Thursday, November 29, 2007

60th Anniversary of Partition

Today is a happy anniversary for us Israelis. The United Nations General Assembly voted on November 29, 1947, to establish two states in mandatory Palestine, one Jewish and one Arab state. This was the vote that brought about the creation of Israel, and the day after the vote a civil war broke out which would become the first part of Israel's War of Independence. Palestinians see it as a tragic anniversary. Even the U.N. sees it as a sad day, marking the plight of Palestinian refugees on this day each year. Israelis and Palestinians can't agree on whether this is a day to celebrate or to mourn, but they don't have to agree. Israelis should recognize that it is a painful day for Palestinians without being sad about it themselves, while Palestinians should recognize it is a happy day for Israelis without being happy themselves or demanding that the other side mourn.

Now, after Annapolis, I am cautiously optimistic that the idea of partition is on its way to fruition (good thing that along the 1967 borders and not the partition plan of 1947, though). I doubt there will be a Palestinian state by the time George W. Bush leaves office, but I do believe there can be significant progress in that direction.

The main flaw in Annapolis was that despite the presence of Arab leaders from countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and others, no real dialogue started between Israel and these countries. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni complained that the Arabs treated her as if she was a leper. Too bad.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blog Readability Test

Just saw this test on The Atheist Jew Blog and decided to check it out. Turns out you have to be a genius to understand my blog. If my site is not beyond your comprehension, you should be flattered. I wonder how the readability is determined. It probably only checks the blog's first page and not previous posts, so this rating probably changes over time.

cash advance

Something For Everybody in IAEA Report

The latest report by the IAEA regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions is a bit confusing. On the one hand, the agency now knows less than it ever did about the Iranian nuclear program. On the other hand, Iran is now increasingly cooperating with the IAEA. Each side of the debate over whether to do anything against Iran, economically or militarily, can use this ambiguous report to bolster its arguments. Just pick one part of the report and ignore the other.

Now here's the big question: if Iran is cooperating more than before, how come Mohamed ElBaradei's crack team of experts knows less than in the past? Either the cooperation is still very partial, even if better than before, or the IAEA is just incompetent. Which one is it?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Hard Line On Palestininian Refugees

Israel sees danger in PA negotiations unit stance
By Barak Ravid, Ha'aretz

The negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians are powered by a great many people behind the scenes. However, while the Israeli team is relatively new and just beginning to coalesce, the Palestinians have a well-oiled organization that has been at this task for nearly 10 years: the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU).

The NSU was founded in 1998 following a Palestinian request to the U.K. for assistance in the final-status talks with the Israelis. Britain, Sweden, Norway, Demark and Holland agreed to contribute to the new body, appointing the London-based Adam Smith Institute to head the project. Since 1998, the NSU has received tens of millions of euros from European countries.

THe offices of the NSU are located not far from the Palestinian Authority's government center, the Muqata, in Ramallah. Some 20 legal experts are at work there on the issues of the final-status agreement - Jerusalem, the settlements, water, the refugees, borders and security.

The NSU also deals with other issues involving Israel in the realms of economics, agriculture, transportation, communications and archaeology. A good many of the NSU staff are not Palestinians born and raised in the West Bank or Gaza, but rather in the U.S. or Europe, and others are Israeli Arabs. The head of the NSU is a British citizen.

The Israeli diplomatic and security establishment is said to have a high regard for the NSU staff as experts in international law who wield no small influence on PA policy, both as expressed to the media and in the talks.

However, senior Israeli officials say the NSU is increasingly becoming an obstacle with regard to progress after the Annapolis conference.

Sources in Israel say the NSU has taken an extreme position over the years about the right of return for the Palestinians, saying the Palestine Liberation Organization and the PA do not have a mandate to make concessions on this issue. "We talk about compromise and they speak of justice," a senior official said. [The Hebrew version of this paragraph also calls NSU members "one-staters in a two-state environment" - see here].

"We can see how the papers they write are leading to more extreme positions. Their problem is that they hold the opinions of Palestinians from outside the territories, and they care much more about ideology and justice than finding a solution that will meet the needs of the Palestinian population," he said.

The NSU attitude completely ignores the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip and the weakness of the PA in the West Bank and has raised more than a few eyebrows in Israel. "They talk about establishment of a Palestinian state within six months as if there is no reality on the ground," a diplomatic official said, refering to the NSU document published in Haaretz last Thursday. "Instead of trying to reach a common denominator and agreements, they turn the talks all along the way into a debating society, waving their rights around, and that doesn't lead anywhere."

The NSU has a representative on the negotiating team, but an Israeli official says, "despite all their talent, it's not certain they will be able to make an impact."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bill Maher On Universal Healthcare

Some "new rules" by Bill Maher, followed by his views on healthcare (a tip of the hat to The Political Realm, found via BlogRush):

Maher mentions Rudy Giuliani's stance on healthcare. For more on that, take a look at Gert's post on the matter.

The October Peace Index

Here are a few interesting findings from the latest Peace Index conducted by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research:
  • 51% of Israeli Jews don't think the Annapolis summit will advance the chances of a peace settlement. I'm surprised the skepticism of the last 7 years doesn't make the number of pessimists even higher.
  • 65% of Israeli Jews think that most Palestinians haven't accepted the existence of Israel and would destroy it if they could. I believe this, too. The only reason Palestinians are willing to negotiate with us is because they grudgingly see Israel is here to stay. That's fine. Whether they make peace with us for practical or ideological reasons is not very important.
  • 71% support collective punishment against Gaza while 12% oppose it. I'm in the opposition here. Collective punishment is counterproductive.
  • 63% said Israeli society is in better shape than Palestinian society. Like, duh! Of course we're in better shape. Whether you're a hawk or a dove you can see our quality of life is much higher than that of the Palestinians.
You can read the article by the researchers in Ha'aretz (Hebrew version available here), or read the report from the Steinmetz Center's website.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Pakistani Menace

The United States should announce that it will sever its ties with the Pakistani government if Gen. Pervez Musharraf does not rescind his declaration of martial law. A democratic Pakistan is far from being the U.S.'s best interest, but continued martial law could lead to horrible chaos. A civil war could bring a Taliban-like regime to power. Needless to say that this would be bad news for the rest of the world because of a little thing called nukes.

A pure democracy would probably bring to power factions with similar views to the Taliban. A democracy where Jihadist parties are barred from running for office might be the best solution. Of course, barring certain parties is always problematic and can be easily abused, but as the Palestinian elections of 2006, which were won by terrorist organization Hamas showed, letting fundamentalists run can be disastrous.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Remember, Remember the 4th of November

Remember, remember the Fourth of November,
The Handgun Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason,
Why Handgun Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Yigal Amir, t'was his intent,
To kill Prime Minister Rabin.
Three more bullets to go,
To prove old democracy's overthrow;
After the murder he was catch'd
With a dark smile and burning rage.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, at Yitzhak Rabin square,
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the celebrities sing there.

*Based on the Guy Fawkes poem.