Israeli Governing Coalition Likely to Have 1-Vote Majority

Barring a unity government (which the Zionist Union under Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni have thus far resisted) or the sudden withdrawal of Bayit Yehudi (Naftali Bennett = the religious settlers’ party), there will be a coalition government of 61 MKs out of 120. This gives a 1-vote majority to the coalition and is a recipe for political instability and possible new elections. [MK = “Member of the Knesset]

Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beteynu made this possible when they opted out of the government for a variety of reasons (see my post from a couple of days ago: See http://mysticscholar.org/lieberman-and-yisrael-beteinu-out-of-israel-government/

Essentially one member of the Knesset can bring down the government. One member can sit out a vote to prevent legislation from passing. One member can exact retribution on political rivals by voting one way unexpectedly or by abstaining. If someone wakes up in the morning on the wrong side of the bed, that MK can simply gum up the wheels of the government. One member can basically do anything he or she wants. It’s a level of political chaos, which even for Israelis is quite extraordinary. I have no idea how much can get done under these circumstances, unless a military crisis compels unity of some sort.

In Israel, they have nicknamed this potential government: “EVERY BASTARD IS A KING.”

For the moment, there will probably not be new elections, simply because the politicians and the voters are exhausted by the previous campaign. No one apparently wants to face an election right way. That will likely change in short order, however, once the political circus again enters into full season.

Israelis are famously tough and resilient in these kind of circumstances. They will have to use every bit of that ingenuity to keep this government afloat for an extended period of time.

Anybody out there have ideas about how all this is likely to play out?

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Lieberman and Yisrael Beteinu out of Israel Government

Uh-ho. It’s possible for Likud/Netanyahu to form a government with 61 MKs out of 120, but that would produce an extremely unstable government. All it would take is one member to bring down the entire government.

This may force Netanyahu to broaden the government to include the Zionist Union (Isaac Herzog/Tzipi Livni) or Lapid’s Yesh Atid. Otherwise, the current constellation of partners would be almost ungovernable. Good luck to a coalition with a 1-vote majority.

It’s well-known that Lieberman dislikes Netanyahu–both personally and politically. He doesn’t trust him, believes him to be opportunistic, and thinks he breaks his word (this is a common complaint even among many Likud members, as well as among Netanyahu’s political opponents). Lieberman also is upset about the Supreme Court, which he wants to diminish in power, but Moshe Kahlon/Kulanu is totally opposed to doing this–and Netanyahu can’t govern without Kulanu. And Lieberman wants pro-Jewish nation state legislation, but Kahlon/Kulanu also opposes that. Further, Lieberman thinks that Netanyahu is soft on Hamas (he wanted him to destroy Hamas in the last Gaza war), though at the same time is more supportive of negotiations with the Palestinians than Netanyahu–a paradox, reflective of Israel’s complex fault lines. And finally Lieberman strongly dislikes the ultra-Orthodox and wants a more secular government–for example on issues of civil marriage and not allowing the ultra-Orthodox to absent themselves from the military. This mirrors his own secular supporters.

I have no idea what will happen, but this does indicate the tremendous complexity of Israeli politics and society and the ideological divisions among Israeli voters.

LiebermanCoalitionOut1

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4653645,00.html

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U.S. Official Calls Netanyahu “Chickenshit”

ObamaNetanyahu

Whoever in the U.S. government said that Netanyahu is “chickenshit,” is basically right. The only thing Netanyahu cares about is his political survival. He has no overarching principles other than political success. He’s not a leader, but a finger in the wind kind of guy. My guess is that Iran does not think that he’ll ever attack their nuclear sites, because Netanyahu would worry about the political implications–of course, Iran would probably be wrong about that, because other Israelis would likely force Netanyahu’s hand if Iran were to move quickly toward nuclear weapons. And Netanyahu would never challenge the far-right settler movement, because he might lose a coalition partner and a slice of his vote. That’s partly why the vast majority of Israelis don’t really like him (in addition to opposition to his domestic economic policies). He got elected to prime minister in spite of that (and in spite of Likud losses in 2013), mainly because Israelis are fragmented and divided in their support for various parties. It was not an affirmation of Netanyahu, but he was the least bad choice for enough Israelis.

Plus the slur is rather tame considering what Israelis call Netanyahu and other Israeli political leaders. Americans and American Jews aren’t used to this kind of playground foul-mouthing. But it’s not a big deal for Israelis when Israelis do it. I wish American Jews were less prudish and more ready to mix it up where Israel is concerned, just as Israelis do.

And, yes, I realize it’s different when Israelis use foul language than when U.S. officials do it (even unnamed ones). But this kerfuffle was way overblown. It’s making a mountain out of a molehilll.

 


http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.623410

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/30/john-kerry-condems-official-insult-netanyahu

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Mizrahi Nation: Middle Eastern Jews in Israel and a Brief History of Jews in the Middle East

MizrahiNation1

A superb article by Matti Friedman, one of the best of I have seen not only on the history of the Mizrahi (Middle Eastern Jews) in Israel, but on what it means to be Israeli, Jewish, and living in the Middle East. This article offers a perspective that is rarely found in discussions about Israel and the Israel/Palestinian conflict. After reading it, you may find your views on Israel, Jews, and the Middle East at least a little different.

I particularly enjoyed his characterization of the “religious vs. secular” Jewish dichotomy as a Western/Ashkenazi labeling. For Mizrachi, that distinction doesn’t exist. They have their own “liberal” form of Judaism which is not Orthodox, but “traditional”/Masorti–the name for Conservative Judaism, but different, because it has its own history and application that is completely different from the European-based movement. For example, some Mizrachi may go to Synagogue in the morning, head to the beach in the afternoon, text to one another, while celebrating Havdalah (end of Shabbat) later.

Overall the Mizrachi are much more “liberal” in practice than the Ashkenazi (European-based) religious, but more politically conservative than many Ashkenazi. Their conservatism is not based on ideology (as is typical of Ashkenazi on all sides of the political spectrum), however, but more on experience in having lived in the Middle East for many centuries (well before Islam ever got there).

http://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2014/06/mizrahi-nation/

 

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Obama Policy on ISIS

I agree with Obama’s moves against ISIS, in which he is essentially cleaning up the mess that the Bush administration created with its invasion of Iraq. It is also an attempt at preventing genocide of various groups (Yazidis, Kurds, Christians, Shia, and others). However, it is a VERY risky operation, filled with peril and dangers on every side. I’m certainly not convinced it will work. I just think it’s our least bad option in a series of worse possibilities. Here’s the other side and a fair illustration of what could happen if things fall apart: http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175908/tomgram%3A_peter_van_buren%2C_seven_bad_endings_to_the_new_war_in_the_middle_east/

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Media Bias and Israel

FriedmanMatti

More on the bias of Western media coverage of Israel by a former AP reporter, Matti Friedman: hostile fixation on Jews and Israel; censorship of Gaza coverage under pressure from Hamas and failure to report Hamas using civilians as human shields; and failure to report on an Israeli peace proposal. The original story discussed the failure of Western media to report on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority; the all-consuming media criticism of Israeli society and politics, with virtually no criticism of Palestinian society and politics; intense documenting of Israeli violence against Palestinians, with no corresponding, remotely equivalent documenting of Hamas’ brutality and vast military infrastructure; failure to report on Hamas intimidation of reporters; failure to describe the Hamas charter, which call for the genocide of Jews and uses the notorious Jew-hating Protocols of Zion to call for the murder of Jews; failure to report on Israeli peace proposals prior to the Netanyahu government; failure to report on the tiny size (both geographically and demographically) of Israel in contrast to the Arab/Muslim world; failure to connect Hamas to other extreme, exclusivist, violent Muslim religious movements (e.g. al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, Taliban); and the overall equivalence of Israel as bad oppressors and Palestinians as sympathetic victims.

I am a strong critic of many Israeli policies (settlements, racism against Arabs, too much religion in government, the Netanyahu’s goverment failure to engage the Palestinian Authority), but it’s appalling how media coverage is so one-sided and tilted against Israel (and Jews as well) and so relatively non-critical of Hamas (which advocates genocide of Jews, believes in forced conversion to Islam, supports brutality and violence, and opposes democratic and secular values) and the Palestinian Authority (which is notoriously corrupt, inept, suspicious of democratic values, and refuses to accept Israel as Jewish): http://tabletmag.com/scroll/184707/ongoing-controversy-around-the-most-important-story-on-earth

Here’s the original article by Friedman: http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/183033/israel-insider-guide?all=1

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Breaking the Grind of Israel-Gaza Violence

For those of you have seen my defense of the Operation Protective Edge, I also agree with what David Grossman says below. While Israel’s Gaza incursion is certainly justifiable, Grossman is also right when he says that Israeli leaders (especially Netanyahu and Likud generally) have not reached out anywhere near sufficiently to Palestinian leaders on the West Bank. This was short-sighted on their part, and it’s part of the problem now. They were missing in action when, in previous years, they should have been out there doing diplomacy and relating:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/28/opinion/david-grossman-end-the-grindstone-of-israeli-palestinian-violence.html

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Global Surveillance Apparatus Largely Independent of National Politicians

SurveillanceGlobal1

Like many multi-national corporations, the international surveillance apparatus apparently operates globally without any meaningful checks and balances. National leaders do not even know the extent to which their own intelligence agencies are or are not cooperating with the NSA. This is tantamount to a kind of international shadow government.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/03/13/nsa-elected-officials-foreign-countries-unaware-countries-cooperation-us/

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The Story of Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands

Here is a video that discusses the history of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. This review is pertinent, given recent, false claims by Presbyterian leadership about Jewish history in the Middle East, which I discussed briefly in a previous post yesterday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTo0BLG9R8s

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PC-USA/Presbyterians Assault on Zionism and Judaism

The Presbyterian Church/PCUSA has recently promoted as a congregational resource a booklet called “Zionism Unsettled.” This has caused an enormous amount of controversy in the Jewish community (from the left to the right), as it essentially denies the legitimacy of Jewish aspirations and questions the right of Jews to have their own state.The attack on Zionism is not a critique of particular Israeli policies, but rather an assault on Israel as a Jewish state and an attack on Jewish history. It is nothing less than open and unapologetic antisemitism. Among other things, it claims that European Zionism ruined the lives of Middle Eastern Jews and that blame for the suffering of those Jews (the Mizrahi) should fall on European Jews who are colonialist usurpers. According to this narrative, European Jews have duped poor, benighted Middle Eastern Jews who were living blissful lives until those nasty Euro-Jews came along. This is a lie, pure and simple. Middle Eastern Judaism has a long history of love for Israel and hope for a return to their homeland, as do all Jews everywhere on the globe. And Jewish history in the Middle East is complex and often harsh. For example, in Yemen, Jews faced vicious persecution and lived lives of abject poverty and constant harassment and intimidation. They were not even allowed to own musical instruments, and the men were relegated to working in sewers. And, although there were times when Jewish life flourished in the Middle East, Jews throughout the Middle East also faced regular pogroms and persecution for centuries.

Many Presbyterians (if not most at the local levels) do not support this antisemitic position, but a small group of advocates and ideologues have hijacked their church. I wish the challengers all blessings and offer my support in whatever way I can be of use.

For these reasons, I am giving you links to a series of articles that Middle Eastern Jews have themselves written on this topic. I hope you find them of interest.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lyn-julius/presbyterians-have-it-bac_b_4896724.html

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/open-letter-to-the-presbyterian-church-from-an-iraqi-jew/

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/presbyterian-churchs-guide-is-dead-wrong-about-iranian-jewry/

icscholar.org
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Fleeing the Holocaust: A Story of Travel to Iran

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The story of children who came eventually to Tehran to flee the holocaust: http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/gathering_fragments/doll.asp

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Mali and the Cruelty of Fundamentalist Religion

Mali1

Mali is a wonderful African country with gorgeous music, a cosmopolitan history, and a diverse population, but Al Qaeda Islamists have wreaked havoc on the northen section, including the culturally renowned cities of Gao and Timbuktu. This is another warning about what happens when the fanatically religious take control of a society (take a look at Christian fundamentalists in Uganda who are persecuting gays). The embedded video is hard to watch, but powerful:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/24/world/africa/mali-victims-speak-out/index.html

 

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Egypt’s New Pharaoh?

Morsi1

I hope Chris Hedges is wrong, but he might not be. One thing I would say: the Egyptian military has its code and laws and would not probably not accept a radical Islamic government. Morsi had better be careful with them. How this plays out will determine the future of the Arab Spring.


http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/egypts_new_pharaoh_20121216/

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Mount Everest

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Landfill Harmonic

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“People say that we shouldn’t throw trash away carelessly. Well, we shouldn’t throw away people, either.” Favio Chavez, Landfillharmonic.  This is an orchestra from Uruguay that makes its instruments from the trash in a landfill dump  (via Dianne Bazell who excerpted this quote)

 

 

 

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Gun Ownership in Israel and Switzerland

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Both Israel and Switzerland are extremely careful about letting civilians own guns in their homes. When you travel in Israel, you see lots of soldiers with potent guns. However, in Israel, outside of the settlements, there is a very low gun ownership rate. In fact, with the exception of those who live in settlements, you are not allowed to own guns unless you held the rank of at least captain in the IDF and have a good reason to own a gun. Those who do own are required to go through a rigorous series of physical and psychological tests. Further, Israel rejects 40% of applications for gun purchase and requires that every gun sold have a government trace mark in case of investigation. Even off-duty soldiers are required to leave their guns on base when they return home.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/14/mythbusting-israel-and-switzerland-are-not-gun-toting-utopias/

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Critique of Obama and 1967 by Rabbi H.D. Uriel Smith

Here is an article Rabbi Uriel Smith of Lexington, Kentucky, critiquing Obama’s statement on Israel and the 1967 borders. While I don’t agree with Rabbi Smith on Obama, he offers a crucial insight into the importance of Arabic for Israelis. Jewish writers and cultural leaders have written and spoken in Arabic for centuries, but Mizrahi immigration to Israel did not produce a continuation of this tradition. Israelis (and Jews) forgot or rejected their Arabic heritage. For Israel to function successfully in a primarily Arabic-speaking Middle East (except Iran and Turkey), Israelis will have to adopt not only Hebrew, English and (perhaps) Russian, but Arabic as well.

Thanks to Rabbi Smith for taking the time to make this important point. Rabbi Smith has a wide range of interests, with extensive knowledge of Israel, the Middle East, and Judaism. He also has a background in physics and has spent considerable time investigating the stage theory of thinking.

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“Based on 1967 With Mutually Agreed Swaps” Equals Gridlock

by H. D. Uriel Smith

In 2002 Michael Walzer identified four Israeli-Palestinian wars that were conducted simultaneously (Arguing About War [New Haven & London: Yale Univ., 2004], 113):

  • The first is a Palestinian war to destroy the State of Israel.
  • The second is a Palestinian war to create an independent state, ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The third is an Israeli war for the security of Israel within the 1967 borders.
  • The fourth is an Israeli war for Greater Israel, including the settlements and the occupied territories.

This helps us understand the Israeli situation, but it does so by simplifying it in various ways. Thus, these four wars have intermediate sub-wars, such as those manipulating the boundaries. Next, the tactics of war include diplomacy, spying, smuggling, building and demolishing houses and farmland, both legally and illegally, and manipulating the news media, as well as guerrilla war and rocketry. The simplification furthermore conceals the manipulations of outsiders from the west and the east, including the Quartet supposedly guaranteeing the Oslo Road Map, Iran, and the Arab League, each with its own prejudgements, promotions, and plans of action. Finally, it treats Israel as the main force in the area, and thus responsible for all the peace delays, even though both sides of the conflict, Israelis and Palestinians, always have had very few viable options, and all these options were mutually contradictory.

President Obama in his May 19 speech outlining his administration’s policy on the Middle East, and in his May 22 speech to the AIPAC Policy Conference stated that negotiations for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement should quickly start again, with the 1967 armistice lines serving as the basis for a future land-swap. In effect he declared the first and last of the wars identified by Walzer to be illegitimate. However, his formulation involves a whole series of obfuscations. The armistice lines were never legal borders. The proposed land-swaps were never capable of being equitable swaps. The “1967” date is really a 1949 date. And, since when Israel captured the West Bank only Great Britain and Pakistan had recognized Jordan’s annexation of that area, the question whether the area was “occupied territory” remained from the start under legal dispute. All that President Obama did was to join the other members of the Quartet in trying to ram mutually contradictory half-truths down the throats of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, instead of guaranteeing the Oslo Road Map to peace, the only path to peace that already had been agreed upon by all sides. In short, his formulation set a road map to gridlock.

Scholars have long ago shown that when there is a long-lasting dispute the strongest participant in the dispute is blamed for prolonging the dispute. So, by forcing Netanyahu to protest publicly President Obama’s program (“the mouse that roared”) America is reinforcing the caricature of Israel’s responsibility for holding back the peace prospects.

Nevertheless, there is a path to peace, though it is slow and will take a long time to succeed. The troubles in Northern Ireland took many decades to be overridden. The recent visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland should have reminded us that it took ninety years since a British monarch could again visit Ireland. Both President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan have visited Israel.

In order for there to be peace between Israel and its neighbours Israel will have to remain strong, with a military edge over its neighbours. It will have to maintain an economic edge, continually developing scientific, engineering, and humanistic studies with practical applications at the forefront of human endeavours. And it will have to be capable of communicating easily with its neighbours.

For the last requirement to succeed, Israel will have to become trilingual, much as the Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land were at the end of the Second Temple period. The Israelis already learn English, French, or Russian, so that they can speak “computerese” and do business in foreign markets. The Israelis should also routinely learn Arabic. More completely bilingual (Hebrew and Arabic) primary and secondary schools have to be developed. The Misrahi (Oriental) Jews should start learning Judeo-Arabic in their yeshivot (rabbinical academies), just as the Ashkenazi yeshivot use Yiddish. In this way they can learn the classical texts of Rav Saadia Gaon, Bahya ibn Pakuda, Judah Ha-Levi, and the Rambam (Maimonides) in their original language. Each party in the Knesset should as a rule have half of its members being trilingual, speaking Hebrew, Arabic, and at least one other language. (This would in some ways be similar to the Canadian official bilingualism, where both English and French are official languages.)

Since the foundation of the State of Israel Arabic has been an official language in Israel. However, in February 24 this year, a draft bill was debated proposing the abolishment of Arabic as an official language. On the other hand, in March we had news that Palestinians are trying to flood the Knesset emails with letters in Arabic containing “information about the Palestinian issue.” So extremists on both sides are trying to harm the regular communications of official Israeli business. It is time to recognize that only through communication on all levels that peace can be promoted.

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See also my essays on Obama and the 1967 boundaries:

For Part I, see http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/23/obama-and-1967

For Part II, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/24/obama-and-1967-2/

For Part III, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/26/getting-to-yes-negotiating-101-with-netanyahu-and-obama/

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Political Turbulence and the Coming World Transformation

I just saw Rachel Maddow’s program this evening. Did you know the extent to which Democrats have been winning unexpectedly in heavenly Republican districts? Obviously there’s the stunning victory in New York 26, but there’s much more going on.  Democrats are winning everywhere: for Jacksonville mayor, for Tampa mayor, in New Hampshire for a state senate seat, and in Wisconsin for a state assembly seat.  In a 50-50 Maine state senate district, the Democrat won by over 40 percentage points. In Ohio a Republican state senator who voted for the union busting bill resigned after relentless criticism for that vote. In Alabama, a state senator flipped from Republican to Democrat. The Republican governor of Florida (Rick Scott) has a 29% approval rating, while Republican John Kasich in Ohio is cratering in the polls and Republican Scott Walker is doing poorly in Wisconsin. In Ohio a poll showed an 18% lead for the opponents of the union busting bill.

What’s going on? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this quick of a political turn-around? This is more dramatic than what happened after the government shut-down in 1994-95. Now you never know what will happen down the road, but what were the Republicans thinking? Their strategy makes no political sense. It’s as if the end of the world were coming, and the Republicans tried to grab as much stuff as they possibly could before all hell broke loose. Busting unions, destroying Medicare, eviscerating social programs, offering tax-give-aways to the super-rich and corporations, gutting the environment, criminalizing abortion, and much more does not seem to be working out so well for them politically.

Honestly, I can’t make sense of what they’re thinking politically. It’s totally illogical and just plain bizarre. They could have caused a lot of damage and still maintained some semblance of political viability, but they chose instead to take a wrecking ball. The only thing that I can postulate is that Republicans were not thinking politically, but were instead doing the bidding of a few very powerful super-rich people such as the Koch Brothers. In other words,, Republicans had marching orders and happily walked the plank. Somehow, I guess, they think that these guys will rescue them or do something.  I’m not sure, but that’s all I came come up with.

They are handing the 2012 general election on a silver platter to the Democrats. Why?????  Do you have any ideas out there? It makes no sense. I’m perplexed.

Now, that said, I am concerned for our country. Yes, I want far-right-wing crazies, nut-jobs, and loony-tunes to lose, but our country needs at least two viable competing parties. Without that either party will probably mess things up even more. I can’t imagine that Democrats will know what to do with the massive majorities they might win in next election if things go as they seem to be going. We need two real parties with serious ideas that must compete with the serious ideas of the other party. Right now the Republicans are nuts, like invading locusts destroying everything in their paths, while Democrats are gleefully watching the self-destruction, but they don’t have any real ideas. Now Obama, I believe, has a vision, but the Democrats as a whole are pretty much empty.  So where does that leave us as a country?

What I wish for are two parties: one which is expansive, trying to move the nation forward by advocating expenditures that will improve our quality of life and develop a new strategy to keep our economic global prominence; and another party that stands for fiscal responsibility that creatively figures our ways to save money, keep taxes reasonable, and act as good managers and stewards of our resources.

What’s happened? Where are these parties? I consider myself a progressive independent, a strong supporter of Obama, who has no alternative but to vote Democrat in light of the madness that currently passes for Republican policy.  But that’s not what I want. I want a Democrat party that stands for something meaningful and hopeful and a Republican party that recognizes itself as a solid citizen watching over expenditures carefully and supporting change while also understanding the value of tradition. Instead, the Democrats just kind of float along living in FDR’s shadow, while the Republicans have gone off the deep end. Where is the imagination and creativity? Where is honor and responsibility. It exists with a few individuals, but it’s absent from political groups as wholes.

This is a wild time. Maybe we have to go through it as a country, but we are sure facing tremendous uncertainty and volatility unlike anything I can remember and really know about historically, at least since the Civil War. This is, I think, part of the great shift happening at a global level. We are entering a new period of history and consciousness, watching the collapse of old systems (including political ones) while new ones emerge.  Perhaps we should not get caught up in the day-to-day, political and social earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but look through and beyond that to the world that is coming–for us and the globe. Perhaps nation-states will disintegrate as new forms of governance emerge that act at both global and local levels. A lot of people focus on up-and-coming countries like China, but perhaps we need to look toward the new structures that are emerging that have nothing to do with nations or political parties, but with movements–such as environmental activism or freedom movements in the Middle East or micro-financing or the post-religious “spiritual but nor religious” phenomenon or whatever –that are creating systems that we can’t even really seen just yet.

I have for a long time sensed a global shift and world transformation bubbling up from the depths, but experiencing it is completely different from envisioning it.

Any thoughts out there in the blogosphere and web world?

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Israel, Obama, 1967, and Obama

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Getting to Yes: Negotiating 101 with Netanyahu and Obama (Part III)

You would think from some  editorial commentary, the bloviating of certain politicians, and defensive reactions in some quarters of the Jewish community that Obama and Netanyahu had a huge argument and that they were now going to have a trial separation. All the neighbors heard them fighting and now the yenta circuit has spread word all over town about the verbal explosion in the well-to-do white sandstone house down the street.  As I have suggested in two previous posts, this reaction is politically naive.

The words of Netanyahu and Obama did not diverge significantly on borders. The tone of Netanyahu was certainly more assertive than that of Obama, but the substance of what Netanyahu said did not differ substantially from what Obama and Israeli negotiators and diplomats have said for years. The 1967 borders will serve as  a baseline for negotiations, but the final borders will not be the same as the 1967 Green Line and the large settlements will remain part of Israel. Netanyahu and Obama agreed on that.

The difference in the language and style has to do with domestic considerations and negotiating strategy.

Netanyahu has to sound tough to appeal to his Likud base (although the majority of Israelis in recent polls did not agree with him on this). American presidents succeed when they take the role of statesmen, because Americans want the U.S. to lead in making the world a more peaceful place. In our national psyche, we see ourselves as having a mission to bring freedom and  success to other parts of the world.

As negotiators, Obama and Netanyahu are playing good cop and bad cop. This has occurred as long as there has been diplomacy. Negotiating in the Middle East is treacherous. Ehud Barak erred in 1999-2000 when he put all his cards on the table without having others in reserve. There is no way that Arab leaders will agree to a treaty unless it seems that they are sticking it to the Israelis and sucking them dry at the negotiating table. Any proposal that an Israel leader approves of at the outset is a dead proposal. No Palestinian would agree to it. At the same, Netanyahu cannot just abandon his base. However, when an American leader pushes him, he can say that he had to acquiesce on some matters, because of the importance of our friendship with the U.S. and because of the transformation that peace would bring to Israel.

This is a kabuki dance. It has always been like this, and it always be like this as long as we play the game of negotiations. What Netanyahu and Obama are doing is Negotiating Strategy 101–basic stuff. That doesn’t mean it will work, but it does provide a chance for peace.

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For Part I, see http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/23/obama-and-1967

For Part II, see http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/24/obama-and-1967-2/

See also the article by Rabbi H.D. Uriel Smith: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/06/06/critique-of-obama-and-1967/

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Cairo’s Garbage People

A tour of a Christian district in Cairo where the garbage collectors live in squalor amidst sewage and garbage:
http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/279-82/6031-garbage-people

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Honor Killing in West Bank and the Need for Reform

Sad, but illuminating. And there’s some hope with the popular anger against the murderer and violence against women:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/05/20/mideast.honor.killing/index.html?iphoneemail (via Dianne Bazell)

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Obama and 1967: A Sympathetic Response (Part I)

Israeli negotiators have long acknowledged that the 1967 lines have been and will be the basis for future negotiations of a Palestinian state. Virtually every discussion of security and settlements has assumed this. The info from WikiLeaks confirms this as the Israeli position. Even Netanyahu has more or less admitted this in a recent speech to the Knesset.  He sounds tough, but his positions are in line with previous Israeli negotiating positions. He just doesn’t want to use the word, “1967.”

The reaction to Obama’s statement in the Arab world says it all. Arabs don’t like it because in part everyone (including the Israelis) already knew about 1967. It’s old news. Actually Obama’s statement was one of the most forceful defenses of Israel by any administration: his condemnation of Hamas’ call for Israel’s annihilation and his demand that any negotiations for a Palestinian state require groups to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state; and his frank criticisms of the UN. Many in the Arab world are very upset by this. In my view, Obama’s position is an attempt to protect Israel from the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state by the U.N. General Assembly. It gives (we hope) him, the US, and other nations cover to oppose this by simply stating what everyone already knows to be the case. In the end, the only parties that can determine boundaries and arrangements are the Israelis and the Palestinians, not some third-party bureaucracy.

Obama merely stated what negotiators on both sides have long admitted: Israel will keep the larger settlements, but the “1967” border will remain more or less. Of course, the “more or less” is key, and there will be territorial, financial, and other arrangements. This is just boiler-plate stuff. It’s only the politicians and rhetoricians who pander to their true-believing bases that naively think there is some kind of alternative or new deal or conquest or God that will solve the problem. My guess is that Netanyahu understands this as well-privately, but will never admit to it publicly (even though his actual public words may be read as confirming my point).

As for Jerusalem, Israelis have already offered some kind of arrangement of East Jerusalem under both Barak and Olmert: Jewish neighborhoods under Israeli control, Palestinian ones under Palestinian control. Israeli negotiators confirm this time and time again. Many of us make not like it or think it unworkable (frankly I wonder), but it’s what the Israelis themselves have offered–not Obama or the far-left.

In other words, what I am saying is what is in fact what Israelis themselves have already stated or offered in private talks.  It’s not new. What we’re all are arguing about is rhetoric that the negotiators and diplomats in Israel only pay attention to for political and PR reasons, not substantive ones. In other words, those of us who argue about Israel are just talking, but the negotiation facts are way ahead of us.

The real issue is not territory any more. Its culture and politics. Until the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state, nothing will happen. And they don’t accept Israel. That’s one enormous problem. The other is the state of Palestinian governance and society. The Palestinian government is still (compared to Israel and the West) unstable,  corrupt, ineffective, and repressive. There’s no authentic democracy or freedom. The culture and economy are still backward, primitive, and unmanageable.  Of course, Gaza is much worse than the West Bank.

And we Jews have to admit that we have some problems with extremists on our side as well, particularly among the settlers. And there are discrimination and prejudice issues in Israel itself. They are not as serious or as significant as among the Palestinians, but we who are Jewish have to face this honestly and deal with it.

Until Palestinians deal with their deep problems, there will be no meaningful agreement.  And I don’t feel very positive about that–unfortunately.  Still, as Obama says, we have to try. You never know, and events can unfold in unpredictable ways that are turn out better than expected from time to time. This is the moment when we have to push forward, not sit back and watch events on the ground deteriorate.

I say this as a thank-you to President Obama from a Jew and a strong Zionist.

————–

For Part II, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/24/obama-and-1967-2/

For Part III, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/26/getting-to-yes-negotiating-101-with-netanyahu-and-obama/

See also the article by Rabbi H.D. Uriel Smith: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/06/06/critique-of-obama-and-1967/

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Birthers and Deathers: In the World of Loony-Tunes

Now that the birth certificate is out, there are those who doubt that Osama bin Laden is dead. Sadly the wackos have some mainstream attention.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-05-05/osama-bin-laden-killing-launches-birthers-new-deather-conspiracy-theory-/full/#

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Current TV Booted Off Air in Italy by Murdoch Minions

This illustrates the great danger of media monopolies. Because Al Gore hired Keith Olbermann, Murdoch’s News Corp. will keep Current TV off the air in Italy. A conservative media power blows off a progressive upstart. And once again corporations show us who has the real power in the world.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/19/al-gore-rupert-mudoch-news-corp

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General Boykin and Christian Dominionism

Former General William “Jerry” Boykin is busy promoting Christian dominionism, targeting Islam, and promoting “Christian warriors.” This is one wierd world. George Bernard Shaw was right when he said that “earth is the insane asylum of the universe.” I guess General Boykin and his allies are not very familiar with cultures and traditions other than his own. Just living in his own little isolation chamber, I guess
http://coloradoindependent.com/85808/palin-to-honor-troops-in-colorado-with-christian-military-crusader-boykin

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Immigrants are the Core of Who We are in the US

I could not agree more with Reverend Wallis.  As the recent dismissal of  Chipotle employees (in Washington, D.C.) demonstrates (because the company was afraid of their legal status), our immigration system is broken. Reverend Wallis is right when he notes that our country would grind to a halt without Latino/a immigrant workers. We would simply not function as a country without them. These are hard-working people with the kind of drive and energy that is at the core of the prosperity and dynamism of the U.S. The xenophobia and fear that characterizes so much of our national discourse on this topic is not only economically and morally harmful to us, but it diverts us from the real problems we face.

Except for Native americans, we are all immigrants, including my grandparents who came to this country from Russia and Poland. The Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) is one of our greatest symbols, representing the most deeply held values of our people. Let us not react to our anxieties and hatred, but let us live out our dreams and hopes. That is the meaning of every great moral and spiritual tradition.

http://blog.sojo.net/2011/05/19/chipotle-firings-one-story-of-a-broken-immigration-system/#disqus_thread

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Secret Mercenary Force Set Up by Blackwater Founder for UAE

Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater (now XE) is now working on building a mercenary force of mostly Latin American soldiers that will work on behalf of the UAE in order to put down internal revolts, defend pipelines, and combat terrorism. No Muslims need apply, because the leadership and Prince is convinced that Muslim soldiers will not shoot other Muslims.  Prince is also associated with Christian dominionism. Meanwhile, is this legal? Can an American citizen hire out a mercenary force on behalf of a foreign nation without permission of the U.S. government? At the least, this will not make the United States look very good to the Arab/Muslim world.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/world/middleeast/15prince.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

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Afghanistan and Reverend Jim Wallis

I respect Reverend Wallis, and I understand his point of view on Afghanistan. War is always awful and tragic, and hideous things have certainly happened in Afghanistan, including American military kill teams and our support for corrupt and misogynist Afghani political leaders, among others.

Yet, the nature of war and violence does not necessarily make it wrong in every case. The American Civil War and World War II are two wars that were ethically defensible and, in fact, morally required. Sometimes war is the best option among a set of worse options. That does not justify the crimes and horrors inevitably committed in violent contexts that degrade our consciences and moral compasses, but it does justify the use of violence in certain instances.

We did not go to war in to Afghanistan simply to kill Osama Bin Laden, but also to destroy the Taliban and to assist in creating a Afghan society that is stable and free, able to resist corruption, terrorism, and tyranny. We made that promise when we decided, in a bipartisan fashion that crossed political lines, to bring our troops into Afghanistan. This was not supposed to be dependent on how simple or swift the task was or to be a quick jaunt that we could end when the going got muddy and rough. We gave our implicit word that we would stay the course until we transformed a divided, undeveloped society into a nation that could function healthily and proudly on its own.

This was never going to be easy or quick. From the beginning, anyone who knew something about Afghan society understood that this was a long-term task that would realistically last no less than ten years and could take 20-40 years. If we aren’t ready to embark on such ventures, then we shouldn’t make the commitment to others. If we don’t hold to our commitments, no one will take us seriously on anything.  Other countries will view as fair-weather friends.

The majority of Afghans have experienced violence for centuries and understand that our military will screw up and do bad things (it’s in the nature of war and human weakness).  Most also realize that screwing up does not mean that we should give up. That’s an adult view of the world.

I support continued involvement in Afghanistan, but with a lower military footprint and a stronger non-military, society-building presence. Many Afghans don’t currently trust us for good reason–not because of kill teams and incompetence, but because they believe that we will leave sooner rather than later.   Let’s prove them wrong. Let’s show that we stand by our commitments and don’t abandon those who put faith in us.

http://blog.sojo.net/2011/05/12/afghanistan-no-more-excuses/#disqus_thread

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European Corporations Treat U.S. Homeowners and Workers Like Slumlords

In Europe, corporations treat workers with some respect, but in the good, old USA, those very same corporations act as slumlords and bully workers. This shows how important government actually is in protecting our standard of living.  Who else will protect working people?

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-meyerson-europeans-20110515,0,3990894.story

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More on Arab Protesters at Israel’s Borders

Who knows. Maybe this will help divert enough attention from Assad and others to keep the old regimes in power for a little while. Protesting Israel is one way to distract Middle Eastern populations from their internal problems. Blaming Jews (here Israel) is one of the oldest, tried-and-true techniques for keeping attention off of those in power.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/world/middleeast/16mideast.html?pagewanted=all

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Protesters Descend on Israel’s Borders

This is one way to distract everyone from their internal problems in the Arab world:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110515/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians

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Kidnapped Reporter Calls to Say Good-Bye

Here is the harrowing, deeply moving story of Melissa Fung’s kidnapping in Afghanistan:
http://www.thestar.com/printarticle/986850

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Youth Blocked in Japan

In Japan, there is a enormous economic generation gap, where youth cannot advance because of a conservative culture and the economic control of older people. With the earthquake and tsunami, will society grow even more rigid or open up?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/asia/28generation.html?hp

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Nuclear Plant Building Cancelled in Japan

Is the cancellation of nuclear plant building in Japan a taste of events to come or an anomaly?
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/world/asia/11japan.html?_r=1&nl=afternoonupdate&emc=aua2

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Healing Severe Battlefield Injuries

A moving description of military trauma medicine in the setting of the Naval Medical Center of San Diego.
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0507-marine-injury-20110507,0,2209855,full.story

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Chris Hondros’ Photo that Screamed Pain

A sad story about the trauma of war and the power of photographs: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/07/world/middleeast/07photo.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

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U.S. Ready for Fight with Pakistanis in Bin Laden Raid

Hmm…It’s possible, but unlikely given the deal between the two countries. Still one has to plan for every contingency:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/10/world/asia/10intel.html

http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/09/secret-deal-between-pakistan-and-u-s-on-bin-laden/

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Rumsfeld Denies Waterboarding Helped Kill Bin Laden

Even Donald Rumsfeld agrees that water-boarding was not important in the intelligence that identified the location of Osama Bin Laden:
http://foknewschannel.com/rumsfeld-disproves-conservatives-tortured-argument/

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Bin Laden Photos are not Trophies

I agree with Obama’s decision not to release the gruesome photos.
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-photo-20110506,0,7106745.story

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