Ed: 37: February/2012
As Netanyahu attempted to point out, the assumption that Israel is becoming more isolated in recent years makes sense only if one's focus is mainly on a segment of opinion in Western Europe - ignoring the US, Eastern Europe and Israel's renewal of old ties in Sub-Saharan African. But a most important part of the real world, and an area of major opportunity for Israel, is in South, Southeast and East Asia.
Judging from media reports, Israel might appear to be in the midst of a radical and violent political and religious polarisation. "Hilltop youth" from the settlements are seen allegedly burning mosques, as well as attacking "peace activists" and even Israel Defence Force officers. Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men are shown assaulting secular women in segregated buses and even on sidewalks, and members of Israel's democratically elected Knesset are portrayed as waging war against the courts and civil society.
When Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas swung through Europe in January he was feted by European leaders for pursuing the two-state formula, while obloquy was, as usual, heaped on Israel - if not for settlements then for roadblocks or water or the wall or the tunnel or the occupation or, most recently, for being niggardly about handing out citizenship on demand to Palestinians... the list goes on.
On August 1, 2011, al-Jazeera English (AJE) began broadcasting to two million cable subscribers in New York - the third major US city to carry the station. AJE's gutsy, driven reporting - one commentator aptly commended its "hustle" - has won it friends in high places: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded the channel as "real news," and US Senator John McCain (Republican, Ariz.) said he was "very proud" of its handling of the so-called Arab Spring.
How could Qatar's foreign policy best be defined during the Arab Spring? In the midst of the conflict between Gaddafi's forces and the rebels in the Libyan civil war, Qatar was hailed by US President Barack Obama in April for building a broad coalition of international support for the NATO campaign against Gaddafi. Obama also hailed the Emir of Qatar for supposedly being a pragmatic mediator and negotiator in the wider region.
Lead Israeli negotiator Yitzhak Molcho met with his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat in Amman on January 9 for the second time in as many weeks, with the aim of restarting direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. These were the first direct contacts between the parties since the breakdown of peace talks in September 2010.
When the third and final round of Egypt's parliamentary elections concluded on January 11, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) cemented its dominance of the next legislature. Although the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces still holds executive power, the FJP's political victory promises radical changes for Egypt, including a theocratic domestic program and a confrontational foreign policy. Western states should have no illusions about the party's aims or ability to moderate.
While the rest of the world was following American military retreats, European economic meltdowns, and Middle Eastern bloodbaths, Israel was agog over one eight-year-old girl's five-minute walk to school every morning.
Frail, bespectacled, and shy, Naama Margolese appeared on TV and said she refused to go to her school in the town of Beit-Shemesh after local ultra-Orthodox men spat and shouted "prostitute" at her while she walked the short distance from her home to school. Though she is religiously Orthodox, and wears a skirt and long sleeves, her standards of modesty did not meet those of her attackers.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, China has become a rising power in the Middle East, rivalling the United States and Russia for strategic influence.
Its presence in the region rests squarely on a strategic relationship with Iran, and friendly, interlocking relations with Arab oil states to ensure a constant flow of energy resources to fuel China's insatiable economy, and to contain separatist movements among its Muslim Uighur Turkic ethnic minority in Xinjiang province, northwestern China.
Cabramatta is one of my favourite suburbs in Sydney. It is colourful without being too boisterous, assertive without being too aggressive.
The substantial Vietnamese-Australian immigrant population has contributed in many ways, devoting industry and passion in efforts to ensure that their children were given every chance to be part of, and succeed in, Australian society.
As the SBS documentary series "Once Upon A Time in Cabramatta", broadcast in January, highlighted, there were quite a few factors militating against the migrants who came to Australia in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.