences at that moment. It’s also worth noting that Eshki visited Jerusalem this year and led Muslim prayers in the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: India, Islam, Muslim-Jewish relations, Religion & Holidays, Shiites, Sunnis

Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship