5 Best Wednesday Columns

Teacher layoffs, anonymous novels, and two different views on the Muslim Brotherhood

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  • Yossi Klein Halevi on Israel's Isolation  The New Republic's contributing editor dives into why the Muslim Brotherhood's potential leadership in Egypt is worrisome for Israel. Halevi writes in The New York Times that as much as optimists may hope that Egypt's turmoil could in fact be an end to "the poisonous reflex of blaming the Jewish state for the Middle East's ills will," the reality is that the power shift could do the exact opposite, inflaming Israel's enemies and ending its peaceful coexistence with Egypt. Halevi says the fear is easy to explain: Mohamed ElBaradei is part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been among "the main purveyors of the Muslim world's widespread conspiracy theories about the Jews, from blaming the Israeli intelligence service for 9/11 to accusing Zionists of inventing the Holocaust to blackmail the West." In geopolitical terms, this means Israel's one foothold among its contentious neighbors--dating back to the 1979 Camp David Accords, in which Israel and Egypt agreed not to attack each other--is at a high risk of ending. Halevi says the significance of Camp David Accords cannot be overstated, because it not only created a physical and psychological buffer for Israel, but because "Israelis understand that the end of their conflict with the Arab world depends in large part on the durability of the peace with Egypt."
  • The New York Observer on Fairer Teacher Layoffs  The editors at The New York Observer back up New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's argument that teacher layoffs, currently needed to accomplish state-mandated school spending cuts, should not be based on seniority. "It's possible that most of the young, energetic teachers hired in the past five years may be sacrificed if Albany doesn't end the practice of 'last in, first out,'" an Observer editorial explains. "Mr. Bloomberg is demanding, pleading, begging Albany to give him the power to reduce payroll based on merit, not seniority." The editors point out that State Assembly Democrats are afraid to fight with the teachers' union, but "Mr. Cuomo should tell them that they will have more to fear if they stand in the way of progress."
  • Shadi Hamid on America's 'Islamists' Problem  The government that will eventually replace Hosni Mubarak will inevitably include the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamid suggests in the Los Angeles Times, "the world's oldest Islamist movement as well as one of its most feared." But the idea of democratic-yet-Islamist-aligned government has long been a dilemma for the United States, Hamid says, citing the U.S.-supported coup in Algeria that overturned a democratically-elected regime with an Islamist majority in 1992. "The fear of Islamists coming to power has long paralyzed U.S. policy ... Today, during the largest pro-democracy protests in Egyptian history, this same fear threatens to derail U.S. policy once again," Hamid cautions. But "Westerners should not lose sleep over the Brotherhood's inclusion," he writes. "A pragmatic organization at its core, the group will avoid getting tied up in foreign policy, knowing that this might cause the international community to withdraw support. Also on the line is $1.5 billion in annual U.S. assistance, an amount Egyptians will need even more after the devastation of their economy in the past week." Hamid adds that sooner or later, America will have to reconcile itself to the idea of democratically elected Islamist governments. "Egypt is a good place to start trying."
  • John Dickerson on Obama's Strategic Optimism  Dickerson analyzes President Obama's sunny rhetoric at Slate. Despite promising the country "a tough conversation about cutting the deficit" this year, so far 2011 has seen a pretty positive president. Dickerson suggests Obama has decided that since "he'll never out-cut Republicans, who are engaged in an intramural game of how-low-can-you-go," he's planning to leave the gloomy deficit reduction talk to them. This is easy to do because jobs are not immediately killed by big deficits. Though Obama knows as much as Republicans do that the the deficit must be fixed, he's hoping that focusing on the positives--innovation, investment--will bump him up in the polls. Obama's gamble appears to be backed by a sincere belief that more jobs will be created through his "Win the Future" agenda. "Even if the investment agenda doesn't affect the economy immediately," Dickerson writes, "his constant talk about innovation and improving education will show him concerned about the key issue voters care about, allowing them to make a connection between his actions and economic improvement."
  • Tim Rutten on Why 'O' Is a Sham  Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Rutten skewers Simon & Schuster for publishing 'O: A Presidential Novel,' an anonymous account of a President suggestively named 'O' as he seeks re-election in 2012. "The venality here is that of Simon & Schuster and Salter, which hoped for a big paycheck out of this shoddy and deceptive little enterprise," Rutten writes. He recalls the note publisher Jonathan Karp included with review copies of the book, which described the unknown author as someone "who has been in the room with Barack Obama and knows this world intimately." In fact, it looks like the author is probably Mark Salter, a longtime speechwriter for John McCain. As Rutten puts it, "Salter isn't just any political operative but one whose connection to the Arizona senator is so close and of such long standing that he's frequently referred to as McCain's 'alter ego,'" and he's someone who "took McCain's loss to Obama harder than most of his staff." Rutten suggests that knowing the book's author diminishes its credibility considerably. "We ought to be outraged" over this novel, he says, "and somebody should be ashamed."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.