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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Richard Haass, John Larkin, and Northern Ireland's Past

Richard Haass is back in Northern Ireland speaking with various political players from the five parties represented in the Executive as well as community groups in an attempt to reach a comprehensive deal on parade, flags and emblems, and the past before the end of the year. His task has possibly been made more difficult (and possibly simpler) by a trial balloon floated by Attorney General John Larkin calling for an end to all investigations into the past. Larkin, who does not belong to any political party but who was briefly connected to the non-sectarian Alliance Party some three decades ago, said that in his opinion it was simply too difficult to secure convictions with the passage of time. His personal legal opinion has provoked fury from all the established parties. Only the brand new and tiny NI21 has supported his proposal.

Afghanistan's Future

It was announced on Thursday November 21, 2013 that Washington and Kabul had reached an agreement to allow limited American training forces and anti-terrorism personnel to remain on after the scheduled departure of American combat personnel from Afghanistan in 2014. The deal has yet to be approved by the Grand Council or Loya Jirga, which has the power to approve or reject a deal. Afghani President Hamid Karzai is using his weakness as a strength to attempt to manipulate Washington into granting more concessions to him by making the deal subject to the Loya Jirga.

North Korea's New Nuclear Potential

Starting in 2006 North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests. All three weapons tested were fueled by plutonium, a by-product of nuclear reactor operations. In the decade before he was finally stopped in February 2004 Pakistani metallurgist and nuclear scientist A.Q, Khan managed to sell uranium-enrichment technology, which he had earlier stolen from the European consortium URENCO in the 1970s, to three countries: Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Iran got thousands of centrifuges used to separate the lighter U235 isotope from the heavier and more common U238 isotope in order to enrich uranium, ostensibly for peaceful uses. Iran is presently subject to severe Western economic sanctions and is presently negotiating with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5 + 1) over the lifting of sanctions in exchange for Tehran limiting its enrichment activities. Libya gave up its military nuclear ambitions in 2003 following the American-British invasion of Iraq. That leaves just one country: North Korea.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

South Asian Politics: Dynastic Feuds

I have just finished reading Fatima Bhutto's reconstructed memoir of her father Mir Murtaza Bhutto, Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter's Memoir, published in 2010 by Nation Books. I read the book because I wanted to read what she had written about her grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was prime minister of Pakistan from late December 1971 until July 1977 when he was overthrown in a coup d'etat by General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. I also wanted to see what she wrote about her aunt, Benazir Bhutto, who was prime minister from December 1988 until  November 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996 and who was assassinated while campaigning for a third term in December 2007. I had earlier read Benazir's own memoir, Daughter of Destiny aka Daughter of the East. I was disappointed because this contained little about her father's term in office or his personality. I am still disappointed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Strategic Triangle of the Middle East: America, American Jewry and Israel

Adam Garfinkle has a very good piece in Tablet Magazine about the the changing dynamics among Washington, Jerusalem, and American Jewry. He attributes it to changing demographics among both American Jewry and Israeli Jews as well as to the increased power of Israel. From 1948 until 1977 the Israeli leadership and the leadership of American Jews both sprang from Eastern Europe: from the Jewish ghettoes in the major cities and the shetls of the former Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. American Jews could interpret Israel to Washington and Washington to Israel. 
But this became less important over time as goyim, like myself, formed direct impressions of Israel through study abroad programs and more Israelis began to arrive in the United States as either diplomats, yordim (emigres), or military officers. In 1967 Israel demonstrated its value as a strategic asset by not just beating the Arabs as in 1948, or trouncing a single Arab state as in 1956, but in demolishing three Arab armies simultaneously. Then a decade later Oriental Jews began to move into power through the victory of the Likud. The Likud had different values from many American Jews: it was not social democratic, it was annexationist, and even more than Labor it was dependent on the support of religious Zionists and ultra-Orthodox who rejected the Jewish bona fides of much of the American Jewish community i.e. all non-Orthodox denominations.