The Death of Moses and the Limits of Human Perfectibility

In conversation with Mark Gerson, William Kristol—after reminiscing about the golden age of New York City sports—discusses Deuteronomy 34:10, the antepenultimate verse of the Torah: “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Among much else, Kristol finds therein wisdom about the limits of human perfectibility: even Moses, this incomparably great man, died disappointed, unable due to his own failings to enter the promised land. The two also discuss as Moses’ singular act the smashing of the tablets, traditionally commemorated today, on the fast of the seventeenth of the month Tammuz. (Audio, 29 minutes.)

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More about: Deuteronomy, Hebrew Bible, Moses, Sports


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