Job losses pose a threat to stability worldwide

The International Monetary Fund expects that by the end of the year, global economic growth will reach its lowest point since the Depression, according to Charles Collyns, deputy director of the fund’s research department. The fund said that growth had come to “a virtual halt,” with developed economies expected to shrink by 2 percent in 2009.

“This is the worst we’ve had since 1929,” said Laurent Wauquiez, France’s employment minister. “The thing that is new is that it is global, and we are always talking about that. It is in every country, and it makes the whole difference.”

In Asia, any smugness at having escaped losses on American subprime debt has been erased by growing despair over a plunge in sales among major exporters. On Thursday, Pioneer of Japan said it would abandon the flat-screen television business and cut 10,000 jobs worldwide in response to sagging demand for consumer electronics.

Millions of migrant workers in mainland China are searching for jobs but finding that factories are shutting down. Though not as large as the disturbances in Greece or the Baltics, there have been dozens of protests at individual factories in China and Indonesia where workers were laid off with little or no notice. [continued…]

Israel’s biggest danger

For Israel, handling the relationship with its Arab minority is more crucial even than dealing with Hizbullah or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel needs to decide how it will deal with the Arabs in its midst. As extreme as it may sound, Lieberman’s call to disown them seems to have resonated with many of his fellow Israelis. Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Israel’s Arabs constitute a demographic time bomb. He calls it unacceptable. Benny Morris, the once dovish historian who chronicled the forced expulsion of most Palestinians from the Jewish state in 1948, has turned to arguing that Israel needs to protect itself from the Arabs now living within its borders. “They are a potential fifth column,” he warned five years ago in an interview with Haaretz. “In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state … If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified.” It’s a dangerous spiral: the worse the distrust gets, the less loyalty Israel’s Arabs feel toward their country—and vice versa. Last week’s election has brought the issue into the open. Its resolution will define the future of Israel as a country, as a Jewish state, and as a democracy. [continued…]

Israel’s identity crisis

Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party, campaigned on a platform of “no loyalty, no citizenship,” arguing that Arabs in Israel should be required to sign loyalty oaths and accept its flag and national anthem. If they refused, he said, they should be stripped of their citizenship. Lieberman also wants to transfer Israel’s Arabs into the jurisdiction of a future Palestinian state, and has proposed the death penalty for Arab politicians who talk with Hamas. In Tuesday’s election, Yisrael Beiteinu became the third-largest party in the Knesset and a likely member of the next governing coalition.

These developments present very basic and very obvious civil rights concerns. But they also raise a deeper, fundamental question that Israelis generally prefer to avoid: Is it possible to be both a Jewish state and a democratic state? Or, put another way: Can a nation founded as a Jewish homeland — with a “right of return” for diaspora Jews but no one else, a Star of David on the flag and a national anthem that evokes the “yearning” of Jews for Zion — ever treat non-Jews as true, equal citizens? [continued…]

I’m a scared Arab in Israel

I remember being scared. Very scared. I remember I was having a conversation with a friend from Haifa who told me about his feeling that something had changed in the city. He talked about a different look he had started to see in the eyes of some people. A look of desire for revenge, he described it. I told him he was wrong and accused him of unnecessary paranoia, especially in an attempt to ally the fears I have. Fears that more than ever before, at least as far as I remember, there is a feeling that it’s legitimate to harass Arabs.

The same sort of feeling inundated me in the first days of the second intifada, but then it seemed to be totally distorted, because the 13 dead, at the hands of the police, seemed to be a price that satisfied Israeli public opinion. At that time the government did its work, whereas now, after the war in Gaza, after the war in Lebanon, the police – limited perhaps after the Or Commission – did not slake the public’s thirst for revenge, and the feeling is that the time has come to do it with our own hands.

A pity, I thought to myself; better to be harassed by security personnel than by the civilian population. Too bad 10 Arabs a year can’t be executed by a uniformed firing squad. I think that would be a relatively fair price, especially if it would guarantee a quiet conscience. I remember shaking my head, trying physically to rid myself of dark thoughts that started to attack me. [continued…]

Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence?

It is permissible not to be a Zionist, as commonly defined today. It is permissible to believe in the Jews’ right to a state and yet come out against the Zionism that engages in occupation. It is permissible to believe that what happened in 1948 should be put on the agenda, to apologize for the injustice and act to rehabilitate the victims. It is permissible to oppose an unnecessary war from its very first day. It is permissible to think that the Arabs of Israel deserve the same rights – culturally, socially and nationally – as Jews. It is permissible to raise disturbing questions about the image of the Israel Defense Forces as an army of occupation, and it is even permissible to want to talk to Hamas.

If you prefer, this is Zionism, and if you prefer, this is anti-Zionism. In any case, it is legitimate and essential for those who do not want to see Israel fall victim to the insanities of the right for many more years. Anyone who wants an Israeli left must say “enough” to Zionism, the Zionism of which the right has taken complete control. [continued…]

Livni hints she’ll reject offer to join Netanyahu government

Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni on Sunday hinted that she would not join a government led by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. “I have already been No. 2 and from that position I will not be able to advance procedures,” she said during closed talks.

“We went to elections and we won,” said Livni at the first Kadima Party meeting since the February 10 elections. “Twenty-eight is greater than 27.” [continued…]

U.S., EU indicate they prefer Kadima-Likud unity government in Israel

While the make-up of the next government remains a question mark in Israel, it appears that the United States and the European Union have already weighed in with a clear preference for a unity government that includes Kadima and Likud. [continued…]

‘Lieberman weakens Israel’s cause in US’

Former administration officials and American Jewish leaders are warning that the rise of Avigdor Lieberman could hurt Israel’s image in the US, particularly if he is given a top portfolio or his positions on Israeli Arabs become government policy. [continued…]

Turkey delivers diplomatic note to Israel over commander’s remarks

The Turkish Foreign Ministry delivered on Saturday a diplomatic note to Israel concerning the harsh remarks of an Israeli general. In a separate statement, the Turkish army said the remarks are in an extent that could harm the bilateral relations. [continued…]

IDF renounces general’s comments

The IDF Spokesperson’s Office published a statement Saturday evening renouncing views expressed by GOC Ground Forces Command Major-General Avi Mizrahi about Turkey. [continued…]

Hamas: Shalit stipulation just ‘Israeli procrastination’

Israel will not agree to open crossings into Gaza without the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, the Prime Minister’s Office reported Saturday. Meanwhile, a Hamas official reported that talks had hit a snag because Israel was pressing for a longer-term ceasefire. [continued…]

Hamas: Lull agreement imminent; Israel: No deal without Gilad Shalit

An announcement on a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas is expected in “the coming three days,” Taher Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas delegation negotiating in Cairo, said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Egyptian sources told the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat that there is a chance that captured soldier Gilad Shalit will be released in the coming weeks, possibly before Ehud Olmert concludes his tenure as prime minister. [continued…]

The Israel of the three Likudniks

The very structure of the peace process has become a disincentive for peace itself. There now exists an opportunity to do away with the illusion, even if the danger also exists that events may take a more violent, confrontational and bloody turn.

A different approach would require the US conducting back-to-back talks with the Israeli side and with a Palestinian (or Palestinian plus Arab states) interlocutor, in which one attempts to address the key legitimate needs and concerns of each party. It will be the role of the US and international partners to produce a proposal and implementation plan. One should take a leaf from the pages of Don Corleone, and make them an offer they can’t refuse, and do not then get sidetracked by conversations about industrial parks in Nablus or Jenin. [continued…]

Slow Obama stance on Iran nukes worries Israel

Israeli officials are putting together a position paper on talks between the United States and Iran for the new administration in Washington, Israeli officials say. The paper will include a list of reservations about the state of international efforts against Iran’s nuclear program. One worry is that negotiations will go on for too long.

The paper states that talks between the United States and Iran should be limited to a short period of time. It also recommends that harsh sanctions be imposed against the Islamic Republic if negotiations fail.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who appointed envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan within days of his inauguration, has not done so with Iran. An Israeli official in Jerusalem told Haaretz that “this procrastination is very disconcerting.” [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — How clear do the Israelis need to be? They want Dennis Ross as their go-to guy in Washington and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as their nemesis in Tehran. But the problem, as they can clearly see, is that while they fear the prospect of “a smiling president who enjoys the image of a pragmatist like Khatami,” that’s a visage that Washington and the West would clearly welcome. The political imperative thus becomes: how can Israel prevent Iran from taking a moderate turn.

Talking and listening to Iran

There’s nothing like being surrounded by a crowd chanting “Death to America” on the day of the most historic U.S. presidential Inauguration in memory to make an American foreign correspondent feel homesick. The first day of my trip to Iran coincided with a new President’s taking office in Washington and a demonstration at Tehran University in support of the Gaza Palestinians. Several thousand students gathered on campus and acted out a page from the standard Islamic Resistance playbook. “The blood in our veins is a gift to our leader,” they chanted. “Israel will be destroyed, and Gaza is victorious.” Later, part of the crowd reconvened at the former U.S. embassy–now known as the Den of Spies–and burned posters of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. [continued…]

30 killed in U.S. airstrike in Pakistan

Suspected U.S. missiles slammed into a Pakistani compound near the Afghanistan border Saturday, killing about 30 people, local officials said. Most of those killed were thought to be militants linked to the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

The raid came two days after Sen. Dianne Feinstein, perhaps inadvertently, disclosed that the CIA-operated drones used in such attacks are flown from bases in Pakistan, not from across the border in Afghanistan. It was the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off from and land. [continued…]

A torture report could spell big trouble for Bush lawyers

An internal Justice Department report on the conduct of senior lawyers who approved waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics is causing anxiety among former Bush administration officials. H. Marshall Jarrett, chief of the department’s ethics watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), confirmed last year he was investigating whether the legal advice in crucial interrogation memos “was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys.” According to two knowledgeable sources who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive matters, a draft of the report was submitted in the final weeks of the Bush administration. It sharply criticized the legal work of two former top officials—Jay Bybee and John Yoo—as well as that of Steven Bradbury, who was chief of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the time the report was submitted, the sources said. [continued…]

Inquiry on graft in Iraq focuses on American officers

Federal authorities examining the early, chaotic days of the $125 billion American-led effort to rebuild Iraq have significantly broadened their inquiry to include senior American military officers who oversaw the program, according to interviews with senior government officials and court documents.

Court records show that last month investigators subpoenaed the personal bank records of Col. Anthony B. Bell, who is now retired from the Army but who was in charge of reconstruction contracting in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 when the small operation grew into a frenzied attempt to remake the country’s broken infrastructure. In addition, investigators are examining the activities of Lt. Col. Ronald W. Hirtle of the Air Force, who was a senior contracting officer in Baghdad in 2004, according to two federal officials involved in the inquiry.

It is not clear what specific evidence exists against the two men, and both said they had nothing to hide from investigators. Yet officials say that several criminal cases over the past few years point to widespread corruption in the operation the men helped to run. As part of the inquiry, the authorities are taking a fresh look at information given to them by Dale C. Stoffel, an American arms dealer and contractor who was killed in Iraq in late 2004.

Before he was shot on a road north of Baghdad, Mr. Stoffel drew a portrait worthy of a pulp crime novel: tens of thousands of dollars stuffed into pizza boxes and delivered surreptitiously to the American contracting offices in Baghdad, and payoffs made in paper sacks that were scattered in “dead drops” around the Green Zone, the nerve center of the United States government’s presence in Iraq, two senior federal officials said. [continued…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email