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‘It’s entirely about politics’: experts weigh in on Trump’s Middle East peace plan – Global News

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A blueprint the White House is rolling out to resolve the decades-long conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is as much about politics as it is about peace.

President Donald Trump said he would likely release his long-awaited Mideast peace plan a little before separate meetings this coming week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political rival Benny Gantz.

The Washington get-togethers offer political bonuses for Trump and the prime minister, but Trump’s opponents are doubting the viability of any plan since there’s been little-to-no input from the Palestinians, who have rejected it before its release.

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‘Great’ Middle East peace plan likely rolling out soon, says President Trump

“It’s entirely about politics,” Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, said about Tuesday’s meeting. “You simply can’t have a serious discussion about an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and only invite one side to come talk about it. This is more about the politics inside Israel and inside the U.S. than it is about any real efforts to get these two sides to an agreement.”

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Jared Kushner, a Trump adviser and the president’s son-in-law, has been the architect for the plan for nearly three years. He’s tried to persuade academics, lawmakers, former Mideast negotiators, Arab governments and special interest groups not to reject his fresh approach outright.

People familiar with the administration’s thinking believe the release will have benefits even if it never gets Palestinian buy-in and ultimately fails. According to these people, the peace team believes that if Israeli officials are open to the plan and Arab nations do not outright reject it, the proposal could help improve broader Israeli-Arab relations.

For years, the prospect of improved ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours had been conditioned on a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But the administration believes that a change in regional dynamics — due mainly to rising antipathy to Iran — will boost Israel’s standing with not only Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace deals with the Jewish state, but also Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf nations, these people say.






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Netanyahu accepts invitation to discuss Mideast peace plan in Washington: Pence


Netanyahu accepts invitation to discuss Mideast peace plan in Washington: Pence

There have been signs of warming between Israel and the Gulf states, including both public displays and secret contacts, and the administration sees an opening for even greater co-operation after the plan is released, according to these people.

Trump, for his part, told reporters on Air Force One this week that “It’s a plan that really would work.” He said he spoke to the Palestinians “briefly,” without elaborating.

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Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for the Western-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, says that’s not true.

“There were no talks with the U.S. administration — neither briefly nor in detail,” he said. “The Palestinian position is clear and consistent in its rejection of Trump’s decisions regarding Jerusalem and other issues, and everything related to the rejected deal.”


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Netanyahu rival Gantz accepts invitation to meet Trump on peace plan

Abbas ended contacts with the administration after it recognized disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital two years ago. The Palestinians’ anger mounted as Trump repeatedly broken with the international consensus around solving the conflict and took actions seen as biased toward Israel’s right-wing government.

The White House has cut off nearly all U.S. aid to the Palestinians and closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington. In November, the Trump administration said it no longer views Jewish settlements in the occupied territories as a violation of international law, reversing four decades of American policy. The Palestinians view the settlements as illegal and a major obstacle to peace, a position shared by most of the international community.

Tuesday’s meeting offers benefits to both leaders while they are under fire at home.

The meeting allows Trump to address a high-profile foreign policy issue during his impeachment trial, while Democrats are arguing for his ouster. Moreover, if the plan is pro-Israel as expected, Trump hopes it will be popular with his large base of evangelicals and maybe sway a few anti-Trump Jewish voters his way.

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U.S. launches Mideast plan for peace amid skepticism


U.S. launches Mideast plan for peace amid skepticism

According to AP VoteCast, a nationwide survey of the American electorate, 79 per cent of white evangelical voters in the 2018 midterms approved of the job Trump was doing as president, while 74 per cent of Jewish voters disapproved.

Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of the eight million-member Christians United for Israel, said in a statement that Trump “has shown himself to be the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history, and I fully expect his peace proposal will be in line with that tradition.”

For Netanyahu, the meeting allows him to shift press coverage Tuesday when Israel’s parliament convenes a committee that is expected to reject his request for legal immunity from charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes.

“The `Trump peace plan’ is a blatant attempt to hijack Israel’s March 2 election in Netanyahu’s favour,” tweeted Anshel Pfeffer, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper and the author of a biography of Netanyahu.


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Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival ahead of the election. The decision to bring Gantz along is likely aimed at forestalling any criticism that the U.S. administration is meddling in the election. But in Israel, the meeting and the unveiling of the plan will be widely seen as a gift to the prime minister. Netanyahu has noted that it was his idea to invite Gantz.

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But Gantz said Saturday that he plans to meet privately with Trump on Monday and then return to Israel immediately to lead the parliamentary hearing seeking to reject Netanyahu’s plea for immunity.

In Congress, Trump’s announced release of his Mideast plan has caused hardly a ripple against the backdrop of the impeachment drama.






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Kushner: U.S. peace plan addresses borders issue


Kushner: U.S. peace plan addresses borders issue

Asked on Friday what he thought about the expected rollout, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said: “I’m on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we’ve not heard anything about it.”

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the committee chairman, defended the administration’s work on a plan.

“I think the people who are working on this are working on this in good faith,” Risch said in the halls of Congress, shortly before Trump’s impeachment trial resumed.

“I think the people who are trying to do it really are acting in good faith, hoping they can come up with a solution.”

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Ministers decline request to testify on Afghan aid blockade as desperation grows

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Three Liberal ministers have declined invitations to testify in the Senate as the upper chamber probes why Canada still won’t allow humanitarian workers to help in Afghanistan.

Aid groups say Ottawa has told them that paying people in Afghanistan or buying goods there could lead them to be prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws.

Many of Canada’s allies have found carveouts so that aid workers don’t get charged with supporting the governing Taliban, which is designated as a terrorist group.

But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has no explanation for why Canada hasn’t fixed the issue.

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The Senate’s human-rights committee will launch hearings into the issue on Monday and invited three ministers to attend, but all of them said they had prior commitments at the time of the planned meetings.

The United Nations says six million Afghans are now categorized as being at risk of famine, while another fourteen million are in critical need of food.

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When politics wasn’t a team sport

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It has all been downhill in America since the first six presidents. Western civilisation was never the same after ancient wisdom gave way to the sentimental Gospel. Roosevelt should have stayed out of that damn fool war in Europe and the Pacific. People are breeding too much. The state must stop them.

I like Gore Vidal so much that I involuntarily smile when I see the spine of his essay collection, United States, in my bookcase. Even before his dotty late phase, though, he was a reactionary kind of liberal. If his 1968 debates with the conservative William Buckley Jr still grip us, it is because of the two men’s underlying oneness, not the superficial Democrat vs Republican framing.

Best of Enemies, James Graham’s otherwise fine play about the duel of the drawlers, might have made more of this. I fear much of the audience leaves with the sweet notion in their heads that Vidal would today have been a woke ally. The play wants to suggest that his showdown with Buckley was a trailer for the culture wars, the partisan spite, of now. I have come around to the opposite view.

The debates marked the end of something good, not the start of something bad. It was the last time being politically hard-to-place was normal.

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Put it this way. If you tell me what you think about, say, the return of the Benin bronzes, I can infer with some confidence your views on public spending, the EU, rail strikes, immigration, working from home, climate change, Meghan Markle and much else. Nothing connects these subjects. It should be possible to be a small-government Remainer who thinks imperial loot is better off in western museums and who loses sleep to visions of a burning planet. But such a person would stand out now. To take a more concentrated example, lots of people should be anti-lockdown and pro-vaccine mandate. How many do you know?

I have aired Ganesh’s First Law of Politics before, but allow me a recapitulation. People do not work out their beliefs and then join the corresponding tribe. They join a tribe and infer their beliefs from it. The sense of belonging, the group membership, is what hooks people, not the thrill of being right or pursuing a thought on its own terms. Politics has become a team sport, goes the line on this. But even that is too kind. Sports fans are sardonic and irreverent about their own team. It isn’t so central to their identity as to require consistent adherence.

We have lost all sense of how weird it is to seek connection with others through politics. And how new. Watching Buckley and Vidal is a reminder of a less needy age. The former had his own credentials as an apostate of the right: his loose line on marijuana, his Catholicism, his Spanish-speaking intellectualism. Nor was the audience at the time much easier to place. Millions of whites were pro-New Deal and anti-Civil Rights in a way that stumps modern notions of “progressive” and “conservative”.

Noting the change since then is simple enough work. Accounting for it is trickier. One theory suggests itself. The rise of politico-cultural blocs more or less tracks the decline of church membership, trade unions and marriages that go the distance. An atomised population began to cast around for other kinds of belonging, didn’t it?

The mid-20th century voter was heterodox, yes, but heterodox in the way that someone with strong roots could afford to be. With such a firm social anchor, there was less need to seek emotional security in a political tribe. As I’ve used two metaphors for the same thing there, let us keep them coming. A rudder, a bedrock, a cornerstone, a north star: people used to find these things in their personal relationships. In their church, family, factory or town. As modernity scrambled those things, mostly for the good, the need to subsume oneself into a group was going to have to be met some other way.

That turned out to be politics. We live with the wicked results all the time now. The perverse consequences of ostensibly desirable change: Buckley would call this a conservative insight. And I, though a Vidalist, always thought he won those debates.

Email Janan at janan.ganesh@ft.com

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Can coal be a pivot toward ‘normal politics’ in Alberta?

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“Normal Politics”: I encouraged my students to embrace and practice this type of politics. Bernard Crick, a British political theorist, imagined this concept decades ago. He believed healthy democratic politics demanded empathy for your political opponents and searching for policies able to reconcile or bridge competing positions. At its best, normal politics is about finding or creating and implementing consensus. It invites political opponents to recognize they have some shared values and to work together to realize them. 

Sadly, normal politics rarely characterizes politics in today’s democracies. Its antithesis is too common in political debate. In Alberta recently, the executive director of Take Back Alberta, an interest group that helped propel Danielle Smith into the premier’s office, accused the New Democratic Party of promoting a “toxic and disease-ridden ideology.” Such extremism slams the door on Crick’s hopeful view of politics.   

With the legislature back in session, I don’t expect to see a lot of normal politics on display. But, in her recent television address, Premier Danielle Smith told Albertans she “must be humble, listen and continue to learn from you.” Alberta’s coal debate issue gives her an exceptional opportunity to back that commitment up with meaningful action.   

Coal has been one of Alberta’s most contentious issues over the past several years. It’s an issue where a consensus exists, a consensus that could be strengthened. As hard as it may be for some residents of the Crowsnest Pass to accept, most Albertans don’t believe coal mining should have a future anywhere in the Rockies and foothills of Alberta’s Eastern Slopes. Impressive majorities of Albertans have said as much in public opinion polls, the Grassy Mountain coal mine hearings and the Coal Policy Committee consultations.  

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Smith’s government should listen to and implement this consensus. In this legislative session, the premier should introduce legislation guaranteeing that coal mining proposals in our southern Rockies and foothills cannot be revived.  

But I think Crick would want the premier to go one step further. I think he would invite her to try to broaden the consensus, to try to bridge the gulf between coal mining opponents and supporters. Identify positions those camps share; build on them. Community prosperity in southwest Alberta is an obvious candidate here.  

So far Alberta’s debate about coal has offered thin gruel when it comes to what economic future could be built in southern Alberta without coal mining. The UCP and NDP alike must pay serious attention to nurturing in the southwest the range of economic activities central to Alberta’s developing post-industrial society.  

What does this perspective recommend? Begin to craft a regional development strategy. Several paths lead in this direction. One would be to establish a Southern Alberta Sustainable Economic Opportunities Forum. Invite leaders from Alberta academia, business, the federal government, First Nations, labour and municipalities to join it. Task them with thinking about how, without coal, healthy and prosperous livelihoods may be delivered to the people of southwest Alberta. Or, strike an all-party legislative committee, chaired jointly by the UCP and NDP, to do something similar. If this venture bears fruit, it could be replicated for other regions in Alberta.  

Coal offers Smith the opportunity to pivot toward normal politics and show her commitment to listening to Albertans is genuine. Coal has opened the door to privileging conciliation in politics. If the premier goes through that door, she may be able to deliver what all sides of Alberta’s coal debate seek: good, healthy livelihoods for the people of southern Alberta.  

Ian Urquhart is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alberta. 

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