Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Middle East... and Canada.

Well, a lot has gone on in the world since I last posted, obviously. I'm going to go around and post about the biggest issues I see going on today.

First, I must admit that I'm impressed by how Evo Morales has handled his victory in Bolivia thus far. I somewhat regret my earlier, however reulctant, support for Quiroga (which was due to risk-averse assessments) and I'm hopeful for Morales, that he can turn Bolivia around and empower the indigenous majority, helping to create a truly democratic state.


With Ariel Sharon out of the picture, Olmert looks like he is capitalizing on the resulting support that has remained with Kadima. He is maneuvering politically and has announced that he will withdraw from a number of outposts. I view Olmert, at this point, as a pragmatist. While Peretz has openly announced that his government will consider making Arab parts of East Jerusalem part of a Palestinian state, Olmert has not done so, but his comments (allowing a Palestinian 'presence' in East Jerusalem) point to much the same conclusion.

What must be attained, if the two-state solution is to succeed, is a two-state solution built on the eventual vision of free movement between Israel and Palestine. That is, Israel and Palestine are really one; they are the same country, held by two different peoples and nations with their own states; but they are the same land. The vision must be an Israel and Palestine where, though parts are governed by separate entities, there is free movement, free access to holy places, the right to live wherever one wishes. That is, a Palestinian could choose to reside for however long he wants in Jaffa, or Be'er Sheva, or West Jerusalem, or Safed, and so on. An Israeli could choose to reside in Hebron, Jericho, Nablus, wherever. The point is that the land belongs to all.

This vision does not entail flexible citizenship. That is to say, Palestinians are citizens of Palestine, and vote for its leadership; Israelis are citizens of Israel, and vote for its leadership. But anyone should, in the end, be able to reside anywhere within the territory of Israel and Palestine, because it truly is one land.

That said, this vision cannot be implemented immediately, first, obviously due to security concerns, and second, the economic gap. Palestine must catch up economically if the relationship is not to be an exploitative one. And of course, there must be agreement on the general issues of borders, security, and all that. But I will come to that in due course, in a separate entry.

What seems likely in the Palestinian elections is that Hamas will win a large faction in parliament; Fatah will win slightly more seats; and other factions will fill in the gap. I would see Fatah continuing to form the government, and the other factions siding with Hamas or Fatah as the case may be, on an issue-by-issue basis. The peace process will have to wait until Israel votes, although one can make the assumption that the Palestinians will be dealing with Ehud Olmert, a pragmatist like Sharon, probably in coalition with Labor.


The results of the elections have just been released. I have to say that I certainly believe the strong showing of the UIA was assisted by compulsion of various types in the southern provinces, but also, it is an inevitable outcome of the power struggle in Iraq. Those wishing to uphold the rights of the Shia, who were still worried about Sunni dominance, had difficulty voting for Allawi, and we are seeing in Kurdistan the cartelization of power by the KDP and PUK instead of competition, with the Islamists the only alternative.

We must hope for a unity government; although such a government certainly holds out plenty of opportunities for corruption, so, honestly, does any government formed at the present moment, and it would be better to have the Sunni in government.

When will Iraqis begin to vote by political platform? When substantial agreement on the bases of the state has been attained. When will that be? Who knows. But there must be substantial compromise in order to see the salience of ethnic/religious cleavages reduced.


The Canadian elections are approaching shortly and I'm ready, of course, to watch the CBC coverage all night. The polls all show the Conservatives headed for a landmark victory that would make Stephen Harper the prime minister; the question is whether Harper will be able to form a government, as he'll certainly have to cut a deal with somebody if he doesn't get a majority.

A majority still seems unlikely, therefore, Harper will have to deal with the Liberals, Bloc, or NDP. The least likely scenario would be Harper and the Liberals, as the Liberals would likely prefer time to revitalize in opposition. Harper and the Bloc seems far-fetched, but might actually be the most likely, if they can reach agreement on some details of greater provincial control over various issues. The CPC and NDP are separated quite a bit on most major issues, except, at this point, on some gun control and crime issues, and it seems unlikely that agreement could be reached on much unless the CPC abandons substantial parts of its (already moderated) platform.

I, of course, endorse wholeheartedly the New Democratic Party of Jack Layton. The NDP is committed to defending Canada's Medicare system, and is looking toward electoral reform, an issue that I support, for those who don't know me. None of the parties have impressed me greatly, but the NDP is much more ideologically coherent than the diverse and somewhat opportunistic Liberal camp; and the NDP will be capable of providing a strong counterpoint to the Conservatives in Parliament. Hopefully, we can see a scenario where the NDP will play a kingmaker role in Ottawa.

As a final note, there are some interesting sites linked to by the CBC which project seats either based on poll numbers or as based on a trading market. Especially interesting is the UBC election stock market. The link to the links page is below:

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