Not so long ago, as war raged in Iraq, there was much talk about a suggestion that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians deserved less attention from the United States and other world powers than it had enjoyed over the past 60-odd years, that the intractable dispute was distracting policymakers and that the plight of the stateless Palestinians was much less central to the problems in relations between the Arab world and the West than had long been supposed. It is a debate that continues, though as journalists who have chosen to work in Jerusalem perhaps we may be forgiven for occasionally pointing out that many thinkers continue to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as central to the problems of the region and so to the world at large.
Global News Journal
Religion's role in U.S. politics was on full display on Thursday as President Barack Obama spoke and prayed at the annual National Prayer Breakfast.
from Africa News blog:
Far from being all bad news for Africa, the global financial crisis is a chance to break a dependence on development aid that has kept it in poverty, argues Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who has just published a new book “Dead Aid”.
from Tales from the Trail:
WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton went on a charm offensive with France's foreign minister on Thursday, fondly recalling many trips to Paris and heaping praise on the country's education system as a model for America.
Clinton has played up the Transatlantic relationship this week, choosing to meet first with the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France in her second week as new U.S. secretary of state.
"I have been to France many times and I always have a good impression. I enjoy visiting in France," the former first lady and New York senator said at a joint news conference with France's Bernard Kouchner at the State Department.
She recalled meeting Kouchner's wife "longer ago than Christine or I care to admit" and said she was impressed by the country's preschool facilities, prompting her to return home to try and get the United States to follow France's example.
"I not only have enjoyed my time in France but I have learned a lot from my visits. I look forward to returning," she added. "As soon as possible," gushed Kouchner, beaming at her side.
The Bush administration had a prickly relationship with France at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, to the extent that in congressional cafeteria the words "French fries" were changed to "Freedom fries" on menus.
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The following blog was contributed by Humeyra Pamuk:
Not that Erdogan’s actions found no resonance in the mainstream press.
“The prime minister was right”, ran the headline of veteran commentator Fikret Bila’s column in Milliyet. Bila argued the Israeli President’s manner was provocative and aggressive, repeatedly asking Erdogan how he would feel if rockets fell daily on Istanbul. If Erdogan had not reacted, then he would be open to criticism. “Israel can do whatever it wants, with the wind of the U.S. at its back. Noone reacts or can react, noone can touch Israel. Someone had to do it.”
Hurriyet columnist Oktay Eksi dismissed the admiration Erdogan enjoys on what he calls “The Street”, writing:
”They will applaud you today, because they act with “emotion” rather than reason. But for the very same reasons they could just dump you the next day.”
“We understand why no diplomats come out of Kasimpasa” was the headline over commentator Semih Idiz’s more gentle treatment in Milliyet daily. Kasimpasa is the neighbourhood where Erdogan grew up – a working class part of Istanbul known for a culture of bravado.
Erdogan made no apology for the ‘rough edges’ that many supporters see as refreshing directness.
“I don’t speak the language that some retired diplomats understand. I don’t come from a diplomatic background, I come from politics. I don’t know the ways, traditions of those diplomats, especially the ‘mon-chers’,” he said, slipping into a mocking Turkish- French that was taken amiss by some of Turkey’s older generation of diplomats.
“And I would not want to know.”
Erdogan, without diplomatic niceties, has pushed Turkey’s campaign for EU membership, although entry remains a distant prospect. He has won some respect among White Turks for economic progress. But the fear of the Other Turkey – a Turkey more conservative, with its roots in Anatolia rather than the boulevards of Istanbul — remains, embodied for some by the crowd at Ataturk Airport. The military, above all, see him as a possible danger to secular government and has tried to have his party banned for Islamist activity.
Millions will vote across Anatolia in municipal elections in March when the popularity of Erdogan, re-elected with a landslide in 2007, five years after he first came to power, will be put to the test.
A former Islamist espousing a European future for Turkey, Erdogan marks a break from the traditional secularist parties who had governed the country for decades and collapsed in 2002 polls as voters deserted them. Supporters saw him as straddling the social divides in Turkey. Many in the secularist middle classes, whatever their reservations, contributed their vote in confirming him in power with increased support in 2007.
Are they now taking fright over the man from Kasimpasa? Are the fault lines showing in the secular state created eight decades ago out of the theocratic Ottoman Empire? Or are the two Turkeys, the White and the long silent Brown Turks, simply learning to come to terms with each other?
Turks will be looking to the March elections for some clue.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
According to George Friedman from the Stratfor intelligence group the United States should forget the idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan and concentrate instead on covert operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected the head of the Roman Catholicism in 2005, the best-selling daily Bild caught the national mood with a frontpage headline crowing Wir sind Papst! (We're Pope!). Now, Germans are falling out of love with their pope for readmitting to the Church an excommunicated bishop who denies the Holocaust. For the vast majority of Germans, denying the Holocaust is beyond the pale. Shunning anyone who does deny the Holocaust is considered a civic virtue. So seeing the world's most prominent German rehabilitate a Holocaust denier is quite distressing for a upstanding, post-war German democrat. How could he do it?
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
U.S. efforts to improve supplies for its troops in Afghanistan just had a double setback after militants in northwest Pakistan severed the main supply route for western forces and Kyrgyzstan's president said the United States must close its military base there.
from Africa News blog:
Libya's often controversial leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has finally won the top seat at the African Union and promised to accelerate his drive for a United States of Africa, but it seems doubtful that even his presence in the rotating chairmanship will do anything to overcome the reluctance of many African nations to accelerate moves towards a federal government.