Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category


By H.A. Hellyer

The question now is not if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will change after the Arab uprisings began; the question is how it will. The issue is not whether the United States will engage in this changed wider Middle East; the issue is if it will be able to engage effectively, or not.


In Egypt, some things, of course, stayed very much the same. The new Islamist president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, has not broken the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and he is not going to. He might have withdrawn Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, but he’ll go back at some point, and the Israeli ambassador to Cairo has not been expelled. No war is on the horizon, partly because the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood have no real appetite for what it would mean for Egypt and its economy, and partly because the Egyptian military itself would veto it.

Within those parameters, however, Morsi might still have space to manoeuvre. This, however, takes for granted that he is essentially leading a response to the Israeli operation into Gaza. Morsi’s response is driven by an awareness that the Egyptian public demands action. In that regard, he is as much responding to the Israelis as to his own public. His dispatching of the Egyptian prime minister to Gaza is a message to the Egyptian public, perhaps more so than it is to the Israelis, or even the Palestinians. The message reads: I am not Hosni Mubarak, and your opinion matters.

That, in itself, is the product of Tahrir Square in 2011. With military options off the table, there are a number of things that Morsi has not done, which he may yet be pressed to do as a result of public pressure. Solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza can easily lead to normalisation of relations between Gaza and Egypt in terms of more open border controls and open trade arrangements—neither of which have taken place, even during this crisis.

At present, where protests exist, pro-Morsi forces within the Brotherhood will likely try to divert them into expressing support for Morsi’s actions of solidarity with Gaza, rather than allow them to turn into pressure rallies to force him to do much more—perhaps more than he can do. That will only work for so long, however, if the crisis in Gaza continues. Read more…

Dr. H.A. Hellyer is a nonresident fellow with the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings.

As published in on November 19, 2012.



Por Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo, Profesor de IE University y Director del IE Master in International Relations.

«Hemos ganado la independencia, pero hemos perdido todo lo demás». Esta conocida frase de Bolívar debería hacernos pensar a los españoles: a los cientos de miles que vienen pidiendo la independencia de Cataluña desde el pasado 11 de septiembre y a los que nos oponemos a esa independencia. Si el proyecto independentista saliera adelante, los demás españoles perderíamos Cataluña, con todo lo que aporta a España y a la vida de gran número de nosotros; y los catalanes perderían muchas cosas que ahora tienen y que algunos de ellos no parecen apreciar. Pero antes de hacer el inventario de las pérdidas, parece lógico analizar la petición de independencia y sus fundamentos, tanto los racionales como los emotivos; y ese análisis habrá de realizarse detenidamente, sin desdenes ni impaciencias, porque la cuestión es ahora insoslayable y tenemos por delante varios años de un debate al que hay que acudir con plena preparación dialéctica.

La independencia se pide porque, según dijo el presidente de la Generalitat, Cataluña necesita «estructuras de Estado». Ahora bien, ¿no las tiene ya? Hagamos la enumeración: gobierno, parlamento, órgano de garantías constitucionales, defensor del pueblo, representaciones en el extranjero; policía, instituciones penitenciarias, régimen local propio, sistema educativo configurado con plena libertad. Además, la policía catalana viste uniforme único en España, lo que no ocurre en Alemania, donde ciertamente cada «land» tiene su policía, pero el uniforme es el mismo para todas. Hasta código civil tiene Cataluña, el viejo privilegio de las naciones europeas. Ningún «land» alemán, ningún cantón suizo tiene código civil: hace largo tiempo que renunciaron a su antiguo derecho privado para permitir la aprobación de códigos civiles nacionales. Cabría argumentar: Cataluña no tiene fuerzas armadas y su hacienda dista mucho de ser soberana. Pero Artur Mas ha dicho que la Cataluña independiente no necesita ejército y que la obtención del pacto fiscal no supondría la renuncia al proyecto independentista.

No bastan, pues, los argumentos puramente racionales para sustentar la reclamación de la independencia, que solo se entiende yendo a las emociones. Ya dijo Cambó, al final de su larga carrera política, que «Cataluña, contra lo que muchos creen, es un pueblo casi morbosamente sentimental». Esta es la tendencia que aparece en la afirmación del presidente Mas de que la independencia es necesaria porque hay una «fatiga mutua» entre Cataluña y España. Las encuestas no respaldan esa tesis. Pero hay algo más importante: la historia reciente de las relaciones entre Cataluña y el resto de España no ha consistido en un continuo forcejeo que haya generado hastío por ambas partes, sino más bien en una situación de vacío y de parálisis. La buena relación entre Cataluña y España requiere dos cosas: que en nuestra clase política nacional, tanto en el gobierno como en la oposición, haya figuras que sepan hablarle a Cataluña con la altura, la sensibilidad y el respeto que requiere un socio tan importante en todas las empresas españolas contemporáneas; y que de Cataluña venga un flujo continuo de ideas e iniciativas para la mejora del conjunto de España. Seguir leyendo…

Artículo publicado por ABC el 20 de noviembre de 2012.


By Daniel Levy


“In all my years in office I haven’t declared a war”

With those words (and others) Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched his re-election campaign in an October speech to the Knesset. Well, at least that part of the election message box might now have to change. In launching Operation Pillar of Defence Netanyahu is taking an uncharacteristic gamble – albeit a calculated risk. The decision was very likely made with the prompting of his Defence Minister Ehud Barak (who unlike the Prime Minister has little to lose politically, with Barak’s Independence party barely scraping the threshold to enter the Knesset, and is predicated on a number of circumstances having aligned. To be clear, this was an escalation of choice by Israel’s leadership (and it could become yet another war of choice). As the timeline of events over the last week makes clear, the killing of a Palestinian minor on November 8th during an IDF incursion into Gaza initiated a round of escalation which was already drawing to a close on November 11th and 12th, leading to formal reports from a number of Israeli, Palestinian and international sources that a new truce was in place on November 13th. Israel then assassinated Hamas’ military chief Ahmed al-Jabari on November 14th.

Of course, Israel’s leaders have been under pressure for months and even years since the last attack on Gaza (Operation Cast Lead, in December 2008 and January 2009) to ratchet up Israel’s response to the intermittent rocket fire on Israeli civilians, in violation of international law. But that pressure was not significantly greater this time around nor why a tipping point was now reached. Hamas has also been under pressure to do more to alleviate the closure still largely imposed on Gaza and to demonstrate that it has not adopted a Fatah-like acquiescence to the overall occupation. Too often there is a failure to contextualise any escalation beyond the tit-for-tat of the current news cycle – in the past almost four years since Cast Lead 271 Palestinians and 3 Israelis have lost their lives in exchanges of hostilities (according to B’Tselem). And there is the bigger picture. Palestinians remain stateless, denied basic rights and under occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and in many respects Gaza too.

One does not have to be a card-carrying member of Cynics Anonymous to suggest that the timing of the Israeli escalation has rather a lot to do with the approaching elections in Israel. It would also though be mistaken to view events exclusively through that lens. So what was the Israeli leadership’s assessment which prompted the launching of Operation Pillar of Defence and what might that tell us about its intended outcome and trajectory? Read more…

Daniel Levy is the Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at ECFR. He is also Senior Research Fellow at the New America Foundation and Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation.

As published in by the European Council on Foreign Relations on November 16, 2012.


By Walter Russell Mead

As Israeli airstrikes and naval shells bombarded Gaza this weekend, the world asked the question that perennially frustrates, confuses and enrages so many people across the planet: Why aren’t the Americans hating on Israel more?

As in Operation Cast Lead, the last big conflict between Israel and Hamas, and as during the operation against Hezbollah in Lebanon, much of the world screams in outrage while America yawns. If anything, many of Israel’s military operations are more popular and less controversial in the United States than they are in Israel itself. This time around, President Barack Obama and his administration have issued one statement after another in support of Israel’s right to self defense, and both houses of Congress have passed resolutions in support of Jerusalem’s response.

Commentators around the world grasp at straws in seeking to explain what’s going on. Islamophobia and racism, say some. Americans just don’t care about Arab deaths and they are so blinded by their fear of Islam that they can’t see the simple realities of the conflict on the ground. Others allege that a sinister Jewish lobby controls the media and the political system through vast power of Jewish money; the poor ignorant Americans are the helpless pawns of clever Jews. Still others suggest that it is fanatical fundamentalists with their carry on flight bags packed for the Rapture who are behind American blindness to Israel’s crimes.

America is a big country with a lot of things going on, but the real force driving American support for Israeli actions in Gaza isn’t Islamophobia, Jewish conspiracies or foam-flecked religious nuts. It’s something much simpler: many though not all Americans look at war through a distinctive cultural lens. Readers of Special Providence know that I’ve written about four schools of American thinking about world affairs; from the perspective of the most widespread of them, the Jacksonians, what Israel is doing in Gaza makes perfect sense. Not only are many Jacksonians completely untroubled by Israel’s response to the rocket attacks in Gaza, many genuinely don’t understand why the rest of the world is so steamed about Israel—and so angry with the United States.

Americans as a people have never much believed in fighting by “the rules.” The Minutemen who fought the British regulars at Lexington and Concord in 1776 thought that there was nothing stupider in the world than to stand in even ranks and brightly colored uniforms waiting to shoot and be shot like gentlemen. They hid behind stone walls and trees, wearing clothes that blended in with their surroundings, and took potshots at the British wherever they could. George Washington saved the Revolution by a surprise attack on British forces the night before Christmas; far from being ashamed of an attack no European general of the day would have countenanced, Americans turned a painting of the attack (“Washington Crossing the Delaware”) into a patriotic icon. In America, war is not a sport. Read more…

Walter Russell Mead is James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard College, editor-at-large of The American Interest.

As published by The American Interest on November 18, 2012.


By Paola Subacchi

Throughout the just concluded 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party ubiquitous television screens in trains and metro stations broadcast a live feed of the Chinese assembly. Beijing’s busy people, however, seemed not to pay close attention: for them, it was business as usual.

The Chinese public’s indifference to their country’s ceremonial transition of power is hardly surprising. All critical decisions were taken well ahead of the Congress, behind closed doors, with very little input from outsiders. This apparently seamless transition, however, is widely expected to usher in a complex and potentially difficult decade for China – and for the rest of the world.

China is at a turning point. With more than 100 million people still below the official poverty line and per capita income currently just over $6,000 in nominal terms, robust economic growth must be maintained. Outgoing President Hu Jintao indicated that China’s total GDP and per capita income should double by 2020, which will require 7.5% average annual growth. Is this feasible?

Recent improvements in data for industrial production, fixed investment, and retail sales suggest that the Chinese economy, which had slowed in recent quarters, may already be on the mend. But the authorities remain cautious, given that China’s economic outlook depends heavily on external conditions, which is the source of most current uncertainty. However, as things stand, most independent economists expect 7-7.5% annual GDP in 2013-2017, while the International Monetary Fund forecasts a more optimistic 8.2-8.5% rate during this period. Read more…

Paola Subacchi is Research Director of International Economics, Chatham House, London.

As published by Project Syndicate on November 16, 2012.

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