Tom Arms’ World Review

Israel

“The Day After Gaza” – as the discussion about what to do after the fighting is called in Israel, is the number one topic in the Israeli cabinet.

Not surprisingly, the coalition government is hopelessly divided.

On the far-right side are the representatives of the Ultra-Orthodox parties led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. They want to “encourage” the Palestinians to leave the Gaza and replace them with Jewish settlers.

A shade more reasonable is Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who wants Israel to retain overall security control while working with a multi-national force in Gaza. Palestinians would be free to manage day-to-day affairs as long as they did not “commit any hostile actions against Israel.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has yet to officially unveil his ideas in cabinet, but he has written an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. In it he said he had three goals – destroy Hamas everywhere; demilitarise the Gaza Strip and “deradicalise” Palestinians.

The first goal, presumably involves assassinating Hamas leaders in foreign countries. This has the potential of being construed by the host country as an act of war. It certainly would not help Israel’s image.

As for demilitarisation, Gaza is already officially demilitarised. Everyone can see how well that has worked.

The third is new and startling Netanyahu claims that at the root of current problems is a Hamas-controlled education system which has radicalised the Palestinians against Israel. He wants to re-educate or “de-radicalise” Palestinians through a revised educational system. This smacks of the re-education camps of China, the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cambodia….

Taiwan and China

2024 will be a big election year. Four billion people in more than 70 countries will be trooping to the polls.

Some of the elections will be a sham. Russia is a prime example. I can predict now that Vladimir Putin will win.

Others are real and important. They include the US, UK, EU, India, South Korea and Mexico. One of the most important and potentially consequential elections occurs next Saturday in Taiwan. The result will determine if the 24million Taiwanese move away from or towards Mainland China.

The voters’ decision will have a major impact on the actions of Xi Jinping’s China, and this turn has the potential of dramatic consequences for the rest of the world.

The Taiwanese elections are both presidential and legislative. At the moment both the legislature and the presidency are controlled by the Democratic People’s Party (DPP). The President, Tsai Ing-wen has served two terms and is barred from standing for a third.

President Tsai has used her eight years in office to clearly enunciated her party’s policy on reunification. It is that Taiwan does not need to declare itself independent as it is already such in de facto terms. Furthermore, it will continue down this road.

This policy has been echoed by her successor Lai Ching-te (aka William Lai) who is currently ahead in the opinion polls at 36 percent. But not far behind is the Kuomintang’s Hou Yu-ih at 31 percent. A third party is represented by Ko Wen-joh of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP). He has 24 percent of the polls.

Both the KMT and the TPP accept what is called the “1992 consensus” which states that there is “One China” without saying whether that China is the People’s Republic or Taiwan. They also want to move Taiwan closer to Mainland China. Beijing favours the KMT and opposes the DPP.

The KMT and TPP announced plans in October for a joint presidential ticket. But talks collapsed over the issue of which party leader was the presidential candidate. If they had conquered their egos than the coalition candidate would be the odds-on favourite.

As it is the electorate seem divided, Opinion polls show that two-thirds of the population think of themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. But an equal number want better relations with the mainland.

At the same time, the DPP has been in power for eight years which means the voters blame them for problems such as power blackouts, housing shortages and slow wage growth.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jin-ping has been busily interfering. After all, he argues, Taiwan is, in Beijing’s view, part of China. This week he used his New Year’s message to repeat that China and Taiwan “will surely be reunified.” President Tsai replied: “That is up to the voters to decide.”

United States

Who would want to be a US Supreme Court Justice?

It is a difficult job at the best times, but the travails of Donald Trump has created a potential lose/lose poisoned chalice legal imbroglio for America’s top judges.

There are at the moment two Trump cases in the Supreme Court inbox. They are both related to Trump’s role and responsibility in the January 6 riots and the election lie.

Case number one is the one brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith which claims that Trump is guilty of insurrection. The case is due to be heard in a Washington DC court but the Trump lawyers have appealed to the Supreme Court on the grands that their client is immune from prosecution for any crimes he may have committed as president.

Related to that case is the possibility that the riots cannot be judged an insurrection, but there is very little doubt that they attempted to obstruction congressional proceedings. That offense can carry a 20 year prison sentence.

The Supreme Court has said it will hear oral arguments in the case in March/April and issue its ruling in June—just in time for the Republication National Convention.

The second case involves the decision of the Colorado Supreme Court and Maine’s Secretary of State to block Trump’s name from appearing on primary election ballots. Their reason: He broke his oath of office to protect the constitution by obstructing the election process and promoting insurrection.

The 14th Amendment specifically says that any official of the United States that breaks his oath of office to become involved in insurrection or in any way supports that insurrection or obstruction of the constitution should be barred from office.

It is possible that the conservative-leaning Supreme Court will find a legal loophole that would allow them to delay a decision that would end Trump’s political career. They are lawyers after all.

But the cases are mounting and an increasing number of them are heading for the imposing courthouse at No. One First Street, Washington DC.  If the justices’ rulings eventually favour Trump then the liberal left will accuse the court of political bias and claim that the justice system is broken.

If the Supreme Court rules against Trump then the conservative right will accuse the court of being in league with the “Deep State” and claim that the justice system is broken.

 

* 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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6 Comments

  • John McHugo 7th Jan '24 - 3:11pm

    Tom – I was interested in what you mention about Netanyahu’s idea of “deradicalising” the Palestinians in Gaza by improving the education system. Presumably, he wants the teaching of history reformed so that it is less ‘anti-Israel’. There may well be merit in this, but it is not something that can legitimately be done by Israel or on its behalf.

    There is also an urgent need to deradicalise the Israeli history syllabus. My understanding is that it does not admit any Israeli moral or legal responsibility for the Nakba. Since the work of the Israeli ‘new historians’ such as Avi Shlaim, Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe (to say nothing of Palestinian historians such as Rashid Khalidi), this is untenable historically.

    Israel’s consistent refusal over the last 75 years to admit its responsibility for dispossessing so many Palestinians has led to hatred and is one of the reasons why we are now faced with organisations like Hamas.

  • Mark Frankel 8th Jan '24 - 7:54am

    Netanyahu is right to complain about Palestinian education but the problem is not confined to Hamas-controlled areas. The Friends School in Ramallah teaches the right of return and the illegitimacy of Israel as presently constituted, though they keep this well hidden from their funders in the West. Palestinian parents praise their children as martyrs for attacking Israel security forces: you can see this on TV. The Centre for Palestine Studies in SOAS in London is saturated with supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. By contrast there is a flourishing academic life in Israel (and the West) and the details of its history are the subject of massive and open debate. You can just look at the sources in the numerous Wikipedia articles to understand this. My own study of original material in the Library of the Society of Friends dating from the British Mandate convinces me that the hardline Palestinian/Arab leaders, like the Grand Mufti, were determined on resistance to the Zionist project from the get-go, that there was no possibility of a settlement then and there is none now.

  • Debbie Smith 8th Jan '24 - 8:48am

    Israel ordered the word Nakba to be removed from Israeli Arab textbooks. Most young Israelis do not know that over three quarters of a million Palestinians were forcibly dispossessed of their homes to enable the creation of the Israel in 1948.

  • John McHugo 8th Jan '24 - 3:06pm

    Mark Frankel,

    You conclude your last comment with the words, “there was no possibility of a settlement then [i.e. during the Mandate] and there is none now.”

    Rather than returning to history (although I could comment on the historical points you make, and you may know that I have written extensively on the history), surely a settlement can be reached on the basis of the rights of each side under international law? I would be interested to know whether you would support that in principle.

  • Peter Hirst 16th Jan '24 - 3:59pm

    The challenge is to turn the conflict in Gaza into a negotiation. Once there is a cease fire there need to be elections in Gaza. These would be overseen by the UN. That’s the least we can do to compensate the people of Gaza for their predicament.

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