Category: Israel

You don’t want to be in these wars. This is not your grandfather’s battlefield. When the enemy is nested in homes and apartments and no one wears a uniform but everyone has a cellphone camera, you have a real strategic and moral challenge — as the U.S. has discovered with its own drone wars. It’s hard to defeat this enemy without killing a lot of civilians. It’s no accident that every Israeli brigade now has a legal adviser.

Thomas L. Friedman, “A Wonderful Country”, The New York Times (2 February 2014), SR11.


Brand Israel has attempted to re-image Israel based upon its accomplishments. Technology. The Start-Up Nation. Wine. Women. Gays. Medical research. Its strategy has been to side-step the conflict. But the conflict appears on the front pages and in the news multiple times a week. It is what people care about. The conflict makes them fear for the safety of the world and their own lives. That left the door wide open for BDS to seize upon the conflict and spin it their own way.

Gary Wexler, “Where Can I Sign Up for a BDS Marketing Course?”, The Jewish Journal (7 – 13 February 2014), 10.

Jewish students are largely disengaged from Israel. They are more likely to be able to distinguish between different fraternities and sororities than between the parties in the Knesset, or the panoply of Jewish communal organizations. When ideological groups take strident positions on campus, the majority of Jewish students respond with a deafening “Huh?” Campus professionals will confide that students consider extremism in pursuit of anything a vice; a turn-off, not a turn-on.

Jeff Rubin, “It’s Jewish Education, Stupid”, The Jewish Week (10 January 2014), 28.

Even in ancient times, allies of Jewish polities exerted cultural influence among Jews, and often enough, too, many Jews lived in the lands of allied countries, including Egypt, Babylonia and Persia. These cultural/communal relationships had broad geopolitical significance over time, just as one would expect, since geostrategic decisions are never completely divorced from politics at large. So it matters that internal divisions within Israel today abrade against the sensibilities of some Americans and American Jews in particular. American Jews are becoming progressively more disenchanted with Israeli domestic religious policies that increasingly favor an ultra-Orthodox community whose mores are alien to them. Ever more American Jews are also unhappy with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, even if the vast majority is not in principle hostile to Israel itself. Finally, as more and more American Jews drop their synagogue and communal affiliations, put forth little to no effort to learn about their own culture and history, and think of themselves as “just Jewish” (and then, often enough, only if someone asks them), their emotional stake in Israel wanes accordingly.

Dov S. Zakheim, “The Geopolitics of Scripture,” The American Interest (July/August 2012), 16.

The Assyria of yesterday could, for modern Israel, be Turkey, Iran, India or China tomorrow. Being initially called in to resolve local differences or protect Israel from an attack by an immediate neighbor, they may find the temptation to meddle in Israeli affairs too great to resist. Perhaps none of these states would actually seek to control the Jewish state. Economic influence, however, is an entirely different matter, and a powerful outsider, initially viewed as a protector, might impose one-sided trade or economic agreements on a weakened Israel. The fact that the United States has never done so, despite Israel’s dependence on Washington for its support in so many ways, simply underscores the exceptionality of the United States and its unique role as a superpower. Others simply will not behave the same way.

Dov S. Zakheim, “The Geopolitics of Scripture,” The American Interest (July/August 2012), 13-14.

For the American, a rule’s a rule; for an Israeli, it’s a guideline. If something else happens to work better than the original plan, why stick to it?
In negotiations, Americans have a win-win mentality. Israelis just have “win.”
“This comes from Israelis’ attitude towards boundaries,” Kedem says. “Beginning with the fact Israel still doesn’t have an agreement about its borders. We’re constantly pushing against physical and mental boundaries. … We know we’ve crossed a boundary only when we’re pushed back. If there is no pushback, we understand we haven’t reached the boundary yet. That’s just how Israelis are brought up.”

Orli Santo, “Selling Each Other Short?”, The Jewish Week (2 August 2013), 11.

The Jewish comm…

The Jewish community will only be considered a serious partner in campus discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict once we demonstrate our commitment to making the necessary sacrifices for peace. If we can back up our rhetoric with serious action and sustained political engagement to achieve a two-state solution, hopefully we will empower pragmatic moderates on the other side to do the same.

Shayna Howitt and Zoe Lewin, “Frustration, but with Hope,” The Jewish Journal (31 May – 6 June 2013), 26.

There are seven days between Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha’Atzmaut. It is as if the entire country sits shiva, mourning the tragedy of the Holocaust, then rises to be comforted by the existence of the State of Israel. While the pairing of the Holocaust and Israeli independence has its historical problems, for me it remains a powerful narrative, one that has imprinted itself in my own family history.

Rabbi Mishael Zion, “Israel at 65: Celebrating is Not Enough”, The Jewish Week (12 April 2013), 23.

Geography has not changed much in the Middle East over the past several thousand years. Modern Israel remains at the crossroads of the Middle East and in the crosshairs of potential regional and extra-regional great power rivalries. Egypt is certain once again to emerge as a strong regional force; so too, for that matter, will powerful states to the north, be they Iraq or its successor state, Iran/Persia, or Turkey. The dilemma of whom to choose as an ally, if anyone, and how to resist predations by external powers will never be far from the thoughts of future Israeli policymakers, just as they were for those of the rulers of the ancient Jewish kingdoms.

Dov S. Zakheim, “The Geopolitics of Scripture,” The American Interest (July/August 2012), 12.

The original post-1948 Israeli policy of relying on an “outer circle” of friendships—Iran, Turkey, Ethiopia—to counter the hostility of neighboring Arab states proved modestly useful for a time. It came apart when Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in March 1979, which seemed to reduce the need for a peripheral strategy. It came completely apart when Iran was taken over by the mullahs that same year. Israel’s strained relationship with Turkey after a kind of golden age of cooperation lasting no more than two decades, and the general regional unrest of the past two years, have forced Israel to look further afield for support, to India and China, for example. But it has no real alliances other than with the United States. Should America indeed pull back from the Middle East, even if it were to continue to arm Israel, the Jewish state would in effect have become a kind of super Sweden—a de facto non-aligned regional superpower, much as was the kingdom of David and Solomon in its day.

Dov S. Zakheim, “The Geopolitics of Scripture,” The American Interest (July/August 2012), 11.