Sunday, November 29, 2009
Nothing Israel can offer will ever suit the Palestinians
It was the moment the Palestinians might have had a state, with a capital in East Jerusalem. For a single moment, the dove of peace hovered hopefully over the Middle East. On September 16 last year, the then Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, offered the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, the most far-reaching and comprehensive peace deal any Israeli prime minister has ever offered. Mr Olmert recalls his pleas to Mr Abbas to accept the deal: "I said to him, do you want to keep floating forever - like an astronaut in space - or do you want a state? I told him he'd never get anything like this again from an Israeli leader for 50 years."
Mr Olmert, who as a rule avoids the media these days, has undertaken hours of discussion and interviews with The Weekend Australian and provided unprecedented detail of his peace offer to Mr Abbas. The interviews took place amid growing tension over West Bank settlements. Palestinians appealed to the US yesterday to raise pressure on Israel, saying an Israeli plan to halt new construction in the West Bank was insincere. Presidential adviser Yasser Abed Rabbo urged US envoy George Mitchell to bring about "a real peace process" that would halt all settlement construction.
Mr Olmert says such disputes could have been resolved with his deal. He recalls meeting Mr Abbas more than 35 times for "intense, serious" negotiations, in the two years leading up to the September 16 offer last year. Mr Olmert says his offer to Mr Abbas included a Palestinian state occupying 94 per cent of the West Bank and all of Gaza. This would have allowed Israel to keep the major Jewish population areas in the settlements in the West Bank. But in return he would have given the Palestinians an equal parcel of land from Israel proper in compensation. He offered Palestinian sovereignty over all the Arab areas of East Jerusalem, so that it could function as a capital for the new Palestinian state.
Dividing Jerusalem is an explosive issue in Israeli politics. Mr Olmert recalls his own struggle to come to grips with his offer on Jerusalem: "This was a very sensitive, very painful, soul-searching process. While I firmly believed that historically and emotionally Jerusalem was always the capital of the Jewish people, I was ready that the city should be shared."
Perhaps Mr Olmert's most radical and audacious proposal was for an international administration of the sites in Jerusalem holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Mr Olmert proposed forming an area of "no sovereignty" to be administered jointly by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the new Palestinian state, Israel and the US. He offered to build a tunnel, under Palestinian control, between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Mr Olmert says every European leader, and senior Americans, who knew of the plan acknowledged it as the most far-reaching and extensive peace offer Israel has made.
Mr Olmert still regards Mr Abbas as a peace partner for Israel. "I think he's genuine in his desire to achieve a Palestinian state and he recognises the right of Israel to exist," he says. Mr Olmert speculates that Mr Abbas didn't accept the deal because he felt he could not deliver the Palestinian commitment to it, or perhaps because he feared the outcome of approaching Israeli elections. But nor did Mr Abbas directly reject the deal. Instead he said he wanted to bring experts back with him the next day. But the next day, the Palestinians' chief negotiator postponed the meeting. "I never saw him again," Mr Olmert says.
Israel readying new arms to meet Iran challenge
With cutting-edge anti-missile systems and two new submarines that can carry nuclear weapons, Israel is readying a new generation of armaments designed to defend itself against distant Iran as well as Tehran's proxy armies on its borders.
Having failed to crush Hamas' firepower in its Gaza offensive last winter, or Hezbollah's in its 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel is turning to an increasingly sophisticated mix of defensive technology.
A system that can unleash a metallic cloud to shoot down incoming rockets in the skies over Gaza or Lebanon has already been successfully tested, according to its maker, and is expected to be deployed next year. The army is developing a new generation of its Arrow defense system designed to shoot down Iran's long-range Shihab missiles outside the Earth's atmosphere.
It has three German-made Dolphin submarines and is buying two more. They can be equipped with nuclear-tipped missiles which analysts say could be stationed off the coast of Iran. Israel says Iran, despite its denials, is trying to acquire atomic weapons. It has never confirmed its Dolphin fleet has nuclear capabilities, but senior officials acknowledge that commanders are fast at work devising a strike plan in case diplomacy fails.
Under their overarching fear of nuclear annihilation by Iran, whose regime has repeatedly called for Israel's extinction, the more immediate threat is seen as coming from Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Hamas. Israel's military believes Hezbollah has tripled its prewar arsenal to more than 40,000 rockets, some of which can strike virtually anywhere in Israel _ a dramatic improvement over the short-range missiles fired in 2006.
Hamas has also increased its rocket arsenal since last winter's fighting, said a senior military official who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with army regulations. Hamas recently test-fired a rocket that can travel up to 60 kilometers (40 miles), putting the Tel Aviv area within range for the first time, according to Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, Israel's military intelligence chief.
Israel's defense industry says it is close to deploying Iron Dome, a system that will use cameras and radar to track incoming rockets and shoot them down within seconds of their launch. The system is so sophisticated that it can almost instantly predict where a rocket will land, changing its calculations to account for wind, sun and other conditions in fractions of a second.
Shooting down a missile is a bit like stopping a bullet with a bullet. But Eyal Ron, one of Iron Dome's developers, said his system will fire an interceptor that explodes into a cloud of small pieces which make it unnecessary to score a direct hit.
"It's a great advantage because to bring an interceptor to a target flying at incredible speed to an exact point is very hard," said Ron, a specialist at mPrest Systems Ltd., an Israeli software firm developing the system along with local arms giant Rafael.
He said recent tests in Israel's southern desert were successful, and a final dress rehearsal is expected in December before the system goes live next year.
Texas vs. California -- and the lesson for America as a whole
New Geography, the online magazine created by Joel Kotkin and others with a special focus on demographics and trends, has been tracking the implosion of California in an interesting way: by comparing it to Texas.
Texas and California are America’s two most populous states, together numbering approximately 55 million people, which is only about 6 million less than the United Kingdom, where I live. California, as everyone knows, has a coolness factor that Texas cannot match. Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and wine. Say no more. But, unless one has been living in a cave, everyone knows that the cool state is also the broke state. If Hollywood turned California’s budget and fiscal position into a movie, it would be a blockbuster horror film indeed.
Texas, on the other hand, is growing, creating wealth, and attracting the entrepreneurial and creative classes that too many people think only go to places like New York and California. This interesting post by Tory Gattis at New Geography explains why. He shares a four-point analysis from Trends magazine:
First, Texans on average believe in laissez-faire markets with an emphasis on individual responsibility. Since the ’80s, California’s policy-makers have favored central planning solutions and a reliance on a government social safety net. This unrelenting commitment to big government has led to a huge tax burden and triggered a mass exodus of jobs. The Trends Editors examined the resulting migration in “Voting with Our Feet,” in the April 2008 issue of Trends.
Second, Californians have largely treated environmentalism as a “religious sacrament” rather than as one component among many in maximizing people’s quality of life. As we explained in “The Road Ahead for Housing,” in the June 2009 issue of Trends, environmentally-based land-use restriction centered in California played a huge role in inflating the recent housing bubble. Similarly, an unwillingness to manage ecology proactively for man’s benefit has been behind the recent epidemic of wildfires.
Third, California has placed “ethnic diversity” above “assimilation,” while Texas has done the opposite. “Identity politics” has created psychological ghettos that have prevented many of California’s diverse ethnic groups and subcultures from integrating fully into the mainstream. Texas, on the other hand, has proactively encouraged all the state’s residents to join the mainstream.
Fourth, beyond taxes, diversity, and the environment, Texas has focused on streamlining the regulatory and litigation burden on its residents. Meanwhile, California’s government has attempted to use regulation and litigation to transfer wealth from its creators to various special-interest constituencies.
I wrote an article for New Geography related to the second point last spring. The role played by housing regulations in the housing bubble is one of the most under-reported and under-analyzed factors contributing to the 2008 financial crisis, and nowhere was its destructive force more evident than in California. Regulators lathered on rule after rule to construction requirements, escalating costs so dramatically that lenders had to design “exotic” mortgages so even relatively affluent people could afford homes. One of Texas’s attractions, meanwhile, was the opportunity of much more affordable homeownership.
Perhaps the analysis above falls a bit short, though, in not giving enough attention to role that the tax structure in California has played in driving people away, and the parallel problem of the state’s hemorrhaging public sector workforce. Kotkin has written in Forbes that California’s government workforce has saddled the state’s budget with $200 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. Kotkin also points out that California has been losing high-tech jobs to the Southwest and elsewhere because of its increasingly hostile tax and regulatory environment.
By now, the subtext of this post should be clear: the Obama administration is behaving as though California were its model for growth. Increasing unfunded liabilities, proposing $1 trillion in new healthcare spending, responding to the economic crisis with new regulatory agencies but balking on the core causes of the problem —all of this and more betrays a sinister psychology of policy making.
Obama's economic policies are turning into a global disaster : A country can no more devalue its way to prosperity then it can spend its way into solvency. The effect will be lower real wages, which means a lower standard of living. But look on the bright side: Buffett will still be fabulously rich as will be all those super rich Hollywood Democrats
Will the exchange rate kill manufacturing : The world is facing is a grave monetary disorder and depreciating currencies and rapidly changing exchange rates are symptoms of this disorder. As a result American and Australian manufacturing have been hit particularly hard. Until central banks come to understand that manipulating their money supplies creates malinvestments and distorts the pattern of international trade these problems will only worsen
The resources boom signals good times, but is manufacturing telling another story? : If manufacturing is sensitive to monetary changes then it is very likely that any further tightening will cause manufacturing to continue to contract irrespective of the demand for resources. So it seems that the country's capital structure is being dangerously distorted by domestic monetary policy and China's policy of creating masses of credit to fuel growth
Islam and the Dark Age of Byzantium : Instead of saving civilization did Islam bury it. Historical evidence is now emerging that the rise of Islam was a disaster for the ancient world and civilized values. That it was a plundering and parasitic culture that heralded a Dark Age
The Obama/Holder Bushwhack : The New York terrorist trial is really about making the case against former President George W. Bush as a war criminal while the whole world watches. It's what the Obama campaign promised its America-hating base. To this pair of leftists Republicans are the real enemy, not terrorism
The Khalid trial: Bombs and Circuses in New York : It's hard to escape the conclusion that the Obama administration wants to use Khalid's trial to embarrass Bush and expose more details of enhanced interrogation. It is truly disgusting that any president would use a mass murderer to embarrass a predecessor while causing immense pain to those who survived the atrocity. One would have to be incredibly callous to do such a thing
Why can't White people celebrate their own culture? : Why don't we all just take Martin Luther King's advice and judge people based on the content of their character instead of the color of their skin? That way we could do away with all those groups that focus on skin color, like the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Hispanic 'La Raza
When I like the outcome -- democracy, when I like the outcome : "What is striking about the Democratic Party is that it is totally anti-democratic. Only when an electoral decision favours them do they approve of democracy. Hence all Republican administrations are illegitimate
The "Gatecrasher" story, where an univited couple attended a White House dinner in honour of the Prime Minister of India, is rather amazing. How could security be so lax? Anything could have happened. I have just got around to reading some details of the matter and I think I know how it happened. It was political correctness run riot. The lady concerned was wearing some sort of Indian garb and security staff were afraid to challenge her in case they goofed and got accused of racism.
Here Comes the Judge?: "Given Hillary Clinton's stated regret that the United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, there is a real possibility that the Obama administration intends to allow American soldiers in Afghanistan to be tried in the in the Hague. This is not only terribly wrong, it is gravely dangerous to US security. If America -- which has some of the world's strictest rules of engagement, and already punishes those who trangress them -- agrees to subject its soldiers to inherently selective international prosecution, no one could blame young people for declining to join the military. What's more, it allows a bunch of international judges effectively to define the permissible limits of the warfare conducted by Americans, and offers an opportunity for them to wield enormous (and unjustified) authority over our troops, our strategy and our defenses -- a clear violation of our sovereignty. Soldiers' hands are already being tied enough -- and their ability to defend themselves constrained enough -- by the new, PC era in the Obama armed forces. Subjecting them to international jurisdiction would be the last straw."
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 1:42 AM