All posts by Zach Battat

The Purge and Marginalization of the Israeli Arabs?

Joint List MK Bassel Ghattas has been arrested for allegedly passing cellphones to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

This article reminds us of how Russia is, unfortunately, treated by the majority in the West. With no facts, the Arabs living in Israel are purged by the bipartisan Israeli establishment and the media is dangerously going along with it. Whichever aisle you sit on, in Israel or abroad, this ought to be deeply concerning. If not fixed, it could have ramifying implications for the state and the region. What is most grieving is that there is no criticism from the so-called Israeli Left. Hopefully, at some point, the Israeli population will not stand for this and express their anger (preferably) at the ballot box. Regardless of the outcome, one can only commend the Joint List Chairman, Ayman Odeh, for his resolve in the face of this latest development in the ongoing onslaught against the Joint List and the Israeli Arabs as a whole.



The US Mainstream Media Is Focusing On The Wrong Crisis  

ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson (pictured), has been nominated by President-Elect Donald Trump to be the next Secretary of State for the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

The real tragedy in this ‘propaganda’ campaign of the unsubstantiated allegations that the Kremlin hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s computers and its interference in the American election is that the American people have not been informed about the real crisis that is awaiting them. An uninformed observer would think that America is heading towards the dangerous route of war with Russia. Yet, Dr. Kantor does his best job to voice that concern. Kantor’s warning of a nuclear confrontation between Russia and the United States is exactly what is at stake for the new President of the United States not the unverified Russian hacking and election interference allegations that have flooded the news stations and newspapers in America. Instead of focusing on election interference and hacking allegations, the media should be focusing on a crisis that is far worse (yes, even graver than the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis), which needs to be addressed. The nuclear crisis is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed for any American President.

Whether the President-Elect comes to a final agreement with Russia on this urgent matter, remains to be seen. However, he seems to be starting on the right foot. His intention, in the face of the baseless claims of ‘Russian interference’ in the recent American elections, to nominate Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State is a strong indication that he intends to double down. While it is not the best choice, it is one that will help the President-Elect achieve his détente if he chooses to explore it. On one hand, kudos to Dr. Kantor for coming out in favour of improving US-Russian relations. On the other hand, one has to wonder how many Americans will actually read that op-ed article in The Independent and understand the urgency of ending this New Cold War with Russia.

As it pertains to Israel and its Palestinian neighbours in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the nomination of Tillerson shows us that, beyond the F-35 ‘last stand,’ the President-Elect is indicating that, under his Presidency, it will be up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to determine their own fate because it seems that America has absolved itself from being the decades-old broker. At best, both the Israelis and the Palestinians can rely on Russia to be an honest broker but, in large part, the Israeli and Palestinian leadership have to work out their problems on their own. If Israelis want to lay blame on their current and future predicaments, unless they want to act on their urgent crisis, they have only themselves to condemn.

It was expected that Donald Trump was going to get major pushback and fierce opposition from the political elite in America for his détente efforts with Russia and that is exactly what is happening. So far, he is pushing back. Alas, if he continues, we might be witnessing a change in America’s primitive (and hegemonic) foreign policy. If Max Boot is against the nominee for Secretary of State, then it means that the President-Elect is doing something right. There are scores of items to disagree with the President-Elect. Yet, if he acts on the items that will get the international community out of this New Cold War with Russia, he should be commended not vilified.

What The West Can Learn From Austria (& Italy)

Prof. Alexander Van der Bellen, an economist and fiscal expert, waves to his supporters after his speech during a campaign rally in Vienna in April 2016.  Photo: EPA

While the Italian Referendum is being passed as part of the alt-rightwing wave that is sweeping Europe, the Austrian Presidential Election is being perceived by the media as a sigh of relief that the wind of alt-rightwing populism has been temporarily stopped. More often than not, they try, in a lame fashion, to claim that the breakup of the European Union is a gift for Russia. It has nothing to do with alt-rightwing populism and nothing to do with Russia. It just happens to be that, before the Austrian vote, the alt-rightwing populists had a message that resonated with the voters. However, this election and referendum really showed us two things.

First, while some in the media are tempted to do so, the events in Austria and Italy should not be seen as a ‘win’ nor a ‘loss’ for Russia. They are probably wondering how these results might be advantageous or disadvantageous towards Russia. They’ve been tempted to accuse Russia of interference in elections in the United States and Europe. While none of the sort would fly in a court of law (and, after investigation, proven to be a fallacy in the case of the elections in the United States), they use this McCarthyist tactic to pin these alt-rightwing politicians being in cahoots with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This tactic has more to do with absolving themselves from the real problem and shutting out a debate on why this is really occurring. Yet, while it’s counterproductive to do so, if one does want to look at this through that lens, the Austrian Presidential election is a ‘win’ and the Italian Referendum is a ‘loss’ for Russia.  A broken Europe is not in Russia’s national interest. Quite the opposite. As its largest trading partner, it much rather see a united Europe rather than a divided one.

Second, and more importantly, the (second consecutive) victory for Alexander Van der Bellen and the ‘No’ campaign victory in Italy show us that the European Union’s austerity measures and harsh financial policies are not welcome. In Austria, they are willing to give an economist and fiscal expert a chance to guide the country out of this puzzle. In Italy, they welcomed what the anti-austerity comedian, Beppe Grillo, had to say. In short, they have no more faith in the politicians who have continuously imposed austere measures—on both sides of the aisle. These measures have incited dangerous political dynamics in some European Union countries, which reflects the growing popularity of the alt-rightwing and xenophobic populism, with the occasional slip towards lucid fascism. The refugee crisis has expedited this conundrum and, to the chagrin of some, Russia can be a suitable partner as they have a vested interest in resolving the crisis.

These are the two main reasons for the outcomes in Austria and Italy. The message from the Austrians was that they want no part in the austerity measures and no part in the alt-rightwing and xenophobic populism. However, what they (both Italians and Austrians alike) do want is for the European Union to address their economic hardships with smart politics. Removing both the sanctions on Russia and ending the austerity measures would go a long way to addressing those issues. Ending the sanctions would resume trade with one of its largest trading partners thereby reenergizing a hurting business sector. Whereas ending the austerity measures would also greatly improve the most vulnerable—the middle and low-income class. It is the most vulnerable who are inclined to vote for the xenophobic and alt-rightwing politicians. Thus, ending these measures would most certainly help end this disturbing trend.

The reason for the shift towards dangerous politics in Europe and the United States has nothing to do with Russia or any other country, it is their own doing. For those in the media who want to lay fact-free blame on a third party are committing shoddy journalism and, in fact, are the very ones to blame because they are allowing this dangerous trend to continue. They are doing a great disservice to the public that they are trying to inform.

If the European Union or the United States want to end the trend towards this ugly style of politics, it might want to begin reintegrating countries like Russia and others that will benefit its economy. Equally, it might also want to look at changing its economic policies where the economy works for all, not just the top 1%. While both Europe and the United States have a long way to go, Europe is slowly understanding this conundrum but the United States is stuck in a self-inflicted quagmire.

That explains the underlying issues that led to the results in the Austrian Presidential election and the Italian referendum but it will not end there. These events are not part of an overall scorecard. These bizarre twists will continue as long as the middle and low-income classes are not heard in both the United States and Europe. The longer this goes on, the worse and more dangerous it will get.

Justin Trudeau and his “controversial” statement should not be criticized

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (on the right) and Cuban President Raul Castro during a recent visit to Cuba. Photo: AFP

What Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his statement of condolences to the late Cuban President Fidel Castro was just fine. Where he erred in judgement might have been to mention his families’ ties but beyond that he was accurate in his statement. In half a century, Fidel Castro (like him or not) built an independent Cuba on his own. The criticism smacks a certain hypocrisy from his detractors at home and abroad. There is much to criticize Trudeau for but not this. The media and his critics should leave the Canadian Prime Minister alone and focus on how he governs his country—something that the Prime Minister has been lagging since taking office in October 2015.

In addition to Tulsi Gabbard as Secretary of State, Jim Webb should be nominated as Secretary of Defense

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Fmr. Sen. Jim Webb has served as a Democratic Senator from Virginia, Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Counsel for the US House Committee on Veteran Affairs, and a Marine Corps officer. Photo: Jim Webb Official Portrait from US Senate

The media is scarcely reporting now (after botching it earlier) that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is likely to be the choice as Secretary of State for President-Elect Trump (not Mitt Romney, Rudy Guiliani, or John Bolton). If the media does not want to complete the blunder, it should watch for his next “surprise”—this time for Secretary of Defense. Gen. Mattis is commendable pick but does not fall into Donald Trump’s view on foreign policy. Originally thinking that Donald Trump will pick Rand Paul, yours truly forgot that he needs some allies in the Senate to confirm his appointments. Thus, all eyes should be on Jim Webb, not Gen. Mattis. Not to be confused with the American songwriter, Sen. Webb was a Democratic Senator who opposed the interventionist foreign policies during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. He recently ran for president but dropped out because he was “not comfortable” and “unhappy” with his party’s positions. On Nov. 15, he spoke at George Washington University. For those that read earlier blogposts, will recall that universities such as George Washington University were strong indicators for potential cabinet appointees. In any case, Webb is a decorated war veteran (like Gabbard) and his foreign policies fall in line with those of Donald Trump.

If Gabbard does get the nod from the President-Elect as Secretary of State and if Webb follows suit as Secretary of Defense, this should make for interesting confirmation sessions in Washington, DC. More importantly, it would certainly show resolve on the President-Elect that he really wants to change America’s Mesopotamian foreign policy. Fellow foreign policy wonks, hold on to your seats and stay tuned. This one is going to get interesting….

הממשל הנכנס של טראמפ והכיוון שלו במדיניות החוץ

במהלך הקמפיין של הנשיא הנבחר, דונלד טראמפ, הציר על כוונתו לעבוד בשיתוף פעולה עם רוסיה כדי לשנות את טיב היחסים בין שתי המעצמות והורדת המתיחות על מנת להימנע מעימות. עמדה זו של טראמפ מנוגדת לעמדה של רוב הרפובליקנים ורוב הדמוקרטים. לאור זאת, מעניין לבדוק שניים מהמינויים הפוטנציאלים לקבינט של טראמפ: טולסי גבארד (חברת קונגרס דמוקרטית, שירתה בצבא ארה״ב בעיראק, ומתנגדת למדיניות החוץ שמפלגתה) וראנד פול (סנטור רפובליקני, ותומך במדיניות החוץ של טראמפ). המינויים הללו יהוו אינדיקציה לגבי מדיניות המימשל בארץ ובאזור כולו. על פי התקשורת בארץ ובארה״ב, טראמפ נפגש עם גבארד ביום שני, כדי לשמוע דעתה בנושא המאבק ״באיסלם הקיצוני.״ לצערי הרב, התקשורת (בארץ ובארה״ב) לא הבינה לעומק את משמעות המפגש.

למעשה, וכאן התקשורת נכשלה, טראמפ וגבארד ניפגשו על בסיס עמדות משותפות וכוונתו של טראמפ למנות את גבארד לקבינט. במידע טראמפ ימנה את גבארד לשרת החוץ או הביטחון, יהיה זה מסר ברור לאמריקאים ולעולם שאכן בכוונתו לבצע את מדיניות החוץ בה הוא דוגל. ואת זה, התקשורת לא הבינה או לא רצתה להבין. נצטרך לחכות ולראות מה הנשיא הנבחר יחליט בשבוע הבא.

The “Frexit” Watch….

François Fillon in Villeurbanne, France on October 6, 2016. Fillon surprised everyone when he won 44% of the primary vote on Sunday and has jumped ahead as the leading contender in his party’s primary runoff vote next Sunday. Photo: Jeff Pachoud/AFP

While yours truly doesn’t prescribe to their type of politics, this isn’t only accurate but it’s also wise policy given Russia’s importance. His message and policies seem to be resonating with voters and would be the logic nominee. Whomever wins the ‘Républicains’ primaries next week, the new ‘Républicains’ front runner’s message and policy shows us — again — that there’s a major disconnect between the political elite and what the people want, as yesterday’s first round primary vote of the ‘Républicains’ showed.

It would be nice to have an eventual nominee amongst the ‘Socialistes’ prescribe to the same type of inclusive progressive policy. This would take the wind out of Marie Le Pen and the ‘Front national.’ Although, neither her nor her party should be counted out in the upcoming spring election in 2017 given the anxiety of the French voters.