Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Strategic Importance of Democracy for Israel

I receive a daily selection of links to articles from the Israeli Hebrew press prepared by Americans for Peace Now (sign up at links are to articles in both English and Hebrew). So I have been witnessing an ongoing assault by the Israeli Right on the structures of democracy in Israel. The Zionist Left is as weak today in the Knesset as the white South African Left was in the parliament in the 1970s. Liberalism there consisted of the English-speaking press, and in the 1980s of a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as the Progressive Federal Party. The ruling National Party made parliament irrelevant by making other venues the focus of decision making in the National Security Management System. 

The Israeli Right, led by Israel Beitenu's Avigdor Leiberman, has gone after the Israeli NGOs and the Supreme Court. This was after they started over a year ago targeting Israel's Arab minority with the talk of mandatory loyalty oaths. For a discussion of how this is playing with Israeli Arabs see the two selections by Palestinians at Bitter Lemons.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The CNN National Security Debate

I just finished watching the CNN-Heritage Foundation National Security Debate, the second foreign policy debate so far in this election cycle. I was most interested in seeing how the front runners performed: Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. I thought that Romney outperformed his chief rival. Romney was cautious and played not to make any major errors as well as getting in subtle digs at his opponents. Newt was busy showing off and showing how smart he was--which left him open for attack from Michelle Bachmann and others for supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. Romney said he was opposed to creating magnets for illegal immigration and he specifically mentioned in-state tuition rates for illegals. This was a subtle dig at Rick Perry.

Bachmann and Rick Santorum again had their moments as in the first foreign policy debate in SC about ten days ago. But neither has much chance of winning the nomination if polls are anything to go by. Huntsman also sounded intelligent, but he also is not going anywhere. Herman Cain sounded as ignorant as ever. In fact he sounds like a black male version of Sarah Palin--winging it and hoping to cover up his ignorance by his fervor.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Will Netanyahu Attack Iran?

Last week on one particular day the foreign policy and defense tollgate site Real Clear World featured two separate articles on Israel and Iran: one claiming that the former would attack the latter and the other the opposite. The case for attack consisted of reports of Israel Air Force aircraft practicing bombing attacks over Italy, statements by Israeli politicians, and the danger to Israel of Iran launching an out-of-the-blue nuclear missile attack on Israel. The case against consisted of the argument that Israel lacked sufficient aircraft to be able to thoroughly damage the extensive Iranian nuclear infrastructure--much of which is located underground--and thus any delay caused by bombing to the Iranian nuclear program would be temporary, the opposition of Washington to such attacks, and the likely blow-back damage that both Israel and the U.S. would suffer from Iranian revenge attacks. Will Netanyahu attack then? The truth is that I have no inside line into the psyche of the Israeli premier and even he probably does not know the final answer to that at the moment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Tories Prove that Northern Ireland is Different

Dervla Murphy, the Irish travel writer, entitled her 1970s travel book on Northern Ireland A Place Apart. I have long contended that one of the main things that sets it apart from both the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain is its party system. Until the simultaneous collapse of the Irish economy and Fianna Fail last year, no Northern Irish party had ever been more than a minor party in Ireland. As soon as the Workers' Party started to become a medium-size party after a decade in existence, it split with almost all of the Southern Irish TDs splitting off to form the Democratic Left in 1992. By then the Workers' Party had become a minor party in the North thanks to Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein itself remained a minor party until last year.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The CBS-National Journal Foreign Policy Debate

Just some random thoughts from watching the Republican foreign policy debate:

1) The most intelligent remarks are coming from the bottom-tier candidates such as Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul,  and occasionally Michelle Bachmann.

2) The top level candidates seem to be posturing to the crowd, especially Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.

3) Herman Cain denied that waterboarding is not torture but merely an enhanced interrogation technique. What are the odds that within 48 hours he will be claiming that he was just kidding or that he was misunderstood?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Alasdair McDonnell New SDLP leader

On Sunday Alasdair McDonnell, the member of parliament for the Social Democratic and Labour Party from South Belfast, was elected the new leader of the party beating out three other candidates including Deputy Leader Patsy McGlone and Environmental Minister Alex Attwood. His tenure got off to a rough start when he decided to give an acceptance speech from a lecturn without notes using a teleprompter (autocue in UK speak) that was badly positioned so that he was blinded by the glare of the lights and couldn't read his speech. Some commentators took this as a bad omen.

Dennis Ross Resigns

Obama's special advisor on the Middle East, Dennis Ross, announced his resignation from the Obama administration yesterday only months after Middle East envoy George Mitchell, his predecessor, resigned. He resigned in order to spend more time with his family. The Palestinians considered him to be Israel's representative within the administration, and he was considered a hawk on Iran. When he agreed to join the administration it was initially only for two years, and then he agreed to extend for another year. His resignation can be taken as another signal that the peace process is stalled until after the November 2012 election. It may also signal a disagreement within the Obama administration on how to deal with Iran's nuclear efforts that Ross lost. When he joined the administration it was to concentrate on Iran, rather than on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He also gave advice on how to deal with the Arab Spring.  Dennis Ross was said to often have been at odds with George Mitchell, whose job Ross had previously filled in the Clinton administration. But he took over for Mitchell, once Mitchell had resigned. Here is an Israeli article on the resignation. And here is a more critical look at his tenure from the National Journal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Danger of Economic Collapse in Europe

No one in the punditocracy has raised the issue yet, but their are drastic dangers in the collapse of the Eurozone in Europe. The European Union (EU) voted an austerity rescue package for Ireland and Dublin accepted it. It then voted one for Greece, and Athens accepted it, but with the proviso of first holding a referendum on it. Commentators have even come up with an acronym for the danger of a Southern European collapse: PIGS--Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. If any of the three other PIGS defaults then Europe will be plunged into a depression, the Euro will collapse, and the effect will likely be felt across the Atlantic in America. Go here for a timeline of the debt crisis as it developed from late 2009 to the present. Go here for an article on the dangers of Italian default on their debt.

This is then the opposite of the Great Depression of the 1930s when the depression began on Wall St. and very quickly moved across the Atlantic to Europe and South Africa. America was providing the financing for the system of revolving finance in which America loaned money to Germany, which then paid that same money to the Allies as reparations for World War I, and then the Allies repaid American war loans. Once America could no longer provide the funding to Germany the system collapsed.

Friday, November 4, 2011

American Jews and the 2012 Election

Next to blacks, Jews have been the most consistently loyal ethnic constituency of the Democratic Party. And considering that until 1965 blacks could not vote in the South, and that many in the North do not vote, Jews have been a more electorally important one. Jews are concentrated demographically in the states with the largest electoral votes: New York, Illinois, California, Florida, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Texas (in roughly that order). Jews are only between two and two and a half percent of the American population, but because they vote in much higher numbers they are about three or four percent of the electorate on election day.  Jews have voted consistently Democratic since the Progressive Era when they voted for Woodrow Wilson.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Irish Presidential Election Analysis

Last Thursday, October 27, Ireland held a presidential election and the results were officially published on Saturday. According to the Irish Times the results were a follows for the three leading candidates: Michael D. Higgins (Irish Labour Party) 39.6%, Sean Gallagher (Independent but unofficial Fianna Fail candidate) 28.5%, and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Fein) 13.7%. The remaining four candidates together received 18.2% with none of them reaching seven percent. 

Martin McGuinness proved to be the kingmaker by accusing Gallagher on Monday night during a candidates' forum of taking a Fianna Fail contribution from a rich donor at an event a few years before. The accusation caught Gallagher off guard and he seemed to obfuscate in front of the cameras. He immediately went from being the frontrunner at 40 percent in the polls to the leading challenger. But by doing so McGuinness probably embittered a core Fianna Fail electorate, which will not forgive him nor Sinn Fein in the future. Sinn Fein slightly improved its standing over last year's general election, but received much less than the 14-18 percent that Mary Lou McDonald was predicting in the final week or the 20 percent that McGuinness polled at the start of the race. In comparison, Fianna Fail's unofficial candidate attracted a significant improvement in those constituencies that both FF and Sinn Fein contested last year.