Commentary on the commentary: The Holidays are over

Iranian threat vanishes from radar as elections take center stage.

Knesset 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Knesset 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The High Holy Days are over and elections are on everyone’s mind. It is interesting how quickly the Iranian threat vanished from the radar, even as a Hezbollah drone was shot down over southern Israel. If we go back to the last weeks of September, for example, we find that Iran was on everyone’s lips, especially after Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly on September 27.
What bothered some Jerusalem Post op-ed contributors was not so much the Iranian issue as the Israeli issue in US politics. As Isi Leibler put it, Obama’s seeming dismissal of Israel’s declaration of red lines “served to heighten tensions with Israel even before the election.” Daniel Tauber doubled down with a hard-hitting submission, claiming Obama is “no friend of ours.”
There is still a lot of concern and talk about goings-on in Cairo, over a year after the Arab Spring. Magdy Aziz, a former Egyptian diplomat, wrote an interesting op-ed examining the differences between Turkey’s AKP ruling party and the Muslim Borhterhood in Egypt. He notes that the “AKP is surely more secular than any Arab party that deems itself secular.” However, writes the author, the AKP cannot always serve as a model to be followed by Islamist parties, such as those in Egypt, because it has an authoritarian streak that is busy suppressing press freedoms in Turkey. One is left wondering, if AKP is not a model for the Brothers in Egypt, then what is? Liron Libman writes that this is an opportune time for Morsi to “bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table.”  However Morsi’s speech to the General Assembly was worrying for not mentioning Israel.
Amy Ayalon, a former director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), argues that “to reinstate trust and hope, and to ensure Israel’s future as a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people, Netanyahu must do more than hail Israel’s open and innovative society in speeches to the UN. He needs to reaffirm Israel’s commitment to a two state solution.” But, as Leibler reminds us, “Netanyahu speaks for the vast majority of Israelis.” So far that speech has not provided a robust discussion of where the two-state solution is going. Another prevailing view, relating to the Iranian issue, is provided by Chuck Freilich of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who notes that “only Israel bears responsibility for its security” in the end.
With elections coming up in Israel, Michael Freund claims this will be an historical event.  He claims that Netanyahu has “presided over a seismic political shift, deflating the significance of Israel’s left.” This reminds us of a September op-ed from Shari Eshet of the National Council of Jewish Women, who argued that this is also a pivotal election for women who should come out and vote and run for office. Several other domestic issues were on reader’s minds, for instance, Dan Cheifetz, a local dentist, who wrote a column about how new Health Ministry regulations have harmed his private practice.
Jewish issues in Europe and abroad continue to fascinate. With the Euro crises continuing [Alper], and the circumcision controversy spreading from Germany,  Magnus Frank argues that “one cannot think but that there are other motives behind the ongoing war on Judaism in Europe.” In his view, complaints against circumcision in Denmark are part of an anti-Jewish stereotype that is growing in Europe. Charles Bybelezer claims that the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Canada has weakened its pro-Israel stance by, among other things, saying that it would never “directly attack or assign blame to the Palestinians or their leadership.” And in another op-ed, Michael Cohen writes about the Holocaust museum in Washington, emphasizing that Jews should encourage less focus on suffering and more on other historical themes.
Several op-eds stood out over the last weeks for focusing on the future of warfare. In a fascinating contribution, Can Kasapoglu, who has a PhD from the Turkish War College, argues that a revolution in military affairs is threatening to envelop the region. Low intensity conflict, characterized by irregulars with AK-47s are a threat throughout the region and at the same time a nuclear armed Iran is also a threat, which means the lowest and highest technologies are the main features of future war. One example of these diametrically opposed war systems can be found in Afghanistan, where a sort of medieval Taliban fights against the awesome power of the US. Gian P. Gentile, a US army colonel who lectures on military history at West Point, argues that “in war, sometimes there is a substitute for victory,” advocating for the US to re-consider its policies in Afghanistan. In addition, Hayat Alvi of the US Naval War College writes that in order to combat the Taliban and Salafist movements, education is a key. Sending resources to security forces is only one aspect of the solution.
These articles on Afghanistan and the future of war remind us that Israel’s situation in the Middle East is not unique, there are other festering conflicts that mirror the one here.  That reminds us that as we look forward to elections, there is also the ever present need to learn from other situations.
The writer is The Jerusalem Post's op-ed editor