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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.

More on the NFL’s Jews

And our official team, revealed!

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Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In today’s Vox Tablet podcast, Ray Gustini, of the Atlantic Wire, and I figured out exactly how many NFL franchises are owned by Jews. The final answer is 10.5 or 11.5, depending on whether or not Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is Jewish (Ray thinks he’s Catholic; I found no evidence of that, and found that he has donated to a Jewish cause; and, for what it’s worth, a number of anti-Semitic Websites say he is).

A few notes that did not make it into the final podcast, which was edited for time:

• Though I did not count them as being Jewish-owned, the Green Bay Packers almost certainly have Jewish owners: They are owned by the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, which has at least one synagogue.

• New York Jets owner Woody Johnson (as in Johnson & Johnson) is not Jewish, but was a great friend to the Jews last season, when he successfully complained after the NFL scheduled his team’s first two home games during the High Holidays. Indeed, though the Giants are 50-percent Jewish-owned, I think you have to consider the Jets (whose prior owners were Jews, who come from the scrappy and heavily Jewish AFL, and whose current general manager is Jewish) the more Jewish New York-area franchise.

• The owner of the Detroit Lions is William Clay Ford. Ford is not Jewish, but is descended from one of history’s most influential anti-Semites.

• You should follow Ray’s Twitter feed, @VeryFakeAlDavis.

• Finally, Julian Edelman is not Jewish. Taylor Mays, however, is.

After the jump: The 11.5 (maybe 10.5) Jewish-owned NFL franchises, along with Ray’s and my pick for Tablet Magazine’s official team. (But really, listen to the podcast!) (more…)

Settle This

Why they’ll be talking about a freeze this week

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A Jewish farmer on a West Bank settlement outpost.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Gadi Taub got one thousand words and prime Sunday op-ed page placement for a summary of his new book, The Settlers. The Israeli settlements, which are “looming over the direct talks,” are a threat to Israel’s simultaneously Jewish and democratic character, Taub believes. Yet he notes that it dates to modern Zionism’s complicated roots:

The Zionist movement sought to achieve by human means what Jews for two millenniums considered to be God’s work alone: the gathering of the diaspora in the land of Israel. Most rabbis therefore shunned Herzl, but not all. Some joined the movement, even formed a party within it, based on a separation of religion and politics. For them, secular Zionism was primarily a solution to the earthly predicament of the Jews; it was not so theologically laden.

(Raise your hand if you remember being surprised when, in The Chosen, the ultra-Orthodox rabbi is a vehement opponent of Zionism.)

Two weeks ago, Tablet Magazine books critic Adam Kirsch praised Taub’s new book:

The philosophical danger of the Occupation—to say nothing of the diplomatic and military and economic dangers—is that its illiberalism will make Zionism itself look illiberal in retrospect. This is, as Taub points out, the view of the “post-Zionists” in Israel and of much of the left in Europe and America: that “Zionism was never democratic, and the very idea of a Jewish democratic state is a mere contradiction in terms.” Ironically, Taub argues, this is the same thing that the settler movement believes. The difference is that, while anti-Zionists want to resolve the contradiction by making Israel cease to be Jewish (the so-called “one-state solution”), the settlers want to resolve it by making Israel cease to be democratic.

In Israel, Settling for Less [NYT]
Related: Unsettling [Tablet Magazine]

What We Talk About When We Talk About Talks

A reading list

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President Obama yesterday.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s direct talks week! Let’s look at some of the latest developments.

• The best overview of what Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas might be hoping to get out of the talks comes courtesy Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz. If you read one article on the talks, read this one. [JPost]

• President Obama is yoking some of his prestige and credibility to the mother of all impossible conflicts. Why? [LAT]

• And how is he going to keep the American pro-Israel community onboard? [Politico]

• But he is getting praise for including Egypt and Jordan, whose heads of states will also be in Washington, D.C., this week. [Politico]

• Back to Israel, where the head of the main settlers’ organization vociferously opposes an extension of the settlement freeze, which is being requested of Netanyahu. The head of the main settlers’ organization’s previous job? Chief-of-staff to Netanyahu. [LAT]

• If you’re the Palestinian Authority, here is one way to keep Hamas from accusing you of selling out the cause by talking to the Israelis: Ban their clerics from preaching. No way that’ll backfire. [JPost]

• The European Union wants in on the talks. [AP/JPost]

• Egypt also wants the EU in on the talks. [Haaretz]

• The U.S. wants Syria to stay far, far away from the talks. [JPost]

• Last and least, a group of retired IDF generals enacted an amusing but probably altogether worthless negotiation simulation (say that ten times fast). [JPost]

Today on Tablet

NFL preview, ‘inclusive education,’ and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, staff writer Marc Tracy and former football writer Ray Gustini, now at the Atlantic, discuss the upcoming NFL season with an eye toward anointing Tablet’s official team. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall praises “inclusive education,” which groups special-needs kids in with others, thereby enriching the experiences of both. Josh Lambert has his usual round-up of forthcoming books of interest. The Scroll knows its the final Monday of August; let’s leave the summer in style.

Blue, White, and Ebony

Meet the black Orthodox Jews

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Shais Rison (left) and Yitzchak Jordan.(NYT)

Your other favorite daily magazine of Jewish life and culture reported on the growing number of black Orthodox American Jews over the weekend. While a 2005 book estimated that seven percent of (all) American Jews were black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American, nearly all experts agree that number is likely to grow via marriage/conversion, and the article specifically highlights black converts to Orthodox Judaism (though one of the subjects married a black woman whose family was Orthodox as early as the 19th century).

Seriously, this one is not to be missed. (And nor, presumably, is the gefilte fish prepared by one subject’s mother, “seasoned with Jamaican peppers and spices.” Recipe, anyone?)

Black and Jewish, and Seeing No Contradiction [NYT]

Daybreak: Peace Talks Polka

Plus political rabbi gets U.S. scold, and more in the news

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Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.(Wikipedia)

• President Abbas clarified that if forthcoming direct talks falter, Israel and its continued settlement-building will be at fault. [Haaretz]

• That soon-to-expire settlement freeze really is the only issue worth trying to solve for now (but you already knew that). [NYT]

• The spiritual leader of Israel’s ultra-religious, co-governing Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, said Abbas and the Palestinians should “perish from the world,” earning the United States’s condemnation. [Politico]

• One report has the Obama administration presenting a final resolution outline to the two sides, and President Obama himself visiting the region over the next year. [Ynet]

• Another report has it that Israel will bomb Hezbollah facilities in Syria soon. [Arutz Sheva]

• Israel’s offshore natural gas fields have provoked conflict not only between Israel and Lebanon but between the state of Israel, which wants to reap most of the rents, and private Israeli and U.S. investors. [WP]

Sundown: Write Your Own Punch-Line

Plus nuclear reactors for all, and more

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ADL Director Abraham Foxman.(NYT)

• Abraham Foxman calls for civility in public discourse. [HuffPo]

• Hezbollah head advocates a nuclear reactor in Lebanon. Sure, why not? [Now Lebanon]

• Ron Kampeas takes Paul Krugman to task for demagoguing the ADL/Park51 issue. [Capital J]

• Joseph O’Neil has a great essay on novelist Muriel Spark, who—who knew?—had a Jewish father. [The Atlantic]

• Iranian Jews: They live in America! And are ambivalent about Things! [The Atlantic]

• Wanna meet another Jew? Start singing. [JTA]

Hizzonner went on The Daily Show last night to stand up for the Islamic center … and for the sliced-bagel tax?

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‘I Learned A Lot From My Father’s Lawyer’

Your Vox Tablet preview

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(Eric Molinsky)

On next week’s Vox Tablet podcast, staff writer Marc Tracy discusses the upcoming NFL season with former football writer Ray Gustini (now at The Atlantic Wire). Specifically, they figure out how many of the NFL’s 32 franchises have Jewish owners, and then decide the all-important question: Who will be Tablet Magazine’s official team for the 2010 season, which starts in under two weeks?

Below: Tracy parses the Jewishness (or lack thereof) of Jim Irsay, the owner of Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts.

Related: The Colts’ Jewish Roots [Ynet]

Expert Argues For Accepting Nuclear Iran

Riedel has close ties to Obama administration

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Your weekend reading assignment is this essay by Bruce Riedel, an intelligence, security, and foreign affairs expert who though officially in the world of think tanks has close to ties to the Obama administration (he has been a crucial player in its Afghanistan strategy). “The United States needs to send a clear red light to Israel,” Riedel writes. “There is no option but to actively discourage an Israeli attack.”

His argument is premised on the notion that, between the unattractiveness of a military attack on Iran and the general inevitability of the Islamic Republic’s becoming a nuclear power, we ought to accept this and go about increasing Israel’s own nuclear deterrence by arming it with more sophisticated weapons and placing it under our nuclear umbrella.

Writes Riedel:

The era of Israel’s monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East is probably coming to an end. Israel will still have a larger arsenal than any of its neighbors, including Iran, for years if not decades. It will face threats of terror and conventional attack, but it already faces those. With American help it can enhance its deterrence capabilities considerably. It has no reason to lose its self-confidence. But to avoid the potential for all-out war not only between Israel and Iran but also between the United States and the Islamic Republic, Washington needs to act now. Only by enhancing Israel’s nuclear capability will America be able to strongly and credibly deter an Israeli attack on Tehran’s facilities.

Because such an attack, Riedel adds, “is a disaster in the making”: For Israel, which would face a combination of direct Iranian retaliation and indirect retaliation via proxies Hezbollah and Hamas; and for America, which would see an uptick in Shia insurgency in Iraq and the need for vastly more troops to pacify a suddenly restive western Afghanistan.

You should truly read the whole article. Below, a quick cheat sheet for whether or not you should agree with Riedel. (more…)

Obama Sees Approval Rating Drop

61 percent of Jews are still onboard

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President Obama, vacationing on the Vineyard.6(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

One probably shouldn’t make too, too much of the new Gallup poll on President Obama’s approval rating among various religious groups (which is being most widely touted because it shows that the religious group in which he enjoys the highest support is Muslims). Jews have gone from supporting him 77 percent between January and June of 2009; to 66 percent between July and December 2009; to, now, 61 percent between January 2010 and June 2010.

That is a very real drop, to be sure. But it is also one entirely in keeping with how everyone else feels: The “All Americans” approval rating has gone from 63 percent to 53 percent to, now, 48 percent, according to Gallup. “President Obama’s job approval ratings have fallen significantly between his first six months in office and this year so far, and his ratings among major religious groups have fallen in rough lock step,” the poll finds. Which is to say: I think it is entirely too easy to say that he is facing a much steeper drop in support among Jews than he is among other groups (and it’s downright dumb to say that Israel is to blame). If there is one bone to throw to those who think Obama has significantly damaged his standing among American Jews, more than he has other groups, it is to argue that his numbers among them were once so high that their drop must reflect something more than just the broader trend. Ultimatately, though, to borrow from a past syllogism: Americans approve of the president less than they once did; Jews are Americans; therefore, Jews approve of the president less than they once did.

Muslims Give Obama Highest Job Approval; Mormons, Lowest [Gallup]
Earlier: Obama and the Jews

Today on Tablet

A new year in New Orleans, Horowitz v. Luban, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, it’s five years after Katrina, and Rodger Kamenetz is celebrating Rosh Hashanah in New Orleans. Prompted by Daniel Luban’s essay on Islamophobia last week, David Horowitz and Luban debate the Ground Zero Islamic center. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz says that chosenness is what you make of it. The Scroll hopes to make a good Friday of it, for starters.

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