International Affairs

International Affairs

Kerry's Mideast peace mission

Give a standing ovation for Secretary of State John Kerry, whose Herculean efforts have brought the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table.

Even though they are negotiating about how to continue negotiating, and even though the road will be long and hard, what Kerry has accomplished is an extraordinary achievement.

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Croatia treads cautiously forward with EU membership

Today I write from Zagreb, Croatia, a sparkling testament to Croatia’s status as the crown jewel of the Balkans. As I walk the streets, there are several important characteristics of this region that strike me.

The first is the overall cleanliness. Crime and garbage on the streets are practically non-existent. The people proudly remind me at every opportunity that Croatia has the highest density of Wi-Fi in the world. 

Hearing things like this would seem to indicate that this is a wired country filled with gadgets like iPads, Kindles and all the other trappings of the modern digital age. To my surprise, though, despite the high levels of education thanks to institutions like the University of Zagreb, this is a country clinging to its parochial roots.

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July 4: Before the Anglo-American revolution

The Washington Post’s offering on the Fourth, which is three days away from Canada Day, is an essay by Paul Pirie declaring “The American Revolution was a Flop.” Pirie is, the byline says, “a former historian” in Ontario. As far as the “pursuit of happiness” goes, he says, Americans are unlikely to find it, “provided that they are not rotting in jail.”  

Are Canadians happier than Americans? Possibly Canadian comics are, and approximately 1 in 3 Canadians not rotting in jail is a stand up comic. They, as representative Canadians, seem happy. Canada is rising, and we have been flailing at least since Bush II, probably Clinton I. But the American Revolution was not a flop. As the British journalist John Browne has said, it was the American Revolution that democratized England (and therefore Canada).

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Tahrir Square, July 3, 2013

As I write these words early in the afternoon of July 3, and America prepares to celebrate our independence on July 4, countless millions of Egyptians have renewed their campaign to restore hope to Egypt, people around the world honor and pray for Nelson Mandela, and Secretary of State John Kerry is attempting a noble and Herculean effort to bring a two-state solution and peace and prosperity to Israel and Palestine. 

These are big issues. These are big events. These are big moments in history. Let me repeat here a proposal I offered some time ago.

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Impressions from Dubrovnik

On Monday, Croatia became the 28th country to join the European Union. While its accession may not appear that significant — it is home to only 4.5 million people and is not even as large as West Virginia — it demonstrates the ongoing attraction of joining a powerful bloc. 

The New York Times reports that “the incentive of joining the union pushed it to revamp a statist post-Communist economy, pass more than 350 laws and arrest more than a dozen Croatian and Bosnian-Croat war criminals.”

Given current conditions in Croatia — unemployment is close to 20 percent, youth unemployment is over 50 percent and the country’s credit rating has been “junk” as of this past December — some Croats believe that they can only benefit by integrating into the EU. 

That judgment, however, is far from universal. In the coastal city of Dubrovnik, a UNESCO world heritage site where my family and I have been visiting the past few days, virtually all of the people I’ve spoken with — young and old, occupying a wide range of professions — were either indifferent or opposed to the move. In fact, despite (or perhaps because of) the heightened scrutiny that’s being foisted on Croatia, many of them sounded like they wanted nothing more than to be left alone.

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Selective umbrage

I see in press notes that R&B singer Alicia Keys has been criticized by artists such as Alice Walker for planning to perform in Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 4.

Walker doesn’t know Keys but nonetheless advised the singer that it grieved her to learn Keys was performing in an “apartheid” country and thus putting herself in "soul danger" by resisting a rising tide of resistance to Israel's policies toward Palestinians. Stephen Hawking also canceled a scientific conference when challenged to do so by Palestinian organizations on the same grounds. The phenomenon is not unique in recent history.

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Netanyahu bars Israeli MK Feiglin from Temple Mount

The Jerusalem Post reports Monday that Knesset Member Moshe Feiglin (Likud) was barred from the Temple Mount holy site by an order from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As Feiglin does on the 19th of every Hebrew month, he planned to pray at Temple Mount. He has been doing so monthly for the past 10 years. 

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Weaponizing a nuclear device

I find it fascinating that every time North Korea or the Iranians continue to make progress on weaponizing a nuclear device, our leaders say, “Yeh, but they’re still years away from developing a bomb …”

Like that’s supposed to make me feel better? Pretty soon, the future becomes the present, and then what do we do? What’s with this attitude that something (or someone) will take care of our enemies’ hatred?

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Egyptian president must make real amends to end the unrest

These are dangerous times in Egypt.

I was in Cairo’s Tahrir Square last week for the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution that ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak.

On the square, the opposition demonstrators were shouting the same slogans that brought down Mubarak: “The people want the downfall of the regime.” I don’t think that Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who was democratically elected only seven months ago, will suffer the same fate as Mubarak, whose rule was marked by corruption and nepotism.

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