Ed: 38: July/2013
Up until the recent outbreak of unrest, Turkey was widely held up as the model of democracy for the Muslim Middle East. And it is undeniable that Turkey has a had a couple of decades of pretty free and fair elections and democratic transitions.
But the recent unrest has exposed that Turkish "democracy" is not yet anything like a mature liberal democracy - as well as offering a timely reminder that democracy has a lot more to it than regular elections.
Iran has surprised the world again. Following the unpredicted elections of the outspoken Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 and the outgoing Mohammad Khatami in 1997, Iranian voters have now elected Hassan Rouhani, the less radical of six candidates, thus confounding diplomats, spies and statesmen.
While part of the clerical establishment and no democratic redeemer, Rouhani speaks six languages, has a law PhD from Glasgow Caledonian University, and as such, is the provincial Ahmadinejad's inversion. Then again, the change of style he brings may well prove to be all he has.
Patient resilience has long been a characteristic of the Iranian people. In times of adversity - and the increasing authoritarianism of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards allies, combined with the corrupt and inefficient populism of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his band of brothers, has certainly been one such time - the Iranians wait. And usually, instead of challenging the foe head-on, they try to deliver a stinging blow using the limited tools that adverse times allow them. President-elect Hassan Rouhani is the latest, rather unlikely tool used to sting the Islamic regime.
There is a passionate, but somewhat academic debate, over the following issue: Which is the greater threat, the Sunni Muslim Islamists (Egypt, Tunisia, Gaza Strip and perhaps soon to be Syria) or the Shi'ite Muslim Islamists (Iran, Lebanon, and at the moment still, Syria)?
Israel can be China's ‘junior partner,' Netanyahu proposed to his Chinese hosts. Israel's innovative technologies can be utilised in development regions of China, and Israel can utilise Chinese manufacturing capabilities and management skills in large scale development projects, he said. Both sides see areas of synergy and complementarity.
The film is told in French, English, Hebrew and Arabic and is wonderfully brought to life by excellent actors. The cast and crew included Israelis and Palestinians who reportedly had an input into the screenplay to enhance its authenticity. The movie is also shot on location in Israel and the West Bank, showcasing and contrasting the modern vibrancy of Tel Aviv with the cultural traditions of Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
For years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been accused of inciting violence by promoting the delegitimisation of Israel and its people and, in some cases, even outright antisemitism, in its education system. According to both Israeli and third-party observers, the PA was ingraining future generations with a worldview that essentially prevented any long-term commitment to peace (let alone coexistence). So it was no surprise that a US State Department-funded study called Victims of Our Own Narratives? Portrayal of the "Other" in Israeli and Palestinian School Books, published in February, sparked a firestorm that leapt from the otherwise parochial world of education policy straight into the headlines of newspapers around the world.
Welcomed as special guests at the baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets was the "Delegation of Muslim & Jewish Leaders from the Southern Hemisphere." The announcement brought cheers and applause.
As part of that delegation, I spent two intensive days in Washington with colleagues from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. We had ample opportunity to discuss distinctive features of our varying national experiences, issues which divide as well as unite us and determine what we could learn from our US hosts.
The election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran's next president - the most moderate, or rather, the least extreme of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's hand-picked slate of candidates - certainly appears to signal that the Iranian people want internal reforms, relief from their highly repressive regime and relief from international sanctions over their illegal nuclear program.
What is unclear is whether Teheran's new frontman would be willing to support a nuclear deal that will satisfy the basic requirements for such a settlement, or moreover, whether he would be able to persuade Khamenei - who sets Iranian nuclear policy - to agree.