Is the Timing of Operation “Northern Shield” Political?

Earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu announced the commencement of Operation “Northern Shield,” a military operation destroying Hezbollah tunnels built from Lebanon into Israeli territory. But with political rivals nipping at his heels and police investigations swirling around him, some Israelis are suspicious that the operation (and its timing) are more political theater than security measure. More at Jerusalem Post.

“Is this Operation Northern Shield or Operation Netanyahu Shield?” asked Yoel Hasson, an opposition politician in the Israeli Parliament, on Twitter. In a letter to the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he questioned both the timing of what he dismissively called a “bulldozer operation,” and the overwrought way in which it had been presented, as if Israel were going into battle. Israelis have seen this sequence of events before.

Another thing to remember is that for Netanyahu to launch another military operation because of personal interests, he would need the cooperation of the IDF’s top brass, and there is no chance of that happening. Planning a widescale military operation takes years, so no one is going to take a chance on starting a war just because the political timing seems right—that would be disrespectful to the IDF officers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s legal and political difficulties are playing into his decision to conduct the operation now… Yet in security terms this operation is also necessary, justified, and overdue. The Lebanese Hezbollah has utterly breached its obligations under U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese war but required Hezbollah to remove its weapons from southern Lebanon. The opposite has happened. Thanks to Iran, Hezbollah is once again well-armed.

What’s Worse: Climate Denial or Climate Alarmism?

After the fires in California, the White House climate report, the Yellow Vest protests, and the U.N. Climate Change conference in Poland, climate change is on everyone’s mind. On one side people are demanding that the subject of climate change be addressed seriously. Are they alarmists? On the other side, people are maintaining that everything is fine. Are they deniers? More at Fortune.

There’s no real argument about the science. The tell is when Trump said he isn’t a believer. Recasting the issue as a matter of faith rather than reason lets him simply ignore the evidence. Moreover, resisting the consensus about climate change fits with other themes Trump champions, especially disdain for “elites” (scientists and other assorted intellectuals in this case) and international cooperation… So climate change actually serves a purpose, signaling Trump’s resolve on unrelated red-meat issues to his supporters.

Sorry, but by now, this rhetoric is familiar. You can go back to 1970, when Harvard biologist George Wald, riding a wave of popular environmental panic during the decade, estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” [.] The problem for alarmists is that warming is now here—allegedly, the cause of an untold number of disasters, small and large—yet somehow humanity slogs onward, living longer, safer, richer lives. People internalize this reality, no matter what they tell pollsters.

…reduce everything to a binary question of believers vs. deniers, good guys vs. bad guys. Here’s the sad truth: This narrative is mostly an invention of journalists for their own convenience. It relieves them of having to understand a complicated subject. I’m not trying to be funny. Over the past 15 or 20 years, the climate beat has been handed over to reporter-activists who’ve decided that climate science is impenetrable but at least nobody ever got fired for exaggerating the risks of climate change.

Are There Too Many Democratic Candidates for 2020?

Warren? Biden? Winfrey? Clinton? O’Rourke? Harris? Kerry? Booker? Sanders? The list of potential Democratic candidates for 2020 keeps growing and growing. But while some Dems want to keep looking until they find the perfect candidate for the Democratic ticket, others fear that an overcrowded list will rob focus from the fight against Trump.

The washed-up has-beens desperate for one last shot.

I put Hillary Clinton in this group, along with John “Reporting for Duty” Kerry, and, yes, everyone’s well-meaning, well-qualified, but nonetheless slightly creepy uncle, Joe Biden. About two years out from the November 2020 election, their average age is just shy of 74. All of them have run for president in the past and come up short (Clinton and Biden twice). And all of them, despite their distinguished, honorable records of public service, are relics of an earlier time in our politics, long before the populist furies of the present.

The good news is that at least six progressives are likely to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. That’s also the bad news. If things break wrong, they could cancel each other out, opening the door to yet another centrist corporate Democratic nominee… The Democratic victories in the midterms prefigure a clean break with the corporate Democratic Party. But if the progressive field is split too many ways, a Wall Street Democrat might still snag the 2020 nomination.

Democrats have this annoying habit of always looking for “The One.” The one who will sweep them off their feet in a fit of electoral ecstasy. Only their “one” should make a go of it. All others are deemed inadequate or somehow all wrong for the party or the times. Then there’s this other annoying habit. If their “one” doesn’t win the nomination, then the person who actually does win is dead to them… Democrats, if ever there was an election to not make the perfect the enemy of the good — to stop looking to fall in love and to start falling in line to win — by rallying around the nominee, whoever that might be, 2020 will be it.

Will Trump Be a One-Term President Like Bush?

Despite the fondness with which late President George H. W. Bush is remembered, he was only elected for one term. In the week after his passing, the papers have been full of comparisons between Bush’s presidency and Trump’s. Will Trump be a one-term president as well? More at NPR.

To avoid the same fate as Bush, Trump has to expand on the new coalition of voters who delivered him to the White House two years ago. While the deplorable label runs deep among the unwashed rabble who love Trump, they aren’t enough to get the president to 50 percent. So, he has to expose cracks in the Democratic coalition and see if he can attract some of their voters to his side, based on their self-interest and his ideological dexterity.

Call me a wide-eyed optimist, but I have a feeling that even if President Trump makes it through his first term, the Republican Party might not want to renominate a man who was negotiating a high-stakes deal with an adversary of the United States while running for president — and lying to us that he was doing no such thing… that leaves us with a not insignificant chance that Democrats could have to run against someone other than Trump in 2020.

Times change. Family values have been displaced by a more media-driven agenda: racism, identity, gender, immigration, tariffs… Perhaps, like Bush, Donald Trump will be a one-term president, and for the same reason—a slowing U.S. economy. But if you want to discover why America lost the personal and political values of George H.W. Bush, forget Donald Trump. Look deeper.

Can Israeli-Americans Unite Israel and the Diaspora?

The fifth annual Israeli-American Council Convention in Hollywood, Florida, was a testament to two realities: first, the Israeli diaspora in America has become a powerful political force. Second, as the saying goes, between every two Jews are three opinions. But despite the debates, can Israeli-Americans help tackle the tough issues causing friction between Israel and the diaspora? More at Jewish Week.

Israeli Americans now see themselves as a bridge that can help close the widening gap between the Israeli and American Jewish populations… The Israelis in the audience appeared to have put aside differences about Trump, Pence and the current administration, and recognize the significance of a government in place that supports Israel and treats its leaders with respect…

From relatively modest beginnings, the Israeli American Council has become something of a powerhouse. At its annual conference, which this year was held at the Diplomat in this resort town, its director was unabashed in explaining the preeminent factor: money… The IAC is, on paper, a bizarre hybrid: Lobbying group, extended argument, angsty counseling session, an excuse to party. In practice it works, kind of.

There was a point during the argument when the crowd seemed to clam up. The panelists were so passionate that it made everyone uncomfortable. As the moderator, I tried to stop the verbal slugfest, but it was useless. I surrendered to the moment… The subject was Israel’s controversial Nation-State Law… Kampeas even noticed something I didn’t: “As the volume increased … someone in the audience started singing ‘Hineh Ma Tov Umah Naim’ (‘How good and pleasant it is when a tribe of brothers comes together’).”

Is the Self-Driving Car Right Around the Corner?

Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet specializing in self-driving cars, is launching a commercial taxi service in a limited area in Pheonix. While a driver will be present in every self-driving car for safety purposes, some observers believe that Waymo’s test launch signals that the era of the self-driving car is, at last, at hand. More at The Verge.

For now self-driving cars are in a strange moment between impossible dream and everyday conveyance. For people who’ve been watching their evolution, it has become a foregone conclusion that cars will become more autonomous, and the real debate is how quickly, and how much, they’ll disrupt existing transportation modes. Most of these discussions are abstract, based on theoretical assumptions about the usage rates and access and user behavior.

Nonetheless, with an announcement like this, it’s important to step back and look at the big picture. For a select group of people, a service involving cars that can drive themselves is available in a 100-square-mile zone. And its provider is confident enough about the service’s utility and reliability to start charging for it.

The company is initially operating the new service cautiously, underscoring the challenges still facing its autonomous vehicles as they navigate around vehicles with human drivers that don’t always follow the same rules as robots… Waymo’s self-driving vehicles are still susceptible to glitches, as an Associated Press reporter experienced during a mid-October ride in an autonomous minivan alongside Krafcik near company’s Mountain View, California, headquarters.

Roundtable Extra: Is Hanukkah a Religious or National Holiday?

On a special Hanukkah episode of the Rosner’s Domain Podcast, Shmuel Rosner and guest Uzi Leibner discuss the history of Hanukkah.

Uzi Leibner is a senior lecturer and head of the Classical Archaeology Division at the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His research focuses on theory and practice of archaeological surveys, ancient Galilee, rural settlements and ancient synagogues and art.

Shmuel Rosner: In Zionist mythology, we celebrate the Maccabeans as something that we recreate in modern Zionism. But while the events that you describe are very much religious in nature, the Zionist interpretation is very much secular. So which one is more accurate?
Uzi Leibner: …the Maccabean uprising itself was a religious uprising for the right to live according to the Torah. But it eventually developed into a national uprising….
Shmuel Rosner: If we had polls at the time and went to these Jews and asked them the questions that people like asking today, like “Are you more Nationalist Maccabean or Religious Hasmonean?” Which answer would we get?
Uzi Leibner: In the ancient world things are much more blended… Dividing between religion and ethnicity was much more complicated than it is today.

Today’s Hot Issues

Is the Timing of Operation “Northern Shield” Political? What’s Worse: Climate Denial or Climate Alarmism? Are There Too Many Democratic Candidates for 2020? Will Trump Be a One-Term President Like Bush? Can Israeli-Americans Unite Israel and the Diaspora? Is the Self-Driving Car Right Around the Corner? Roundtable Extra: Is Hanukkah a Religious or National Holiday?