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Posted on Dec 31, 2014 in Elections-Non-U.S., Foreign Policy Issues, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Greece at the precipice-again.

  As the year comes to an end, Greece has managed once again to move to the brink of economic disaster. The stock market fell precipitously, and the government bonds, already reduced by the credit agencies to below investment grade “Junk” status, saw interest rates rise to 9%. The precipitating event was the third rejection of Prime Minister Antonis Sanaris’ nominee for President, Stavros Dimas. Dimas’ nomination was only able to reach 168 votes in the Parliament, 12 shy of the 180 needed. This rejection led to the call for a “snap election” to be held on January 25. After six years of recession, Greece’s economy was showing a promising, if slow, recovery, despite the overall recession engulfing the rest of Europe. But the latest round of austerity policies failed to make enough of a dent in Greece’s unemployment rate, which had improved from a monumentally high 28%, only to 25.8%. The austerity policies were part of the financial bailouts of Greece by the so-called “Troika” of the International...

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Posted on Dec 17, 2014 in Elections-Non-U.S., Foreign Policy Issues, Middle East | 0 comments

Israel’s election and implications for the peace process. Third and final part.

Part III In Part I of this three-part series, we noted that public criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies on the peace process, as well as the nascent “Jewish Character” bill, led to the dismissals from his coalition cabinet of Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid. This automatically triggered new elections next March. In Part II, we traced the history of two of today’s key political parties from before the United Nations created modern Israel in 1948. In particular, on the left today’s Labor Party derived from the early social democrats who worked through the Jewish Agency politically, and Haganah for Jewish Self-defense. On the right were the Jabotinsky Revisionists, whose military arm was the militant Irgun. Upon statehood, he social democrats morphed into the Labor party, and Haganah became the IDF– The Israel Defense Forces. The Revisionists became the opposition Herut party. Herut became Gahol, who in turn formed the core of Likud in 1973. Likud won the elections of 1977, actively courting and receiving support from Jews...

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Posted on Dec 10, 2014 in Elections-Non-U.S., Foreign Policy Issues, Middle East, Public Opinion Polls | 0 comments

Israel’s political mess and how it affects chances for peace. Part II of a three-part series.

  Part II continued from last week. Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni were dismissed last week from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition in Israel for going public with their outspoken criticism of Netanyahu’s policies. In particular, these were over differing versions of a possible bill on the Jewish character of Israel and on the related path to peace with the Palestinians. This broke apart Israel’s ruling coalition and triggered an automatic election, which will be held in March. Negotiations are already going full blast among the oh-so-numerous political parties in Israel, in an attempt to find a coalition of parties capable of defeating Netanyahu. Lapid, a popular news anchor and talk show host, had formed the Yesh Atid party, which received a surprisingly large number of votes in the last parliamentary elections, running on the need for change. As in the U.S., it is much easier to argue for and promise change as an outside critic, than to effect change once inside the government. Hence Lapid’s support has...

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Posted on Dec 3, 2014 in Elections-Non-U.S., Foreign Policy Issues, Middle East | 0 comments

Netanyahu to fire two moderate cabinet ministers. New elections? How will this impact peace process? Part I

  Part I Amidst internal squabbling, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed two ministers and threatened to dissolve Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, triggering new elections within about three months. Given that Netanyahu’s poll numbers have been declining, and that even without new elections he still has two years left in his prime-ministership, this new move, if it stands, represents a real gamble. Netanyahu would be risking his leadership post on the chance that he could form a new coalition that would give him a stronger mandate to pursue his policies. Israel, as many of you know, is one of the true democracies in the world. Almost every policy grievance births a new political party to run its list (candidates) in the next parliamentary election. Given the number of contenders, even parties with the most popular of candidates and policies fail to achieve a majority of the vote. As a result, coalitions of parties, even of diverse beliefs, are necessary to form a government. In times of danger, when...

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Posted on Aug 27, 2014 in Elections-Non-U.S., Foreign Policy Issues | 0 comments

Gaza: Will new cease-fire hold for any meaningful duration? War with ISIS imminent?

The Middle-East is once again at the forefront of the news. As predicted here, a new cease-fire between Hamas and Israel has been agreed upon. This one has no deadline, which is hopeful. The terms were the same that Israel offered and Hamas rejected several weeks ago. Humanitarian and similar goods and workers will be allowed through the border checking points, the fishing rights of Gazan’s will be expanded, and Hamas will stop the rocket attacks. Significantly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas went on television to give his approval of the cease-fire and its terms. Can this cease-fire hold? It has a better chance than the previous ones. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, while applauding the truce, still warned that “any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence.” But Hamas has been significantly hurt by the fighting. Previous cease-fire’s have held for some while, until Hamas was sufficiently re-armed, and...

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Posted on Aug 13, 2014 in Elections-Non-U.S., Foreign Policy Issues, Middle East, President Obama | 0 comments

More forces sent to Iraq–are we falling into an escalatory trap?

Is the U.S. falling back into a trap in Iraq? This is the question being posed as news comes of about 130 more advisers being sent to Iraq. This on top of about 300 already there to say nothing of the “contractors” there that the U.S. is morally, if not contractually, obligated to defend if it comes to that. U.S. strategy right now seems two-pronged: Beef up our Kurdish allies in the north, where they are coming under attack by ISIS forces; and be prepared to aid in the South if the parliament selects a Prime Minister not named Nouri al-Maliki as long as he takes concrete steps to form a more inclusive government. “More inclusive” translates as including more moderate Sunis in the government. The assumption is that more moderate Sunis, dissatisfied with the extremism of ISIS, will flock back to a more inclusive national government. Left out of this discussion is that all important three letter word: oil. The Kurds in the northeast have control of the...

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