By John Parisella - Monday, May 23, 2011 - 92 Comments
After the killing of Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama could have been forgiven for…
After the killing of Osama bin Laden, Barack Obama could have been forgiven for taking a few victory laps and reveling in his bump in the polls. Instead, he chose to deliver a speech on the Arab Spring and closed it by touching on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By all accounts, it was a gamble.
Judging by the meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that followed the speech, it was a needless and unproductive gamble. Potential Republican challengers chastized the president for delivering what they called an anti-Israel speech. Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, however, took a more reflective view, as did Israeli Defense Minister and former PM Ehud Barak, who seemed to welcome Obama’s speech and saw it as a restating of the policy parameters in use since the Clinton Administration. Regardless, the speech delivered on Sunday by Obama at AIPAC (the largest pro-Israel lobby group in the US) had all the makings of a showdown with the U.S. president. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 20, 2011 at 3:55 PM - 21 Comments
The Harper government apparently won’t second Barack Obama’s parameters for Middle East negotiations.
The Harper government is refusing to join the United States in calling for a return to 1967 borders as a starting point for Mideast peace, a position that has drawn sharp criticism from Canada’s staunch ally Israel … Pressed by reporters, federal officials said both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border. “If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them,” said the federal official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg appears to have this particular dispute extensively covered.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 3 Comments
The territory has seen nearly double-digit growth this year and has become a hot spot for foreign investment
After 10 years in the doldrums, the West Bank is back in business. A five-star Mövenpick hotel opened in Ramallah last month, restaurants and bars in the city are crowded, and construction is booming. Even smaller cities have seen an uptick in activity of late.
These are all palpable signs of an economic revival that started in 2007, and has continued thanks to three consecutive years of relative peace and an economy that was spared by the global financial crisis due to its relative isolation. Things have picked up in the Gaza Strip as well. There, the economy has registered an eye-popping 16 per cent growth in the first half of this year. But economists warn that those figures merely indicate that growth is starting from a very low base, and that a third of the population in Gaza still lives in poverty. In the more developed West Bank, by contrast, nine per cent growth in the first six months of 2010 is fattening wallets, brightening moods, and attracting investors.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Ignatieff lays out his foreign policy vision to an audience in Montreal.
But none of this will be possible without the talents of every Canadian. Foreign policy is no longer reserved for diplomats, development workers, and soldiers. We used to talk about a “whole-of-government” approach. Our Global Networks Strategy requires a “whole-of-Canada” approach instead.
The next generation of Canadians will be the most international ever. Young people studying and working abroad will be Canada’s best ambassadors, and their experiences will shape the future of our country. We must rebuild our leadership in the world so that our young people can be proud again to live in a country that helps to improve our world.
And we must always support the youth of this country, when they go abroad to serve Canada. They are our finest representatives.
In the centre of our engagement with the world, we must restore our finest Canadian traditions, inspired by peace, justice, and mutual aid. We must show the world – and ourselves – that Canada can inspire us again.
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 Mitchel Raphael - Friday, June 12, 2009 at 2:20 PM - 1 Comment
Easing Peter MacKay’s pain and the faster Flaherty
The MP and the traffic ticket
Canada’s first policewoman MP, Winnipeg Tory Shelly Glover, was elected chairwoman of the newly formed Conservative Law Enforcement Officers Caucus. The group includes Saskatchewan MP Rob Clarke, who worked for the RCMP, Rick Norlock, who had a career with the Ontario Provincial Police, and Dave MacKenzie, a former police chief. Among the challenges for MPs who are former police officers are ongoing court cases, says Glover, who has to periodically go back to Manitoba to testify. While Glover’s beat included the drug trade, she also recently showed up to testify about a traffic ticket she had issued that someone was trying to fight.
Palestinian leader’s son is a popular guy
When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in Ottawa he met with party leaders. Present at his visit with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was Montreal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who is one of Israel’s biggest supporters. Cotler first met Abbas in Damascus in 1977 and many times afterwards during countless Middle East trips. Cotler says Abbas “sees both sides of the issue and is clearly committed to peace.” The Palestinian leader’s son, Yasser Abbas, is Palestinian-Canadian and lives in the West Bank. (He got his Canadian citizenship while he was living in Montreal during the late ’80s and early ’90s.) He was the first person to call Cotler and congratulate him after he won the last election. The last leader Abbas met with was Stephen Harper. Alberta Tory MP Ted Menzies was asked to sit in on the meeting because he is also a friend of Yasser Abbas. The two met in Washington years ago and remain email chums. This was the first time Menzies had met Yasser’s father, though. After Mahmoud Abbas left the PM’s office, he went through the Hall of Honour. Right before exiting through the Centre Block’s front doors, a few members of his entourage used the new hand sanitizer dispensers recently set up.
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.
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.