In White House meetings beginning Monday, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is expected to tell the Obama administration that Arab nations want peace, but are unwilling to abide Mr. Obama’s call to make good-faith concessions to Israel until Israel takes tangible steps like freezing settlements, an Egyptian official said.
As part of its effort to resuscitate the peace process, the Obama administration has asked Arab countries to make small but symbolic gestures to normalize relations with Israel, like allowing planes to fly through their airspace or improving cultural ties. The administration has also asked Israel to freeze all growth in settlements.
So far, neither side has agreed to Mr. Obama’s proposed first steps, and so the president is expected to look to Mr. Mubarak for help in breaking the latest Middle East deadlock, regional analysts said. [continued…]
Most Israelis expect their military rabbis to confine themselves to such tasks as making sure the army provides kosher food and respects the Sabbath. But lately, some of them are asserting their own idea of Jewish virtue at the risk of stepping into the country’s culture wars.
Some critics worry that the rabbinate and its charismatic chief, Brig. Gen. Avichai Rontzki, are infusing a militant mix of Judaism and nationalism into a traditionally secular institution that embodies the Israeli consensus.
On the Palestinian side, Islamic hard-liners already see their war with Israel through an uncompromising religious lens, and the rabbinate’s critics warn that the Jewish state must not follow suit and risk pushing the conflict closer to a zero-sum holy war. [continued…]