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Obama’s Peace Offensive Is On

Even as Hamas tries to sabotage talks

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Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama, today.(Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

That picture was taken today. The Obama Administration is already making it very, very clear just how enmeshed in the direct Israeli-Palestinian talks—which kick off tonight with a White House banquet featuring Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, President Mubarak of Egypt, and King Abdullah II of Jordan—it plans to be. Never have I received so many press releases from those folks! Last night, U.S. envoy George Mitchell gave a detailed briefing; after Hamas’ killing yesterday of four Israelis, the administration released a strong condemnatory statement, and Secretary of State Clinton appeared with Netanyahu to echo this; and Obama is meeting separately with the above four leaders throughout the day. Clinton will host the actual talks tomorrow. (Note: Laura Rozen Tweets that Netanyahu is getting the only meeting with Obama that will produce a joint statement, and it is deliberately being done in time for the evening news in Israel.)

David Sanger’s analysis of how risky this is for Obama is must-read. And experienced negotiator Aaron David Miller tells Politico’s Laura Rozen, “These talks aren’t quite ready for prime time yet, and everyone should be slow-walking the process. If they get more ambitious now, it will collapse.” (more…)

Today on Tablet

Mixed-marriage cooking, the other Lobby, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, our Rosh Hashanah food coverage continues with contributing editor Joan Nathan’s profile of several mixed marriages and how they learned to negotiate the cookbook and Mark Oldman’s suggestions of six tasty kosher wines. Mideast columnist Lee Smith talks to the author of a new book, The Arab Lobby, which argues that such a lobby exists and that, unlike AIPAC, it is not deeply rooted in broad American opinion. The Scroll thinks the brisket recipe in Nathan’s article sounds OK, but not as good as its mom’s.

Our Rosh Hashanah Service

Plus: Should we be sponsoring one?

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The Sway Machinery.(The Sway Machinery/Heather Conley)

If you are looking for an unorthodox—and very un-Orthodox—way to ring in the new year, Tablet Magazine is co-sponsoring Hidden Melodies Revealed, a “mystery musical extravaganza” with The Sway Machinery, which bills itself “America’s only indie rock/Jewish cantorial music group.” The “part ritual, part rock concert,” which you can learn more about (and purchase tickets for) here, takes place at City Winery in downtown New York City on September 8 at 10 pm—the first night of Rosh Hashanah.

Now is also a good time to mention that Tablet Magazine (and The Scroll) will not be publishing new content during Rosh Hashanah—or during Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah.

Personally, I’m a fan of that policy, and not (only) for the time off/saved vacation days it gives me: I think it is a compelling and potent statement about the magazine’s editorial priorities. Which is why, even though this event is “part ritual,” I question whether the magazine’s sponsorship is undercutting that statement. But maybe folks think I am being nitpicky? Or maybe people think we should be publishing during Jewish holidays? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Daybreak: After Hamas Attack, Massive Arrests

Plus ambition we can maybe believe in, and more in the news

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Funeral for the four slain Jewish settlers.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

• After Hamas claimed responsibility for killing four Israelis (and promised further attacks), the Palestinian Authority proceeded on one of its largest-ever arrestings. [Haaretz]

• Thomas Friedman predicts that extremist efforts to thwart peace, from Rabbi Yosef’s comments about Palestinians to yesterday’s attack, are only going to get worse. [NYT]

• U.S. envoy George Mitchell spoke cryptically about the peace process last night but maintained the administration’s one-year goal. [Laura Rozen]

• President Obama is trying to deal with Iran, Iraq, and Israel-Palestine all at once, under the theory and hope that winning one will beget winning in the others. [NYT]

• Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who will be at the Washington, D.C., banquet tonight, laid out a vision of strong Egyptian participation in the upcoming series of talks. [NYT]

• Jeff Greene, the Jewish Florida Senate candidate who lost last week, is suing two local papers for libel relating to stories about his his wild life in L.A. [NYT]

Sundown: The Talks Must Go On

Plus Rosenfels can’t catch a break, and more

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Sage Rosenfels against the Seahawks over the weekend.(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office vowed that the killers of four Israeli settlers “will pay,” though this week’s direct talks will go on as planned. [Ynet]

• Mayor Bloomberg opposed a state investigation into Park51’s funding: “I think it’s a terrible precedent. You don’t want them investigating donations to religious organizations.” [City Room]

• There’s a lot of tension between the Israeli government and private companies/investors over the new natural gas fields. [WSJ]

• The Emergency Committee for Israel-J Street spat continues. Only in August, folks. [Ben Smith/Ben Smith]

• Despite Jewish QB Sage Rosenfels’s awesome preseason play, Coach Brad Childress insists that mediocre Tarvaris Jackson will be the Minnesota Vikings’s second-string snap-taker. (#4 is starting.) [AP/NYT]

• Popular indie band LCD Soundsystem is getting Facebook wall-spammed because of its plans to play a Tel Aviv gig. [Negev Rock City]

Here’s my favorite LCD Soundsystem song, “North American Scum.”

Goldberg Goes To Cuba

Photo of the day

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Oh hi, Jeff! Looks like Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg (glasses, on the right) took a Caribbean vacation.

New Photo Shows Fidel Castro With Jewish Leaders of Cuba [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

Four West Bank Settlers Killed

Israeli Embassy ties attack to direct talks

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After the attack.(Haaretz/Lior Mizrachi)

Four Israeli residents of the southern West Bank settlement of Beit Hagai—two men and two women, two couples (one woman was pregnant)—were killed today (tonight in Israel) by gunfire as they drove near the entrance of nearby settlement Kiryat Arba. The two settlements are near Hebron, well inside the security barrier that surrounds most of the West Bank.

Though the IDF is unsure about the attack’s specifics—how organized it was, whether the murderers were roadside or in another car—it’s obviously impossible not to see it in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian direct talks scheduled to kick off tomorrow night in Washington, D.C.

An Israeli Embassy spokesperson there told reporters, “The timing of this is deliberate—to try and derail the Palestinians and all those who seek peace in the region from coming and sitting down at the negotiating table with Israel.” He also pointed to the incident as evidence that Israel would require considerable security guarantees before acceding to a Palestinian state.

Four Killed as Terrorists Open Fire Near Kiryat Arba [JPost]
Four Israelis Killed in Shooting Attack Near Hebron [Haaretz]
Before Talks, An Attack [Ben Smith]

Early Prep for Early Yom Tovs

Getting ready for the High Holidays

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Yes, we know we say that Rosh Hashanah is “so early” or “so late” every year, but … Rosh Hashanah is really early this year! (Though actually, if you think September 8 is bad, just wait for 2013, when the new Jewish year will begin on September 5—the earliest that it can begin.) While Tablet Magazine’s High Holiday coverage won’t completely envelop you until next week, we are publishing our food-related content early, because cooking—and planning to cook—takes time! Hence today’s locavore guide to a late-summer Rosh Hashanah; and hence articles tomorrow on holiday-appropriate wine and on holiday cooking in mixed marriages (the latter by contributing editor Joan Nathan). So be ready, is what we’re saying.

To further get you into the holiday spirit, the guys behind God & Co. put together an advice-rap. Enjoy.

Rosh Hashana Rap from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

Rabbi Speaks at Glenn Beck Gathering

Tells us Bible Belt is ‘Judaism’s safety belt’

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Rabbi Daniel Lapin.(WP)

Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” mega-rally Saturday, billed as a Christian religious revival, drew a crowd of between 50,000 and 600,000 (depending on who is counting). On Friday, however, the Fox News host gathered closer to 5000 of his closest friends at the Kennedy Center for a quieter event, “America’s Divine Destiny,” which featured all-stars like the Rev. John Hagee, Chuck Norris, and … Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Lapin.

Lapin, who has notoriously been tied to Jack Abramoff, echoed the larger themes of the night: “When you sever a flower from its roots, it dies,” he reportedly told the crowd. “I think what is happening in America is we’re being severed from our Biblical roots.” According to one of the event’s hosts, he urged the crowd to “study the Bible, make more money and say extra prayers for America.”

Of course, it was Shabbat, and so a microphone was a no-no. The audience, however, could apparently hear him fine, and even greeted him with a “Shabbat Shalom.”

The rally, Lapin told Tablet Magazine yesterday, demonstrated that “America is a country that is rooted in Christianity, and that this is one of the factors that have made America one of the most tranquil and prosperous homes that Jews have enjoyed for 2000 years.” He added, “I think of the Bible Belt as Judaism’s safety belt.”

At Lincoln Memorial, a Call for Religious Rebirth [NYT]
Glenn Beck Goes Messianic at America’s Divine Destiny Event Before 2500 Screaming Fans [Alternet]
Glenn Beck’s ‘Divine Destiny’ Event Focuses on Faith [Daily Caller]

Another View of ‘Cordoba’

Does history live up to the Islamic center’s ideal?

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An anti-Park51 rally near the site.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Philologos, the Forward’s anonymous language columnist, tackles the name of the Cordoba Initiative, which is the force behind the planned lower Manhattan Islamic center (much as I did earlier this month). While Philologos is happy to “to take him at his word” when Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf states that he called his organization after the capital of the “enlightened, pluralistic and tolerant society” during the “Golden Age of Spain,” Philologos questions whether Rauf’s description is historically accurate. Specifically, Philologos takes a fascinating look at the Spanish city’s architectural history and concludes,

If Córdoba symbolizes anything in the context of architecture and religion, it is how all religions use power, when they have it, to promote their concept of their own grandeur and importance in architectural terms. The proposed construction of Cordoba House on a site two blocks from the area razed by Muslim jihadists is no exception to this rule. It is no worse than what has been done countless other times in the course of history, but it is not much better, either.

Philologos should definitely take a look at Nextbook Press’s Yehuda Halevi, by Hillel Halkin, which expertly examines the same time and place. The columnist would find much to agree with.

A Cordoban Chord [Forward]
Related: Why Cordoba?
Yehuda Halevi [Nextbook Press]

Today on Tablet

He declared, a summery new year, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch reviews a new book all about the famous 1917 Balfour Declaration, which committed Britain to a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Daniella Cheslow reports on a recent victory by Israel’s environmentalist movement. We kick off this year’s High Holiday coverage as Chef Melissa Petitto guides you through the produce available during this uncharacteristically early new year celebration and how to make it all delicious. The Scroll is looking forward to a summer Rosh Hashanah.

The Uninvited Prime Minister

Where the problematic ‘Fayyad Plan’ fits

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Prime Minister Salam Fayyad yesterday.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

The ghost at the White House banquet tomorrow night—the most conspicuous non-guest—may well be Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the man whom Israeli President Shimon Peres crowned the “Palestinian Ben-Gurion” and who, wrote Ben Smith in his conventional wisdom-making article last week, is “the guy who in our fantasy world would have [Palestinian President Abbas]’s job.” Fayyad has been trying to make himself heard nonetheless, questioning Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sincerity and releasing a plan (“Towards Liberty”) for further state-building. Abbas negotiates while Fayyad builds a viable state: That could potentially be the strategy.

This strategy has a name: The Fayyad Plan. Fayyad has repudiated it, except he seems to have taken a renewed liking to it. Under it, Fayyad, a Westernized technocrat who is not a member of Fatah, builds the infrastructure essential to statehood in the West Bank so that unilateral Palestinian independence seems credible, if only as a bargaining chip. In fact, columnist Yossi Alpher notices that the original timeline of the Fayyad Plan—Fayyad had said a Palestinian state would be viable by August 2011—seems to coincide immaculately with the one-year goal set by the Obama administration for this round of direct talks. (more…)

Daybreak: Abbas Walks the Tightrope

Plus a new West Bank? and more in the news

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President Abbas.(Omar Rashidi/PPO via Getty Images)

• The person risking the most in participating in upcoming talks is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who could lose control of Fatah and whose Fatah could lose power to Hamas. [LAT]

• By contrast, Prime Minister Netanyahu reassured party members that he knows where the redlines are and he won’t cross them. [JPost]

• Abbas and Defense Minister Barak met secretly in Amman over the weekend concerning the talks. [JTA]

• The New York Times editorializes for peace, among other things calling on Netanyahu to continue to halt settlement-building. [NYT]

• With its basic security and services, the West Bank is beginning to feel like an actual state—and that may be the one advantage compared to past talks. [NYT]

• Richard Cohen argues that we are in many ways stuck in the long-settled debate of whether Israel should exist. [WP]

Sundown: Intellectuals Back Settlement Boycott

Plus Biblical Bandz, and more

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(ModernTribe)

• The big left-wing Israeli novelists—Oz, Yehoshua, Grossman—spoke in support of actors’ refusal to perform in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. [Ynet]

• Don’t be silly says, the U.S. State Department, we don’t think we’ll achieve peace in one meeting. Just in one year. [Haaretz]

• The Emergency Committee for Israel and J Street have another spat. [J Street]

• The Times highlights contributing editor Rachel Shukert’s Everything’s Coming Up Moses, a Tablet Magazine production. [Paper Cuts]

• I’ve tried really hard to avoid the whole Silly Bandz thing, but now that there’s Biblical Bandz … . [ModernTribe]

• Jew’s Ear Juice? I’ll take two! [New Atlas Beverage]

It’s hot out, go get some gelato!

Travelin’ Men

The latest ‘Text/Context’

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Oh … look! It’s another issue of Text/Context, the supplement put together by Jewish Week and Nextbook Inc. In this travel-themed number, Stuart Schoffman documents various innocents abroad in Jerusalem; Rodger Kamenetz describes a visit to Uman, Ukraine, to the grave of the great Rabbi Nachman (the subject of his forthcoming Burnt Books); Ted Merwin profiles the 12th-century journeyman Benjamin of Tudela; and more.

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