Sunday, July 3, 2011

Free Gaza Struggles to Keep Flotilla Interesting

There are some other bloggers doing a much better job of covering the Freedom Flotilla then I ever could. The turn of events of the last couple of days, make it very easy to overlook some very interesting details.

Free Gaza is claiming that two of their boats have been sabotaged. Turkish officials preleminary investigation has found that the Irish ship had not been sabotaged and was damaged before entering Turkish waters. They wouldn't buy ships that were not sea worthy, so they can blame it on Israel, would they?

Reporter Joseph Dana tweeted on Friday that CNN and CBS were planning on jumping ship if nothing happened on Friday. He was very clear that he was contemplating doing the same thing. Perhaps that was the motivation for the Audacity of Hope to set sail without permission of the Greek authorities.

According to the Free Gaza website the humanitarian aid on the Audacity of Hope are 3,000 letters of solidarity. As they are not willing to delivery their humanitarian aid through legal means, the people of Gaza will have to continue to suffer without such essential goods.

Free Gaza should note that International Law is not determined by whatever they feel like doing. If they want to avoid the legal and political delays, next time they should set sail from Syria and Lebanon.

Greek authorities are operating well within their rights to legally stop the flotilla. Free Gaza has the right to appeal through their court system. How can they be taken seriously as defender of International law, while they intentionally break Greek laws?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Back to the Future - Obama Style

During the last Israeli election, I attended a meeting at Yisrael Beytenu head quarters in Jerusalem. At the meeting, one elderly gentleman took great interest on the policy of land swaps in any peace agreement. The policy is based purely on logistics. There is inside the 'Green Line' that would make more sense in a Palestinian State and territory that Palestinians, now lay claim to that should fall within Israel's borders. This was not a major campaign platform, as there was no hope of negotiations getting that far in the short term.

Yesterday, President Obama made his big Middle East policy speech. While mentioning many of Israels major concerns, he managed to give the Palestinian leadership another opportunity to dig in their heels. He declared that a Palestinian State should be established based on the 1967 (re: 1949 Armistice Treaty) borders. On the surface suggesting land swaps may seem like step forward in recognizing the logistical impracticality on turning the clock back to a time where Israel's borders with Egypt and Jordan (re: West Bank & Gaza) were not recognized as permanent by any stretch of the imagination.

Unlike Israel, the Palestinians have no reason to establish practical borders. The right of return calls for their people to live in Israel rather than live in a Palestinian State that is supposed to represent their historical and national interests. On the flip side, Jews will be thrown out of a Palestinian State the same as when Israel pulled out of Gaza. Palestinians living in Israel have no reason to share such fears. Currently have severe limited access to Jewish holy sites under PA control. Visits to these sites need to be coordinated with the IDF or risk being killed by PA security forces. Palestinians don't have any such worries visiting to holy sites in Israel.

Obama's plan to freeze construction on land that was going to be swapped in any agreement was a complete backfire. It has provided great cover for the Palestinian leadership to avoid any type of negotiations. His statement that a Palestinian State should be based on the 1967 border gives Palestinian's everything they need to happily continue on the path towards unilaterally declared Statehood in September. With all of the contradictory foreign policies he has to justify, it is always easier to be harsh towards a friend than a foe. Obama has already pushed Israel farther than it is willing to go. Continuing the push, strengthens those who want to harm Israel, while sinking the President's very limited political capital. Perhaps it is time to start picking battles that are winnable.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Canadians Vote for Stable Government

Once again the Canadian political landscape has been rewitten with huge changes. As the Conservatives finally have a Majority Government and the days of the Liberals being the Natural Government of Canada or the Government in Waiting might as well be ancient history.

Conservates 167 Seats (+23) -- Stephen Harper's unwavering support of Israel has been rewarded with the defeat of Liberals Ken Dryden and Joe Volpe. Now that he has a majority he can focus more on governing and spending less time on partisan politics. Highly ranked and skilled Lawrence Cannon was the only significant Convesrvative casualty of the election. The new influx of talent should allow for an even stronger cabinet.

NDP 102 Seats (+66) -- Under Jack Layton, the NDP played the roll of Effective Opposition, while the Liberals were floundering under Stephane Dion. They started by taking Outremont in a by-election and have grown in Quebec ever since. They will should serve the title of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition well. The only potential drawbacks that will emerge, will be from candidates that won who had no business running in the election.

Liberals 34 Seats (-43) -- It looks like Michael Ignatieff will join Stephane Dion and become the 4th Liberal leader not to become Prime Minister. He was ineffective at rebuilding the party. He lost his seat, along with former leadership race contenders Martha Hall-Findley and Gerard Kennedy. Bob Rae is the only one left from that group. The Liberals need to rebuild from the ground up with a real vision and a strong leader. Without the fear of an election or forming a coalition they have the opportunity they need. Now it is a matter of taking advantage of the time they have.

Bloc Quebecois 4 Seats (-44) -- They lost official party status. Gilles Duceppe lost his seat and resigned as party leader. This is good news for Canada and as bad as it gets for the Seperatist movement. In Quebec there is always room for a rebound but at least for the time being they will not be doing very much.

Green Party 1 Seats (+1) -- In 2008 Elizabeth May ran a horrible campaign. She tried to run a campaign on Foreign Policy by running against the very popular Peter McKay. She signed a signed a deal with Dion, to have the Party leaders not compete against each other. In the dying days of the election endorse strategic voting that would hurt her party. It made for an easy decision for the TV networks to not include her in the leaders debate.

This time round she took a different strategy. She moved over to the more cushy riding of Saanich--Gulf Islands. She spent the entire campaign in her own riding. With only 3.9% of the popular vote, costing the Green Party their vote subsidy. However she gets full credit for winning her seat. She can now be taken seriously and the future of the Green Party will be determined by her performance in Parliament. Exactly what her and her supporters wanted.

The best news about this election is the new Government will have time to govern and the parties will have time to recover before the next election. The Conservatives, NDP and Green Party will have a chance to prove themself while the Liberals and Bloc will have time to rebuild.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Choosing a Prime Minister King-Byng All Over Again

The Canadian First Past the Post electoral system is designed to create majority governments. As Canadians prepare to go to the polls in a few weeks, they face the possibility of electing a 4th consecutive minority government. If the Conservatives win another minority will Harper still be Prime Minister has become a real question.

Harper was the first one to spin the debate to keep his job, by attacking the concept of a Liberal, NDP, Bloc coalition. It put the ball in Ignateif's court and his response was gaurenteed to help the Conservatives. If he said he was willing to form a coalition, then his more left wing supporters have no fear in peeling off to the NDP because it would still knock Harper out. It would also alienate his more right wing supporters who don't like the idea of the NDP in government. Rejecting the coalition would make it more difficult to come in 2nd place and argue he has a mandate to be Prime Minister. This week Harper also said that the who ever has the most seats should form the Government. If they lose the support of parliament they should go back to the polls. Harper is taking the side of Mackenzie King side of the King-Byng affair.

Ignateif this week tipped off how he would become Prime Minister even if he loses the election. The Government still has to pass a budget. If the budget were defeated, the Governor General could act as Lord Byng did in 1926 and ask the Liberals to form a Government. Ignateif could keep his promise to not form a coalition as long as he is able to pass the budget. Fearing the backlash from voters of another election would buy him the time he needs to put the fingerprint he wants on Government.

There is another variable that has started to emerge. The NDP are polling strong in Quebec and are showing signs that they may beat the Liberals and form the official opposition. The more voters accept the possibility of a real NDP breakthrough the more likely they are not going to lost that support to strategic votes for the Liberals. They could repeat the above scenario with Layton becoming Prime Minister.

Canadians may wake up on May 3rd to discover they have no idea who they have elected to govern. As Harper, Ignateif and possibily Layton stake out their political ground the Governor General may be the one deciding who really won the election.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Canadians Going Back to the Polls

The writ has been dropped and Canadians are going back to the polls for another Federal election. For years we have heard rhetoric about how Harper is destroying Canada and we need an election "now". With the Conservatives leading the polls going into the election, those who believe Harper is truly destroying Canada have until May 2nd to make their case.

There are 4 likely out comes to this election.

1. A Conservative Majority Government, which may help reduce the partisan bickering as the Government and Opposition parties will have 4 years to focus on the governing rather than political posturing on questions like if and when an election is called.

2. A Conservative Minority Government, which just means going back to the same old, that has been in place for the last 5 years.

3/4. A Liberal Government that can focus on changing course from what Harper has offered while in the Prime Ministers seat. How different the course will be from the current Government will probably be less noticeable than the Anti-Harper camp has hoped. In the event of a minority Government, Ignatieff should get some breathing room to put his fingerprints on the government before facing the difficulties of strategic maneuvering through a minority parliament.

As a Canadian living abroad my most important concern is on Foreign Policy. The current Government has proven to be a friend of Israel and willing to make the correct moves even if they are unpopular. While the Liberals have Israeli supports, such as Irwin Cotler, we are more likely to see a foreign policy that more closely mirrors that of the Obama Administration.

Obama has created a big mess in Israel that has allowed the Palestinians to avoid the negotiating table and reintroduce terrorism into their political arsenal. The Palestinians are hoping to force the creating of a State that will be in a de facto state of war come September. It is important that countries that have stood up for truth, such as Canada do not lose their voice in such a critical time.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Revolution Paranoia

This Sunday, fans from around the world will gather to watch one of the most watched television events of the year. With only 2 of the NFL's 32 teams participating, most NFL fans will find themselves trying to decide who to cheer for. The event is so big, that it also attracts many fans who couldn't care less about the NFL during the rest of the year. Criteria for choosing a team to cheer for can include; team colours, if a team is a rival of a favourite team, support for a division or conference, underdog or favourite or any other reason.

In general pro-democracy demonstrations receive wide spread support for various reasons. In Iran, the people were protesting against a rigged election; Ivory Coast, the government refuses to accept electoral defeat and Tunisia chased out their dictators. In all these cases it is easy to support the under dog both as supporting democracy. As an Islamic Republic, Iran does not share any commonality with Western values and the plight of Ivory Coast and Tunisia are just not that important to the average person outside of unquestioning support of democracy.

With the focus on Egypt, choosing who to cheer for a particular outcome is very difficult. On the one hand democracy is the form of government that represents the will of the people. The other is Muslim Brotherhood, is best positioned to pick up the political vacuum. Egypt is an important player in the Middle East. They have a peace treaty with Israel and bare some responsibility for keeping weapons out of the hands of Gaza terrorists. A Muslim Brotherhood with political power could see them joining Syria and Lebanon as another Iranian satellite state. Continuing the cold peace is far better for both countries, than dragging Israel into another war.

For those who automatically support Democracy in at all costs should take note of the other "Democratic" countries in the region. In Lebanon, when Hezzbollah's threats were not enough to prevent being inditing by the UN Special Inquiry into the death of the previous Prime Minister, they toppled the government. The new Prime Minister's party holds 2 of 128 (yes two) seats in the Lebanese Parliament.

Under the PA, all election dates at every level of Government have been cancelled when Hamas could not reconcile with Fatah. Out of fear of the events in Egypt, the PA has called for municipal elections to be held. Hamas has already said they will not participate effectively cancelling elections in Gaza. Hamas and Islamic Brotherhood are essentially they same organization. The PA sided with the Tunisa Government before they fled and have come out in support of Mubarak. Solidarity protests with Egyptian demonstrators have been shut down while pro-Government protests have been permitted.

Israel is the only country in the region, where citizens vote for their government. There isn't even the slightest fear of violence being necessary in order to transfer power. In practical terms this is a huge difference that is ignored by those who want to blame Israel for every other problem in the region. The protestors are on the right track in demanding a Government that represents them is a noble goal. However at the end of the day, the components are not in place to avoid building a democracy like Lebanon or the PA. This is why unconditionally choosing sides may not be in the best interests of Egypt, their allies or Israel.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bibi is the Winner as Barak Leaves Labor to Sit as an Independance

It takes tremendous skill both in strategy and foresight to rise to power to lead a Government and hold on to that power over a period of time. In many cases these skills are much more important then the ability to govern. Jean Chretien, Bill Davis, Stephen Harper, Brian Mulroney are examples of political leaders who have succeeded. The flip side are Joe Clark, Paul Martin, Kim Campbell and Joe Tory who just couldn't pull it off.

The biggest failure in recent Israeli politics is without a doubt Tzipi Livni. When she took over as chairperson for Kadima she could not get Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign. This meant she had to form her own coalition from scratch instead of inheriting the Government at the time. She failed forcing elections to be called. She then beat out Likud by one mandate but couldn't convince anyone that she deserved first shot at forming a Government.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Ehud Barak quit the Labor Party to form his own Atzmaut (Independance) Party, taking 4 more MKs with him. A lot is being made on Barak's motivations but the steps by Bibi to engineer this move have been mostly over looked.

When Bibi was given the mandate to form the government his goal was to form a stable Government. He managed to get enough parties on board, so that he was in a position to weather threats by smaller parties to quit the coalition. Bringing in Labor had some extra benefits. Barak proved himself to be a competent military leader both during Cast Lead and destroying Jewish homes, where the only reason they were illegal is they did not have his signature.

Half the party choose to stay in the opposition. However a Labor Party by-law meant that any of those MKs who voted against Labor supported Government legislation would not be allowed to run for Labor in the next election. This party split was difficult on the Government as there were effectively opposition members holding cabinet positions but the balance was even more difficult for Barak to hold on to. The eventual split of the Labor party was inevitable.

Once the dust settles, there are going to be 3 political parties (Artzenu, Kadima, Labor) that will be effective fighting for the same ground on the political spectrum. While the 3 battle it out Bibi will be in a much better position to build support on political territory not being as strongly contested. Bibi once again comes out ahead from another political misfortune that he helped create. The only question is if voters will turn on Barak and put the final nail in his political career.