Why Is Jordan Taking Back the “Isle of Peace?”

In 1994, when Israel and Jordan signed their historic peace treaty, a few parcels of land in Israeli control were transferred to Jordan and then promptly leased back to Israel so that the Israeli farmers who had been tending the land there could continue to do so. Dubbed the “Isle of Peace,” this land has remained in Israeli control ever since. But in an announcement on Sunday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II announced that he will be exerting Jordanian sovereignty over the land. More at YNET.

The government to government ties between Jerusalem and Amman are strong, with both sides recognizing that while the other might not always do what they want, both their interests are supremely served by peace and cooperation. Where there is a problem is at the people to people level, or, more precisely, at the Jordanian people. In very general terms, it’s fair to say that the 1994 peace agreement did not filter down to Jordanian masses. The Jordanians might already be drinking Israeli water, are scheduled to be heating their homes with Israeli natural gas in 2020, and benefit in numerous ways from security cooperation with Israel, but, for the most part, they don’t like Israel. And this is something that King Abdullah II has to take into account.

Jordan is home to nearly 2.2 million Palestinians whom UNRWA has registered as refugees, about a fifth of the kingdom’s population. Additionally, an economic crisis that struck the kingdom over the past year may also have pushed Abdullah not to renew this portion of the treaty, in an effort to appease hardliners and prevent a potential coup, veteran regional analyst Ehud Yaari told Hadashot news on Sunday night.

Three things to learn from the decision by Jordan to get back its small piece of land:

1. 25 years is a very short time. Barely a blink on the regional radar (this is an important reminder for those still hoping for the ten-year hiatus in Iranian production of nuclear material).

2. A lease is not a sustainable solution for land in a nationalist region. That is unless we all understand that it’s temporary (and that time flies).

3. Agreement with “nice” Arab rulers (the Jordanian King) are no different than agreements with less nice Arab rulers. They both have domestic politics and state interests that trump niceties.

What If Republicans Take Both the Senate and the House?

While “Blue Wave” optimism remains high, the odds of Dems taking the Senate are dismal compared to those of taking the House. Still, as the Midterms approach, Democrats are beginning to have worries about what has seemed for months like a done deal. What will it be like if the Republicans take both the Senate and the House? More at CNBC.

It would be validation for Trump, who could then brag that he had defied the experts once again. It would mean he had outperformed Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman, all of whom suffered drubbings in the first midterm election of their presidency. It would embolden Trump to push even harder toward the America he wants — where corporate oversight is scant, climate change is ignored, voting rights are abridged, health care is a privilege, judicial independence is a fiction and the truth is whatever he says it is.

What would American politics look like, over the next two years, with a one-seat Republican edge? For starters, the Republicans would need every single member to vote with the party every time. If Republicans are able to hold their majority, it would almost certainly require that the slightly more moderate suburban Republicans held their seats. These same moderates would then have to turn around and cast some tough votes, or else risk sinking their party’s agenda. Another way to consider this scenario is that every single member of the Republican caucus would have veto power over the party agenda.

At this point, it would be a massive surprise if Democrats didn’t win a House majority. It’s almost tempting to imagine the aftermath of that devastating outcome, which might be something like an electrical storm in a parched forest. I’m not entirely sure that wouldn’t be the best outcome in the long run, for reasons that may become clear, but I also know that’s overly cold-blooded. In the interests of national mental health and restoring some form of institutional check on His Immensity in the Oval Office, the arrival of the vaunted “blue wave” will no doubt have considerable therapeutic value. The real question is, then what?

Israel and the Diaspora: What’s Left to Say?

The General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which takes place in Israel once every five years, begins today in Tel Aviv. The event, titled “We Need to Talk,” will host Jewish leaders from the US, Canada, and Israel to discuss Israel-Diaspora challenges such as religious pluralism in Israel. This year’s General Assembly was controversial before it even began, with the choice of Tel Aviv over Jerusalem being interpreted as a political rebuke of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

This year’s General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has already created more of a ruckus than any GA in recent memory – before it even started. The phrase “We need to talk,” which adorns the invitation to the GA and its slogan, carries a loaded punch. In today’s popular culture, as Urban Dictionary says, “We need to talk” is “The preamble to the discussion that is generally followed by the ending of a relationship.”

Do these issues really need discussion? If American Jews are liberal, believe in religious pluralism, and tolerance, why should there be any rift at all between the two communities? In a tolerant, liberal culture, is there not room for other beliefs, conservative or otherwise? And if not, is it really a tolerant, liberal culture that shuts out all other viewpoints? If one believes in religious pluralism, shouldn’t that person believe that Israelis have a right to choose how they wish to run their religious affairs? If the shul that Israelis do not attend is Orthodox, is this something that liberal American Jews are unable to tolerate?

I will address the sobering news and blast American Jewish leaders and Israeli pols. Those who foment tensions and emphasize conflict to prop themselves up are making a terrible mistake. These demagogues – in Hebrew or English – are blowing one of our most valuable shared strategic assets: Jewish people power. Finally, I will endorse the conference theme “let’s talk,” pushing the proposal Natan Sharansky and I made this summer for a Jewish People’s Council to air our differences. And there’s something even more important. “Let’s listen,” too. We might learn from one another, not just judge one another harshly, hastily and, all too frequently, unfairly.

Is Mohammed bin Salman a Reformer or an Autocrat?

The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has the world wondering how much human rights abuses should factor into diplomatic ties and strategic alliances between nations. It’s ironic, however, that this conversation should come up now. Saudi Arabia’s track record on human rights has never been sterling and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to be a modernizer and a reformer. More at Business Insider.

Which is he?

…When it comes to social change, the prince is unquestionably a major reformer and a largely progressive one… But politics are a different story. MBS is transforming some aspects of the Saudi political system, but not by liberalizing it. To the contrary, the political changes he’s enforcing are concentrating power in the royal court and within his inner circle, restricting the number of decision-makers and cracking down on even mild disagreement.

As for the “liberalizing autocrat,” he turns out to be a rare creature indeed. Autocrats, as it happens, are disinclined to lay the foundations for their own demise… Today, the Saudi crown prince’s U.S. supporters are asking how he could have been so foolish if he, as it appears, ordered the murder of Khashoggi. But who are the fools here? Dictators do what dictators do. We are the ones living in a self-serving fantasy of our own devising, and one that may ultimately come back to bite us.

The columnist had infuriated a glass-jawed Prince with measured analysis of his mistakes, like the disastrous war in Yemen, and his hypocrisy, as a would-be reformist who imprisons reformers.The Crown Prince wanted to be seen in the West as a reformer determined to bring Saudi Arabia out of the darkness — and Khashoggi wasn’t letting him get away with it. The alternative to killing Khashoggi — a rendition — was impossible.

How Should the U.S. Respond to the Migrant Caravan?

Thousands of migrants fleeing violence, poverty, and instability in Honduras are marching steadily through Mexico on their way to the United States. The “caravan” of migrants has become a source of alarm to the Trump administration, and Americans on both the left and right are nervously anticipating the caravan’s arrival at the U.S. border as an ultimate crucible for Trump’s immigration and border policies. More at New York Times.

America must stand strong in our tradition of being a beacon of light on the hill for those fleeing danger. Frustrated tweets and election politics should not be allowed to derail the important values of our great nation, nor those of our southern neighbors, in standing up for the human rights of the less fortunate.

This caravan antic is right out of the left’s disorder and chaos playbook. The timing before the U.S.’s midterm elections and the change of presidency in Mexico is not coincidental. It is also clear the caravan organizers are more interested in creating turmoil than the well-being of the migrants… The problem here is not a lack of compassion for these people, but rather, the dangerous precedent created by allowing a massive caravan to arrive at the U.S.’s southern border. The U.S. immigration system is already stretched beyond capacity and must prioritize those who apply for asylum in good faith.

For all the Administration’s avowals of toughness, none of its strategies has helped stem the flow… The rationale for the President’s harshest measures, from the indefinite detention of asylum seekers to the separation of families at the border, was that they would deter other migrants from making the trip. The government’s own data contradicts that, and so Trump’s enforcement policy is stuck in a feedback loop: he’s been defending actions that haven’t changed migration patterns, while simultaneously citing a “border crisis” as the reason to double down.

What Should the Democrats Do About Hillary?

Is Hillary planning to run for president again in 2020? Some say yes, and her own former aide has confirmed that it’s not impossible. In any event, Hillary has been making herself visible in the media again, denouncing Trump and speaking out on issues of importance to the Democratic party. The question is whether or not the Democratic party wants her around.

She is under attack and this time, the long knives are wielded by members of her own clan. Suddenly, after two years of indulging Clinton’s blame games and pity parties, lefty pundits say she’s talking too much, she’s stuck in the past, she had her chance and she blew it… Intramural feuds are often bloody, but this one is also stupid. Trying to silence Clinton is a lost cause and, even if it succeeded, wouldn’t cure what ails Democrats.

…why should the woman who won the popular vote in 2016—62,523,126 votes, to be precise, the biggest number of votes in history with the exception of President Barack Obama—be silenced at a time of great public discourse? Why is it only Hillary Clinton, not Joe Biden or John Kerry or even Bernie Sanders, for that matter, who is seen as so tarnished by a presidential loss that she must sit silent on the sidelines?

Hillary Clinton has been on a bit of a media tear the past few weeks, holding forth on both the personal and the political — and making clear that someone needs to perform an intervention before she further complicates life for her fellow Democrats. In these furious, final days before the midterms, Democratic candidates need to be laser focused on their message to voters. They need to be talking health care and jobs and other issues of intense, personal concern to their electorate. They do not need to be talking about impeachment, or about the results of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s DNA testing. And they definitely do not need to get distracted by unnecessary drama generated by comments from one of the party’s most iconic, and most controversial, figures.

Roundtable Extra: Yitzhak Rabin & the Politics of Memorial

A memorial rally took place on Sunday marking the 23rd anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin, who was assassinated by the rightwing extremist Yigal Amir, is heavily associated with the Israeli left and the peace process. Because of this, his memorial remains political. This was confirmed by Noa Rotman, Rabin’s granddaughter, who used the rally on Sunday as a platform to voice criticism of Israel’s current elected officials. More at YNET.

Here are three takes on the political nature of Yitzhak Rabin’s memorial:

Every year, for over 20 years, the same argument is revived: Will the ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square commemorating the square’s namesake be political or nonpolitical? For 23 years I’ve thought this debate was unnecessary. Yitzhak Rabin wasn’t murdered in action while playing in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. His murder was political, and that is how it must be remembered. And thanks to anyone who is uncomfortable with that. They know the reason why.

In this political and social atmosphere, characterized by deep civil strife, words can easily be transformed into deeds. Thus, the recent refusal of Israel’s President, Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, and the Knesset speaker, Yuli Edelstein, to participate in the coming Tel Aviv rally aimed to commemorate Rabin is a result of the current situation in which leading politicians fear of being identified with left-wing views.

What are we to learn from the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin? Speaking at the 23rd anniversary of her grandfather’s death yesterday, Noa Rothman, now a 41-year-old screenwriter, left little room for doubt: Israel, she said in her bitter and much-publicized speech, has turned into a benighted nation where dissent is not tolerated and criticism not possible, a sorry state of affairs orchestrated, of course, by the Dark One himself, Benjamin Netanyahu.

…Never mind that Israel’s Supreme Court recently reversed a government decision and allowed an activist of a movement strongly affiliated with convicted terrorists to enter the country and enroll in its universities. Never mind that radical left-wing organizations, enjoying millions in aid from European governments and other foreign groups, continue to operate freely, lecture school children, and enjoy the veneration of the media. Never mind that the prime minister himself was scrutinized by law enforcement officials on at least 19 separate occasions, each of which failed to lead to a conviction. In Rothman’s feverish imagination, these examples—there are many, many more—or a robust democracy welcoming dissent and celebrating criticism don’t count.

Today’s Hot Issues

Why Is Jordan Taking Back the “Isle of Peace?” What If Republicans Take Both the Senate and the House? Israel and the Diaspora: What’s Left to Say? Is Mohammed bin Salman a Reformer or an Autocrat? How Should the U.S. Respond to the Migrant Caravan? What Should the Democrats Do About Hillary? Roundtable Extra: Yitzhak Rabin & the Politics of Memorial