Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Showing posts for "Israel"

The Last Great Myth About Egypt

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Monday, June 21, 2014.

In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger fell in love with Anwar Sadat. To Kissinger, the Egyptian president “had the wisdom and courage of the statesman and occasionally the insight of the prophet.” It was from this romance that a set of ideas about Egypt became inculcated in American Middle East policy: Egypt would be a bulwark against the Soviet Union, a base from which U.S. forces would launch in the event of a crisis in the Persian Gulf, and a mediator between Arabs — especially the Palestinians — and Israelis. Read more »

On the Death of a Friend in Israel

by Steven A. Cook
Elhanan Harlev Elhanan Harlev

On the Death of a Friend in Israel

My friend Elhanan Harlev died on July 1st after a long illness. We had an odd friendship. He was an Israeli by way of Germany and Argentina. I am a kid from Long Island. Elhanan was more than three decades older than me. We did not share a common language. Against those odds we somehow managed to communicate. Often times it was through an able interpreter like his wife, my cousin Carol, or one of her sons from her first marriage—most often Ari, who has popped up on this blog from time to time. At other times, Elhanan and I just found a way to understand each other. Never has a name, Elhanan means “God is Merciful,” been so apt for the soft-spoken, gentle, and wise soul that he was (and remains). His was an extraordinary life because it was so normal. And in that normalcy, he taught me more about Israel than much of what I have read. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The King of the Kurds, Sexual Violence in Egypt, and Israel’s Accidental War

by Steven A. Cook
A Sunni Sheikh carries a mock of a rocket during a demonstration organised by Lebanese Sunni Islamists and Palestinians to denounce Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip (Ali Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters). A Sunni Sheikh carries a mock of a rocket during a demonstration organised by Lebanese Sunni Islamists and Palestinians to denounce Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip (Ali Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters).

Sarah Carr, writing for Mada Masroffers an in-depth and graphic look at sexual assault and the Egyptian state.

J.J. Goldberg explores the triggers to an “unintended” war in Gaza. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Sudanese Refugees in Jordan, Egyptian Insults, and Living Without Sabra Hummus

by Steven A. Cook
A Palestinian vendor reads a newspaper with the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on the front page in Jerusalem's Old City (Amir Cohen/Courtesy Reuters). A Palestinian vendor reads a newspaper with the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on the front page in Jerusalem's Old City (Amir Cohen/Courtesy Reuters).

IRIN reports on Jordan’s neglected refugees.

Mada Masr presents “Lexicon of a revolution’s insults,” which looks at new terms and labels invented after the Egyptian uprising of January 25. Read more »

Settlement Impossible

by Steven A. Cook
Actress Scarlett Johansson poses at a film premiere (Mario Anzuoni/Courtesy Reuters). Actress Scarlett Johansson poses at a film premiere (Mario Anzuoni/Courtesy Reuters).

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the never-ending peace process are back.  Not that they ever went away, but the conflict has gotten far more newsprint and bandwidth in the last week or so than it has over the last six months. On Sunday, the New York Times ran three pieces in its “Sunday Review” section that touched on the conflict.  Essays by Hirsh Goodman and Omar Barghouti dealt specifically with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign—an issue bound up in politics and fraught with emotions that is linked to the efficacy of non-violent protest, the fight against South African apartheid in the 1980s, and the long effort to deny the Jewish connection to the territory that is now Israel and the West Bank. Read more »

Arik Einstein: Poster Child, Culture God

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) lays a rose on the coffin of Israeli singer Arik Einstein, depicted in the placard, during a memorial ceremony before his funeral at Rabin square in Tel Aviv (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) lays a rose on the coffin of Israeli singer Arik Einstein, depicted in the placard, during a memorial ceremony before his funeral at Rabin square in Tel Aviv (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters).

My cousin, Ari Lieberman, is a keen observer of arts and culture in Israel.  With the passing of Arik Einstein last week, I thought readers would be interested in Ari’s take on the life and work of this musical icon.

Here’s an Einstein you may not have heard of: Arik Einstein, who died last week in Tel Aviv, aged seventy-four. And yet in Israel he was practically a god. For several days following the sad news last Tuesday, there was nothing on the radio except Arik Einstein songs, punctuated by tearful announcements: Israel’s greatest singer was no more. On Wednesday, prior to the funeral, his body lay in state in Kikar Rabin, Tel Aviv’s main square, where thousands crowded to pay their last respects. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself descended with his entourage of thick-necked bodyguards to eulogize the music legend, calling Einstein the singer of “eretz Israel hayafa, ha’amitit, hamezukeket” (the beautiful, the true, the Pure Land of Israel). And President Shimon Peres issued a statement, saying that Arik Einstein’s songs were “the soundtrack of an entire nation. His voice caressed the people and embraced the land. He was loved by older and newer generations alike….His melodies will fill the land. Even with his passing, his songs will continue to play a tune of life and hope.” Read more »

Yasser Arafat: Dead Again

by Steven A. Cook
Photo by Steven Cook. Photo by Steven Cook.

With all the important news going on in the Middle East this past week, Al Jazeera took time out to remind its audience that Yasser Arafat is still dead. It has been nine years since the Palestinian leader passed away in a French hospital, yet Abu Ammar is still making news, of sorts.  This week a Swiss investigative team reported that there are indications that Arafat was poisoned with polonium, yet others who took part in the examination of the remains and soil samples around the man’s grave at the Muqata’a in Ramallah have not been so definitive nor willing to release their findings.  Sounds suspicious. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Cairo’s Communities, Israel and Iran, and Aid to Egypt

by Steven A. Cook
Shi'ites perform the traditional Baraa dance as they celebrate Eid al-Ghadir in Sanaa October 23, 2013 (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters). Shi'ites perform the traditional Baraa dance as they celebrate Eid al-Ghadir in Sanaa October 23, 2013 (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

Tadamun  takes a look at one of the oldest urban communities in Cairo’s Giza governorate, Mit ‘Uqba.

Jonathan Tobin says that the answer to the question of whether Israel will strike Iran is not to be found in historical precedent. Read more »

Turkey: Spies Like Us

by Steven A. Cook
A Turkish flag flutters near the monument of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 24, 2013 (Marko Djurica/Courtesy Reuters). A Turkish flag flutters near the monument of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 24, 2013 (Marko Djurica/Courtesy Reuters).

I co-authored this piece with my friend and colleague, Michael Koplow, author of the blog Ottomans and Zionists.

Ehud Barak’s political instincts have never been great, but his security instincts are generally top-notch. So when he warned in 2010 that any intelligence information shared with Turkey might be passed on to Iran, his fears may not have been completely unfounded. David Ignatius reported yesterday that in 2012, Turkey deliberately blew the cover of ten Iranians who were working as Israeli agents and exposed their identities to the Iranian government. Ignatius also wrote that in the wake of the incident, which was obviously a large intelligence setback for efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program, the United States did not protest directly to Turkey and instead walled off intelligence issues from broader policymaking. Read more »