Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to last week’s National Conference of the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was another rhetorical tour-de-force by this most silvered-tongued of Israeli leaders.
Netanyahu again promised to defend Israel against an Iranian nuclear threat and to be beholden to no other nation in his zeal to protect his people. There were applause lines for almost everyone.
He attacked efforts to orchestrate boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel in withering terms. He extolled Israeli medical advances and water conservation achievements, highlighted Israel’s role in treating victims of the Syrian civil war and envisaged Israeli strategic and economic cooperation with Arab Gulf States.
Netanyahu demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but he also spoke in soaring terms about the benefits of peace and a two-state solution.
Day one in Davos showed the masters of the universe fretting about Sino-Japanese military tensions, the treacherous investment territory in some emerging markets and the risk of a lurch to the right in Europe at May’s parliamentary elections which could make reform of the bloc even harder.
Today, the focus will be on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (and his main detractor, Israel’s Netanyahu). Presumably he’s there to woo the world of commerce now sanctions are to be relaxed in return for Tehran suspending enrichment of uranium beyond a certain level. Anything he says about Syria’s peace talks, which have so far been more hostile than conciliatory, will instantly be headline news.
from David Rohde:
By design or accident, it is increasingly clear that the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s second-term foreign policy is a nuclear agreement with Iran. Whether Obama can succeed, however, now depends on Congress staying out of the negotiations.
Over the last few weeks, 16 Democratic senators have supported a bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. They have defied the White House’s intense campaign to block Congress from adding new conditions to any deal.
from David Rohde:
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry appear to have run the table in Middle East diplomacy. An interim nuclear agreement with Iran has been reached, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are underway and peace talks to end Syria’s civil war are slated to begin in January.
For an administration under siege domestically, press coverage declaring the triumph of Obama diplomacy over Bush-era militarism is a political godsend.
Italy has dropped out of the spotlight a little following the protracted political soap opera surrounding Silvio Berlusconi. But it remains perhaps the euro zone’s most dangerous flashpoint.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta now has some time to push through economic reforms, cut taxes and spending in an effort to galvanize activity. But already the politics look difficult.
Angela Merkel’s CDU and the centre-left SPD will begin formal coalition talks in Germany this week after a meeting of 230 senior SPD members gave the go-ahead on Sunday.
To win the vote, the SPD leadership pledged to secure 10 demands it called "non-negotiable", including a minimum wage of 8.50 euros per hour, equal pay for men and women, greater investment in infrastructure and education, and a common strategy to boost euro zone growth.
from The Great Debate:
We should not bomb Syria without a vital national security interest and a precise foreign policy objective.
Right now, the Obama administration has not established either.
Under the United States’ legal and historical precedents, a president faces the highest burden for justifying military attacks that are essentially optional: actions not required for self-defense and which are not in response to an attack on the United States -- or imminent threat of such attack. Intervening in the Syrian civil war fits that difficult category.
Back from a two-week break, so what have I missed?
All the big and ghastly news has come from the Middle East but there have been interesting developments in the European economic sphere.
It seems safe to say that Britain’s economic recovery is on track, and maybe more broadly rooted than in just consumer spending and a housing market recovery (bubble?).
Slightly more surprisingly, the euro zone is back on the growth track too with some unexpectedly strong performances from Portugal and France in particular in the second quarter. Latest consumer morale data have been strong and as a result European Central Bank policymakers have begun downplaying thoughts of a further interest rate cut. However, it’s unlikely that all these countries will grow as strongly in the third quarter. Tuesday’s reading of German sentiment via the Ifo index will be key this week.
from The Great Debate:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is annoyed. Before meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday in Jerusalem, Netanyahu complained about a recent European Union decision to stop EU grants, prizes and loans from going to Israeli entities located in the occupied territories or that conduct activities there. "I have to say," Netanyahu declared, "on a sad note, that I think Europe, the European guidelines (on the settlements) have actually undermined peace."
In the topsy-turvy world of Israeli politics, it’s not the existence of the settlements, or their constant expansion, that undermines peace. It’s the attempts to curb their growth. This is like somebody blaming life-saving chemo treatments for making him sick.
from Ian Bremmer:
On Monday, the Obama administration announced that Secretary of State John Kerry had convinced Israel and the Palestinian Authority to sit down for negotiations for the first time in three years. Coming out of Monday and Tuesday’s meetings, Kerry announced a goal of working out a comprehensive peace agreement within nine months.
Simply reviving talks at all is a highly impressive achievement; getting both sides to the table would have been impossible without Kerry’s relentless effort. But if the Obama administration thinks this will change the dynamic in the Middle East, it is mistaken for two reasons. First, the initiative is unlikely to succeed, and second, even if it did, it would have little impact on other more immediately pressing Middle East conflicts.