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U.S.-Israel Relations Hit Nadir

Fallout from last week’s East J’lem announcement continues

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You thought it was over? You thought everyone had forgotten the Israeli Interior Ministry’s announcement last Tuesday, right after Vice President Joe Biden arrived in the country, that it will build 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem? Not a chance. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again apologized for the timing; however, he also stood by continued Israeli building in East Jerusalem. And a senior U.S. official confirmed that this has been “the first time the U.S. has really pushed back hard.”

The whole matter is important enough—proximity talks! peace in the Middle East! the U.S.-Israeli relationship! Hillary Clinton reprimanding Netanyahu for 45 frickin’ minutes!—that the whole thing deserves its own Monday morning mega-round-up. So:

• AIPAC called on the Obama administration to “defuse” tensions with Israel: “The administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines.” [Press Release/Ben Smith]

• Not one of Netanyahu’s 30 ministers—including members of the center-left Labor Party—supported a total settlement freeze, including in East Jerusalem. [JPost]

• Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren told other Israeli diplomats that the U.S.-Israeli relationship has reached its lowest level in 35 years. [Haaretz]

• On Meet the Press, top Obama political adviser David Axelrod described the announcement as an “affront” and an “insult.” [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was “not intentional, but was nonetheless unnecessary and damaging.” [Ynet]

• The U.S. State Department formally summoned and reprimanded Oren. [Ynet]

• U.S. envoy George Mitchell is headed to the region this week, and Netanyahu is headed to Washington, D.C., at the beginning of next for the AIPAC summit. President Barack Obama actually will be around while Bibi is there. [Laura Rozen]

• Influential columnist Thomas L. Friedman laments that Biden didn’t leave Israel immediately after the announcement, though not before relaying the following message to Israel:

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. And right now, you’re driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you’re serious. We need to focus on building our country. [NYT]

Daybreak: Jordan Wants More Palestinians

Plus Le Pen’s good day, go Vols, and more in the news

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National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.(Wikimedia Commons)

• Last decade, thousands of Palestinians were stripped of Jordanian citizenship. Jordan’s government wants to maximize the Palestinians’ numbers to improve their bargaining position vis-à-vis Israel. [NYT]

• U.S. officials continued to criticize Israeli building in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized again for the construction announcement’s timing while maintaining support for the settlements. My 10 am post will have much more. [LAT]

• While the main victors in France’s regional elections were leftist parties, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s ultra-right National Front won a higher-than-expected 12 percent. Among other provocations, Le Pen has minimized the Holocaust. [JPost]

• The IDF chief-of-staff is in Turkey on a fence-mending visit. [Haaretz]

• Even as U.S. officials assert no tolerance for Iranian nuclear weapons, America has already, quietly, initiated containment policies. [NYT]

• The 2010 NCAA basketball tournament bracket was announced. Maccabi USA Head Coach Bruce Pearl’s Tennessee Volunteers drew a six seed and will play San Diego State Thursday evening. [ESPN]

Sundown: Hillary Gets Tough

Steinhardt’s settlement and resettlement plan, and more

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The Hurva synagogue.(WSJ)

• Secretary of State Clinton chewed out Prime Minister Netanyahu over the East Jerusalem announcement (and Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg approves). [Ynet]

• But one experienced observer predicts that such rebukes will be the beginning and end of U.S. response: “for this very busy president, the Arab-Israeli issue now has little to do with his stock at home. Frankly, it isn’t even the most important priority in the region.” [Politico]

• Birthright co-founder Michael Steinhardt has an idea—involving significant reparations as well as resettlement—for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [WSJ]

• A survey found that nearly half of Israeli high-schoolers would refuse to evacuate West Bank settlements as soldiers and believe Israeli Arabs do not merit the same rights as Israeli Jews. [Haaretz]

• A good long look at the Hurva, the grand 300-year-old synagogue in Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter, which is about to be rededicated after extensive restoration. [WSJ]

• Jon Stewart on Biden’s trip to Israel:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Path From Peace
www.thedailyshow.com
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Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Reform

U.S. Backs Corrie Family Suit

Sister says a U.S. official encouraged it

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Rachel Corrie’s parents(Wikimedia Commons)

In a pretty epic case of burying the lede (though it is in the headline), Haaretz published a profile of Sarah Corrie Simpson, the sister of Rachel Corrie, while waiting until the penultimate paragraph to reveal the real scoop: that (according to Simpson) an unnamed U.S. government official encouraged the Corrie family to sue the Israeli government over her sister’s death (which it did, last month)—was, in fact, the first person or entity to do so.

Rachel Corrie, then 23, was killed in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting in Gaza. The facts in dispute concern whether Corrie’s death took place in an active combat zone, and how visible Corrie made herself to the bulldozer’s driver. An Israeli probe cleared the driver and the authorities; the Corries, as well as U.S. authorities, don’t fully buy it. The civil trial is currently going on in Haifa District Court.

Corrie’s Sister to Haaretz: U.S. Encouraged Family to Sue Israel [Haaretz]

Get Into Girls in Trouble

Friend of Tablet set to go on tour

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Faithful Vox Tablet listeners know that musician Alicia Jo Rabins heads the band Girls in Trouble, which performs her indie-rock song cycle about Biblical women. The band is about to set off on a month-long tour, which will take them to Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, and many points in between, before landing them back at Cake Shop, on the Lower East Side, in late April. (For full dates, see here.) I mention this because this won’t be the last you hear of Rabins and Girls in Trouble on The Scroll before the tour is through.

Meanwhile, do enjoy Rabins’s take on this week’s Parsha. Gives you a good sense of what her music’s like. And I would challenge you to find a more pleasant way to spend four pre-Shabbat minutes.


Parshat Vayakhel from G-dcast.com

More Torah cartoons at www.g-dcast.com

Related: Female Trouble

‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’ Comes to NYC!

Bravo’s resident Yenta on the next season

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Stanger earlier this week.(Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Game-changer: For the next season of The Millionaire Matchmaker, host Patti Stanger is taking her show, currently Los Angeles-based, to the Big Apple. (Allison Hoffman recaps each episode every Wednesday on The Scroll.) “Yeah, New York is harder,” she tells New York’s Vulture blog. “Yes, you walk and you get sweaty, and you’re in the freezing cold with your parkas—how is he going to see the sea of assets?” Stanger intends to get around this obstacle by thinking outside the box—or, in this case, the borough. “You go to the fucking suburbs! You go to Westchester, you go to Long Island, you go to Jersey, you look around! Guys in Jersey buy fucking $4 million houses! My sister met her husband at Cold Spring Harbor. What happened to the outskirts of New York?”

God help us when she finds out about Brooklyn.

Vulture Is Undressed by ‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’ [Vulture]

Earler: The Scroll on ‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’
Fellas: Heed the Millionaire Matchmaker

Lebanese Academic Suffers Friendly Fire

Violated boycott to oppose occupation

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(Amazon)

A Palestinian academic in Lebanon named Sari Hanafi—he teaches at the American University in Beirut—has come under fire for collaborating with two Israeli scholars on a book, in violation of a formal academic boycott of Israel’s academy and cultural institutions.

Here’s what’s odd. The two Israeli scholars are anti-Zionist. The book in question is called The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule. And the book contains, according to the academic, “a detailed analysis of the ways in which Israel deploys technologies of power and systems of control to maintain its stranglehold over the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It is a book that concentrates on the illegality of the occupation regime.”

Fellas! The whole “strange bedfellows” thing works best if you let them stay the night!

Boycott and Madness [NOW Lebanon]

Foxman Bashes Israeli Announcement

Yes, you read right

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Abraham Foxman.(Life)

In the journo-business, we call this Man Bites Dog: The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman is blaming Israel for the “disaster”—his word—that was the announcement of new East Jerusalem construction during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit. According to Foxman, whether or not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew the announcement was coming is beside the point: “It is the government of Israel that justifiably is held accountable for converting an optimal moment in U.S.-Israel relations into a moment of crisis.”

In his article, Foxman establishes that the announcement “couldn’t have been worse.” And he says—in apparent revision of what he told Haaretz earlier this week—that he fully understands the administration’s anger.

By the end, we are back in Dog Bites Man territory. Foxman concludes: “Ultimately, Palestinian unwillingness to compromise for peace and to stop the hate are the real obstacles to peace.”

After Biden’s Israel Contretemps, Stepping Back [Huffington Post]

Today on Tablet

The latest Woody Allens, a very taurine haftorah, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff discerns in a new novel and a new film the latest evolutionary stage of the schlemiel. For his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz graciously lent his space to a bull, and it pretty much goes from there. Maybe The Scroll needs more of a farm-animal presence?

Another Year, Another List of Rich People

Ellison, Bloomberg top Jews on ‘Forbes’ list

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Larry Ellison, really into yachting last month.(Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images)

The big news from Forbes’s annual list of the world’s billionaires is that Planet Earth has a new richest man: Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications magnate who now owns a substantial minority share of The New York Times. He weighs in at $53.5 billion. Muchas felicitationes!

But you want to know where the Jews—say, those in the top 50—are. The short answer is: They’re down.

• The richest Jew, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, fell from fourth to sixth, and from $22.5 billion to … well, to $28 billion, but obviously you’d rather have the higher ranking than the extra $5.5 billion.

• New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped further, from 17th to 23rd, and from $16 billion to $18 billion (no way you could trade me six slots for $2 billion). (more…)

Daybreak: Talks Remain Proximate

Plus come back Sunday for the West Bank, and more in the news

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Gates yesterday.(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

• Despite everything, Israel expects the proximity talks will in fact launch, and soon. [JPost]

• The IDF indicted two soldiers in military court for allegedly getting a Palestinian boy to open a suspected booby-trapped package during last year’s Gaza conflict. [LAT]

• To head off buzzed-about rioting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered a 48-hour full closure of the West Bank. [Ynet]

• In Saudia Arabia, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Gulf countries will pressure China to support anti-Iran sanctions. [Reuters/Haaretz]

• Egypt continues to clamp down on Hamas after sealing its Gaza border. [Haaretz]

• West Bank Palestinians commemorated the 32nd anniversary of the deadliest terror attack in Israeli history. [NYT]

Sundown: Israeli Diplomat Claims All Jerusalem

Plus Hillary to AIPAC, should Bar ditch Leo?, and more

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Bar and Leo, last month.(Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

• Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon argued that, whether or not the East Jerusalem announcement’s timing was unfortunate, Israeli development there is legitimate: “Jerusalem has always been out of the question.” Ladies and gentlemen, your second-ranking Israeli diplomat! [Haaretz]

• One day after endorsing the Goldstone Report, the E.U. parliament demanded that Hamas immediately release Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier who also holds French citizenship. [JTA]

• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will speak at the annual AIPAC Conference later this month. Should be interesting, given recent events. [Ben Smith]

• An Israeli book called The Confessions of Noa Weber won the award for Best Translated Novel of 2010. [Jewcy]

• Scholar Martin Kramer, who has come under fire for proposing the end of Gaza pro-natal subsidies, argues his case in a “Q&A” with various Hamas interlocutors. [Sandbox]

• Lehavi, an Israeli group that works to get Jews to break up with non-Jewish significant others, has called on Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli to ditch Leonardo DiCaprio. [Gawker]

Why Do Jews Argue So Much?

Inquiring Tablet commenters want to know!

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Liel Leibovitz’s dispatch from Antigua—where he arrived visa-less, and was soon suspected of being Mossad—has provoked a number of comments on the site. Not all of them friendly! And some of the vitriol over a relatively light-hearted article prompted “Victoria” to wonder the following:

I am a very recent (like a week ago) convert to Judaism, and as such I am still learning about the culture, customs, people, society, etc. So, it is in the spirit of learning that I ask this question:

Why are the people who responded to this story so angry with it and the author? I read the comments and I understand the commentors think the author is obnoxious and arrogant, but it seems there is another underlying reason for the hostility. Why?

Oh, “Victoria”: consider this your welcome to the club!

Related: Paradise Lost [Tablet Magazine]

As Biden Departs, ‘Proximity Talks’ Still On

But how much longer can Israel pull off its game?

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Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Biden, leaving for Jordan.(David Furst/AFP/Getty Images)

Raise your hand if you’ve heard the old saw—sometimes attributed to Abba Eban—that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity? (I’ll raise my hand. I once heard it from Danny Ayalon, then Israel’s ambassador to the United States, from the bimah at my Washington, D.C., synagogue during Yom Kippur.) In the wake of the Israeli Interior Ministry’s announcement of plans to build 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem just as Vice President Biden had arrived to pave the way for “proximity talks,” an unnamed conservative American Jew wrote to blogger Ben Smith, “Israelis have now reached a level where that old cliché of ‘never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ can now apply to them at least as much as the Pals.”

Such is the understandable despair setting in. In fact, as Biden leaves the country (he heads for Jordan), the proximity talks will apparently still happen (over the Arab League’s reported protestations). Although, the New York Times reports, disagreements remain even on those: the Palestinians see them as focusing on borders and the like—on the substance of what peace would look like—while the Israelis see their ideal end result as merely putting the two sides in the same room together. The Israelis, in other words, appear more content to take things slowly than the Palestinians do.

Which begs the question: is time on Israel’s side? Demographically, of course not: every day that passes, the Palestinians attain a higher percentage of people between the river and the sea. And politically? Israel’s main supporter, the United States, seems (justifiably) as close to wit’s end as ever. The Jerusalem Post puts it best: Biden’s speech in Tel Aviv today (transcript here), while overwhelmingly about the importance of maintaining America’s and Israel’s close ties, was also “a get-your-act-together lecture from a frustrated parent to a beloved but occasionally errant child.” In private, Biden was apparently much more direct: “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden, long known as a top American friend of Israel’s, told Prime Minister Netanyahu (my bold). “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have an unfortunate tendency to miss opportunities for peace. But it seems increasingly clear that the Israelis, more than the Palestinians, have fewer of those left.

Analysis: Biden’s Get-Your-Act-Together Lecture [JPost]

Was Einstein a Zionist?

The Relativity papers, on exhibit in Jerusalem

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Einstein.(Wikimedia Commons)

The papers that show Albert Einstein’s development of the General Theory of Relativity are not on display in Germany, where he was born, or in the United States, where he lived the last part of his life, but in Israel. As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities is exhibiting the papers for a few weeks in Jerusalem—they’re there because Einstein’s wife, Elsa, donated them, with her husband’s endorsement, to Hebrew University upon its 1925 opening.

The exhibit’s location opens onto the broader question of how Einstein—very possibly the most famous and influential Jew of the 20th century—felt about Israel, both before and after its inception. “Einstein’s relationship to Israel was complex,” the Times’s Ethan Bronner writes. “A self-described universalist, he became a Zionist when he witnessed anti-Semitism in Europe. Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, was a key influence on him. Walter Isaacson, who wrote a 2007 biography of Einstein, said by telephone that Einstein wanted Jews to move here but did not back a separate Jewish nation-state until after it was declared in 1948.”

Last year, Tablet Magazine book critic Adam Kirsch pushed back against a book, Einstein on Israel and Zionism, that argued that the great physicist was lukewarm toward the Zionist project at best. Einstein “was an unwavering supporter of the Yishuv, and he spent a great deal of effort making speeches and raising money for Jewish institutions in Palestine,” Kirsch writes. “But he was also a principled cosmopolitan and anti-nationalist, and he was chagrined by the growing antagonism between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East.”

Rewrite of Physics by Einstein on Display [NYT]
Related: Relatively Speaking, A Zionist

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