Tom Arms’ World Review

Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin must be delighted by the Gaza Crisis.

It ticks a number of Moscow’s foreign policy boxes. For a start, it distracts the world from his war crimes in Ukraine and allows him to point the blame finger at America’s absolute support for Israel.

Russia’s Middle East policy is complicated. It supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria, but Putin also has a close personal relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has used that relationship to stop Israel from sending weapons to Ukraine.

Russia has also refused to go along with most of the rest of the world in branding Hamas as a terrorist organisation. In fact, Hamas leaders make regular visits to Moscow and American intelligence believes that the Wagner Group has been training Hamas fighters at Russian bases in Syria.

Then there is Iran—a clear link between Hamas and Hezbollah on the one hand and Russia on the other. The common enemy of America means close Iranian-Russian relations.  There is a constant flow of Iranian drones and other weaponry to Russia, Gaza and Hezbollah fighters in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Israel and Palestine

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping agree on something—the revival of the two-state solution as the only practical long-term way out of the Palestinian conundrum.

The agreed concept of separate Palestinian and Israeli states was the major achievement of the 1993 Oslo Accords agreed by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. Then Rabin was assassinated; Netanyahu came to power in Israel; Donald Trump entered the White House; the two-state solution was dropped and the Palestinian cause was swept under the carpet for the world to trip over in October 2023.

On his return journey to America, President Biden told journalists that it was time to revive the moribund Oslo Accords. And in Beijing, Xi Jinping said, after a meeting with the Egyptian prime minister, that the two-state solution is “the fundamental way out.”

The stumbling block is Israel’s Likud-led coalition. Netanyahu has for years persuaded Israeli voters that they can have it all—security and the absence of a troublesome Palestinian state. His position has been strengthened by the inclusion in the cabinet of the ultra-Orthodox parties who demand the ejection of Palestinians and the re-establishment of the Eretz Israel of the Old Testament.

The Hamas attack has dispelled the myth that long-term security is possible without a political settlement with the Palestinians. But Israeli voters will still need to be persuaded.

USA

The right-wing of the Republican Party supports urgent aid to Israel. The left-wing of the Democratic Party opposes it.

The Democratic Party as a whole supports urgent aid to Ukraine. The right-wing of the Republican Party opposes it.

All spending bills have to be approved by the House of Representatives, which, at the moment, is not functioning because it is deadlocked over its election of a Speaker.

And finally the dual disaster of Iraq and Afghanistan have pushed many American voters back into their isolationist shell.

To deal with the growing isolationism and the difference of aid disbursement, President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Friday night. He told voters that “history has taught us when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction. They keep going and the cost and the threat to America and the world keeps rising.”

To address the partisan differences over aid disbursement, Biden proposed one large aid package for both Israel and Ukraine and put them both in a single spending bill. Then, to make it more palatable, he included cash for Taiwan—a policy supported by both parties. Right-wing Republicans cannot vote for money for Israel without also voting to support Ukraine.

However, the problem of a deadlocked House of Representatives remains. Far-right Congressman Jim Jordan is persistent in his determination to secure the Speaker’s chair. This is despite a growing trickle of Republican votes away from his candidacy.

His decision to push for a third ballot came after conservative Republicans blocked a proposal to empower the Speaker Pro-Tempore, Congressman Patrick McHenry, to handle the legislative agenda until January. This would allow the House to vote on Biden’s Ukraine/Israel/Taiwan aid package as well as heading off—hopefully—a threatened government shutdown from 17 November.

Hope for Ukraine and Israel lies with a third ballot being held quickly; Jordan giving up and Patrick McHenry assuming temporary powers.

Poland

Poland has demonstrated that the political drift to the right is not inevitable. In the past year, European conservatives have won general elections in Hungary, Turkey and Slovakia. German conservatives are also increasing their share of the Lander vote and the far-right AfD (Alternative for Deutschland) is holding its own. Across the Atlantic in the US, Donald Trump remains the favourite with the Republican Party and the polls show him neck and neck with President Joe Biden.

But elections in Poland appear to have brought to power a centre-left coalition and shoved the far right PiS (aka Law and Justice Party) out of office and into the political cold. This is in spite of the governing party’s control of the public media and misuse of state funds for its campaign.

The PiS did manage to win the largest share of the vote, 35.4 percent.  But the rest went to parties which were in total opposition. They were led by Civic Coalition (30.7 percent of the vote) which is headed by Donald Tusk, the former prime minister and former president of the European Council. Other parties expected to join Tusk are the Third Way (14.4 percent of the vote) and the left-wing Lewica Party (8.6 percent of the vote).

Unless PiS President Andrzej Duda finds a way to block a centre-left coalition, Tusk will be the new prime minister. He has promised to rollback many of the PsI’s actions including tough anti-abortion laws, anti-LGBTQ laws and the politicisation of the judiciary.

So what is the secret of Polish liberals? Simple– they persuaded people that they needed to vote, especially the young ones. A staggering 74.3 percent of the Polish population voted in last weekend’s general election. An even more staggering 70 percent of 18-29-year old Poles cast their ballots. The latter figure was up 50 percent from the last general election in 2019.

Across the western world right-wing governments are kept in power by an apathetic politically inactive younger population and an older conservative population that votes. If the liberals want power they should follow the Polish example and get out the youth vote.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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9 Comments

  • Jenny Barnes 22nd Oct '23 - 3:33pm

    The “two-state solution” is neither separate states, nor a solution. It’s been 30 years since the Oslo accords, and if it ever stood a chance, 30 years would be quite long enough.
    A single state with all Israelis & Palestinians having equal rights would be difficult, but might just work; the “two state” idea just extends Israeli occupation of the West Bank & Gaza strip.

  • The issue of land is at the core of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. For a long time the efforts aimed at achieving a settlement to the conflict were based on the principle of “land for peace,” meaning that if Israel withdraws from the occupied Arab territories, including the occupied Palestinian land, the Arabs will make peace with Israel.
    Today confrontations between the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers in the West Bank seem inevitable. If history is any guide, fanatic settlers will be eventually be pushed out of the occupied Palestinian territories and Palestinians will abandon the Gaza strip or it will be absorbed into Egypt.
    These migrations seems unlikely to occur naturally without bloodshed but Land remains at the core of the conflict.

  • Mark Frankel 23rd Oct '23 - 9:28am

    The British tried to establish a binational state in the days of the Mandate. It came to nothing.

  • Nonconformistradical 23rd Oct '23 - 10:34am

    @Mark Frankel
    So what were the reasons for the failure to achieve a binational state?

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Oct '23 - 12:41pm

    “The stumbling block is Israel’s Likud-led coalition.”
    To be fair, that’s not the only stumbling block. Hamas really aren’t interested in peace either.

  • Peter Martin 23rd Oct '23 - 4:20pm

    “Hamas really aren’t interested in peace either.”

    This is also what was said, at one time, about the PLO/Fatah when Yasser Arafat was in charge. Until he was interested and signed the Oslo agreement.

    Hamas will be of the opinion that this was a mistake and the events of the last 30 years do show they have a point. Every peace treaty is signed by those who previously didn’t have any interest in peace until they’ve decided they are never going win an unconditional victory. However, peace treaties need more than signatures. They need to be implemented.

    The only way forward for a two state solution is for the international community to resurrect what was agreed at Oslo, get the UN on board to arbitrate on any remaining disagreements, and then pressurise both sides to both accept and implement it.

    If this doesn’t work there needs to be a single state solution imposed against the will of anyone who objects if necessary.

  • Nigel Jones 23rd Oct '23 - 4:44pm

    I have missed opportunity to comment previously, but I now say I am disappointed by Ed Davey’s response. There is no way we should be seen to support Rishi Sunak who clearly displays a one-sided view in support of Israel. John Kelly’s article on Saturday surely sums up our party’s view. Although utter condemnation of Hamas’ actions was the right first reaction, we have already reached the point where we must condemn the reaction of Israel’s government. I am looking to our leadership to do this soon because so far they are not representing my view. If you look at what has happened since 7 October, let alone what has gone on over decades, to support Israeli actions is to say that the life of an Israeli is many times more valuable than the life of a Palestinian.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Oct '23 - 3:41pm

    I agree the Israeli people have been sold a dud. Believing they can have their cake and eat it has led to this situation. Hopefully they will now realise that it is only by treating the Palestineans as human beings that a lasting peace can be realised.

  • “ Hamas really aren’t interested in peace either.”

    Given the circumstances under which Hamas were founded, is this not understandable?
    Ie. The way in which the zionists and their heirs went about establishing the modern state of Israel, naturally would cause a backlash.

    Fundamentally, an adult is needed to pull the children apart and reprimand both, so that the one shouting “they started it” whilst throwing yet another punch, is unable to land their punch.

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