30 December 2016   Leave a comment

For those who read US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech defending the US abstention on the UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, it is clear that Kerry’s position on the two-state solution pivoted on the question of whether Israel could remain a Jewish homeland and a democratic state if it annexed the Occupied West Bank (because non-Jews in the West Bank significantly outnumber Jews).  Not surprisingly, this dichotomy nettles Israeli society as well.  The Pew Research Center conducted an exhaustive survey of Israelis on this and many other questions last March and the results of that poll clearly indicate the divisions within Israeli society.  The analysis is definitely worth close study, but it is complex:  like the Israeli political system, Israeli society is unbelievably intricate and nuanced.  But it is clear that there are some elements in Israeli society that hold positions that make democracy difficult if not impossible.  It is important to remember, however, that such elements exist in virtually every society right now.  The Pew Research Center divided religious positions in Israel along these lines:  “Nearly all Israeli Jews identify with one of four categories: Haredi (commonly translated as “ultra-Orthodox”), Dati (“religious”), Masorti (“traditional”) or Hiloni (“secular”).”  Halakha refers to Jewish law.

Israeli Jews see democracy as compatible with Jewish state but are divided on whether democratic princes or religious law should take priority

US President Obama slapped new sanctions on Russia for its interference with the US Presidential election.  Russian President Putin, however, has decided not to reciprocate with Russian sanctions on the US even though his Foreign Minister had indicated that such sanctions would be forthcoming.  There is an interesting debate as to why Putin made this choice and whether it reflects a deliberate decision to curry favor with President-elect Trump.  For his part, Mr. Trump considered the move “very smart.”  The US-Russian relationship is going to be very interesting in the very near future if Mr. Trump decides to “expand” the US nuclear arsenal.  I doubt that Russia will decide not to reciprocate that move.

The truly disquieting aspect of the recent US election is the extent to which horrific ideas about race and religion have surfaced.  These ideas have never gone away in American culture, but the rhetoric surrounding the election seems to have emboldened certain groups to emerge from the shadows.  Much of the rhetoric was legitimated through economic and security concerns:  jobs are being taken by undocumented workers or terrorists are infiltrating as refugees.  But there is one treacherous theme that cannot be disguised that goes very deep in American culture: anti-Semitism.  The nationalism espoused by some of these extremist groups has an explicit anti-Jewish thread and our leaders need to state loudly, unambiguously, and with the greatest force possible that these views have no place in the United States.

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Posted December 30, 2016 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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