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.