Tom Arms’ World Review

Diplomatic Miracles do happen.

And if you need proof just look at the exchange of hostages currently taking place between Hamas and the Israeli government.

Enmity, internal divisions and complex diplomatic channels have all been overcome to allow not only a hostages-for-Palestinian-prisoners exchange but also a ceasefire and aid convoy into Gaza.

There were problems. One was the opposition by far-right Israeli cabinet ministers to any agreement on anything with Hamas. The other was the fact that 50 of the roughly 240 hostages were held not by Hamas but the even more extreme Islamic Jihad.

Then there were the complex diplomatic channels. There are no direct links between Hamas and Israel. Instead the Israelis talked to the Americans who talked to the Qataris who talked to Hamas who talked to Islamic Jihad. There was—still is—a danger of mixed or misinterpreted signals in this game of diplomatic Chinese whispers.

But so far so good. The two sides have agreed a four-day ceasefire during which the Palestinians will release 13 Israeli hostages a day. As soon as their release is confirmed, Israel will set free 50 Palestinians held in Israeli prisoners.

At the same time, the aid convoy that has been sitting on the Gaza-Egyptian border will cross into Gaza to deliver much needed water, fuel, food and energy supplies. 300 lorries are expected to cross the border today (Friday). The UN World Food Programme says it is not enough, but it is a start for the 2.2 million aid dependents Gazans.

There is even another potential diplomatic miracle. According to diplomatic sources, the Israelis have offered to extend the ceasefire a day at a time in return for the release of 20 hostages per day.

But hanging over the good news is the real danger that the ceasefire could quickly collapse.  There are many danger points. One is that Islamic Jihad may back out of the hostage deal. Relations between it and Hamas are poor.

The other is Israeli insistence that Palestinians who have fled northern Gaza for southern Gaza do not return home during the ceasefire. They fear that returning Palestinians would include Hamas fighters. But from the Gazans point of view, they want to retrieve their belongings and, in many cases, bury their dead.

Then there is the very real possibility that a frightened, nervous, hate-filled and trigger-happy Israeli soldier or Hamas fighter will loose a deadly rifle volley.

Finally, there is the possibility of a major conflict with Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. Hezbollah attacks have significantly increased since October 7, but so far the presence of two US aircraft carriers off the coast of Lebanon has been an effective deterrent.

The Argentina peso may soon be no more. 

The country’s newly-elected anarcho-capitalist (his phrase) president Javier Milei wants to ditch it for the US dollar.

In many ways the move would be recognition of the inevitable. With 140 percent inflation, the peso has been rendered virtually worthless. Almost all financial transactions in Argentina are now conducted with US dollars.

Argentina would not be the first or only country to adopt the almighty dollar as its currency. Eleven countries and five US territories are dollar economies. But Argentina—the 22nd largest economy in the world with a population of 45 million—would be by far and away the biggest outside the United States.

It would also be a huge step for the second largest – but much troubled—Latin American economy. It would mean handing control of its monetary policy over to Washington’s Federal Reserve Bank. But then, that might not be as difficult as it seems because Milei also wants to abolish the Argentine Central Bank.

Milei’s economic policies are one of a string of libertarian, anti-establishment, Trump-like proposals. They include the abolition of the ministries of culture, women, health and education. He wants to privatise the state energy company and the state’s public broadcasting services.

Cuts are planned in welfare payments and all public works will stop. “There should be no more spending,” declared Milei after it was announced that he had beaten opponent Sergio Massa by 11 points.

On the social side, Milei plans to abolish abortion, allow the sale of human organs. Loosen gun control and downplay the crimes of the military government of the 1970s and 1980s. Donald Trump has declared that Milei will “make Argentina great again.”

Thanksgiving is an unusual holiday

It is not connected to any religion. Neither does it mark a major political event, nor does any ethnic or national group claims it.

The absence of all the above is what gives it a universal appeal in America. In a diverse and too often divided society, the celebration of Thanksgiving is something on which ALMOST all Americans can agree to celebrate.

The original Thanksgiving dates back to 1621. The Puritan Pilgrims had landed at Plymouth Rock just before Christmas the year before. It was a bad time to arrive. The New England winter was just about to set in and the colonists had limited supplies. Half of them were dead by spring.

Fortunately they developed a working relationship with the local Wampanoag Native Americans through the good offices of one Squanto who had surprisingly spent several years in England.

With the help of Squanto and the Wampanoag they learned which crops to plant and where to find game. The result was a three-day feast in December 1621. The guests of honour were their new friends the Wampanoags.

There is, however, a not so publicised epilogue. As the colony expanded beyond its Plymouth beach head, the settlers came into increasing conflict with the Wampanoags and other tribes. Soon arrows and musket balls were flying.

In 1636 the first major war between Europeans and Native Americans occurred. The Pequot War ended two years later with the extinction of the Pequot tribe and a template for future relations between European settlers and Native Americans. In1970, Native Americans declared America’s Thanksgiving Day as a “national day of mourning.”

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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20 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 26th Nov '23 - 8:57am

    Thank you for your article.

    Two practical questions:

    What percentage of before Israel establishment land area do the Palestinians now occupy?
    What percentage of that land area is sovereign/genuinely independent?

  • Jenny Barnes 26th Nov '23 - 9:24am

    None of the historic area of Palestine is genuinely independent. It’s all either Israel or occupied by Israel. In part of the West Bank (which used to be part of Jordan) (Area A) the Palestinians have some authority over internal civil matters. There are Palestinians/Arabs throughout the area. Many in Israel itself.

  • Everybody gains something from a pause. Israel gets back the hostages. Palestinian people get humanitarian aid. Hamas get time to reorganise. Then I expect we will return to fighting again.

  • As for Argentina, their newly elected populist will I suspect soon run into the sand and then casting around for someone to blame. Don’t rule out the Falkland Islands returning as an issue.

  • Steve Trevethan,

    the modern borders of the middle-east were largely established by the San Remo conference of 1920. Syria and Lebanon fell under French administration until becoming independent after WW2 while Iraq , Transjordan and Palestine came under British administration. The sons of Hussein bin Ali, (King of Hejaz until deposed by the Saudis in 1925) became the Kings of Iraq and Jordan (under British protection) while Palestine West of the Jordan river area was ruled by Britain under a League of Nations mandate that adopted the Balfour declaration, designating this sparsely populated area as a national homeland for the Jewish people (without infringing on the civil and religious rights of the existing population)
    Small Jewish settlements had been in Palestine since the mid 19th century and emigres began to arrive in numbers under the British mandate buying small plots of land and establishing self-sustaining agricultural cooperatives in the territory. As the numbers of migrants increased under the British mandate resistance began to develop to both British rule and Jewish immigration culminating in the Arab revolt of 1936-39 and restrictions on Jewish immigration until 1948.
    During the 1947-48 Arab-Israeli war parts of Palestine (Gaza and the West bank) were annexed by Egypt and Jordan respectively although never internationally recognised. The rest of Palestine formed what is today recognised as Israel’s borders. In the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. The Sinai returned to Egypt under a peace agreement of 1979 (cont).

  • In the 1947-48 Arab-Israel war an estimated 750,000 Arab residents of Palestine were driven from their homes during the hostilities. Subsequently, an estimated 1 million ethnic Jews were expelled from Arab states across the middle-east with many settling in Israel.
    The population of Israel today comprises something like 7 million ethnic Jews and 2 million Arab-Israeli citizens. In the West-bank there are around 750,000 ethnic Jews and maybe 2.5 million Palestinian Arabs. In Gaza, there are no Jews and about 2.3 million Palestinian Arabs.
    The Arab peace-plan of 2002 offers normalisation of relations by the Arab world with Israel, in return for a full withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories (including the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and Lebanon), with the possibility of comparable and mutual agreed minor swaps of the land between Israel and Palestine, a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem based on UN Resolution 194, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
    Whether both an Israeli and Palestinian leadership can be brought together to develop the Arab peace initiative to fruition remains to be seen. Both the Arab and Western world would like to see a just settlement along these lines, but it needs willing partners from both communities in Israel-Palestine to make it happen.

  • Just to add to Joe’s excellent reply:

    All of the Gaza is occupied by Palestinians.It has been since 2000 when about 18,000 Israeli settlers were withdrawn. The West Bank is a different story (that is the territory on the West Bank of the Jordan River which was conquered by the Israelis in the 1967 War). About 82 percent of that is occupied by the Palestinians. But the Palestinian settlements have been strategically separated by illegal Israeli settlements (about 600,000 settlers in all, athough exact uncertain because they are illegal). The illegal settlements are protected by the Israeli army which also helps to keep the West Bank Palestinian Authority destabilised. So the security situation on the West bank is largely controlled by the IDF. The situation is complicated the fact that the PLO controls the administration of Palestinian territories on the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. The two organisations despise each other and spend almost as much time fighting each other as the two Israelis. Netanyahu exploits these divisions to divide and rule.

  • Peter Martin 27th Nov '23 - 8:51am

    “It would mean handing control of its monetary policy over to Washington’s Federal Reserve Bank”

    Using the US dollar isn’t just about Argentina handing over its monetary policy to the US Fed.

    The US dollar is an ideal currency for the USA because it is an IOU of the US government. Issued by the US government. The Canadian dollar is an IOU of the Canadian government and issued by it. Canada could use the US dollar but wisely chooses not to.

    It means using someone else’s currency over which Argentina has no control whatsoever.

    Argentina needs to do whatever it takes to make its own currency viable. If Canada can do it then there is no reason that Argentina cannot. It will mean that corruption in the system will have to be eradicated and the taxation system made fully effective. The Argentine central bank may be a convenient political target but they aren’t responsible for the financial mess. They’ll only be doing what they are instructed to by government.

  • On Argentina, I have just had a brief conversation with a citizen of Argentina at present working in Europe. His analysis – a disaster. The solution – only God can help them.

  • Professor Steve Hanke is an advocate of dollarisation for Argentina. To his credit he does have considerable experience with these kind of monetary reforms Milei’s Dollarization Plan for Argentina
    The Argentinian economist and banker, Emilio Campo, has set out his arguments for dollarisation The Case for Dollarization in Argentina
    In both cases, the main argument appears to be that Argentines have already switched to the dollar for many transactions and there is over $200 billion held in currency form outside of the Argentine banking system.
    Hanke advocates a 30 day transition period to allow the exchange rate to settle while other economists suggest a much slower approach that will take years if not decades to fully implement.

  • Nigel Quinton 27th Nov '23 - 4:56pm

    On Palestine, this article in NYT by Thomas Friedman provides a smidgeon of positive news https://www.nytimes.com/2023/11/22/opinion/israel-palestinians-arabs.html?unlocked_article_code=1.Bk0.f3im.-WqNasW2FqME&smid=url-share

  • Mick Taylor 27th Nov '23 - 5:06pm

    I never cease to be amazed at the lack of knowledge on some issues displayed on this site.
    There are quite a number of countries both in and outside S. America who already use the US dollar as their currency. They include Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama, Zimbabwe. Now granted, they are not as big as Argentina, but there are precedents for countries adopting the dollar. I have no idea if the new Argentinian President will succeed in his plans to radically change Argentina, but adopting the dollar will not be the cause of any failure on his part. The current Argentinian currency is a basket case and the rate of inflation is totally out of control. Adopting the dollar cannot make the situation worse and could, conceivably, improve it. No. I’d be far more worried about the new president’s other policies.
    We’ll see. I suppose we have to watch this space.

  • Peter Martin 28th Nov '23 - 1:22pm

    @Joe

    “Professor Steve Hanke is an advocate of dollarisation for Argentina”

    The problem with making an “argument from authority”, at least in Economics, is that there’s always an alternative authority such as this one from Prof Hudson.

    Google “You tube Hudson Argentina Dollarization: The Silent Coup”

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “Adopting the dollar cannot make the situation worse…..”

    You might want to file this prediction away for future reference! 🙂

  • Peter Martin,

    there is always an alternative view in political economy. The course to be adopted is decided by elections. Professor Hanke is an advocate of currency boards as a means of imposing financial discipline in countries experiencing hyper-inflation. In this link Currency boards are needed to quash hyperinflation risksarguments for and against a currency board for Lebanon are discussed.
    Ultimately, Argentina’s political leaders have to look to real world experience as a guide to what can work for them and what will not. The reliance on money printing is clearly not working for the Argentine population and they need to consider alternative policies that can restore economic stability. Whether Milei has any answers remains to be seen. But it is understandable why the Argentinian public want a change of direction.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Nov '23 - 3:52pm

    One consequence of the present conflict seems to be the further marginalisation of the Palestinians living in Gaza. They are increasingly seen as collateral damage with little sense of an identity or say in what is unfolding within their home. When the war ceases there will be a window for this to change. While rebuilding their territory, it will also be important to empower them to hold their own elections, so helping them to forge their own destiny.

  • Peter Martin 28th Nov '23 - 4:28pm

    @ Joe,

    “The reliance on money printing is clearly not working for the Argentine population…”

    All money is either printed or, more usually, created in a computer. This is just as true for a Swiss franc as it is for an Argentinian peso. There is no intrinsic reason why the Argentinians can’t run a successful currency of their own but others can. Or, if I’m missing something maybe you’d like to explain why they can’t. They’ve been down the road of currency boards previously, in the 90s, that all came to grief in the 2001 crisis.

  • Chris Moore 28th Nov '23 - 8:33pm

    It depends on how much you print relative to productive resources of the economy.

    Clearly, what Joe means is that in Argentina they have chronically created far too much money for far too long and successfully produced sustained hyper-inflation.

    Dolarising the economy might work, if it were accompanied by many other necessary ecominc and social reforms. But as it’s Argentina, don’t think they’ll follow through with the other reforms.

  • Sovereignty of the Falklands should surely be a decision for the people who live there, not yet another grand-standing politician, or Simon Jenkins.
    Last I heard, they wish to remain British.

  • Peter Martin 1st Dec '23 - 11:35am

    “Last I heard, they wish to remain British.”

    You’ve probably heard the same thing about those who live in Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, the Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands etc.

    But, do they really want to be British or do they like living in a tax haven?

    When they start to pay VAT at 20%, Income tax at up to 45%, National Insurance at up to 14% and all the other UK taxes, we who actually live in Britain we will have an answer to this question.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/mar/09/uk-overseas-territories-top-list-of-worlds-leading-tax-havens

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