Last week’s side dishes in the International News buffet were stories of the proposed financial reform in the US to curb on the risk taking culture of the American financial establishment as well as their perceived greed.
The Masters of the Universe on Wall Street were not to be found leaping with joy. Pope Benedict XVI in a letter to the Catholic faithful in Ireland apologized for the sexual abuse undertaken by his clergy over the years against generations of Irish children.
Victims’ associations complained that there had been no mention of Vatican cover-up and refusal to acknowledge the actions of its priests. Any hope for a similar gesture, however half-hearted, for the actions of some of its clergy in Rwanda in 1994? I would not hold my breath.
The current buzzword in the Middle East is ‘proximity’ talks where the Israelis and Palestinians do not have to meet directly but rather pass on their positions and concerns through the US who will act as a mediator to the talks.
US Vice-President, Joe Biden, came over on a visit to Israeli to sell this format and build trust, this was scuttled almost immediately when the Minister of Interior announced that Israel intended to build 1600 housing units in previously Arab occupied areas of East Jerusalem.
Aides to Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, unconvincingly let it be known that the Premier was just as surprised as everyone else even though the announcement has not been challenged since for all Netanyahu’s shock.
Israel is a country that needs a really good PR agency right about now as it has been subject to more bad press than even belligerent Iran ever since the operation against militants in Gaza to halt firing of rockets at civilian settlements in Israel.
The Goldstone report on Operation “Cast Lead”, the subsequent cooling of relations with Turkey that involved placing the Turkish Ambassador on a shorter chair than the Isreali Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, an incident dubbed the ‘height of humiliation’ by the Isreali press as well as the recent accusations of Mossad involvement in a hit on a Hamas leader in Dubai.
The bad press continued last week with Palestinian protests against the announcement becoming ever more violent and a visit by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton to the Gaza strip highlighting the human cost of the Isreali blockade.
Palestinian Militants used the opportunity to show what had prompted the blockade in the first place by firing rockets into Isreal that killed a Thai agricultural worker at a Kibbutz in Southern Isreal.
At the time of writing, Gaza was facing the second night of retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. The Baroness was subsequently forced to concede that she was against violence of ‘any kind’ rather than delivering the round condemnation of the blockade that she had come to deliver.
With Netanyahu’s election as Premier, his Likud party made a coalition with the more militantly rightwing political parties in Isreal who consider the peace process an time-wasting exercise to placate terrorists as well as their overly sensitive backers in the West.
The withdrawal from Southern Lebanon and Gaza followed by the subsequent rocket attacks from Hezbollah and Hamas have convinced them that the whole ‘land for peace’ approach is another way of signing the nation’s suicide note.
However, strong US pressure is such that a two state solution is now a question of when rather than if. The strategy out of Tel Aviv is to create a de facto situation where on the day that the Arabs get their Palestinian state, their capital will not be Jerusalem and the largest of Isreali settlements are part of Isreal.
Already, the Jerusalem Post was reporting that the Mayor of Jerusalem was saying that the 1600 homes announced are but a small part of the plan for a larger figure of 50,000 homes.
The current negotiation format of ‘proximity’ might just give the Mayor enough time to see his pronouncement realized.
Oscar Kabbatende is a lawyer