The Mystery of the Negev’s Ancient Abandoned Cities

About a millennium ago, the residents of the cities of Nitzana, Haluza, and Shivita in southern Israel forsook their homes. Ronit Vered reports on archaeologists’ attempt to find out why (free registration required):

The large-scale project . . . aims to crack the mystery of why these once-thriving commercial and cultural hubs were ultimately abandoned. One day—or perhaps it occurred gradually over a longer period of time—the inhabitants packed their things, carefully sealed up their homes so they could come back to them in the future, and disappeared, never to return again.

“The people who lived here put tremendous energy into construction and infrastructure. They wanted to stay here forever, but something went wrong,” says Guy Bar-Oz [one of the project’s lead researchers]. “The next time you find settlement in the Negev is over a thousand years later, with the Zionist movement. In the scholarly literature, a number of possible theories for the abandonment have been proposed: climate change, a cultural change like the Muslim conquest, or an epidemic similar to the plague that struck the region in the 6th century.”

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Archaeology, Byzantine Empire, History and Ideas, Nabateans, Negev

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy