A Hopeful Sign?

We were both surprised and encouraged by a comment from Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, on the U.S.-led air strikes in Syria last week following the chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma ordered by Syrian President Bashar al Assad.


Lavrov told Russian state television that prior to the raids the U.S. sought out and then respected Moscow’s red lines in Syria. He said that despite the rising tensions between Moscow and Washington the U.S. made sure no Russian personnel and positions were harmed. He said the U.S. and its allies had given Russia an advance warning to make sure no Russians were in the line of fire.

As we noted last week, Russia’s state of the art anti-missile systems in Syria were not activated and the Syrians were left to deal with the raids with their antiquated anti-missile batteries.

To be sure Lavrov may be trying to play to Russian allies and public opinion and explain away Russia’s failure to even try to down the missiles. And this probably also explains why the Russians claim that the Syrians intercepted almost all of the missiles; the U.S. more plausibly claims 100 percent success in reaching targets.

So there is the distinct possibility that the U.S. and Russians are prepared to work through the real geo-political differences between them. Of course, the Russian meddling in our elections requires both an accounting and also some prophylactic measures going forward. But the possibility that the two most powerful nations can pursue their respective vital interests, but also agree to disagree, is most intriguing.


The Merkel Interview

In an interview with the private Israeli Channel 10 Network, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called attention to a new brand of anti-Semitism that has taken root in her country: “We have a new phenomenon, as we have many refugees among them are, for example, people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country.”

Merkel went on to say that “[t]he fact that no nursery, no school, no synagogue can be left without police protection dismays us.” She said her government had appointed a commissioner to fight against anti-Semitism.

We welcome the Chancellor’s candor, especially when few other leaders have been prepared to publicly tie Muslim immigrants to anti-Semitism. Yet, sad to say, it was Merkel herself who made the decision to open Germany’s borders to wave after wave of Muslim immigrants in 2015. Indeed, at times it seemed that she was in a bidding war with President Barack Obama over how many Muslim immigrants were to be let into their respective countries. In fact, NBC News reports that around 1 million asylum-seekers made their way into Germany, at times at the rate of more than 10,000 a day! And that was when Germany had a population of approximately 81 million.

Official anti-Semitism characterized the Germany of the 1930’s and 1940’s. But the functional equivalent would be nurturing the perception that certain, prompt arrest and prosecution of perpetrators was not clear public policy. The German government, more than any other, should appreciate what happens when it is not.

The West Bank Is Not “Occupied” Territory

There are those who warn that given the strong and implacable opposition from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, President Trump may well be having second thoughts about his decision to next month relocate the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So we note that the U.S. State Department’s newly released 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices has abandoned the practice of referring to the so-called West Bank as “Occupied” territories

To be sure, there are problems with some of the report’s methodology and conclusions. But tossing the “Occupied” label is an important indication that President Trump’s respect for the Israeli Middle East narrative is alive and well.