Move Further Buffs Petraeus’s Reputation

General stirred controversy with ‘linkage’ remarks

President Obama and General Petraeus yesterday.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Yesterday, President Obama appointed Gen. David Petraeus—onetime top general in Iraq, then top general for all operations in the Middle East and Central Asia—to head the U.S. military’s effort in Afghanistan after Gen. Stanley McChrystal was sacked for semi-insubordinate comments reported in Rolling Stone. Slate’s Fred Kaplan, usually a military analyst worth reading, calls it an impeccable choice.

Tablet Magazine has covered Petraeus several times over the past few months. Depending on what you believe Petraeus said, he either espoused the doctrine of “linkage,” which states that the continued irresolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hinders America’s ability to achieve its national security goals in the region, such as withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan and preventing Iran from going nuclear; or he argued that anger in the Arab world over the Palestinian situation is one of many factors that, in his own words, “foment anti-American sentiment,” “gives Iran influence,” and helps Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups “mobilize support.”

Meanwhile, argued David P. Goldman, Jewish conservatives, for whom Petraeus tends to be something of a hero, should have bashed the general’s remarks in a ploy for Jewish votes.

Although this latest move has further raised Petraeus’s stature (if that were possible) and further confirmed him the most broadly respected American general since Eisenhower, it has arguably lowered his influence, at least day-to-day. He will go from managing CENTCOM, which is in charge of the region that includes Israel, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and more, to managing Afghanistan, just one country in that region. This job transfer is a compliment to Petraeus, yet another feather in his cap … and, technically, a demotion.

Petraeus: A Surprising Yet Obvious Choice [LAT]
McChyrstal: Gone and Soon Forgotten [Slate]
Related: Linked In [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: What Petraeus Actually Said

Elena Kagan’s Jewish Jokes

We know she has some; tell us what they are!

Maybe she was telling Sen. Mark Warner one of her great jokes!(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

As part of the circus that is the Supreme Court confirmation process, all of nominee Elena Kagan’s emails from her time in the White House have been made public and organized online. Read ‘em all, if that’s your thing.

Two of those emails contain the subject line, “Re: Two G-rated Jewish jokes.” But the content of the emails has been lost, making this the most compelling White House lacuna since the 18-and-a-half minutes.

So, readers, we put it to you! What do you think the two G-rated Jewish jokes were? Remember to keep it clean: They need to be okay for listeners under the age of 13.

Bork Borks Over Barak

Kagan had praised controversial Israeli chief justice

Robert Bork.(Wikipedia)

Who better to bork a U.S. Supreme Court nominee than Robert Bork? The conservative judge called for the U.S. Senate to reject Elena Kagan’s nomination to the bench on the grounds of her prior praise for Aharon Barak, the onetime chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court whom conservatives disparage for his judicial activism. In a conference call organized by the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, Bork yesterday called Barak “the worst judge on the planet” and said that Kagan’s past stance on him—introducing him at an event, she called him “my judicial hero”—is “disqualifying in and of itself.”

The Orthodox Union’s political maven Nathan Diament offered a different take in an email blast: “It is certainly true,” he wrote,

that Chief Justice Barak was a proud and aggressive judicial activist who led the Israeli Supreme Court into making decisions many questioned—and we were among the many doing so.

But it is also true that Kagan praised Barak in the course of introducing him to an audience at the Harvard Law School—when she was Dean—isn’t that typical social convention? Event [sic] current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia did the same for Justice Barak.

On a related note, want to read every email Kagan received while she was working in the White House in 1999? Of course you do! Check out Elena’s Inbox.

Bork Hits Kagan Over Israeli Judge [Politico]

Israeli Minister Threatens War Over Gas Fields

Why energy is the new Golan

The Golan Heights.(Flickr)

After a prominent Lebanese politician asserted that part of a prodigious, newly discovered natural gas field stretches into his country’s territorial waters, a top Israeli official vowed today to defend the energy resources off Israel’s northern coast. “We will not hesitate to use our force and strength,” declared Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, a member of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, “to protect not only the rule of law but the international maritime law.”

Three fields, and particularly the “Leviathan” site discovered earlier this month, are estimated to be able to turn Israel into a net energy exporter.

Yesterday, Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith predicted that Israel’s newfound energy resources could be the spark that lights what many consider to be an inevitable second round of the 2006 Lebanon war. A member of Hezbollah’s executive council told Smith, “If Lebanon needed to pile up hundreds, thousands of rockets to protect our sovereignty, dignity, and hydraulic resources, then the need to protect our hydrocarbon assets motivates us to enhance the Resistance’s capacities.” Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a Hezbollah ally, added to Smith, “The arms of the Resistance are crucial for defending Lebanon’s offshore petroleum resources.”

For years, according to Smith, Hezbollah has justified its armed presence with reference to the Shebaa Farms, “an insignificant piece of land in the Golan Heights.” “The natural gas fields,” Smith notes, “are Shebaa on steroids.”

Landau: We Will Defend Gas Field [JPost]
Related: The Next Lebanon War

The Longest Match

No, 11-hour tennis contest’s Isner is not Jewish

Nicolas Mahut, really really tired, yesterday.(ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

“Actually I am not of Jewish decent [sic] but I get asked that frequently I guess because my last name sounds somewhat Jewish,” John Isner writes on his Website.

The American tennis player’s first-round match against Frenchman Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon, the London tournament which is tennis’s most prestigious, just ended. It had reached the 11-hour mark and is, by leaps and bounds, the longest recorded professional tennis match in history. Final score: 3-2, Isner. Final score in the final set? 70-68.

And for a real, real treat, check out the Guardian‘s liveblog from yesterday.

Let it end, let it end, it’s 46-all. It was funny when it was 16-all and it was creepy when it was 26-all. But this is pure purgatory and there is still no end in sight. John Isner has just struck his 90th ace. Nicolas Mahut, poor, enfeebled Nicolas Mahut, has only hit 72. Maybe we should just decide it on the number of aces struck? Give the game to Isner and then we can all crawl into our graves

Wimbledon 2010: John Isner and Nicolas Mahut Still Fighting in Epic [Guardian]

Today on Tablet

Dining chez POTUS, Turkey troubles, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Joan Nathan remembers White House meals past and present. David P. Goldman points to the numerous contradictions in the Obama administration’s continued backing of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite his friendliness to Iran and moves against Israel. Music columnist Alexander Gelfand profiles Rafi Malkiel, who uses an aguaphonium—it uses water, and you can build your own!—to make music that explores his Jewish roots. Sarah Mishkin reports on a new Egyptian film that depicts Israel as the enemy, but not for anti-Semitic reasons. And The Scroll is still not over yesterday’s amazing soccer victory.

Giving Booze to Kids

This week on ‘Top Chef’

Do you even know how much sugar is in processed peanut butter?(The author)

When Alex Reznik made a deconstructed version of his mother’s borscht on last week’s season premiere of Top Chef D.C., it was charming (and, by all accounts, delicious). When Amanda Baumgarten, the program’s other Jewish contestant, made braised chicken thigh in a sherry jus—for middle-schoolers—in this week’s episode, it was dumb and apparently gross, and got her within inches of the boot.

The elimination challenge gives each of four groups of four chefs a paltry $130 budget at something called “Restaurant Depot” (no Whole Foods this week) to make a delicious and nutritious school lunch for 50 middle-schoolers. In other words: $2.60 per child. “I could make a dessert,” Amanda confides, “but I don’t want to, because people who make desserts go home.” A longtime Top Chef viewer, this one! “Take one for the team is not in my vocabulary,” she adds. Her group-mate Jacqueline has to cut back on her, yes, dessert because her ingredients took the group to over $170. “Kinda looks like Jacqueline thought the $130 was the individual’s budget,” Amanda snarks.

They go to cook at the Hilton—which the locals call the Reagan Hilton, because—and then head to the middle school, which is Alice Deal Middle School, in upper northwest D.C., which, in a funny coincidence, is no more than a quarter mile from Politics & Prose (it is also my father’s alma mater). Meanwhile, Amanda’s teammates have realized that, y’know, she is making something with sherry for middle-schoolers. “Alcohol is inappropriate for the kids,” says one; another suggests tomato paste instead. But Amanda presses on, the way young lemmings do. SPOILERS FOLLOW. (more…)

Daybreak: Will Iran Sanctions Bite?

Plus subsidies in the diamond district, and more


• Iran is well-prepared for the U.S. energy sanctions about to pass, say observers and experts. [WP]

• In an op-ed, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lays out his peace plan: Land transfers designed to maximize the number of Arabs who are in the new Palestinian state (and minimize the number in Israel). [JPost]

• The Way We Live Now: “Iran, Turkey & Brazil To Stategize” reads one headline. [Arutz Sheva]

• President Obama sacked Gen. Stanley McChrystal over insubordinate remarks made in a Rolling Stone profile and instead put Gen. David Petraeus, who had been running military operations in the whole region, in charge of Afghanistan. [LAT]

• The International Gem Tower in in Manhattan’s midtown diamond district will soon be the recipient of New York state’s largest loan ever, along with numerous tax breaks. Tenants are also not required to pay many customs duties on their trades. [NYT]

• Another daily magazine of Jewish life and culture reports on Jack Abramoff’s new pizza gig and concludes the same way we did: That there’s no such thing as bad publicity. [NYT]

Sundown: The Belgian Lawsuit

Plus Drake’s on top, braised footwear, and more

The brisket flip-flop.(Etsy)

• In Brussels, families of Palestinians who died in the 2009 Gaza conflict sued former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, and a dozen other Israeli military and civilian leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. [JTA]

• Half-Jewish hip-hop artist Drake had the number-one album last week and the third biggest opening of the year. [Arts Beat]

• What tensions? Almost two dozen Turkish military officers and soldiers are training in Israel on an aerial drone, four of which Israel is selling to Ankara under a 2004 contract. [JTA]

• While much of upstate New York hemorrhages population (Buffalo alone lost 1,000 people last year; maybe because the Bills suck so much?), Kiryas Joel experienced the state’s highest growth—78 percent—thanks largely to its ultra-Orthodox enclave. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A new Website,, is bringing Israelis and Syrians together online to discuss the issues, with some success and some friction. [BBC]

• You know you want the brisket flip-flop. [Etsy]

U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Another Blockade Crops Up in Israel

Swan vs. swan

The other Israeli blockade.(Haaretz)

In recent weeks, a pair of white European swans at Ramat Gan’s Safari Park [outside Tel Aviv] have been refusing to let the black Australian swans enter the safari’s pond and swim there.

The “blockade” launched by the white swans has been particularly hard on the black swans as the mercury climbed over the past few days.

Oh, I’m sure this couldn’t get more ridiculous.

No, no wait:

“If this doesn’t stop soon,” Goldstein said, “we’ll have to find a solution for the black swans in order to restore tranquility to their lives. In the meantime we are trying all sorts of intermediary solutions to open the water channels to them. It’s funny to say, but the caretakers are using peace activists to deal with this.”

Yeah, there it is.

White-Feathered Swans Imposing Naval Blockade on Black-Feathered Cousins in Ramat Gan [Haaretz]

Death Is Not So Funny

An old Jew tells a joke


I’m with the third guy.

Ice Cream Goes Kosher, and More

Is that rugelach in my scoop?

(Margarita Korol)

Approximately 1.54 billion gallons of ice cream are produced in the Unites States annually, according to an International Dairy Foods Association spokesperson. “Every major brand you can think of has a kosher symbol on most (not all) of its products,” Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, who oversees dairy product certification for OU Kosher, told me in an email. “A brief walk through the ice cream freezer aisle of any supermarket will testify to this.”

Now, kosher ice cream is getting a new face with Chozen, a Jewish sweets and holiday-inspired artisanal ice cream line that hit supermarket shelves this month with flavors like Matzoh Crunch, Coconut Macaroon, and Ronne’s Rugelach. (You’re probably thinking, didn’t I just see this today in that other daily Jewish magazine of life and culture? Yeah, well, Tablet Magazine tasted Chozen at its offices all the way back Monday afternoon. Just sayin’.)

Chozen is the brainchild of 62-year-old Ronne Fisher and her daughters, Isabelle, 34, and Meredith, 30. One evening in 2008, Ronne tells me, the family was doing a homemade mix-in of rugelach and vanilla, one of their typical culinary innovations. “We joked, ‘Wouldn’t it be delicious to just have ice cream with rugelach already in it?’” recalls Ronne. “‘Wouldn’t it be great to have sweet noodle pudding with ice cream, or potato pancakes with ice cream?’” (Let’s just stick with the rugelach for now!) (more…)


U.S. squad beats Algeria, advances in World Cup Finals

Landon Donovan scores today’s game-winning goal.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the United States side (Tablet Magazine’s official team) through most of this morning’s match against Algeria: Though they scored in the 23rd minute, it was disallowed, like last week’s infamous non-goal, for dubious reasons. Meanwhile, England quickly secured a 1-0 lead over Slovenia, and looked unlikely to give it up. A 0-0 U.S. tie and an English victory would have spelled the end of the road.

But! After many close chances, in the 90th minute star midfielder Landon Donovan booted the ball into the net, and the otherwise-resourceful referee could not come up with a way to cancel it. Final score: 1-0. America wins Group C and advances to the elimination stage. They play Saturday. You’re a fool if you don’t watch.

Oh, and may we point out that America’s first World Cup Finals win since 2002 (!) was also the first of these games in which more than one of the squad’s Jewish players made an appearance? As happened last game, and as I predicted would happen this game, offensive-minded midfielder Benny Feilhaber was brought in for the entire second half. But additionally, defender Jonathan Bornstein (Feilhaber’s college roommate) started, and played almost the whole game. A game that, in case you hadn’t heard, we won!!!

Earlier: U.S.A.! U.S.A!
Two U.S. Soccer Jews Are Old Buddies

Bibi, Oren At Odds Over Spy

Bucking official line, ambassador says Pollard was rogue

Spies!(Photo Bucket)

Jonathan Pollard, an American-born Jew, passed classified, potentially nuclear-related intelligence to the Israelis in the 1980s. In 1985, he was caught; in 1986, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government; in 1987, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Though there have been widespread requests for his clemency, he remains incarcerated—in fact, in the same North Carolina facility that houses Bernard Madoff (yes, they know each other).

But earlier this week, on Washington, D.C., radio news channel WTOP, Michael Oren, the American-born Israeli ambassador, denied official Israeli involvement in the Pollard case: “We’re talking about an event that was run by a rogue organization in the Israeli intelligence community,” he said. This statement contradicts official Israeli policy dating back to 1998, when the then-prime minister—who also happens to be the current prime minister—admitted that Israel officially sanctioned Pollard’s activity.

Among other people, the remark upset Pollard’s wife, Esther, who responded, “I don’t know from where to draw strength to tell my husband that the country he so loves and for which he worked with such self-sacrifice is once again knifing him in the back.”

Netanyahu stood by the party line, and ordered Oren to state that Pollard indeed was an official Israeli espionage agent. Yesterday afternoon, Oren did so.

Spying … it’s weird!

Netanyahu: Pollard Was An Israeli Spy, Oren Must Clarify Remarks [Haaretz]
Ambassador Oren Contradicts Official Israeli Policy on Pollard [Ynet]
Related: Spies Like Us [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

The northern border, the Bayou, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Mideast columnist Lee Smith takes us through how the next Lebanon war will come about, and how the United States ought to be managing it. Boris Fishman finds himself a stranger in New Orleans, and welcome into the city’s vibrant, one-of-a-kind Jewish community and culture. The Scroll says: Go U.S.A.!

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