By Michael Petrou - Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
Barely a month ago, the arc of Israeli politics seemed pretty clear, if not all that promising. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party had teamed up with the even more right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, and the combined bloc was poised to dominate the election. Its probable coalition partners included Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party, which wants to formally annex a chunk of the West Bank and is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state. Israel was lurching to the right, throwing away what might be its last chance at a workable peace with the Palestinians.
This was more or less how I read things at the time. I was hardly alone. And then elections in January proved us wrong. Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu did win a plurality of seats, and Jewish Home finished a strong — though weaker than expected — fourth. But the right did not surge overall. And the biggest advance was achieved by the centrist Yesh Atid party, whose leader, Yair Lapid, supports a two-state solution, even if it was not the focus of his platform.
I wrote after the elections, that their results were unlikely to herald much progress on negotiations with the Palestinians. The issue simply didn’t factor in the campaign. But the Israeli centre and left had shown itself to have life, forcing Netanyahu to say he would try to form a broad coalition, rather than seeking refuge among likeminded nationalists.
Now that coalition is beginning to take shape. Netanyahu has forged an alliance with the Hatnua party and its chair Tzipi Livni — a strong proponent of a negotiated peace built on two states. Livni will be justice minister, and is charged with leading negotiations on the Palestinian issue. Continue…
By Emma Teitel - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 10:27 AM - 0 Comments
Sunday Times cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, the man who brought you the album art on Pink Floyd’s The Wall, erected another wall this past weekend. The new one looks a lot like the old one, except that it’s built atop dying Palestinians and their blood provides the mortar. Oh, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in as architect, his caricature complete with oversized ears and (you guessed it) a formidable nose. His horns, they say, are vestigial.
The writing on the wall as inferred by the Anti-Defamation League?
We don’t need no Jewish Nation.
Here’s Michael A. Salberg, the ADL’s International Affairs Director:
“The Sunday Times has clearly lost its moral bearings publishing a cartoon with a blatantly anti-Semitic theme and motif which is a modern day evocation of the ancient ‘blood libel’ charge leveled at Jews.”
I wasn’t aware that the Times had moral bearings, but the ADL isn’t entirely wrong in their “blood libel” charge. Scarfe’s Netanyahu does look a lot like this, and this, and this. There’s also the awkward bit about the cartoon being published on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Even Rupert Murdoch, who owns the newspaper, managed an apology. He called the cartoon grotesque.
But there remains a big gaping hole in this tale of anti-Semitism. For one, Scarfe isn’t an anti-Semite. Yes, to a lot of Jews (myself included) the cartoon appears anti-Semitic, but that has less to do with Scarfe–a man who has depicted several political leaders he abhors, most of them non-Jews, with exaggerated facial features in exaggerated ways—and more to do with context. Tony Blair, for example, (another one of Scarfe’s subjects) doesn’t belong to a religious group with a history of systemic discrimination. Or genocide. Neither does George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton–other leaders the cartoonist has taken aim at over the years. Netanyahu, on the other hand, does. Unlike Bibi, Blair, Bush, and Clinton don’t belong to a minority whose facial features were altered grotesquely throughout propaganda history, not for comic effect, but to instill fear and incite violence.
Scarfe has affirmed that he is not an anti-Semite—that he had no idea Holocaust Remembrance Day would fall on the same day the paper published his Bibi Netanyahu-architect-of-death cartoon. Here he is talking to the press, below:
“The Sunday Times has given me the freedom of speech over the last 46 years to criticize world leaders for what I see as their wrong-doings. This drawing was a criticism of Netanyahu, and not of the Jewish people…I was, however, stupidly completely unaware that it would be printed on Holocaust day, and I apologize for the very unfortunate timing.”
Anti-Zionists and ADL critics will of course say that the date on which the cartoon was published is irrelevant. If Scarfe’s beef is with a government, not a people, what does Holocaust Remembrance Day have to do with anything?
The answer, as he now knows, is everything.
The day has everything to do with the deed because it is, at this point in history, almost impossible to draw a sensational political caricature of a Jewish person without evoking images of Der Sturmer. The history is still too recent, the wounds still fresh.
If Gerald Scarfe is to learn anything from this, let it be that until further notice, like it or not, the only socially acceptable time to draw a Jewish caricature is at a Bar Mitzvah.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 3:53 PM - 0 Comments
Election results in a real democracy are unknowable in advance, and the Israeli electorate is especially fickle. Even so, the results of yesterday’s legislative elections have surprised almost everyone.
Analysts and commentators — backed up by polling data — predicted a shift rightwards. And to be sure, the right did enjoy some success. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s combined Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu bloc won a plurality of seats with 31 out of a possible 120, but far fewer than the two parties won separately last time around. And a new right-wing force, Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett, has burst onto Israel’s political scene with 11 seats. Bennett is firmly opposed to the creation a Palestinian state, and wants Israel to formally annex a big chunk of the West Bank.
But the biggest surge belonged to the centrist Yesh Atid party, led by former television journalist Yair Lapid. It finished second, with 19 seats. Lapid aimed his campaign at Israel’s broadly secular middle class, whose members worry about the cost of living, the quality of Israel’s public services, and especially the lack of affordable housing. Significantly, he is confronting Israel’s growing community of ultra-orthodox Jews by arguing that they too must serve in the army and work for a living. (Many choose extended study instead.) Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 10, 2012 at 11:33 AM - 0 Comments
When the reporters accompanying the prime minister on the visit asked for his response to the news, his advisors said that it was Netanyahu who had last called Canadian PM Harper – not the other way around – in order to thank him for voting against the Palestinian bid at the UN last month.
Netanyahu’s entourage said that the conversation between the two did not deal at all with the E-1 question, and that Netanyahu “does not remember” that he spoke with Harper about the settlement issue.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 9:57 AM - 0 Comments
After the Harper government declined to explicitly criticize Israel’s latest settlements and refused to say whether the Prime Minister discussed the matter with Benjamin Netanyahu during their call on Saturday, John Baird now directly criticizes the settlements and says Mr. Harper conveyed the government’s concerns to Mr. Netanyahu.
The Prime Minister believes the settlements would further impair efforts to achieve peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples – a message he conveyed directly to the Israeli Prime Minister during a phone call Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told The Globe and Mail…
“The Palestinians’ actions last week were very unhelpful to the cause of peace, and the Israeli response of settlement expansion is very unhelpful to the cause of peace,” Mr. Baird said.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 2:40 PM - 0 Comments
In the West Bank several years ago, I asked a Palestinian activist how he proposed convincing Israel to make some sort of concession to Palestinian sovereignty. I forget now the specific point we were discussing. But I do remember his response. Israel, he said, cannot be convinced of anything. It must be compelled — non-violently, he added.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, he said, is old-fashioned colonialism, and throughout history colonizers have never given up their colonies simply because they felt like it. They were pressured to do so. There may be exceptions to the rule, but broadly speaking, he’s right. Colonies are freed when the costs of keeping them outweigh the benefits.
I’d argue that Israel has long since passed this point with the West Bank. Controlling the territory without giving citizenship rights to the Palestinians who live there erodes Israel’s democratic legitimacy; annexing the place and enfranchising all its inhabitants would soon make Jews a minority in all of Israel.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, November 5, 2012 at 1:47 PM - 0 Comments
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered the country’s military…
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered the country’s military to prepare to attack Iran’s nuclear program two years ago, and were opposed by the country’s top security officials, according to an Israeli news channel.
The report alleges that during a 2010 meeting with senior ministers, Netanyahu told Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazai, then head of the Israeli Defence Forces, to “set the systems for P-plus,” meaning that an attack could soon commence.
According to Channel 2’s Uvda (Fact) television program, Ashkenazai warned that Israel’s enemies would notice such a move and might respond in a way that would lead to war. Meir Dagan, then chief of the Mossad spy agency, told the channel Netanyahu and Barak were trying to “steal” a decision to go to war without the formal approval of the full Cabinet.
Ehud Barak told the channel such orders are reversible and that “at the moment of truth the answer was given that, in fact, the ability did not exist.”
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 10:55 AM - 0 Comments
For Benjamin Netanyahu, the question is not if, but when to bomb Iran
Mutual hostility between Israel and Iran has burned hot ever since Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979. But rarely, if ever, has the prospect of outright war between the two countries been as real as it is now.
At issue is Iran’s nuclear program. Iran insists it is peaceful. Israel, along with most Western nations, believes it is geared toward obtaining a nuclear weapon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the United Nations last week that Iran is on track to build an atomic bomb by the summer of 2013, is determined to stop it. A firm ultimatum was needed, he said, calling on the United States and other global powers to set a “red line” that Iran would not be allowed to cross without triggering a military response. The U.S. has so far rejected such a tactic. President Barack Obama says the U.S. will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, but he is refusing to threaten Iran with an explicit deadline.
With American help, Israel has launched a covert campaign of sabotage and cyber-warfare. A wave of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists in the last two years is also believed to be Israel’s responsibility. But still Iran’s centrifuges spin, and uranium is enriched.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 10, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Asked about how Iran might respond to Canada’s decision to cut diplomatic relations, the Prime Minister says nothing would surprise him. Iran dismisses the Harper government as “racist.” John Baird says he has no knowledge of military action against Iran. Benjamin Netanyahu and Simon Peres praise the Harper government. Irwin Cotler assesses the situation.
Iranian students in Canada are worried. Iranian-Canadians in Calgary are concerned. Haaretz suggests sanctions and isolation may compel Iran to negotiate. The Tehran Times reacts to the move. Doug Saunders and Gus Van Harten question the Harper government’s decision. The Toronto Star worries about war between Israel and Iran. The Globe questions Mr. Baird’s reasoning and says it’s better to talk with your enemies.
The presence of an embassy and the retention of diplomatic relations is not evidence of support for or approval of a regime, it is an acknowledgement that it is better to talk, even to an enemy, than not.
Cardinal Richelieu devoted a chapter of his Testament politique to the imperative of continuous negotiation, stating, “I may venture to say boldly that to negotiate without ceasing, openly or secretly, in all places, and though no present benefits accrue, nor any prospects of future advantage present itself, is what is absolutely necessary for the good and welfare of States.” It is precisely because it is a threat to its own people and those in other countries that Canada should continue to talk with Iran and not retreat from its international responsibilities.
By Jamie Dettmer - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
A new report declares West Bank settlements legal, but Israel can hardly afford to further alienate Washington
For Barack Obama’s administration, the report could not have landed at a more awkward moment, just as Washington is tightening sanctions on nuclear wannabe Iran and trying to press others to toughen up on Tehran. But then even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who initiated the study and appointed the three-person committee, seemed to take the equivalent of a political gulp by delaying, by two weeks, the release of the report recommending he legalize Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The Levy committee report, recently released, presents Netanyahu with opportunity but also danger. He launched the committee, headed by former Israeli Supreme Court judge Edmond Levy, in January as a way to appease Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories; they have long chafed at a 2005 report by the country’s state prosecutor at the time, which argued that illegal settlements in the West Bank should be dismantled. Some have indeed been, to the anger of settlers.
Now the Levy committee has concluded, in contradiction of a handful of international legal rulings, and some Israeli ones too, that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation, and recommended the state approve scores of new Israeli settlements in the region, which was taken from Jordan in the Six Day War.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 9:33 AM - 0 Comments
But a lengthy paragraph that expressed positive Canadian sentiments toward the Palestinians was eventually trimmed over the course of a handful of early revisions and was eventually cut altogether. ”Canada is a leading supporter of the Palestinian people, having committed $300 million over five years to assist the Palestinian Authority to build capacity in the key areas of justice sector reform, security, and sustainable economic growth, as well as providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza, including refugees,” the first draft stated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Ottawa next week to meet with Mr. Harper. The Star suggests Mr. Harper might subsequently announce a trip to Israel.
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 6:07 PM - 16 Comments
The Israeli government pulls a controversial ad campaign warning Israelis in the U.S. their Jewish identity is at risk
We expect the Israeli government to warn its citizens against the dangers of intermarriage. But the Netanyahu government has been warning Israelis against marrying or associating too closely with other Jews–American Jews. One of the 30-second television ads, pulled from U.S. TV after an outcry among American journalists and bloggers, shows a young Israeli woman living in a U.S. city with a man who is implied to be Jewish-American. The guy, an American hipster if there ever was one, doesn’t understand why his girlfriend is sad on Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli memorial day. “They will always remain Israelis,” the announcer says in Hebrew. “Their partners may not understand what they’re talking about.” Steven Weiss, who first reported on the campaign for The Jewish Channel, summed up the message as “Marrying American Jews could make Israelis lose their sense of identities.” Or as the Netanyahu government sheepishly put it when announcing the cancellation of the project, they “clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities.”
After receiving tips from viewers across the U.S., Weiss collected together several of these ads last month, announcing that “a concerted effort is targeting Israeli expatriates in at least five cities to convince them that their heritage will be lost if they don’t soon leave America to go back to Israel.” The campaign, created by the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, uses every technique imaginable to make Israelis feel that their identity is in danger. One billboard urges people to leave America before their children start calling them “daddy” instead of addressing them in Hebrew. In another TV commercial, an Israeli couple is appalled to discover that their American-raised granddaughter thinks that she’s supposed to celebrate Christmas. The message is clear: Jews born and raised in America might just as well be goyim.
The Atlantic’s Israel specialist Jeffrey Goldberg, who translated some of the ads for his blog, was appalled at finding an anti-American message emanating from official Israeli productions. “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads,” he fumed. But Sofa Landver, the minister who runs the department responsible for the ads, thinks that American critics are showing “foolishness” by taking offense, and that the response has been great from its target audience of expatriates: “We managed to touch all the right emotional buttons,” she enthused.
Talking to the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A., Landver said that she has “the highest respect” for American Jews, but that the campaign had nothing to do with Jewishness. “Minister Edelstein is the one who needs to communicate with the Jewish Community,” she said, referring to the Minister of Information and Diaspora. “I’m in charge of returning Israelis.” In other words, these ads aren’t saying that American Jews are less Jewish than Israelis; that’s someone else’s bureaucratic department. They’re just saying, as Landver put it, that “Israelis who linger too long in the Diaspora risk losing their Jewish roots.”
But some observers find it ironic that at the same time the Netanyahu government demands maximum American cooperation and respect, it is signing off on advertisements that portray America as an alien country, sapping the uniqueness of Israelis. “The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid,” Goldberg wrote, “but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.”
By Michael Petrou - Friday, September 23, 2011 at 9:15 AM - 43 Comments
With key regional allies now hostile, the Jewish state appears isolated as never before
Israel has never had a surplus of friends in its neighbourhood. But almost since its founding it could count on an alliance with Turkey, one of the strongest nations in the Middle East. And for more than three decades its southern border has been protected by a solid peace treaty with Arab powerhouse Egypt. Now these two pillars of Israeli security may be crumbling.
Turkish-Israeli relations frayed last year when Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of ships from Turkey trying to reach the Gaza Strip in defiance of an Israeli naval blockade, killing nine. Turkey demanded an apology; Israel refused. Bonds between the two countries have ruptured further since. This month, Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and froze military co-operation with it. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says his country is committed to ending Israel’s blockade of Gaza and has pledged that Turkish warships would protect convoys of aid to the Palestinian territory. The “Turkish navy is prepared for every scenario—even the worst one,” he told an Egyptian newspaper.
Erdogan’s boast came as he toured the newly liberated Arab countries of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Erdogan received a hero’s welcome. Turkey is a rising power, and for aspirant democrats in the region it is a model. The Turkish prime minister repeatedly denounced Israel during his tour, comparing it to a spoiled child, while urging the Arab League to support a Palestinian bid for full membership in the United Nations.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 9:45 AM - 1 Comment
The Prime Minister and Benjamin Netanyahu exchange greetings in New York.
During the brief photo op, the two men both said the solution to the Israel-Palestinian impasse lies in a resumption of two-way peace talks, not a United Nations declaration of statehood for Palestine.
“We know that nobody wants this more than our friends in Canada and our friend, the prime minister of Canada,” said Netanyahu. “I want to say Stephen, we have a lot in common.” The Israeli leader added: “Same heart and same values. And that I say with great appreciation for your stance, for your conviction, for your friendship.”
Despite some previous consternation over Lawrence Cannon’s choice of words, Canada still officially opposes Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Embassy magazine looked at that and other issues last year in a fairly extensive review of Harper government policy in regard to Israel.
By Ken MacQueen, Michael Friscolanti and Richard Warnica - Friday, September 9, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 0 Comments
Bieber goes Hollywood, Big Buff goes off his diet, and Bibi’s wife faces new staff abuse allegations
Scales of justice
The Winnipeg Jets haven’t iced a team yet, but star D-man Dustin Byfuglien has been hit with a major penalty. The former Chicago Blackhawk, who helped propel the team to the 2009-10 Stanley Cup, was arrested Wednesday night near the lakeside community of Excelsior in his home state of Minnesota on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. “Big Buff” spent three hours in the penalty box of the Hennepin County Sherrif’s Office after refusing to submit to a blood or urine test. Possible charges are pending. The Jets have two causes for alarm: the police weigh-in showed Byfuglien has ballooned to 286 lb., about 40 lb. above his usual playing weight. As well, a criminal conviction would complicate crossing the border to Winnipeg. “He’s got to grow up,” his stepfather Dale Smedsmo told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, presumably a reference to attitude, not poundage.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not known for his love of journalists, so it came as a surprise that his new communications director is a member of the pencil press. Angelo Persichilli, 63, a political editor of the Italian-language newspaper Corriere Canadese and an occasional columnist for the Toronto Star, replaces former mouthpiece Dmitri Soudas. The hire may score points in the ethnic community, a target of Tory affections. Persichilli faces the daunting task of selling federal spending reductions. Meanwhile, budget cuts south of the border factored into outspoken Gen. David Petraeus’s last act after a 37-year military career. He warned reductions may hurt the army’s ability to fight insurgencies. Expect him to guard the CIA’s budget like a hawk when he takes over as America’s spy chief this week.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 30, 2011 at 8:56 AM - 95 Comments
The Israeli foreign minister calls John Baird to thank Canada for its support and a senior Israeli government official says Benjamin Netanyahu asked Stephen Harper to help exclude any mention of 1967 from the G8′s final statement. Mr. Harper’s office says the two leaders spoke, but the G8 summit was not discussed. Mr. Netanyahu’s office concurs, but the Israeli government thanks the Canadian government all the same.
In cabinet Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu made a point of stating the importance of Israel’s friends. “We have friends around the world, more than many think,” said the Israeli Prime Minister, “and I am pleased to see that on various continents, in various meetings, they rebuffed matters that were not desirable to us.”
“It would not be a mistake to conclude he was referring to Canada,” the Israeli official said. “There is no doubt we view Canada as a great friend of Israel.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 7, 2010 at 11:10 AM - 121 Comments
Rob Silver wonders whether Stephen Harper questions the legitimacy of the Israeli government.
When Harper declared this week that “coalitions of losers don’t get to govern,” he was effectively saying that any coalition made up of parties that doesn’t include the party with the most seats in parliament doesn’t get to govern. Not with any legitimacy, according to Harper. They’re losers. No nuance, no exceptions. There’s a winner and a loser in an election. The winners – Livni, in Israel’s case, not Netanyahu – are in power. Those are Harper’s words.
The fact that Harper feels that Netanyahu leads a coalition of losers that has no business being in power must surely come as something of a surprise to his erstwhile ally – but hey, when you have views on democracy as solidly rooted in principle as Harper does, you are sure to piss off your friends every once in a while.
By Paul Wells - Friday, June 4, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 109 Comments
WELLS: Canada has been silent on the debate over Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound ship
Most of the world didn’t notice where Benjamin Netanyahu was standing when he announced he was cancelling his White House visit to handle the crisis over the bloodbath on the Gaza flotilla. But of course he was in Ottawa. Stephen Harper was standing beside him. The location was no accident. And it makes this week’s deadly confrontation between Israeli commandos and the people on those boats a Canadian story, too.
This is the second time a Canada visit by Netanyahu was disrupted. A mob of demonstrating students and agitators forced the cancellation of his speech at Concordia University on Sept. 9, 2002. Netanyahu’s visit this week was his first to Canada since that fiasco. A lot has changed in the meantime.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 31, 2010 at 11:13 AM - 132 Comments
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on Parliament Hill this morning to meet with the Prime Minister, but a news conference, previously scheduled to take place at 11:15am, as well as an evening reception have been cancelled so that Mr. Netanyahu can return to Israel.
The PMO has issued the following statement on this morning’s flotilla raid.
Canada deeply regrets the loss of life and the injuries suffered. We are currently looking for more information in order to shed light on what exactly happened.
By Lianne George - Friday, August 28, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Newsmakers of the week
Atwood nuts, rejoice
Canadian novelist and soothsayer Margaret Atwood has embarked on an international tour to promote her latest book, The Year of the Flood. As part of her campaign, she will be writing a blog to keep fans up to date on her toing and froing. In her inaugural posting, she welcomes her visitors with a photo: “Here is a picture of me in the garden with giant phlox, before starting out. Will I shrink during the tour? Will I survive it?” She also lays out some ground rules for making her tour as green as possible—for instance, placing special emphasis on train travel, local foods and organic, fair-trade coffees. She plans to pack light: “think pink, pack black. It dirts less.” Finally, she says she will take “the VegiVows” for the duration of her tour, “with the exception of non-avian and non-mammalian bioforms once a week.” She will, however, permit eggs, “viewed as a sort of nut.”
Swedish for retaliation
When the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet ran an article accusing Israeli troops of killing Palestinian youths to harvest and sell their organs, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu compared the allegations to medieval “blood libels,” which claimed that Jews used the blood of Christian babies in holy rituals. “Statements in the Swedish press were outrageous,” an official quoted Netanyahu as saying. “We are not expecting an apology—we are expecting a condemnation.” Swedish officials have so far refused to condemn the article. Until they do, Israel is prohibiting any new Swedish journalists from entering the country, which is small comfort to many angry Israelis. Concerned citizens have launched an online petition to go after the Swedes where it hurts—a nationwide boycott of Ikea. Continue…
By John Parisella - Monday, June 15, 2009 at 4:14 PM - 5 Comments
When Lebanon’s elections went to a pro-West coalition last week, hopes were soon raised…
When Lebanon’s elections went to a pro-West coalition last week, hopes were soon raised in the western media that Iranian voters would choose a similar patch and oust incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad from office. While still hotly contested, it would appear the election will instead leave Iran with the status quo. There was similar anticipation ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech that he might use the opportunity to respond to the initiative Obama launched in Cairo. His speech fell short of what Obama asked and it has been widely panned in both Gaza and the West Bank by the Palestinian leadership. The pessimists about peace in our lifetime are certainly reinforced by the events of the last 48 hours.
Already, Republican spokespersons like Representative Mike Pence are calling on Obama to move away from what he called “the olive branch and apology”-strategy to a more hardline stance. In other words, go back to the approach and policies of the Bush-Cheney years. Others are concluding that there is no Obama effect in the Middle East. This morning, the New York Times editorialized that Ahmadinejad may now have a stronger hand. Soon, opinion leaders will surmise that Obama may have to change course. I disagree.
By John Parisella - Friday, June 12, 2009 at 2:15 PM - 2 Comments
The victory of a pro-western coalition in Lebanon’s election and the possibility of a…
The victory of a pro-western coalition in Lebanon’s election and the possibility of a win by moderate elements in Iran’s election (we should have the first results by the end of the weekend) will surely give rise to hope that change is coming to the Muslim world. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of an already fragile coalition, will further delve into the Middle East peace process with a major speech that isn’t expected to feature any major concessions by the Israeli government. Within a span of two weeks, then, the political landscape in the Middle East will have been modified, with two major elections, a landmark speech by Barack Obama in Cairo, and another by Netanyahu. Surely, a lot will be measured by the words spoken. But it would be cautious and wise to look behind those words before drawing any conclusions. History and actions will be the two most important factors in assessing whether there is any hope for peace in the short- or medium-term .
Let me state at the outset that, like so many others, I remain skeptical and somewhat pessimistic that any significant change will take place. Let us start with Israel. Earlier in the week, this blog stated that the Obama Administration was ready to supply a good dose of tough love to the Netanyahu government. We now know the Israeli right is very upset and will likely want to show that their security needs and concerns will not be dictated by the American president. The words may be diplomatic, but the message will be understood that Israel feels it has made concessions in the past with very little return on investment. There is compelling evidence to support this view. Yet, public opinion in Israel remains divided and it’s not clear how the Israeli government will be able to stay afloat with such tough rhetoric. Tzipi Livni of the Kadema party remains in opposition and is ready to take office, while Ehud Barak of Labour seems a reluctant partner in a right-wing government that houses the likes of Avigdor Lieberman. And lest we forget the influence of Israel’s moderate president, Shimon Peres, a wise and respected leader. The hawkish Netanyahu government could soon find itself operating out of sync with Israeli public opinion. So we would be wise not to draw any rash conclusions from the words spoken this Sunday in Israel.
By John Parisella - Monday, June 8, 2009 at 4:03 PM - 14 Comments
The pressure is beginning to build on the fragile Israeli government to show some…
The pressure is beginning to build on the fragile Israeli government to show some openness regarding settlements (legal or otherwise). Some Israeli polls show a more moderate stance from the population than has been expressed by the prime minister and Foreign Minister Lieberman. Meanwhile, U.S. public opinion appears to be appreciative of Obama’s approach, which has made peace in the Middle East a priority in the early stages of his presidency. This is a risky move by the Obama Administration, but it indicates that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu will have to show flexibility or else some tough love may be on the way. Netanyahu’s speech next week could therefore set the tone for future talks.
By John Parisella - Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 12:15 PM - 4 Comments
When they met last summer, Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu and Barack Obama were aspiring to…
When they met last summer, Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu and Barack Obama were aspiring to lead their respective countries. This time, Obama has been in power for four months and Netanyahu for a little over four weeks. But even though each of them has taken the political reins in their respective countries, it is not surprising that the messages appeared ambivalent and inconclusive following last Monday’s meeting.
The president reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel and promised to work for peace. This was to be expected, but he also emphasized the need for a two state solution and asked for an end to the building of new colonies in the occupied territories. Finally, on the subject of Iran, Obama made it clear that he would pursue all diplomatic efforts to have that nation halt its nuclear enrichment program. Netanyahu, on the other hand, stressed his fear that Iran might one day have The Bomb and only alluded to an “arrangement between Israel and Palestine” as opposed to a two state solution.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 4:45 PM - 0 Comments
Gabriel Ben-Dor discusses the concessions Israel might be prepared to make at an upcoming summit between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama
Gabriel Ben-Dor, the chair of the school of politics at the University of Haifa, is a long-time observer of the Israeli government and the peace process. In Toronto for a series of lectures this week, he spoke with Maclean’s about the upcoming May 18, summit between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu, and how the Israelis are trying to shape the push for peace in the Middle East to fit their own agenda.
Q: What do you think Netanyahu’s goals are going into this summit?
A: Every Israeli prime minister coming to power has a basic dilemma: whether to accept that the present mess is inevitable and continue to muddle through, or whether to do something genuinely new to break the stalemate.