Archive for the ‘Politics (General)’ Category

After US election, relationship between Obama and Netanyahu unclear

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

After hearing that Obama had been reelected as President of the United States this past Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who had supported republican candidate Mitt Romney, called the President to offer his congratulations. Regardless of what sources say, it is difficult for people to imagine that Netanyahu and Obama will maintain a close, warm and strategically aligned partnership, but rather both men will be forced to recalibrate their difficult relationship.

Netanyahu voiced his support for republican candidate Mitt Romney earlier this fall, making many sources speculate that as a result Netanyahu may be put in some uncomfortable situations regarding the close relationship between Israel and the United States. Many people are questioning President Obama’s current opinion on PM Netanyahu. One source said, “But some observers believe Obama will seek ‘payback’ for Netanyahu’s perceived high-handedness, attempts to browbeat the US into a tougher line on Iran, refusal to restrain settlement growth in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and meddling in the US election process.”

The official response from Netanyahu after Obama was reelected as the United States President, regardless of his personal stance, was, of course, congratulatory. Netanyahu said, “I will continue working with President Obama to ensure Israel’s vital national security interests. The strategic union between Israel and the US is stronger than ever.” Netanyahu finished by saying, ““I think the United States of America again demonstrated why it’s the greatest democracy on earth. The security relationship between the United States and Israel is rock solid. I look forward to working with President Obama to further strengthen this relationship and I look forward to working with him to advance our goals of peace and security.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, issued a more nuanced statement, referring to differences between the allies, saying, “I have no doubt that the Obama administration will continue its policy whereby Israel’s security is at its very foundations as well as its efforts to tackle the challenges facing all of us in the region; all the while continuing to strive for further progress in the peace process. I believe that in the tradition of deep friendship and with a backdrop of shared experiences accrued with President Obama, it will also be possible to overcome any differences in stance; should they arise.”

There are a handful of things that will characterize the relationship between the US and Israel over the next year, two of which are predominantly more significant. The first is Iran and the second is the Israel-Palestine conflict. After President Obama refused to be forced into specifying the involvement of the United States if Israel were to attack Iran which led to PM Netanyahu stating in a speech to the UN in September that it was unlikely that Israel would launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear installations before next spring or summer.

Some say that Obama will choose to involve the United States in Israeli politics with the hope of helping the country progress towards a settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu, whose inclination is to “manage the current situation in which millions of Palestinians live under occupation”, rather than advance towards a two-state settlement of the conflict, will attempt to resist pressure from Obama and the United States.

The hope is that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be able to move forward and accomplish goals while working together as one, strong, force. Both leaders want to make the best of their complex relationship and some US sources are guessing that this will lead to an official visit by Obama to Israel. Though Obama and Netanyahu currently have different stances regarding Iran’s nuclear power and the Israel-Palestine conflict, there is no question in the minds of international politicians that both Obama and Netanyahu will put their best foot forward and work to compromise on policies that allow for the countries to move forward, together.

Question: How would the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu be different if Netanyahu had chosen not to publically announce his support for Romney? Is it realistic to think that Obama and Netanyahu will be able to work together and compromise on issues as large as Iran’s nuclear power and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

News Sources: Jerusalem Online, the Guardian, Jerusalem Post, and Business Insider

Lapid Lays Out Yesh Atid’s Foreign Policy

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

On Tuesday, Yesh Atid party chairman, Yair Lapid, discussed his views on peace talks with the Palestinians. Lapid, a former talk show host recently turned politician,  made this speech at Ariel University Center in a settlement in the West Bank to announce his party’s foreign policy platform . Yesh Atid was registered in late April, and until Tuesday, the party had yet to formally announce its foreign policy plans.

Yesh Atid is slated to win up to 15 seats in the 120 seat parliament, and during his speech, Lapid attacked several of Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies. He focused on the need for negotiations with Palestinians, and said that Netanyahu’s claim that “there is no partner for peace” has only “weaken[ed]Israel’s position in the international arena and strengthen[ed] Hamas.”

Though Lapid stressed the need for diplomatic negotiations, he also tried carefully to attract right-leaning and middle ground voters, saying, “You come to find a solution. We’re not looking for a happy marriage with the Palestinians, but for a divorce agreement we can live with.”

Indeed, Lapid’s policies are certainly not going to win him any Palestinian suitors; he refuses to compromise on the issue of Jerusalem, saying that it should remain undivided and under Israeli sovereignty. He also called for Palestinians “to recognize that reality has changed since 1967 and the settlement blocs will stay within Israeli borders.” However, he also promises to uphold any agreements made with the Palestinians, refusing to partake in a government which “dissolves our present and future commitments with excuses.”

It seems that Lapid is attempting to win over some right-wing voters, especially with the settlement issue. Though Netanyahu’s party is expected to win the majority of seats in the election, Likud’s recent merge with Yisrael Beitenu has lead to a slight decrease in its popularity. Lapid hopes to gain some of the recent Likud defectors with key right-swinging issues such as Israeli settlements.

Lapid also addressed Yesh Atid’s attitude toward Iran. He said that  “bombing an Iranian nuclear facility is an option that shouldn’t be taken off the table, but it is the final option,” and instead advocated for Israel joining an “international coalition led by the United States, which would strangle the Iranian regime until its collapse.”


Arutz Sheva: surprisingly unbiased and succinct account of Lapid’s statement.

Ahram Online: emphasized Lapid’s moderation.

The Chicago Tribune: speech and party in the context of the election

The Times of Israel: the need for committed negotiations with Palestinians


How does Yesh Atid’s policy tie into our class conversation about Palestinian Israeli peace talks? How has Israel’s stance changed from earlier negotiations? How might the emergence of this new party affect Israeli politics?

Netanyahu, Lieberman Announce United Party

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman announced the coming together of the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu Parties. Netanyahu stated that given the major challenges facing Israel, including the need to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and the threat of terror, the two parties were uniting “for a better Israel.” The coming together of these parties is good because Israel will have a strong coalition that leans on a strong party. The strength of this joint party would be able to stabilize Israel’s government and allow it to deal with the security and economical challenges as well. According to Israel National News, the name for the Knesset list will be called “The Likud-Beytenu.”

Not everyone is in favor of this move, especially the leaders of parties with less power in the Knesset. The leader of the Labor Party, Shelley Yacimovich said that Israel’s “centrist forces must align with the Labor party,” urging those factions to join the party that “offers an alternative to this extremist leadership.” She believes that there should not be a “mega-party” because it gives more power to Netanyahu and Liberman.

In response to this reaction, Gilad Erdan, the Likud’s Environmental Protection Minister said that ”This isn’t a joint party, but a joint list.” On the other hand, Likud MK Michael Eitan criticized the move, and called on Likud committee members to reject the unification. “This agreement, if it goes into effect, it will destroy the Likud movement, and threaten Israeli democracy,” said Eitan.

Question: Do you think that this unification is the right or wrong move for Israel? Does this mean that the other parties will not be able to have as much power in government because of this? How do you think both surrounding and western countries will react to this change in government?




Arutz Sheva (Israel National News)

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood elects new leader

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Egypt’s largest political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, chose veteran conservative Saad al-Katatni as its new leader on Friday, replacing previous leader Mohamed Morsi. Katatni is a 61 year old microbiologist who joined the Islamist movement in 1979. According to news sources Katatni is seen as more conservative than his opponent, Essam el-Erian. Officials also say that Katatni is less ready to compromise with liberals and leftists than Essam el-Erian.

Katatni took 67 percent of 866 votes by members of the FJP’s general committee on Friday, defeating Erian. The turnout was less than organizers had hoped, suggesting that opponents of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi have “yet to capitalize on any popular disapproval with his first three months in office.”

Clashes a week ago between Brotherhood supporters and opponents of the political party resulted in the injury of more than 100 people. Members of the Brotherhood expressed regret over the violence and the Islamist movement did not call for a counter-protest. Analysts expect no major policy change within the Muslim Brotherhood. Experts also believe that Katatni’s calm and consensual stance within the movement is what won him the leadership vote.

During a speech after being names the new leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Katatni said, “I am indebted for this trust. Egypt is waiting for us, the Freedom and Justice Party, to lead the political scene.” Katatni went on to say that he will honor the idea of seeking to build a state based on Islamic principles.

Katatni was widely considered the favorite for the position of leader in the Muslim Brotherhood because of his close ties with the Brotherhood’s senior leadership and many influential members of the political party.Katatni was speaker of the FJP-dominated People’s Assembly before it was dissolved in June following a Supreme Court ruling, and led the group’s parliamentary bloc from 2005 to 2010, serving in its Guidance Office from 2008 until 2011, when he became the FJP’s secretary-general.

After last years uprising, the Muslim Brotherhood emerged in the country, becoming Egypt’s strongest political force. The Brotherhood captured the most seats in parliamentary elections.Katatni has said that one of his priorities is restoring “unity among the Egyptian people and all political movements”. Katatni also said, “We will work for Egypt to achieve genuine development.

Question: With a new leader for the Muslim Brotherhood elected and the previous leader Mohamed Morsi as President of Egypt, how will the country be effected politically and what changes, if any, will result? Will  the Brotherhood continue to experience growth and increased popularity in the months to come?

News Sources: Haaretz, Guardian, BBC News, and Aljazeera

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu calls for early election

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

PM Netanyahu, who has been in office since 2009, called for an early general election this past Tuesday. The election, which could occur as soon as January, was originally scheduled for October of 2013. According to Haaretz News, Israel’s next election is to be held on January 22, 2013.

For nearly four years, Binyamin Netanyahu has presided over a conservative coalition that has proven stable in a country where governments rarely serve out a full term. If Netanyahu is able to complete his term it will be the first time a PM has done so in many years.

The Washington Post said, “Israeli parliamentary elections are usually called early, and Netanyahu’s announcement was widely expected.”

Netanyahu said he had decided to pull the date forward because bickering among his coalition partners had made it impossible to pass a the 2013 budget. Netanyahu has been unable to agree the annual budget with his coalition partners, a disagreement that ended up sparking Netanyahu’s call for an early election.

In a public speech Netanyahu said, “At this time, in the face of the turmoil around us, it is my obligation as prime minister to put the national interest above all. Therefore I have decided for the benefit of Israel to hold elections now and as quickly as possible.” At the time of his speech Netanyahu did not set a date, but rather said it would be preferable to have as short a campaign as possible.

Netanyahu is expected to be re-elected as prime minister due to the fact that the opposition is “fragmented and leaderless”, according to Aljazeera.

The immediate reason for the snap elections was the coalition’s inability to pass a 2013 budget by a December 31 deadline, but people are speculation that Netanyahu is trying to capitalize on his current standing amongst the Israeli people. Given his high standings in opinion polls and the lack of a clear rival, Netanyahu has taken the chance of calling elections early with hopes of remaining PM.

In a televised announcement Tuesday, Netanyahu said the election was necessary to ensure “a responsible security and economic policy” in the face of the economic downturn and threats to Israel’s security from Iran and elsewhere.

A victory would allow Netanyahu to press ahead with budget cuts opposed by coalition partners and sustain his push for aggressive action against Iran. Reelection also would cement Netanyahu’s mandate ahead of an expected economic slowdown and possible pressure from a newly elected U.S. president for peace talks with the Palestinians, which have effectively been frozen for two years. Netanyahu is hopeful that he will be able to continue putting pressure on Iran, challenging their nuclear program.

Discussion Questions: How will the early election of Prime Minister in Israel change the election process? Will the effects be overwhelmingly positive or negative? If Netanyahu had chosen not to call an early election, how would the next nine months have played out? Would the government have been able to come to terms over the budget for the upcoming year?

Sources: BBC News, Aljazeera, CNN, the NY Times, the Washington Post, Guardian and Haaretz

Chavez Stands with Syrian Government

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Following his fourth presidential victory, Hugo Chavez spoke briefly of his opinions about the Syrian conflict. Throughout his presidency, Chavez has always supported Syrian leader Bahsar  al Assad, sending the country three shipments of oil and speaking out against the actions of the countries aiding the rebels. Chavez has criticized the United States and European governments for aiding the so-called “terrorists” who are fighting to gain political control. Chavez used this opportunity to reiterate his approval of the current Syrian government and to condemn the United states and “the European governments” for their interfering actions. Chavez alleges that the United States involvement prolonged the conflict  which has been going on for nearly twenty months, and added to the death toll, which has surpassed 30,000 people.  But even more than this, Chavez believes the United States is most responsible. “They killed thousands of innocents just to kill a president,” he says. “How can we not support the government of Bashar al-Assad if it’s the legitimate government of Syria?”


What qualifies a government as “the legitimate one?” Based on what you know about Chavez, why do you think he supports the Syrian government? What about Chavez supporting the Syrian government surprises you? Do you think his point is valid?

PressTV with video clip

An interesting bias from the SunHerald, which seemed to emphasize Chavez’s politcal legitimacy

Brief summary from Today’s Zaman


Rift Grows Between Israeli Leaders Over Relations With U.S.

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

A growing rift between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, a political rival, centers on Israel’s strategic relations with the United States as Mr. Barak tries to turn the tension between Mr. Netanyahu and Washington to his political advantage.

After years of a close alliance during which the pair almost exclusively directed Israel’s campaign against Iran’s nuclear program, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak have been trading the kind of barbs that would appear, at least for now, to mean an end to that kind of intimate cooperation.

With the elections coming up in Israel, the issues are becoming more and more important to the two of them. Policies dealing with both Iran and Palestine are major issues. The choice that the people have to make is who is going to best lead them through this.

Israeli general elections are scheduled for October 2013, but Mr. Netanyahu has made it known that if he cannot reach agreement with his coalition partners on what he calls a “responsible” budget within 10 days, he will call an early vote.

Israeli leader’s strained relations with Washington are emerging as a hot electoral issue in Israel. Israelis are anxious about the prospect of an attack on Iran without close American coordination, and they generally view strong ties with the United States as crucial, framing Mr. Netanyahu’s clash with the White House as a rare political weakness.

According to political experts here, Mr. Barak had wanted a guarantee from Mr. Netanyahu that he would continue to serve as defense minister in the next government, but there was strong opposition from within Mr. Netanyahu’s party.

Instead, Mr. Barak has been trying to carve out an agenda of his own to appeal to voters. With the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations long stalled, he recently proposed a unilateral plan for creating a separate Palestinian state that would have Israel annexing parts of the West Bank and withdrawing from others.

Question: Why is it so important for Barak and Netanyahu to put aside there different idea and come together on the issues? What will happen if they continue to disagree with each other?



NY Times


Abbas’s UN speech brings different reactions

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

A year ago Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked for a full membership of the United Nations which didn’t work out. This year he came back to announce his intention to ask the General Assembly to upgrade the status of a Palestinian state to a non-member in UN like the Vatican – a less ambitious status.

Palestinian’s current status is that of an “observer entity” not a full-state. Upgraded status for a Palestinian state would not be pleasurable for Israel as it will give Palestine Authority various political privileges that didn’t exist as an “entity”.

Upgraded status for a Palestinian state would also mean Abbas will be able to procure the path to the two-state solution. The two-state solution refers to the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict currently under discussion; it calls for two separate states for two peoples which will provide definitive borders for the divided territory. What is required for this solution was that acceptance of an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas said that approving the application would mean that a Palestinian state would be under occupation of another country. “We have no problem with this because then we will have a state and not a disputed land,” he said. “This land is ours. It is occupied land, no matter how many settlements there are and how much they grow.” He also highlights for a need of immediate end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also continues to emphasize the need for the Palestinians to be given its own independent state, “The settlements and settlers must leave,” he continued, “This land and Jerusalem belong to us. There will never be a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied shortly after Abbas, dismissing Abbas’s speech as “libelous”. He also made clear that he was not pleased with the Palestinian address. Netanyahu addresses his opinion about the speech, “We have to sit together, negotiate together, and reach a mutual compromise, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes, the one and only Jewish State.”


Should Palestinian state be allowed? If yes to what degree? (full member of UN, non-member in UN)

Will two-state solution end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Jerusalem Post, Aljazeera

Clinton Continues Lobbying for Middle Eastern Aid

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Back storyIn mid March, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton waived a decision the United States had made to withhold financial aid from Egypt until Egypt became a democracy. She decided, to mixed reactions, to allow approximately $1.5 billion dollars in aid to continue to be sent on to Egypt. Some politicians felt that to give Egypt the money before their government had achieved democracy was encouraging the current Egyptian government to remain in power. Others thought that economic aid should not be used as a bargaining tool at all, and so supported Clinton’s action.

Current Event: Recently, following the attacks on the Libyan embassy,Clinton began lobbying for continued support of aid to the Middle East. Attempts have been made to begin an investigation regarding the necessity of the aid to Egypt. Earlier this week, the House of Foreign affairs tried to hold a public hearing during which they would cover  economic aid to Egypt , but the Obama administration did not send witnesses and instead opted for a private briefing with lawyers, adding fuel to the anti-aid fire. Now tied in with economic support of Egypt is the concern of Americans’ safety in Arab countries. Despite, or some would say, in light of, the attacks, Hilary Clinton has decided to go ahead with  her plan of giving $1.3 billion to Egypt for its military, up to $1 billion for its debt relief, and around $800,000 in aid to other Middle Eastern countries. She believes that continued support of countries is the Middle East is crucial during this time of cultural strife. Adding to the controversy is the United State’s own debt, causing some to claim that the US does not have the means to continue giving aid to foreign countries. Still others say that boosting relations with Egypt will only strengthen the United Sates economy in the long run.


Do you think the US should continue giving aid to Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries? Why or why not? How do foreign opinions change (if at all) when economic aid is given to them by the US?


Bias: JPost and Al Aarabiya covered the story with a distinctly anti Obama administration slant. The Cable and Business Week seemed relatively neutral

BBC Web Page on the Politics of Egypt

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Keep up with the changing political situation in Egypt:  BBC, Egypt in Transition.