Ed: 38: December/2013
The dispute between Israel and the United States on the Iranian nuclear challenge emerged this week from behind closed doors and became an open conflict waged on television.
Israel and the US share the strategic goal of preventing Iran's attainment of nuclear weapons. Both countries agree that only two forms of leverage can block Iran's dash to the bomb - economic sanctions and a credible military threat. However, Israel and the US diverge in their assessments as to the scope and timing for effective use of these levers. Consequently, there is a huge gap between them on how to reach the goal of stopping Iran's military nuclear program...
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had led an international charm offensive since his election in June. There is no doubt that his diplomatic style - and that of those he has chosen to work with him, especially soft-spoken Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with his impeccable English - is a distinct contrast with the deliberately confrontational approach of previous President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. This new approach had clearly underpinned the latest rounds of negotiations on the nuclear program in Geneva.
Even as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are underway, official Palestinian Authority (PA) media are still broadcasting girls singing about Jews as "the sons of apes and pigs," and still paying effusive tribute to Palestinian terrorists convicted for murdering Israeli civilians. To get these negotiations started, Israel agreed to release 104 such prisoners; but the Palestinian government continues to glorify them as heroes, offering them as role models for the next generation. If this kind of incitement keeps up, how can Israel reasonably take risks for peace - and how could any peace agreement endure?
The reversal of fortune was swift. The Magistrate Court's unanimous acquittal of Avigdor Lieberman on charges of fraud and breach of trust instantaneously transformed Israel's most self-made politician from disempowered suspect to political magnet, compass, and pivot.
There has been much comment over the past month on section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act - the Federal law against racial vilification. The provision makes conduct unlawful when it is done "because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin" of a person or group of persons, and it is reasonably likely to "offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate" that person or group. Attorney-General George Brandis recently announced that one of his first acts as Attorney-General would be to alter the provision by at least removing the words "offend" and "insult", as well as potentially making other unspecified changes.
A Swiss lab's finding of elevated levels of the radioactive element polonium-210 in samples taken from Yasser Arafat's body suggesting he might have been poisoned - released days before the ninth anniversary of his death - proved to be media gold. It also served as a good promo for al-Jazeera, which was responsible for running with and to an extent, creating, this story.
With millions of interactions between Jewish and other Australians each day, it is perhaps unsurprising, although disappointing, that some of them are unpleasant - or worse.
We may live in a country without institutional antisemitism, but that does not mean there are neither organisations nor individuals with a willingness to harass, vilify and even physically attack Jewish individuals or community property.
The recent disagreement between Israel and the United States over the parameters of an interim Iranian nuclear deal is significant, but its importance should also not be exaggerated.
The Israeli position on the diplomatic next step - as outlined by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu - and the attitude of the P5+1 - greatly influenced by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry - have been at odds with one another. However, this is a disagreement on tactics, not goals.
As is widely known, most Arab states have not exactly been welcoming to the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their descendants. Virtually all Arab states deny Palestinians citizenship even when they are born on their territory - Jordan being the one major exception. There are often additional restrictions that keep Palestinians from building a normal life even after living in a country for generations - restrictions on holding many jobs, on accessing the national education and health systems, on owning land and even where they can live. Lebanon is the worst offender in this regard, but not the only one.
The race to succeed Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as the next president of Indonesia in 2014 has entered an intriguing phase. While many elements remain in flux, all the talk is of a relatively inexperienced local governor who has not yet declared his intention to run but currently happens to be the most popular politician in the country by some distance.
Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, 52, was only elected to his current office in September 2012, after a seven-year stint as mayor of his hometown of Surakarta... But it is his way of doing things and his public manner that has resonated strongly with the prickly Jakarta populace tired of the same old plutocracy and corrupt, ineffective government.