Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why Rush Loves Rubio. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Why Rush Loves Rubio. Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 30, 2013.

The Peace Process After the Israeli Election. By Shlomo Avineri.

The Peace Process After the Election. By Shlomo Avineri. Foreign Affairs, January 25, 2013.


Even so, the peace process still matters, because the current stalemate is untenable. The question, however, is how to move forward. There is no doubt that the policies of the Netanyahu government have contributed to the gridlock, but so have Palestinian attempts to raise preconditions for the resumption of negotiations. The divide between the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, meanwhile, has hurt the Palestinian Authority’s claim to legitimacy and made negotiations even more difficult. All this helped to explain why Israelis in this election were less focused than usual on the Palestinian issue.

But the experiences of the more dovish Israeli governments that preceded Netanyahu’s illustrate even deeper obstacles to peace. In the late 2000s, under Ehud Olmert’s center-left government, Israel negotiated with the Palestinian Authority for more than two years. Both sides entered talks with an honest interest in reaching a two-state solution. Had they been successful, Olmert might still be prime minister and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, would have a trump card to play against the more radical and fundamentalist Hamas. But as soon as negotiators moved from their ritualistic opening positions to the core issues of the conflict – borders, the fate of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugee problem, and Israel’s security concerns – it became clear that the gaps between the most moderate Israeli positions and the most moderate Palestinian positions were too wide to be easily bridged.

That has not changed. In fact, there are now more Jewish settlers in the West Bank than there were four years ago, which makes coming to an agreement thornier than it was during Olmert’s time. And Hamas’ continued control of the Gaza Strip means that even an agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinian Authority would not mean an end to the conflict. The current turmoil in the Arab world bodes ill for the peace process, as an Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood and a Syria embroiled in a bloody civil war do not encourage even moderate Israelis to take risks with the Palestinians.

All this means that Israel’s next government should take a fresh look at what is feasible, with an eye toward the lessons from similar conflicts such as those in Cyprus, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Kashmir. Like the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, these disputes are multifaceted: They are not only about territory but also about sovereignty, legitimacy, and national self-determination; they have been exacerbated by religious differences; and they entail occupation, resistance to that occupation, and terrorism. None of these conflicts has been fully settled because the contending parties were not willing to give up their basic claims, but they have been gradually tempered. In each case, a complex set of partial agreements, conflict-management measures, unilateral decisions, and confidence-building strategies has generally kept bloodshed at bay. In Cyprus, Turkey’s decision to open crossings in Nicosia, for example, helped to stabilize the situation, as did internationally supervised border agreements between Serbia and Kosovo. Similar partial agreements have achieved the same end in Bosnia and Kashmir, although the deeper issues have still not been resolved.

In none of these cases was the United States able to move the parties toward a final-status agreement against their will, but it could help coax them to accept halfway measures that do not entail giving up fundamental claims. Such proactive conflict management may be the only realistic prospect for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. And it could be acceptable to a new Netanyahu government that will, in all probability, include centrist parties. Such an approach would mean moving ahead slowly, step by step, which would make it easier for both sides to sell such piecemeal progress to their constituencies, since they would not have to cross any of their fundamental and ideological redlines. Such a strategy would be based on what has already been achieved between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, including the much-overlooked fact that security cooperation between the two sides has improved in the last few years, despite the lack of progress on negotiations. Such an approach would entail Israel’s tacit acceptance to refrain from expanding its settlement project (a step Israel agreed to in the past, even under the hawkish government of Ariel Sharon), easing life conditions for the Palestinians through economic concessions and the further dismantling of checkpoints in the area, and encouraging Palestinian institution building. On the Palestinian side, the agreement would require moderating its public diplomacy and improving its educational system, both of which are geared to be confrontational. This may also encourage strengthening the implicit cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, and although not much more could be achieved in Gaza given Hamas’ rejection of Israel’s very existence, it could encourage more moderate elements there if they see that cooperation pays off.

A key figure in this scheme would be Israel’s next minister of defense, who, taking into account Netanyahu’s weak position, will not likely be someone from Likud. Netanyahu will be under public pressure to appoint a person who could play the role of the responsible adult. This means that the current minister of defense, Ehud Barak, will likely remain in his position. If Barak retains his seat, his presence will greatly reassure both Israelis and the international community that pragmatism and not ideology will prevail in Israel’s new government.

The conventional wisdom in the international community is that one can return to the Oslo process of 20 years ago. But up until now, that has not achieved its stated aim – a two-state solution – and will not be very helpful in moving the two sides toward more accommodation. The recent Israeli elections have not changed this, and more modest aims are the only realistic way to push Israeli-Palestinian relations away from the dangers of confrontation and toward some modicum of reconciliation. Everything else has already failed.

The Jewish Community’s Drift Toward the Right. By Deborah Kaufman.

The Jewish Community’s Drift Toward the Right. By Deborah Kaufman. Tikkun.

An American Jewish Identity Crisis. By Alan Snitow. Tikkun.

It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. By Thomas L. Friedman.

It’s P.Q. and C.Q. as Much as I.Q. By Thomas L. Friedman. New York Times, January 29, 2013.

Start-Ups: The True Engines of Job Growth. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 30, 2013.

Thomas Friedman, lifelong learning, & “curiosity quotient.” By Marti. Telling Secrets, January 30, 2013.


What do I mean by the Great Inflection? I mean something very big happened in the last decade. The world went from connected to hyperconnected in a way that is impacting every job, industry and school, but was largely disguised by post-9/11 and the Great Recession. In 2004, I wrote a book, called “The World Is Flat,” about how the world was getting digitally connected so more people could compete, connect and collaborate from anywhere. When I wrote that book, Facebook, Twitter, cloud computing, LinkedIn, 4G wireless, ultra-high-speed bandwidth, big data, Skype, system-on-a-chip (SOC) circuits, iPhones, iPods, iPads and cellphone apps didn’t exist, or were in their infancy.

Today, not only do all these things exist, but, in combination, they’ve taken us from connected to hyperconnected. Now, notes Craig Mundie, one of Microsoft’s top technologists, not just elites, but virtually everyone everywhere has, or will have soon, access to a hand-held computer/cellphone, which can be activated by voice or touch, connected via the cloud to infinite applications and storage, so they can work, invent, entertain, collaborate and learn for less money than ever before. Alas, though, every boss now also has cheaper, easier, faster access to more above-average software, automation, robotics, cheap labor and cheap genius than ever before. That means the old average is over. Everyone who wants a job now must demonstrate how they can add value better than the new alternatives.

When the world gets this hyperconnected, adds Mundie, the speed with which every job and industry changes also goes into hypermode. “In the old days,” he said, “it was assumed that your educational foundation would last your whole lifetime. That is no longer true.” Because of the way every industry — from health care to manufacturing to education — is now being transformed by cheap, fast, connected computing power, the skill required for every decent job is rising as is the necessity of lifelong learning. More and more things you know and tools you use “are being made obsolete faster,” added Mundie. It’s as if every aspect of our lives is now being driven by Moore’s Law. This is exacerbating our unemployment problem.

In their terrific book, “Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution Is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy,” Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology note that for the last two centuries it happened that productivity, median income and employment all tracked each other nicely. “So most economists have had this feeling that if you just boost productivity, the pie grows, and, in the long run, everything else takes care of itself,” explained Brynjolfsson in an interview. “But there is no economic law that says technological progress has to benefit everyone. It’s entirely possible for the pie to get bigger and some people to get a smaller slice.” Indeed, when the digital revolution gets so cheap, fast, connected and ubiquitous you see this in three ways, Brynjolfsson added: those with more education start to earn much more than those without it, those with the capital to buy and operate machines earn much more than those who can just offer their labor, and those with superstar skills, who can reach global markets, earn much more than those with just slightly less talent.

Put it all together, he added, and you can understand, why the Great Recession took the biggest bite out of employment but is not the only thing affecting job loss today: why we have record productivity, wealth and innovation, yet median incomes are falling, inequality is rising and high unemployment remains persistent.

How to adapt? It will require more individual initiative. We know that it will be vital to have more of the “right” education than less, that you will need to develop skills that are complementary to technology rather than ones that can be easily replaced by it and that we need everyone to be innovating new products and services to employ the people who are being liberated from routine work by automation and software. The winners won’t just be those with more I.Q. It will also be those with more P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient) to leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime. Government can and must help, but the president needs to explain that this won’t just be an era of “Yes We Can.” It will also be an era of “Yes You Can” and “Yes You Must.”

Think Again: The Muslim Brotherhood. By Eric Trager.

Think Again: The Muslim Brotherhood. By Eric Trager. Foreign Policy, January 28, 2013.

How did so many Western analysts get Egypt’s Islamist movement so wrong?

Why Is Obama Clinging to the Brotherhood? Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, January 30, 2013.

Aide to Egyptian President Morsi Claims Holocaust a US Hoax. By Paul Alster.

Aide to Egyptian President Morsi claims Holocaust a US hoax. By Paul Alster., January 29, 2013.

Will Germany Confront Morsi’s Holocaust Denial? By Eric Trager. The Atlantic, January 29, 2013.

Egypt’s Press Czar: US Invented Holocaust. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, January 30, 2013.

Germans Press Morsi on Slurs Against Jews as Berlin Marks Somber Anniversary. By Robert Mackey. New York Times, January 30, 2013.

Muslim Brotherhood Culture and Tourism Chairman Claims Holocaust Was Invented by US Intelligence. By Daniel Greenfield. FrontPage Magazine, January 26, 2013.