It’s politics, stupid PAS refuses to recognise Israel a letter call attention to Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim

Anwar had met Nik Aziz (right) yesterday to explain his statements in the WSJ. — File pic
 PAS has refused to accept the Israeli state although its spiritual leader Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat said today he “understood Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s explanation” over his support for “all efforts to protect the security of the state of Israel.”The Kelantan mentri besar said in a statement that “the existence of Israel is an injustice” as it has murdered and stripped away the rights of Palestinians.

“PAS absolutely does not recognise the haram state of Israel. PAS will firmly back the Palestinians’ who have been insulted in their own land. It is up to Anwar if he accepts PAS’s stand,” he said.

PKR de facto leader Anwar had met Nik Aziz yesterday morning to explain that his support for Israel was based on the condition the Jewish state does not thwart the Palestinians’ ambitions for statehood.

The PAS Ulama Council, led by Nik Aziz, had called on the opposition leader to retract his remarks or sue the Wall Street Journal for misreporting his remarks on the issue.

Last month, the WSJ had quoted Anwar as saying in an interview that he supported “all efforts to protect the security of the state of Israel.”

But the newspaper said Anwar stopped short of saying he would open diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, a step the former deputy prime minister said remains contingent on Israel respecting the aspirations of Palestinians.

Anwar came under heavy fire from Umno and its media after his statement was published by the WSJ in January.

He was forced to defend himself by stressing that his remarks in the newspaper meant that he supported a two-state solution, which he said was also mentioned by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman when the latter addressed the United Nations General Assembly in September last year.

But Nik Aziz made clear today PAS will not acknowledge Israel and said this proved PAS has not “sold out its principles for the sake of being with Pakatan Rakyat.”

Malaysia is a staunch supporter of Palestine and has no diplomatic ties with Israel.

Muslim politicians have long vied for support from Malays by denouncing what they say are inhumane acts of aggression by Israel towards its neighbou

There was visible and audible euphoria at the UN General Assembly in September when you announced Palestine’s application for UN membership, at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters in October when Palestine was admitted as a member state and at UNESCO again in December when the Palestinian flag was formally raised in your presence (and mine).

Since then, nothing…

It is understood that you agreed with the Quartet to freeze Palestine’s diplomatic initiatives until January 26 to permit a final effort to initiate meaningful negotiations with Israel. Predictably, that effort failed. However, January 26 has long passed. Still, nothing…

I shared your surprise that, with nine of the states on last year’s UN Security Council having already extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine, you could not line up even the nine affirmative votes for Palestine’s admission as a member state necessary to force the United States to choose between a veto (infuriating the Muslim world and much of mankind) and an abstention (infuriating Israel and its American supporters).
You could proceed promptly to the UN General Assembly to obtain an overwhelming vote to upgrade Palestine’s status from “observer entity” to “observer state”. The memberships of the UN and UNESCO are substantially identical, and only 14 states voted against Palestine’s admission as a UNESCO member state. Logically, even fewer states should oppose “observer state” status for Palestine at the UN.However, even though the turnover of five non-permanent members on January 1 does not appear to have changed the eight-affirmative-votes-only reality, this does not mean that there is nothing that Palestine can constructively do to recover the initiative and positive momentum of last fall.

Immediately after having Palestine’s “state status” confirmed at the UN, you could make a formal – and historic – statement comprising at least the following three elements:

(i) The announcement of the merger or absorption of the Palestinian Authority into the State of Palestine;

(ii) An undertaking by the State of Palestine, during a one-year period in which the State of Palestine would seek in good faith to achieve a definitive agreement with the State of Israel on all modalities for ending the occupation on a two-state basis, to assume and perform all of the functions, rights and obligations previously assumed and performed by the Palestinian Authority under existing agreements between the PLO and the State of Israel, including security cooperation if the State of Israel is willing to cooperate with the State of Palestine; and

(iii) A commitment by the State of Palestine, in the event that a definitive agreement with the State of Israel on all modalities for ending the occupation on a two-state basis is not reached within this one-year period, to consult the Palestinian people by referendum as to whether they prefer continuing to seek to end the occupation through partition, with a sovereign Palestinian state on only 22 per cent of the territory of historical Palestine, or henceforth seeking the full rights of citizenship in a single democratic state in all of historical Palestine, free of any discrimination based on race, religion or origin and with equal rights for all.

If there remains any hope of actually achieving a decent two-state solution on the ground, presenting the issue and the choice, both before Israel and before its Western supporters, in this manner should stimulate the most intensive effort imaginable to actually achieve it. If, even with the issue and choice presented in this manner, a decent two-state solution were to prove impossible to achieve, the Palestinian leadership and people, having acted reasonably and responsibly, would be standing firmly on the moral high ground, ready to shift their goal to the only other decent alternative with the maximum conceivable support of the rest of mankind.

During this decisive year, you could also seek admission of the State of Palestine, successively, to several more carefully chosen UN agencies, such as the World International Property Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as to the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and, potentially, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and even the Commonwealth, choosing those targets which both appear most constructive in practical and strategic terms and in which success is highly likely.
Necessarily, you would stop issuing “Palestinian Authority” passports and start issuing “State of Palestine” passports.You could leave the Security Council waiting, always open for a vote at a moment of your choosing, perhaps after a change of government in a member state. In this context, you will surely have noticed that François Hollande, tipped by the polls to become the next French president in May, has included in his campaign booklet “My 60 Pledges for France” the following pledge: “I will support international recognition of the Palestinian state.”

By proceeding in this way, you would affirm the existence and reality of the state in multiple ways, through a steady succession of manifestations of statehood, while building a tangible record of “successes”, avoiding any visible “failure” and keeping Palestine and the imperative need to end the occupation on the “front burner” of the world’s attention.

In addition, an overwhelming General Assembly vote in support of “statehood status” for Palestine, coupled with a steady succession of “facts on the ground” manifestations of statehood, would make it more difficult for Security Council members to resist or block full UN membership for Palestine at such time as you may deem it opportune to seek it.

As always, I wish you courage and wisdom in seizing the initiative and setting the agenda so as to achieve, finally, some measure of justice and a decent future for the Palestinian people.
Should each and every occupied people search from accommodation with their occupiers without interference from the international community? Is that how African and Middle Eastern nations gained their independence from European colonial powers?

Should a whole people go on living under occupation until their occupier is satisfied with the conditions for surrender?

It’s politics, stupid

Every other commentator in town would like to remind you not to expect much action from a US president on Israel during an election year.

As Heilemann illustrates in his article, Obama’s career was built on his relationships with generous Jewish contributors in Chicago.

Indeed, the guy who brought the most money to the Democratic party over the last several decades became Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel. Today, he’s the mayor of Chicago.

But it’s not only about money. It’s also about crucial support in Congress over urgent domestic issues that could make or break the Obama presidency. And the Israeli lobby, AIPAC, can make the president’s life miserable over the course of the next year.

Now, I understand all of that. But what I don’t understand is why it is accepted as a fait accompli! As the nature of politics! Take it or leave it!

If this is the case, then let’s at least call a spade a spade; and out the US administration(s) for being what so many seem to say it is: Not Jewish or Zionist, rather hypocritical.

It speaks of justice but pursues unfair policies; speaks of repression, but promotes its own interests at any cost. It preaches freedom but supports occupation; speaks of human rights but insists on entrusting the wolf, and only the wolf, with the hen house.

The joke is on everyone

Why should the Palestinians be held victims to US politics while being held hostage to Israeli politics for the last six decades. Why should most Israelis continue to live in a garrison state incapable of normalising relations with their neighbors?

Why should Americans watch as their politicians are held hostage to a foreign power and its influential supporters?

The pro-Israeli Jewish lobby, J Street, commented on the alarming pandering to Israel not only among Democrats but also Republicans, saying: “There’s no limit, it seems, to how far American politicians will go these days in pandering on Israel for political gain.”

While there has been strategic logic for the US support for Israel in the past, Washington’s current pandering makes little sense.

Washington has long used its influence with Israel as strategic leverage to reign in Arab leaders. Only Washington can restrain Israel in war and wring concessions in diplomacy, Arab leaders once reckoned.

But the dictators who either exploited Palestine to garner popular support at home, or bartered it in return for Western favours, belong to the past.

Today’s Arabs are bitter and angry at US-Israeli complicity in Palestine and they won’t be as easily bounded or bribed as their fallen dictatorships.

Will Obama be a lame duck president and join the likes of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter as incumbent presidents who were defeated at re-election?

There are ample grounds to think so. First, political scientists report that, when unemployment in the United States is above seven per cent, the incumbent president’s chances of re-election are slight. Since 2007, unemployment has exceeded eight per cent and the economy has been mired in the most severe and durable recession in more than half a century.

Evidence from recent European elections provides additional, indirect evidence that when the economy is faring badly, voters hold the incumbent government responsible. In every European country that has held elections recently – Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain – voters have replaced the incumbent government. (France may well join this list when presidential elections are held this April and May.)

And another excellent predictor of an incumbent president’s re-election prospects involves responses to the polling question: “Are things in this country generally going in the right direction, or have they pretty seriously gotten onto the wrong track?” A Time magazine poll last fall found that 81 per cent of respondents chose the pessimistic answer; only 14 per cent expressed the optimistic view.

Obama’s policies have generated a powerful backlash by cultural conservatives, white nativists, and the ultra-rich. His electoral prospects are further damaged because Republicans control most chambers within state legislatures: 57, to the Democrats’ 39, with the remainder lacking a clear partisan majority.

Since 2010, Republicans have tightened restrictions on voter eligibility in many states, a change that disproportionately affects Democratic supporters. Republican-controlled legislatures have also redrawn congressional district boundaries to maximise the party’s congressional prospects this November.

Evidence to the contrary

But despite all of this compelling evidence, Obama will still win the election when Americans head to the voting booths in November.

Why?

For one, Obama actually has good reasons for optimism on the economic front as voters consider not just the currentlevel of economic performance but also economic trends. Because of that, the bad news of past years may be helpful for Obama, as even the smallest dose of good news can offset the bad.

And recently, there has been a modest increase in economic growth and improved job creation: 243,000 jobs were created in January 2012 – more than double the number predicted by most economists as the number of newly created jobs outstripped the growth of new job-seekers resulting from increased population for the first time in years. Unemployment has declined from 8.5 per cent to 8.3 per cent, the lowest level in three years. While a modestly improved economic climate will not constitute a strong case for Obama re-election, if these trends continue the president will be able to deny responsibility for presiding over a durable crisis.

Then, there are Obama’s personal qualities. Obama has a stable temperament and ability to inspire hope and support from large groups of Americans; he rarely stumbles or needs to clarify his positions. He conveys an impression of tranquillity, steadiness of purpose and presents a marked contrast to the agitated and awkward demeanour of Mitt Romney, the likely Republican candidate.

One way that voters subconsciously assess a candidate is whether they enjoy the prospect of inviting him or her into their home when they tune into the TV evening news. By this measure, Obama comes out way ahead of Romney.

Possibly because of his great wealth, Romney seems to lack warmth and empathy for common people. Examples are endless, including his boast that he enjoys firing peoplehis offer to make a $10,000 bet during a debate of Republican presidential hopefuls, and his remark that he doesn’t care about the very poor because they’re protected by the “safety net” provided by social programmes – never mind that poverty is at record high levels and that Romney’s fiscal policies would further weaken the safety net.

Romney’s tax returns further demonstrate his differences with most US voters. He reaps millions of dollars annually from low tax rates on dividends and capital gains – and from tax loopholes which enable him to shelter income and wealth in off-shore tax havens. Romney’s Republican rivals lament that Bain Capital, a private equity fund that he directed, exemplifies “vulture capitalism” because it buys failing companies at bargain basement prices, strips them of assets, and dismisses their workers.

Furthermore, Romney’s frequent shifts on important issues – abortion, gun control, and health care – suggest that he tailors his beliefs in response to how the political winds are blowing. For example, when serving as governor of Massachusetts, Romney sponsored a plan requiring residents to purchase healthcare insurance and providing subsidies for those with low-income. Obama and Romney’s Republican opponents delight in highlighting that the plan served as a model for Obama’s own health care reform – a reform vilified by Republicans (including Romney).

The electorate is tilting left

Obama’s chances of re-election are also significantly helped by the fact that the Democratic Party’s economic approach converges with that held by a plurality of those in the US. Right now, the electorate’s mood is somewhat left of centre.

Consider a public opinion poll in autumn 2011, sponsored by the Wall Street Journal and NBC. Respondents were asked their opinion about two views: (a) “The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favours a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country;” (b) “The national debt must be cut significantly while reducing spending and the size of government… In addition, business regulations should be cut and taxes should not be raised.” The results: 60 per cent of respondents strongly supported the first option – nearly double the 33 per cent that strongly supported the second statement.

Other polls back up the notion that the electorate is tilting left. In early February ABC News and The Washington Postasked whether the current US tax system favours the middle class, the wealthy, or neither; 68 per cent of respondents replied that it favours the wealthy. Moreover, 72 per cent of respondents supported raising taxes on those in the US with incomes exceeding one million dollars a year. And a Pew Research Centre survey found that two-thirds of US voters believe that there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between rich and poor – an increase of 19 per cent since 2009. The poll also found that those in the US believe that the cleavage between rich and poor is an issue which is more important than racial, ethnic, and generational divisions.

The takeaway from these poll data is that the Democratic Party’s ideological position is more closely aligned with that of the US electorate than is the case for the Republican Party. This situation is quite recent. The 2010 congressional elections were dominated by a conservative social agenda, as well as by the Tea Party’s priorities of slashing federal spending to reduce the federal deficit and debt. The Republican Party was the vehicle for achieving these goals and the elections enabled the party to take control of the House of Representatives. In 2012, unemployment, poverty and inequality are dominant concerns – issues on which the Democratic Party historically has focused.

Compare President Obama’s State of the Union addresses in early 2011 and 2012. The former was decidedly more centrist. The New York Times headlined its story reporting Obama’s 2012 State of the Union speech, “In Address, Obama Makes Pitch for Economic Fairness.” His message for the financial and corporate sector: “No more bailouts, no more handouts, and no more copouts.”

The impact of Occupy

What explains the rapid transformation of the political agenda?

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has been an important catalyst. As the leader of the Working Families Party Daniel Cantor observed, OWS changed the focus of public attention “from austerity to inequality”. A trade union official noted: “In three months, this movement succeeded in shifting political discourse more than labour had been able to accomplish with years of lobbying and electoral campaigning.”

One indication of the impact of OWS: In the months prior to the emergence of OWS, about 400 newspaper articles were published each month in the US that contained the words “inequality”  and “greed”. After October 2011, that number tripled.

Polls provide solid evidence of the widespread support enjoyed by OWS. In a Time magazine poll in October 2011, double the number of respondents supported OWS than opposed it. OWS tapped into widespread concerns previously neglected by the media and mainstream political leaders; its organisation enabled it to reach a wide audience. It is both a national phenomenon, eliciting nationwide news coverage of the nerve centres of the movement in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and a decentralised movement with an OWS presence in 1,400 medium and small cities throughout the country.

Party dynamics

A final factor that bolsters the Democratic Party’s prospects relates to the internal dynamics of the two major parties. Both parties are divided into a centrist, mainstream faction – often called the “establishment” – and an extremist wing (the left flank of the Democratic Party, the right flank of the Republican Party).

However, the symmetry ends here, for the balance of power between the two wings is very different in the two parties, as is the extent of intra-party conflict. Because the Democratic Party’s left wing is quite weak and the Republican Party’s right wing is strong, the Democratic Party is more closely aligned with the bulk of the US electorate.

In the Democratic Party, the establishment (to which Obama and most party leaders belong) is overwhelmingly dominant. The left wing, for example, the Progressive Democrats of America, a grassroots PAC (political action committee) that operates within and outside the Democratic Party, is tiny.

While the party’s two factions have very different positions on civil liberties and economic policy, the establishment generally controls the party’ s issue agenda; more left-oriented groups are often critical of Obama and the party’s moderate-left positions, but their criticism is generally muted and restrained.

The Republican Party, by contrast, is deeply divided, and its contending factions are engaged in an intense battle for the soul of the party. Although the establishment there has the upper hand, it is fiercely challenged by a right-wing coalition of the Tea Party, the Christian Right, dogmatic neo-liberals, and ultra-rich economic conservatives.

The Republican presidential debates and primaries have been the battleground for this civil war, characterised by Republican supporter Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, as “mutually assured destruction“.

An important question is whether, once the Republican Party chooses its presidential nominee, voters will forget that it was the party’s own presidential contenders, not the Democrats, who called each other liars, lobbyists, tax evaders, and hypocrites.

Romney belongs par excellence to the establishment, one reason for the desperate – and thus far unsuccessful – attempt by the hard-right to find a credible alternative to him. In his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, Romney appealed to the ultra-right. This year, he has both highlighted his solidly conservative credentials and emphasised his successful business career. Assuming that he becomes the Republican nominee, he will be faced with an inescapable dilemma. If he tries to distance himself from the party’s right wing, his ultra-conservative positions in the debates will come back to haunt him.

However, if he embraces those positions, he will alienate centrists in the electorate. In brief, he risks being regarded by both wings of the party as a flip-flopper. Of course, an Obama victory hinges on the assumption that there will be no unpleasant surprises before the November election, such as an attack on Iran or the implosion of the eurozone.

As one historian has wisely noted: It’s far easier to explain the past than to predict the future. But, barring major disasters, expect Obama to avoid Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter’s fate this November, and to enjoy four more years residing at the world’s most famous address.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s