At the heart of this week’s Torah reading of B’ha’alotkha—which covers a bewildering assortment of disparate topics—is the incident of the quail. As the Israelites in the desert complain about their diet, which consists only of manna, Moses becomes frustrated with his responsibilities and God feeds the people quail “until it comes out of their noses” before striking them with a plague. Arguing that, but for this incident, the messianic era would have begun already during the time of Moses, Joseph B. Soloveitchik explores the link between lust and the pagan mentality and concludes with reflections on leadership and the state of American Jewry. (1978; audio, 1 hour and 41 minutes.)
Lust, Paganism, and Jewish Leadership
President Biden Should Learn the Lessons of Past U.S. Attempts to Solve the Israel-Palestinian Conflict
In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Joe Biden addressed a host of international issues, mentioning, inter alia, the “positive and practical impacts” resulting from “Israel’s greater normalization and economic connection with its neighbors.” He then added that the U.S. will “continue to work tirelessly to support a just and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians—two states for two peoples.” Zach Kessel experiences some déjà vu:
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and review how past U.S.-brokered talks between Jerusalem and [Palestinian leaders] have gone down, starting with 1991’s Madrid Conference, organized by then-President George H.W. Bush. . . . Though the talks, which continued through the next year, didn’t get anywhere concrete, many U.S. officials and observers across the world were heartened by the fact that Madrid was the first time representatives of both sides had met face to face. And then Palestinian militants carried out the first suicide bombing in the history of the conflict.
Then, in 1993, Bill Clinton tried his hand with the Oslo Accords:
In the period of time directly after the Oslo Accords . . . suicide bombings on buses and in crowded public spaces became par for the course. Clinton invited then-Palestinian Authority chairman Yasir Arafat and then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to Camp David in 2000, hoping finally to put the conflict to rest. Arafat, who quite clearly aimed to extract as many concessions as possible from the Israelis without ever intending to agree to any deal—without even putting a counteroffer on the table—scuttled any possibility of peace. Of course, that’s not the most consequential event for the conflict that occurred in 2000. Soon after the Camp David Summit fell apart, the second intifada began.
Since Clinton, each U.S. president has entered office hoping to put together the puzzle that is an outcome acceptable to both sides, and each has failed. . . . Every time a deal has seemed to have legs, something happens—usually terrorist violence—and potential bargains are scrapped. What, then, makes Biden think this time will be any different?