Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Tardy Obama plays second fiddle to Swiss at UN

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It happens every year. When the U.S. president arrives at the United Nations for the General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders, the east side of midtown Manhattan goes into lockdown mode. You can’t cross the streets before he arrives and until well after the most powerful man in the world has safely arrived inside the headquarters of world diplomacy.

President Barack Obama was a little late this year and unable to keep his prestigious spot as the second speaker in the annual marathon of speeches. When Obama failed to show, the Swiss president of the General Assembly Joseph Deiss announced that the president of his homeland, Doris Leuthard, would take Obama’s place and give Switzerland’s address.

Deiss assured the delegations from the United Nations’ 192 members that this was not because the Swiss had ambitions of becoming a world power, but in order to keep things moving. Of course, Leuthard enjoyed a standing-room only audience at the assembly hall, a rare opportunity for the small but wealthy Alpine nation.

After Leuthard finished, Obama stepped up to the iconic dark green podium. Wearing a dark suit and a U.N.-blue tie, he paid homage to the 65-year world organization.

from Tales from the Trail:

Mideast peace veterans and handshake diplomacy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly referred to them as "veterans" of the Middle East peace process.

That description is probably one thing everyone can agree on. The process to bring Israelis and Palestinians to a lasting peace agreement has been going on for decades and every U.S. president hopes he's the one who will finally achieve what those before him tried and failed. PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL/

from Tales from the Trail:

U.S. lawmakers wonder, where did our love go? with Turkey

It almost sounded as if U.S. lawmakers felt jilted by Washington's long-time NATO ally Turkey.

"How do we get Turkey back?" demanded Representative Gary Ackerman at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing exploring "Turkey's New Foreign Policy Direction."

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Writing on the walls

09062010185aPalestinians in the Gaza Strip may just feel a little less isolated today. Israel is bowing to international pressure and rejigging its embargo on the  enclave in the wake of the bloodshed 3 weeks ago when it enforced a longstanding maritime blockade.

But earlier this month, taking my leave at the end of a 3-year assignment,  I reflected while walking the half-mile (700-metre) cage  (picture, right) that separates Gaza from Israel on  how the barriers that surround and divide this region have, if anything, grown higher, deepening the isolation of the rival parties. That may make any kind of reconciliation more difficult as time goes on. I wrote about this earlier today.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Gridlock in the Mideast

JamWant to know how it feels to be George Mitchell, President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East? Try getting from Jerusalem to Ramallah on a typical weekday at the rush hour. And experience stalemate, frustration, competitive selfishness, blind fury and an absence of movement that even the most stubborn and blinkered of West Bank bus drivers might see as a metaphor for the peace process that is going nowhere fast right now.

It took me 2 full hours to drive the 100 metres (yards) or so from the Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank barrier around Jerusalem to reach the relatively open main street through Qalandiya refugee camp, the gateway to Ramallah. The reason? Well, at its simplest it's traffic chaos caused by anarchy, a vacuum of law and order. Look further, as with much else in the Middle East, and you get a conflicting and contrasting range of explanations.

Peace is no kiss, Israeli aide says

A top adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used an odd turn of phrase to explain what some see as a puzzling demand put to Palestinians by the right-wing leader as a condition for any any Israeli agreement to establishing a state in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu wants Palestinians to recognise Israel explicitly as a Jewish state, in addition to their having recognised Israeli sovereignty as part of an interim peace deal in 1993. He feels this would symbolise an historic end of conflict, his aides have explained.

from FaithWorld:

Islamic tone, interfaith touch in Obama’s speech to Muslim world

obama-speech-baghdadIt started with "assalaamu alaykum" and ended with "may God's peace be upon you." Inbetween, President Barack Obama dotted his speech to the Muslim world with Islamic terms and references meant to resonate with his audience. The real substance in the speech were his policy statements and his call for a "new beginning" in U.S. relations with Muslims, as outlined in our trunk news story. But the new tone was also important and it struck a chord with many Muslims who heard the speech, as our Middle East Special Correspondent Alistair Lyon found. Not all, of course -- you can find positive and negative reactions here. (Photo: Iraqi in Baghdad watches Obama's speech, 4 June 2009/Mohammed Ameen)

Among Obama's Islamic touches were four references to the Koran (which he always called the Holy Koran), his approving mention of the scientific, mathematical and philosophical achievements of the medieval Islamic world and his citing of multi-faith life in Andalusia. These are standard elements that many Islam experts -- Muslims and non-Muslims -- mention in speeches at learned conferences, but it's not often that you hear an American president talking about them.

Are the Palestinians getting a hearing at the UN racism conference?

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Although the U.N.’s racism conference in Geneva has been dominated by Middle East politics, Palestinian rights groups say Palestinians have effectively been silenced.On the one hand tough rules by the conference organisers prevented Palestinian NGOs from holding “side events”, they say. On the other hand Monday’s controversial speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, slamming Israel as a “totally racist government” founded “on the pretext of Jewish suffering”, has distracted attention from the issues that actually affect Palestinians.

 

  “One thing that we have noticed in this conference is that there has been a concerted effort to silence the voices of the Palestinian presence and raising the Palestinian issue,” said Wisam Ahmad of Al-Haq, a Ramallah-based advocacy group.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

A yawning gap

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With just two days to go before Israel's general election, opinion polls show more than a quarter of the electorate is still undecided.

Call it the yawning gap in an election race that's largely been one big snooze.

Israelis could be forgiven for failing to be energised by a lacklustre campaign waged by familiar faces and interrupted by a 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip. Political positions are well-known and well-entrenched.

from AxisMundi Jerusalem:

Welcome to Jerusalem, centre of the world

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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.

A survey last year by Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution, Does the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Still Matter?, found that 86 percent of non-Palestinian Arabs, from Morocco to the Emirates, placed the fate of Palestinians among their top three concerns. That was an increase from 69 percent in 2005, when a larval sectarian civil war in Iraq seemed to be dragging Sunni and Shiite Muslims into a broader regional conflict. And it was still higher than the 73 percent who thought the Palestinian question mattered in 2002: "Despite the Iraq war and the increasing focus on a Sunni-Shiite divide, the Palestinian question remains a central prism through which Arabs view the world," Telhami concluded.

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