Best columns: International
How they see us: Unimpressed by Kerry’s Israel lecture
The increasingly bitter relationship between the U.S. and Israeli governments has hit a new low, said The Daily Star(Lebanon) in an editorial. In its waning days, the Obama administration for the first time declined to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that declared Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank illegal under international law. In a passionate, hour-long speech defending the U.S.’s decision to abstain rather than veto the resolution, Secretary of State John Kerry said the continued expansion of settlements would make the two-state solution—a Palestinian state alongside Israel—impossible to reach. “If the choice is one state,” Kerry said, “Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it cannot be both.” Kerry’s sudden willingness to speak this obvious truth was “too little, too late.” Predictably, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back with a statement of his own, accusing Kerry of anti-Israel bias and saying that he was looking forward to working with President-elect Donald Trump.
Netanyahu was right, said Ruthie Blum in The Jerusalem Post(Israel). Kerry laid all the blame for the Israeli-Palestinian impasse on Israel, entirely ignoring Palestinian intransigence. Three times the Palestinians have been given the option of establishing a state on 95 percent of the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, and three times they have said no, refusing to give up their fantasy of a “right of return” to Israeli lands they vacated decades ago. The most “outrageous and telling” part of Kerry’s speech was when he noted that while Israelis celebrate Independence Day each year, the Palestinians mourn the Nakba—the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding in 1948. That suggests Kerry believes that the real problem isn’t the “occupation” of the West Bank, “but rather the existence of Jews on any inch of the land” of Israel. We won’t miss Kerry, or any member of the Obama administration, one jot.
Still, Netanyahu’s overreaction was counterproductive, said Ben-Dror Yemini in Yedioth Ahronoth(Israel). Infuriated over the U.N. resolution, he went “off the rails,” hitting back not only at the U.S. but also at all nations on the Security Council that voted for it. He recalled several ambassadors, rescinded an invitation to Ukraine’s prime minister, and even canceled a meeting with the British prime minister. For years, “Israel’s enemies have been trying to undermine its relations with important nations,” and Netanyahu just did their work for them.
Trump may be the only ally Netanyahu needs, said Geoffrey Aronson in AlJazeera.com. While all U.S. administrations since 1967 have privately told Israel that Jewish settlements are illegal and should be stopped, Trump “treats Israel’s expanding presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem as legitimate.” His nomination for ambassador to Israel is David Friedman, an Orthodox rabbi’s son who opposes Palestinian statehood and has invested significant funds in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. With Trump in office, the “settlement machine” will grind on, and the two-state solution will slip away forever.
We kill because we can
Reinaldo Gadea Pérez
Venezuela is lurching toward anarchy, said Reinaldo Gadea Pérez. Nearly 28,500 Venezuelans were murdered in 2016—the highest number of any year on record. Armed militias patrol neighborhoods, kidnapping and torturing youths they accuse of theft. Some blame the crime surge on the collapse of our economy, which imploded under the pressures of hyperinflation and unemployment, leaving grocery shelves bare and forcing families to barter for food. But economic despair isn’t the only cause of this murder epidemic. Our “culture of impunity” is also creating killers. Remember the words of the late President Hugo Chávez, who “justified stealing to feed starving children,” but remember too his actions, as he “locked up petty thieves but let murderers and corrupt cronies walk free.” The bigger your crime, the bigger your swagger when you get away with it. What, then, can we expect of our young people but “to imitate their heroes, the bandits who do whatever they please.” The children of the corrupt elite are no better. “For them, the tendency to emulate their elders is even greater, because it brings them power and luxuries.” There is no hope for a future for Venezuela unless we “destroy this culture of impunity” and start imposing consequences for breaking the law.
Cash-free society hurts the poor
The Indian Express
Abolishing India’s major banknotes was an “autocratic, coercive” attack on the poor, said Aruna Roy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi abruptly yanked the highest-value bills—worth 500 and 1,000 rupees, or $7.50 and $15—out of circulation in early November, saying he wanted to force wealthy Indians who were hoarding their money to put it in the bank and pay taxes on it. But large caches of cash weren’t discovered; instead, poor Indians waited for hours to change their meager piles of bills at the banks, and some elderly people even died in line. Two months later, Modi has changed his story, saying that his rationale was to move India toward a cashless society. But for “the poor and marginalized,” such a system will be a “dark digital nightmare.” More than half of Indians have no bank account. How are they supposed to suddenly use plastic cards for all their transactions? And if we can somehow sign everyone up for a digital account, don’t think that will empower the poor—it will simply enable the government to control them better. “The digital platform will trap every citizen,” forcing all Indians to interact with the banks when traveling, buying food, and accessing benefits. We will end up with not a cashless society, “but a choiceless society.”