By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 0 Comments
Clinton calls for an end to the Gaza rocket fire on Israel
OTTAWA – With hope of an Israel-Gaza ceasefire beckoning Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird hailed the “miracle” of a Zionist Israel while U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began the hard diplomatic work of brokering an end to the violence.
Speaking to a glittering Jewish community fundraising gala, Baird called the birth of Israel a “miracle to behold,” describing it as “a phoenix-like rising … from a barren desert to the dynamic country we see today.”
Earlier on Tuesday, sprinting from President Barack Obama’s Cambodian tour, Clinton arrived in Jerusalem, held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and joined him at a news conference.
“The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike,” Clinton declared.
Unlike Clinton, Baird offered no vestige of equivocation in his keynote speech to the Jewish National Fund’s annual Negev Dinner, held at Ottawa’s opulent National Gallery.
“I want to share reflections on how I came to be such a strong supporter of Israel and why Israel holds such a special place in my heart,” Baird said in prepared remarks.
Hamas, he said, was targeting innocent civilians with its onslaught of rockets aimed at Israel in “a despicable act of terror.”
He explained how the Harper government’s unabashed support of Israel — wildly unpopular among most in Canada’s Arab and Muslim communities — has manifested itself in recent days.
“On Twitter, one person said I supported the burning of children in Gaza. Another accused me of playing settler-colonial diplomacy with the lives of Palestinians,” he said.
“Views like this are rooted in ignorance, or worse … much worse.”
Baird said his safe, middle-class upbringing in suburban Ottawa stood in stark contrast to the suffering and struggle of the Jewish people to build a homeland in Israel.
“After 2,000 years of bitter exile, Zionism — the national expression of the Jewish people gave voice and shape to a dream that never left the Jewish conscience: the return of world Jewry to its ancestral homeland,” he said.
“It is quite simply breathtaking to behold what people like Theodor Herzl, Eliezer Ben- Yehuda and Chaim Weizmann accomplished against all odds. It’s simply a miracle to behold.”
He extolled his grandfather, without naming him, for going to war to fight the Nazis in the Second World War.
“I’m deeply influenced by his contribution to combating an evil which sought to exterminate the Jewish people … that moment in history when the devil almost drove a stake through the heart of humanity,” Baird told his audience.
“The heavy spirit, the knotted stomach, and the paralysis of shock I felt as I learned details of the horrors of the Nazi era have been ingrained in my soul; they shook me to my core and have become part of my DNA.”
Baird recalled meeting a Holocaust survivor in Boston who clasped him hard and told him: “I wish there were more people like you before the war.”
He reiterated past complaints that the United Nations is anti-Israeli and he criticized the “media” for casting Israel as the aggressor in the current round of violence.
Clinton also pledged U.S. support for Israel and its “enduring commitment” to its people, calling for an end to the Gaza rocket fire on Israel.
Clinton affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself, including its Iron Dome missile defence system, which the U.S. has supported.
“But no defence is perfect,” Clinton remarked. “And our hearts break for the loss of every civilian — Israeli and Palestinian — and for all those who have been wounded or who are living in fear and danger.”
She laid out her plan for the days ahead — a vigorous round of shuttle diplomacy to the West Bank for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and then to Cairo for talks with Egypt’s new leaders.
The U.S., Clinton said, wants “an outcome that bolsters security for the people of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region.”
By Michael Petrou - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 12:03 AM - 0 Comments
Six days into the latest battle between Israel and Hamas, and other Islamist groups in the Gaza strip, there is no end to the fighting in sight.
It began in earnest on Wednesday, with Israel’s assassination of Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari and assorted air strikes against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which followed months of Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. It still seemed possible a day or two later that the two groups might settle for a truce and another period of uneasy calm.
This is now clearly not the case. Both sides have continuously escalated their assaults — Hamas by sending rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; and Israel with its unrelenting air strikes and now naval artillery barrages. On Sunday it appeared to expand its targets to civilian ones, hitting the homes and offices of Hamas government officials and flattening police and security buildings.
There are several unanswered questions at this stage in the conflict:
1. What are Israel’s goals?
Its stated reasons for the offensive have been to degrade Hamas’s military capabilities and to re-establish the principle of deterrence — in other words, to make it clear to Hamas the future rocket strikes will trigger an overwhelming and punishing response.
Israel’s targeting of Hamas’s civilian infrastructure suggests it may be aiming to destroy it as a political force as well. This is unlikely to succeed and, if it did, would leave Gaza without political leadership Israel could hold responsible for future rocket attacks.
2. Is a ground invasion inevitable?
The answer to this question depends on what Israel’s goals are. It’s possible there are weapons caches and the like that Israel feels it needs troops on the ground to find and destroy. But its ability to assassinate Jabari, for example, suggests a sophisticated knowledge of where things are in Gaza, and therefore the ability to hit them from the air. Still, the 75,000 troops it is in the process of mobilizing are a heck of a bluff.
3. How will this end?
Israel failed to destroy Hamas in wars in 2006 and 2008-9. A wide-ranging and devastating campaign in Lebanon in 2006 left Hezbollah intact. Unless Israel is contemplating re-occupying the Gaza strip — and there is as of yet no evidence that it is — this war will also end with Hamas as the principle power in Gaza. Israel’s best hope is that it will be deterred and degraded. The fighting will likely end when a ceasefire is negotiated. Neither side will stop unless there is some assurance that their opponents will do the same.
4. What role will Egypt play?
Prior to the Arab Spring, Egypt and Israel enjoyed an alliance that was chilly and without affection, but nevertheless largely functional. Now the president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, comes from the ranks of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is an offshoot. Morsi has decisively taken Hamas’s side in this battle, even sending his prime minister, Hashim Qandil, to Gaza in the midst of Israeli air strikes (requiring Israel to suspend them during his visit).
This inevitably strains Egypt’s relationship with Israel. Israel, however, has few friends who also talk to Hamas. Egypt is therefore still the party most likely to broker a ceasefire. There are no signs that one is imminent.
By Michael Petrou - Friday, November 16, 2012 at 4:11 PM - 0 Comments
Here is what’s making news on Sunday morning:
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from a cabinet meeting to say that Israel is prepared to expand its operation.
- Reuters is reporting that Israel fired artillery into Syria on Saturday in response to gunfire aimed at its troops.
- The Washington Post reports that Israeli military hit two buildings used by journalists in Gaza. The paper also reports that the country’s missile defence system stopped a long-range rocket over Tel Aviv.
And here is Michael Petrou on what is at stake:
The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is on the brink of escalation into a much wider war and a possible Israeli ground invasion of the Palestinian territory.
Following months of Palestinian rocket attacks against civilian targets in southern Israel — as well as an anti-tank missile attack against a military jeep — on Wednesday Israel assassinated Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari in a precise airstrike as he traveled in his car.
Israel also targeted a number of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad weapons depots and rocket launching sites. The Palestinian militant groups responded with a flurry of rocket attacks, including several using what appear to be Iranian Fajr-5 missiles that were launched at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem — the first time Israel’s two largest cities have been attacked from Gaza. Continue…
By Adnan R. Khan - Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 8:20 AM - 5 Comments
Abroad, he’s drawn comparisons to the legendary Sultan Saladin. But back home, many Turks are uneasy.
It was one coup among many. On Sept. 25, after passionately arguing in favour of the Palestinians’ right to a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN General Assembly in New York, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan left with a hero in his back pocket. On board his government jet was a 1,900-year-old statue of Hercules, procured from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, where it had sat, an object of ownership controversy, for nearly 30 years. Reclaiming the relic for Turkey was a symbolic act, but the 57-year-old prime minister had done what so many of his predecessors had failed to do. He brought Hercules—his head and torso at least—home to be reunited with the Greek hero’s less attractive but arguably more manly lower half, sitting forlorn and incomplete at the archaeological museum in Antalya, a city steeped in history situated on Turkey’s stunning Mediterranean coast.
In Turkey, Erdogan’s government was hailed for the statue’s return. It was not the only praise the PM had recently received. Only days earlier, during a trip to Egypt, he’d been compared to another, less mythic but equally meaningful hero, this time from Islamic history. In Cairo, frenzied crowds showered the Turkish leader with praise, calling him the “new Saladin”—a reference to the 12th-century Kurdish conqueror who wrested Jerusalem away from Christian Crusaders in 1187. Heady times—and not without reason.
By all accounts, Turkey stands at a crossroads—and Erdogan is the one finding a new direction. After pursuing a policy of “zero problems” with its neighbours, Turkey has been forced to deal with hard geopolitical realities, breaking ties with a tyrannical Syrian regime, abandoning former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak at the height of the Egyptian uprising, and freezing its historically warm relations with Israel in the aftermath of a 2010 attempt by an international aid flotilla to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, during which Israeli commandos killed nine activists, eight of them Turkish nationals.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 1:45 PM - 0 Comments
The Canadian military heads for the far North while Manitobans stare at a massive bill for flood cleanup.
Boots on the snow
Canada is planning its biggest summer military exercise in the far North. More than ever, a grand show of force in the Arctic is vitally important. Russia recently announced that it plans to send two new military brigades to the Arctic and is boasting of plans to build a year-round port there. Tensions between Arctic nations are on the rise over the drawing of borders in this resource-rich part of the world. And while flag-planting displays may seem trivial, when it comes to Arctic sovereignty, Canada needs to use it or risk losing it.
The Greek government has prevented a likely tragedy by stopping a flotilla of pro-Palestinian protesters from embarking for Gaza. An attempt to break the Israeli blockade last summer ended in a confrontation on the high seas that left nine dead. With both sides bent for a repeat showdown, the results this year could have been even worse. The Greeks are offering to work with the UN to ferry the ship’s cargo—food, medicine and building materials—to the Gaza Strip’s many needy. A bit of reasonableness that should serve as an example to the radicals on both sides.
A liberating decision
Ottawa reversed course and approved trials for a controversial procedure used to treat multiple sclerosis called “liberation therapy,” which involves opening blocked neck veins. Canada, which has among the highest rates of MS in the world, said last year it would not fund the trials due to concerns about the procedure’s efficacy and safety. Advocates, though, argue it is life-saving. The trials may finally provide some much-needed answers.
Cellphones don’t cause cancer after all, according to a major academic review of research by experts in Britain, the U.S. and Sweden. The report comes two months after the World Health Organization said the devices should be classified as “possibly” carcinogenic (along with pickled vegetables and coffee). Such cancer scares haven’t curbed appetite for the technology. The last wireless patents held by Nortel were bought for US$4.5 billion by a consortium including RIM, Apple, Ericsson and Microsoft.
Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian dictatorship, one of the Middle East’s most repressive regimes, continues to plumb new depths as it confronts pro-democracy protesters. This week its security forces opened fire on peaceful crowds in several towns, wounding dozens and killing at least three. With the West focused on removing Moammar Gadhaﬁ from power in Libya, Assad seems to feel untouchable. And to our collective shame, he appears to be right.
A couple of months back, Treasury Board President Tony Clement was criticized for tweeting a comment on a CRTC decision that was effectively a change in government telecom policy. Now he’s been caught out sharing photos of Will and Kate snapped at a private reception. Clement says he’s done nothing wrong, but clearly his desire to self-publicize is getting the better of him. Facing similar aggrandizers, the BBC is reportedly considering adding a clause to its contracts with its talent to prevent tweeted leaks and spoilers. But it all pales compared to the numbskull who hacked the Fox News Twitter account on July 4 and shared the “news” that Barack Obama had been assassinated. Can’t we all ﬁnd better things to do with technology?
This case has no clothes
An Ontario court this week heard arguments about whether laws preventing public nudity are unconstitutional. Lawyers for Brian Coldin, who was arrested when he showed up naked at a Tim Hortons drive-through, argue police should have discretion when enforcing nudity laws. In Coldin’s case, restaurant employees testified they felt “uncomfortable” seeing his genitals on display. If anything, this case offers an all-too-clear example why nudity laws exist and shouldn’t be fiddled with.
Researchers writing in the American Journal of Public Health say they have calculated how many deaths may be caused by poverty each year: 133,000 in the U.S. That’s not to say money guarantees good health. A Canadian study found low-income, urban children are more likely to walk or bike to school and are therefore in better shape than their more privileged counterparts.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 6, 2011 at 11:50 AM - 14 Comments
From his conversation with this magazine, the Prime Minister explains his support for Israel.
The Middle East question is more difficult in terms of the opinion of others. I wouldn’t go so far as to say isolated, but it is a difficult position. That said, in my mind, the stakes are very clear, the issue is very clear and the stakes are very important. We all recognize there has to be a two-state solution, but we have in Israel essentially a Western democratic country that is an ally of ours, who’s the only state in the United Nations whose very existence is significantly questioned internationally and opposed by many, including by the other side of that particular conflict—still, to a large degree—and when I look around the world at those who most oppose the existence of Israel and seek its extinction, they are the very people who, in a security sense, are immediate—long-term but also immediate—threats to our own country. So I think that’s a very clear choice. That doesn’t mean there aren’t individual issues that become quite complicated and nuanced, but I think it is important and I will continue to be very clear with other leaders the way I think we should see this problem.
By macleans.ca - Friday, April 8, 2011 at 11:02 AM - 0 Comments
Are the Vancouver Canucks the prohibitive Cup favourites?
A Canuck Cup fave?
The Vancouver Canucks captured the President’s Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top regular-season team, despite playing in the superior conference and suffering an unearthly skein of injuries to its defence corps. This marks the first time Vancouver has won the trophy, introduced in 1985. The Canucks dominated impressively in 2010-11, surrendering far fewer goals than any other team, running the best power play, and ranking second in overall scoring and penalty-killing.
Laurent Gbagbo, the strongman clinging to the presidency of Ivory Coast, faced a reckoning as UN and French armies intervened in support of forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, recognized internationally as the winner of a 2010 election. Peacekeepers entered Ivorian borders and airspace after Gbagbo’s militia began targeting civilian Ouattara supporters. The capture of the capital, Abidjan, soon followed. Gbagbo, trapped within a small perimeter around a personal bunker, was said to be negotiating a surrender.
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 landed safely at an airport in Yuma, Ariz., after a panel tore open and depressurized the cabin at 36,000 feet. Southwest, whose short-hop business model, say experts, is hard on airframes, inspected its fleet for metal fatigue after the mercifully inexpensive warning. Meanwhile, underwater robot vehicles operating off Brazil’s coast found wreckage from Air France Flight 447, promising new clues to a mysterious 2009 crash that killed 228 people.
Fries with that recovery?
In a gesture of faith in the U.S. economy, fast-food giant McDonald’s will hire 50,000 American personnel in a single day (April 19), expanding its U.S. workforce to 700,000. (McDonald’s Canada will add 4,000 workers the same day.) Of the 8.7 million jobs lost in the U.S. during the recession, only 1.5 million have been regained since 2009. “McJobs” is a byword for tenuous, low-paying work, but McDonald’s U.S.A. observes that half of its franchise owners and 75 per cent of managers started behind the counter.
Violence wracked Afghanistan after Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who backed down on threats to burn the Quran last year, followed through and immolated the holy book after a webcasted mock trial. Protesters stormed a UN facility in Mazar-e-Sharif, killing three staff and four Nepalese Gurkha guards; at least 17 more people, mostly Afghan civilians, died in further riots. The White House denounced Jones’s action as “un-American,” as did U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who says his forces now face “an additional serious security challenge.”
A referee’s regrets
South African judge Richard Goldstone, who led a UN investigation into the 2008-09 Israeli invasion of Gaza, added a postscript to his 2009 report criticizing Israel and Hamas for war crimes. In the Washington Post, Goldstone wrote that he had hoped his report would introduce “a new era of even-handedness” at the often anti-Zionist UN. But he found that only the Israeli side followed up the report and investigated its own conduct; Hamas, meanwhile, continued unlawful attacks on Israeli civilians.
A nurse in Dartmouth, N.S., was reprimanded for poor handwriting, sparking a national debate about hospital records. Wilfred Gordon’s illegible scrawls on charts had been a problem “for many years,” declared a disciplinary panel of the province’s College of Registered Nurses, but he “had not successfully addressed the issue.” Gordon was ordered to take a course in documentation and will face penmanship reviews by a manager.
It’s bad for your arteries, too
Another mess in Nova Scotia emerged when a sewer backup in a Bedford neighbourhood proved to have been caused, in part, by bacon grease. A Halifax Water investigation into flooded basements in the Ridgevale subdivision revealed that clogs of fat and oil, accumulating at levels “more often associated with commercially zoned areas,” played a role in damage to five homes. Local homeowners were sceptical, and a councillor noted that in at least one case, it was steamers used by sewer workers to melt the grease that sent sewage blasting upward into a Ridgevale domicile.
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 Yoni Goldstein - Wednesday, December 23, 2009 at 1:00 PM - 59 Comments
Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy on the prospects for peace with the Palestinians, and Iran, and why Israel is indestructible
Efraim Halevy is the former head of the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, where he worked closely with five Israeli prime ministers—Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. He is the author of Man in the Shadows: Inside the Middle East Crisis With a Man Who Led the Mossad.
Q: What are the real chances of peace between Israel and the Palestinians?
A: I think peace between Israel and the Palestinians hinges on the Palestinians proving the capability of nationhood. I don’t think that nationhood can be thrust upon the Palestinians from without. A nation has to be built from within—and it has to be purely Palestinians who create and build their own nation. The way things are at the moment, the Palestinians are not creating their own nation. The nation is being created from without. The United States is training their military forces; Tony Blair is chaperoning them and helping them build their economic and political institutions; the European Union is helping in other fields. In other words, what is being done is the Palestinian nation is being built with outside help. This, I think, cannot succeed. Whether the Palestinians have it within their capacity to transform what they have into a nation that has an in-built hierarchy, that has an in-built structure of discipline and orderly conduct—this is something that we don’t know yet.
Q: Do you have a sense whether they’ll be able to do it?
A: I don’t know. I think that if it is not the case, then they’re in for a lot of trouble. I think it is in Israel’s interest that there should be a Palestinian state—I think it is in Israel’s interest that there should be a Palestinian people that is capable of sustaining a Palestinian state. But what has been going on in recent years is not very encouraging.
By Elio Iannacci - Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 12:10 PM - 2 Comments
If some people aren’t happy with her political activism, says pop star Annie Lennox, too bad
On the morning of Jan. 4, pop star Annie Lennox flipped open her laptop and was completely taken aback. The previous day she had attended a peace rally that urged an end to the Israeli offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza. The U.K.-based march, at which Lennox gave a passionate anti-war speech, was attended by more than 10,000 people and covered by hundreds of media outlets. As the most successful British female recording artist in history—a title earned partly from her tenure as the front woman for the Grammy-winning duo known as Eurythmics—Lennox’s participation in the protest was written about extensively—and positively—by the international press. However, when Lennox logged on to her MySpace account to post a blog about the event, she realized her own 50,000-plus fan count was down significantly.
“I lost 4,000 people,” Lennox admits over the phone from her home in London. “They dropped right off my page after I took part in that demonstration! Even though I very clearly said, ‘This is not an issue of which side you’re on, this is about civilians and innocent people and a need for a peaceful solution’—they still left me.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 16, 2009 at 8:18 PM - 43 Comments
Conservative Ed Holder’s been an MP for barely three months and already he’s got protesters occupying his constituency office. That has to be some sort of record.
Nonetheless, the prize for “Most Uncomfortable Interaction With Public Debate By A Rookie MP” surely belongs to the NDP’s Don Davies, as detailed in this delightful little tale from a rally in Vancouver.
The Courier describes the scene as follows. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 9:31 AM - 19 Comments
Gideon Levy, a prominent journalist at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, has been criticized and praised in his home country for writing a column in which he describes Al Jazeera English’s correspondent in Gaza, Ayman Mohyeldin, as his “war hero.”
“Whoever recoils from the grotesque coverage by Channel 2′s Roni Daniel is invited to tune in to this wise and considered broadcaster,” Levy writes in a column this week. “Whoever recoils from our heroic tales, bias, whitewashed words, Rorschach images of bombing, IDF Spokesman-distributed photographs, propagandists’ excuses, self-satisfied generals and half-truths is invited to tune in. Whoever wants to know what is really happening, not only of a postponed wedding in Sderot and a cat forgotten in Ashkelon. Watching is sometimes hard, bloodcurdlingly hard, but reality is no less hard right now.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, January 14, 2009 at 2:02 AM - 9 Comments
If I read this report correctly, Irwin Cotler went to Jerusalem. And lest you be wondering what he’s been thinking about the latest spasm of conflict in the Middle East, Cotler has penned a 1,200-word essay for the Jerusalem Post, including an eight-point plan on the way forward.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 1:41 PM - 9 Comments
Gaza, a crisis with troubling similarities to the 2006 Israeli adventure in south Lebanon that exposed Harper’s foreign policy inexperience, is being presented subtly to Quebec by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and aggressively in the rest of Canada by his junior minister and rookie MP Peter Kent… having been burned once by the Middle East, Harper is now letting ministers aim one message at Palestinian sympathetic Quebec and another at more pro-Israel audiences elsewhere.
(Is this really possible? Are left-wing Quebecers unable or unwilling to read what’s being written elsewhere? Doesn’t the Internet render this sort of stuff rather moot?)
Meanwhile, Kent’s previously stated claim to clarity on the issue of humanitarian disasters in the region would seem to put him somewhat out of step with both the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
By kadyomalley - Monday, January 5, 2009 at 10:56 PM - 68 Comments
The official reply from Canada’s New Office of the Leader of the Opposition, in response to a query on recent reports that an edict has gone out to all Liberal MPs instructing them to decline all invitations to speak at “Gaza solidarity rallies” or risk not having their nomination papers signed in future, courtesy of the very same Jill Fairbrother who was chided by ITQ for being needlessly circumlocutious when asked about the so-called secret pro-life caucus just last week:
Which is about as clear a reply as one could hope to receive. Anyway, unless someone – someone with a name, that is – is willing to step forward and say otherwise, it seems that this rumour can be considered officially debunked.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, Conservative MP Brian Storseth seems to be going further than any other Canadian politician to date in suggesting that both sides need to make concessions to resolve the current crisis, and has called on Israel to end its blockade. (I’ve been told that he actually put out a statement to that effect, but can’t seem to track it down.)
By Philippe Gohier - Monday, January 5, 2009 at 1:10 PM - 5 Comments
Israel intensifies their offensive
The CBC is reporting that some 39 Canadians remain stuck in Gaza despite efforts to shepherd them away from the conflict zone. The initial plan was to bus foreigners in Gaza, including the Canadians, across the the border into Israel, but officials turned the bus back at the border point, claiming it was too dangerous. Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesperson, told the broadcaster he was “hopeful that it will happen today. We want to get those people out. They shouldn’t be caught up in the conflict if at all possible.”
Meanwhile, Israeli troops have intensified their ground offensive into Gaza, leaving at least 20 more dead. Though a senior Hamas leader has claimed that “victory is coming” for his group, Israel insists Hamas has been hit “hard” and that its incursion will continue unabated. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has categorically rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire, saying Israel is “fighting with terror and we are not reaching an agreement with terror.”
By John Parisella - Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at 5:52 PM - 60 Comments
How will the next President deal with the conflict in the Middle East?
Even during the holiday break, one cannot completely disconnect from news events. In recent years, the holiday season has been marked by tragic events: the tsunami in Southeast Asia four years ago and Benazir Bhutto’s assassination last year both captured the world’s attention. This year, it is the Israeli air strikes in Gaza that are drawing attention. The U.S. reaction has been supportive of Israel and Canada has asked for a ceasefire while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. Demonstrations are being held across the globe and the Arab world is up in arms with calls for a third intifada led by Hamas and Hezbollah. No doubt, Iran is following events and will once again be convinced there is a need to pursue its nuclear enrichment program.
Elections are coming in Israel this February and, so far, opposition leader and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been setting the pace. The governing party (Kadema) in Israel stood little chance of staying in power unless it took a strong stance against Hamas’ shelling of southern Israel. During the campaign, the two-state solution endorsed by Bush and Olmert (and defended by foreign minister Livni) will face off against the more hawkish vision of the Likud and Netanyahu. By then, Barack Obama will have inherited the problems he campaigned so hard for the opportunity to resolve.
At the top of Obama’s agenda will be the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afganistan, and a host of domestic issues like health care and independence from foreign oil. However, just like Bush, Obama will inherit an explosive situation in the Mideast. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be at the heart of his administration’s foreign policy issues. Will Obama continue down the path tread by Bush and push for a two-state solution? Or will he bring a new approach more in line with his “change” agenda? Does he intend to be a broker like Nixon, Carter, Bush 41 and Clinton? Or be more of an advocate, like George W. was?
On the campaign trail, Obama had to wrestle against perceptions he may not be friendly enough to Israel. The marginal yet significant controversy surrounding his name and possible Muslim heritage contributed to the doubts about his views on Israel. Obama addressed his critics by visiting Israel and endorsing its right to defend itself. (He also courted controversy by supporting Israeli rule over an undivided Jerusalem.) Since winning office, he has made reassuring moves to Israel boosters, like keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in place, and appointing Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state and Raihm Emmnuel as his chief of staff. Few can doubt that Obama will bring a drastic change in policy in the short term with these nominations.
The conflict in Gaza will be the first test of the Obama presidency. The short term challenge will be to secure a ceasefire, although this will most likely happen in the next few days under Bush. The long term challenge is to forge an enduring peace that guarantees Israel ‘s right to exist and the Palestinians’ right to a state so it too can grow and prosper in peace. This will require diplomacy at the highest level, given the Iranian nuclear threat, the continuing threat of terrorism, and the need to find a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and its neighbours.
Hamas has no scruples when it comes to provocation and is known to set up its headquarters in civilian-populated areas. But Israel’s deadly response is hardly measured or justified by most humanitarian accounts. The international community must intervene with more than a press communiqué. Leaders such as Obama and Sarkozy are expected to do more than continuing decade-old policies. The world is more volatile now than it was during the Cold War: now, we must deal with rogue nations and the possibility of nuclear terrorism, a global recession, two inconclusive wars that have overextended the American military, and a serious gap in the credibility of the moral leadership of the U.S. (largely a product of the Bush years).
Obama must change the discourse in the Middle East and become more a broker of peace than an advocate of one side. Israel must never doubt America’s and the free world’s resolve to defend its right to exist. But it is time for greater audacity in the search for peace. The old formulas no longer will do. A new generation of Americans wants change and so do a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians. They prefer peace to war. This is Obama’s first real test—and failure cannot be an option this time around.
By Philippe Gohier - Tuesday, December 30, 2008 at 3:02 PM - 5 Comments
Writing in the New York Times, Ben-Gurion University’s Benny Morris suggests Israelis aren’t simply…
Writing in the New York Times, Ben-Gurion University’s Benny Morris suggests Israelis aren’t simply scared; they’re deathly afraid—and not just for themselves, but for the future of Israel. Morris argues Israel is struggling to adapt to a new reality that includes dwindling sympathy for the Jewish state in the West and an energized Islamic opposition to Israel’s very existence: Continue…
By Philippe Gohier - Monday, December 29, 2008 at 4:10 PM - 6 Comments
If there’s a theme emerging in the analysis of Israel’s ongoing bombing campaign in (and looming invasion of?) Gaza, it’s that Israel is anxious to show that the failed invasion of Lebanon in 2006 was an aberration. Writing in The Globe and Mail, Patrick Martin argues that, far from being humbled after the Lebanese exercise, Israel has instead adapted by lowering its threshold for success while leaving its basic, heavy-handed military strategy intact: Continue…