A Daily "Thought"

12/03/2012

An "ordinary Faces in the Crowd"s Reflection On the Week That Was

Israel has begun its' move to "punish" Palestine for the vote it won last week. Israel has announced plans to build 3,000 homes on settlements with an additional planning to begin the planning process in the so-called E1 area that would link existing settlements with East Jerusalem. This violates the Oslo Accords. What Israel has done has basically killed the remnants of a peace process that has been at best under life support. Beyond its' construction plans, it has said that it will not transfer 120 Million Dollars in Tax Revenue to the Palestine National Authority. It claims that the money will be used to pay the debt the Palestine National Authority owes to an Israeli Power Company.

Israel will not go down the path of negotiation without a fight. Because this symbolic win by Palestine allows it to leverage International Organizations as never before, it has caused fear in Israeli Government circles. The moves made by Israel to "respond" to the move is basically to tell the World that it is not interested in a two-state solution at all and that all the pronouncements about its' commitment to Peace are at best, hollow. It clearly shows that the Israeli Prime Minister believes that it can ride out the latest challenge while it looks to securing re-election to another term in January. The Israeli Prime Minister talked about Israel's Strategic Map. He went on to note that it rejected the International Community's Determination. What is startling is how they have basically told the World that they simply do not care. The question is whether their policy of going it alone and continuing to be "Fortress Israel" will serve them well.

As long as the United States continues to blindly support Israel while totally disregarding the rest of the Middle East will not serve it well. Furthermore, the stance the United States took by being one of 9 nations to vote against Palestine's bid underscored the isolation it had in the World and how out of touch it was. isolation was evident when one of the first World Leaders to embrace Mahmoud Abbas was the Foreign Minister of Turkey. The standing ovation and the startled look of the Israeli Ambassador to the UN was quite a scene. The US leverage is not there anymore--and that is the absolute reality on the ground. The United States came out against the plans for additional settlements. But the lip service given to such transgressions by Israel is very known to the Arab Street which underscores the continued erosion of the United States as an honest broker.

When the historic vote occurred, key Israeli Papers noted their views on the "future" as noted by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs: :

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Summary of Editorials from the Hebrew Press

(Israel Government Press Office)

Three papers discuss various issues ahead of today's UN General Assembly vote on granting the Palestinians non-member, observer status:

Ma'ariv discusses the reported moderation in the Government's projected response. The author asserts: "Netanyahu and Liberman preferred to go against their DNA and show restraint in the face of the Palestinian provocation," and notes their similar restrained response in and following Operation Pillar of Defence. The paper speculates that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants "to reserve his political capital in the international community for the coming storm over Iran's enriched uranium."

Yisrael Hayom avers that Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen is "using the demand to recognize Palestine in order to bolster his shaky image at home," especially in light of his marginalization during and following the recent conflict in Hamas-controlled Gaza. The author recalls how Abu Mazen rejected then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's far-reaching proposals in 2009.

Haaretz believes that “there is more to the Palestinians' move than mere symbolism. A recognized Palestinian state will give Israel a responsible partner with international backing - one that will represent the entire Palestinian people and be able to make decisions in its name.” The editor asserts: “Recognition of a Palestinian state is not an obstacle to peace,” and concludes: “It isn't just the Palestinians who deserve a diplomatic horizon. The Israelis deserve one too.”

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Yediot Aharonot commends the Obama administration's Iran policy of pursuing both heightened sanctions and negotiations. The author notes the widespread Israeli belief that "The Iranians are not seriously considering giving up their nuclear project and are only trying to play for time," especially since "In the past, Iran has consistently and unashamedly lied and played for time in order to secretly advance its nuclear project." However, the paper believes that "If Netanyahu makes it known, even secretly, that he does not oppose the existence of a secret channel between the US and Iran, a channel that has no red lines at the outset, he would see an improvement in his strained personal relations with Obama while also being portrayed as someone who is not trigger-happy and who prefers a diplomatic solution." The author cautions that "Such negotiations cannot go on forever, neither can they end on any condition. The US needs to! make it clear to Iran that it must dismantle a considerable part of its nuclear project and do so with full transparency in the very near future. Even if the move fails, Israel will gain: Obama will have to prove that he stands by his word that Iran will not have a nuclear bomb and that he will use all options to realize this promise."

The Jerusalem Post opines that “while the Likud’s move to the Right is a democratic reflection of the will of a majority of Israelis, we must be wary of undermining other aspects of Israel’s democratic character,” and warns: “we must be careful of a situation in which there is a ‘tyranny of the majority.’” The editor points out that “The rule of the majority is just one aspect of a healthy democracy,” and adds: “Careful protection of minority rights, freedom of expression for all and a strong, independent judiciary are no less important.”

[Eli Bardenstein, Dan Margalit and Ronen Bergman wrote today’s articles in Ma'ariv, Yisrael Hayom and Yediot Aharonot respectively.]

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This sampling of the prevailing view in Israel reflects that there is no consensus on what happens next. What is more crucial is to underscore the precarious state of the seize fire between Gaza and Israel. It is so far holding--although a number of Palestinians were killed late last week during an Israeli incursion. Egypt has been designated the guarantor of the Peace Process--and the Country is in the midst of a major upheaval right now. Mohammad Morsi' Decree granting him Super-Presidential Powers has thrown Egypt into another round of uncertainty. The Judges have stopped working and have announced they will not oversee the vote on the upcoming elections.

Beyond Israel and Palestine, there is the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian Civil War continues onward with no end in sight. The Israeli-Gaza War and the turmoil in Egypt has thrown it off the headlines. But the daily killing continues. The fighting continue to rage on in Damascus, Alepo and other major cities. I have reviewed reports of Syrian Government Jets having been shut down by rebels. I was frankly hopeful for some major developments after Egypt air and Emirates stopped their service to Damascus and Alepo. They decided to restart service within the past 24 hours. I was also hopeful as major defections occurred (including the former Prime Minister and key commanders of the Armed Forces). Yet, somehow, the Syrian Regime continues onward with its' fight for survival. I continue to be amazed as to how the Syrian Government continues to sustain a campaign of carnage as it has. The only explanation I have for it is continued Russian and Iranian support. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, is going to Turkey to discuss the situation with the Turkish Prime Minister. In the meantime, the people of Syria continue to suffer.

Iran, in the meantime, continues with its' own challenges. As it is trying to assert its' continued regional position, it continues to have internal strife. The daughter of the Former President, Hashemi Rafsanjani, continues to remain in jail. The two leading internal opposition figures, Mousavi and Karboui, continue to be under house arrest. Their families continue to be harassed. The latest move has been against Mousavi's daughter for having had the audacity to discuss the conditions of his father. They have made moves to deny her the right to to teach. The defacto military government in power in Iran is in full force. The World must understand that Iran has adopted a modified version of North Korea's Military First Policy to allow the military (and more specifically the Revolutionary Guard Corp) to be in the ascendancy. This is, for instance, exemplified by the cabinet positions. The ministers of Oil and Defence in the current Cabinet are Guardsmen in addition to the Minister of Interior.
Beyond Israel, Palestine and Iran there is Kuwait. I have been assessing the situation in Kuwait with concern. It has been in the midst of a political turmoil that has seen its' second parliamentary elections. The opposition has been up in arms by boycotting the new elections. It has stalled the Country with no apparent end in sight. Kuwait has had a semblance of Democracy--although the Emir is still an absolute ruler and ultimately will not tolerate dissent because the Prime Minister and most of the top ministers are members of the ruling Royal Family. The Emir has the right to dissolve Parliament as he pleases with no accountability. The Emir has dissolved Parliament twice and has changed the voting laws.

Tunisia has also been in the midst of a major upheaval because the people have been up in arms because they still cannot find jobs and continue to be in a state of desperation even after a year that saw the dictator Ben Ali leave the Country.

Beyond the Middle East, Africa has been in the midst of turmoil on its' own. Nigeria has been dealing with a violent insurgency that has pitted Christians against Muslims. The Democratic Republic of Congo has been dealing with the M23 insurgency for quite some time. The M23 group broke away from the Congolese Army as it began its' quest to assert itself to force the Government to change. What is the tragedy is how all the funds spent by the International Community to bring back Congo has been in vain. There was an election that was marred with irregularities. The UN troops in the Congo stood aside as M23 marched into Goma virtually unopposed as Congolese Army soldiers ran away. It is probably the most strategic country in Africa. It has some of the most crucial minerals the World needs. Yet, it has not had the ability to govern itself ever since the former Dictator Mobutu was deposed. I was also amused by the recent alliance between Kenyatta and Rutu in Kenya. Kenyatta, the Son of Kenya's founder, is the richest man in the Country and thinks that he is entitled. The two are under indictment by the International Criminal Court.

As I survey the World this week, I continue to assess what is going on in Washington. The so-called fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington have begun in earnest. The Speaker of the House has been on a Public Relations Campaign to underscore how he and the House Republican Conference is looking for the President to lead and to propose the necessary cuts. This is as the Republicans have continued their campaign for cuts in social services and balk at tax increases. There were reports of Mitch McConnell "laughing" and the Speaker disappointed at the offers. What The President apparently did was to basically stick to his campaign promises as the opening "bid". The Congress, though, will apparently enhance its' reputation as the "do-nothing" Congress in the meantime by meeting in one of the least number of legislative days ever as it finishes off one of its' worst productive years ever in terms of legislation being passed.

I had a chance to catch glimpses of a program on Bloomberg with the CEO's of Blackrock, Honeywell & UPS. I was struck by the CEO of Honeywell's view that "adults need to take charge". What is critical to note is that the World is watching. The CEO of Blackrock noted this as he noted how the IMF meetings in Tokyo focused on the United States. As Europe continues to struggle with a double dip recession and other countries around the World continue to look inward, the need to figure out a way to finish this fiscal cliff negotiation and achieve a sense of fiscal stability to avoid uncertainty is critical in the World right now.


It will certainly be a very interesting week indeed.
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