Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Liebermann All the Way

Avigdor Liebermann, the presumptive king-maker of the new Israeli cabinet, shocked liberals and progressives when he suggested that Israeli Arabs be required to take an oath of allegiance to the Israeli state.

But maybe without realizing it, Liebermann pointed the way to a possible solution to the Arab-Israeli deadlock:  What if those terrible Israeli hilltop settlements whose construction has mocked U.N. resolutions, making the Left Bank into a Swiss cheese, were to become part of the Palestinian State, with their inhabitants required to take an oath of allegiance to that state?

With one fell swoop, Israelis and Palestinians would at last be made equal, with an equal interest in keeping both states safe and independent. Israeli settlers for whom that particular LAND is all-important, as one woman put it recently on TV, scooping up a handful of earth, would have to consider themselves satisfied, since it should not matter to them whether that land is part of a Palestinian or an Israeli state, and Israelis could cease to regard the Palestinians in their midst as a fifth column.

Better still, Israelis could settle on whatever land they could purchase in the Palestinian state, and Palestinians could return to their homes in the Jewish state upon adequate compensation to present owners. The Jewish state would be open to all Jews who wish to live there, and if enough Jews immigrated, it would remain largely Jewish. If they didn’t, well, at some point down the road, when both Arab fundamentalism and Jewish fundamentalism had subsided, perhaps there would again be one state of Palestine, with the same mixed population as in ancient times.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Two Winter Tales

Nobody is talking about it, at least on commercial TV, but when an entire state is without gas or electricity for days on end - and the government’s response is matched by the relative slowness of the Red Cross - we should be taking very serious notice.

CNN is usually right there when it comes to interviewing victims, even minor ones.  But it’s been mum on the plight of Kentuckians.  Surely many will have died in this freezing weather.  No doubt the powers that be are not eager for the rest of us to realize how very fragile our comforts are.   After a few days, the governor of Kentucky brought in the three or four thousand National Guard he had, and we learned that they were going door to door to identify needs (sound familiar?).  A drop in the bucket.

While Congress debates whether to put money into alternative sources of energy as if this were just one more humdrum issue, imagine what it will be like when three - or ten - states suffer prolonged power outages in sub-freezing temperatures.

Meanwhile, yesterday marked a first on national television: the foreign or prime ministers of a dozen countries attending the annual financial conference at Davos interacted on camera. Fareed Zacharia interviewed them with his usual intelligence and subtlety, but - the result of professional competition? - Christiane Amanpour gathered them for a free-for-all. Of course, French Prime Minister Bernard Kouchner had to assert France’s “exceptionalism” by attacking all comers, and remarking at the end that he had deigned to speak English “even though we are in a French-speaking country”.

My list may not be quite accurate, but I cannot verify it because this morning the program has disappeared from There were Kenya’s Odinga, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Iran’s Foreign Minister, South Korea’s Foreign Minister, the President of Mexico and the head of the IAEA, Nobel Prize winner Mohammed El Baradei. Among other things they discussed Iran’s nuclear program, and Amanpour repeatedly asked the Iranian Prime MInister whether his government would provide the documents spelled out then and there by El Baradei. Live diplomacy! What a treat! Our president should follow suit.