Showing posts with label POLITICS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label POLITICS. Show all posts

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Biden administration will likely seek to make its own stamp on Mideast

 say experts

President-elect Joe Biden speaking in Gettysburg, Pa., on Oct. 7, 2020

Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, states it is safe to assume that the incoming president’s initial energies will be internally focused due to the coronavirus and the economy. In addressing the Mideast, the priority is likely to focus on Iran and the nuclear deal, followed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(November 9, 2020) U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s yet-to-be-confirmed victory over incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump has ushered in a flurry of questions in Israel over what a Biden-Harris administration would look like and how it would differ from the Obama administration specifically with regard to Israel.

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on American politics and foreign policy, as well as a senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told JNS the next administration “will differ in certain areas” compared to Obama’s. 

“We should not expect much continuity,” he said. “Every president wants to leave their own imprint.”

Gilboa noted a few points. First, Biden’s top priorities will be domestic: dealing with the coronavirus, interracial relations and the economy.

Second, Biden’s ability to pass legislation will depend on the makeup of Congress and whether the Republicans or Democrats control the Senate.

Third, according to Gilboa, many of the so-called progressives, the radicals, “are anti-Israel and some are anti-Semitic.”

“The question is how powerful they will be,” said Gilboa.

 

‘A need to change the sunset clause’

While Biden may not necessarily take a hard line against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “the people under him may not be so forgiving, as many are Obama veterans. These people are not very friendly [towards Israel]. The question is how much influence he will give them.”

With regard to policy, Gilboa said, “there will be continuity in terms of all bilateral relations, including intelligence coordination, security cooperation, joint maneuvers and development of missile defense systems. These will continue and perhaps improve.”

Gilboa suggested that Israel will likely need to be concerned about three issues. The first is the United Nations, where Biden is likely to renew American involvement and participation in U.N. international organizations such as the International Criminal Court and the U.N. Human Rights Council. The Trump administration spent four years lambasting the United Nations over its anti-Israel stance, and in 2019, Trump withdrew America from the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The second issue to concern Israel is Biden’s intention to work closely with Europe, which according to Gilboa, could be “problematic on issues such as Iran and the Palestinians.”

With regard to Biden’s approach to Iran and his intention to sign a new deal with the Islamic Republic, Gilboa said Israel should make every effort “to participate in the formulation of a new deal.”

He explained that Biden said he wants to negotiate a new deal with Iran and while Iran thinks it will be similar to the 2015 deal, it won’t. “Five years have passed, and there is a need to change the sunset clause,” he said.

In fact, UNSCR 2231’s section on the arms embargo against Iran already expires this year. United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace has warned that the expiration of the arms embargo “will have immediate destabilizing consequences for Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Israel. Terror organizations like the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, the Al-Ashtar Brigades, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Houthis are the likely beneficiaries of this sunset provision.”

Gilboa said any new deal with Iran “will have to be tougher and include issues left out of the original deal such as the development of ballistic missiles.”

Iran would like to negotiate, said Gilboa, but it insists the United States must abolish the economic sanctions as a precondition to any deal.

Regarding the Palestinians, Biden has said he won’t move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv, though there are reports that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will insist on it.

More worrying for Israel, is Biden’s intention to restore aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, which could result in the financing of terror against Israel, and he has said he will reopen the PLO mission office in Washington.

“I doubt he will emulate Obama’s obsession with the peace process,” said Gilboa. “I do not see any major peace process or peace plan. I don’t think this is going to happen.”

The third issue that will concern Israel according to Gilboa related to the Abraham Accords that saw Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Sudan agree to normalize relations with Israel. Trump planned to add other countries such as Oman, Morocco, maybe Kuwait, and even perhaps Saudi Arabia. The reason was to counter Iran in the region.

Representatives of Iran and the P5+1 world powers pose for a photo in Vienna, Austria


Biden had applauded the Abraham Accords, but his top foreign-policy advisor, Tony Blinken, has said that the significance of the deals was “a little bit overstating” and noted that Israel had close ties with the countries under the Obama administration as well.

But Gilboa said that Iran will now give the United States an ultimatum. “If given the choice, Biden will choose Iran,” said Gilboa.

For its part, Israel and Arab Gulf state are reportedly moving to help the Trump administration levy a “flood” of sanction on Iran before Biden is sworn in reportedly out of concern that Biden could undo Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic.


‘Israel has changed, and Iran has changed’

So will a Biden administration be more pro-Israel than the Obama administration? Or less?

According to Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, “what was considered ‘pro-Israel’ in Obama’s term is not necessarily seen as ‘pro-Israel’ today.”

“Since Obama’s presidency America has changed; Israel has changed, and Iran has changed, as have the region and the world in general,” she said.

“Furthermore,” she added, “one has to take into account that similarly to American society, Israeli society is divided and multi-faceted with different sectors having completely different perceptions of what it means to be ‘pro-Israel.’ ”

Hatuel-Radoshitzky said that both Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have proven time and again that they are Israel’s allies.

“Among other things, they are committed to maintaining Israel’s QME [Qualitative Military Edge], and they have declared that they will not condition aid to Israel on the Israeli government’s policies vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” she said.

Whether the Biden administration will launch an effort to create a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Hatuel-Radoshitzky agreed with Gilboa, saying that it is “safe to assume that the Biden administration’s initial energies and resources will be internally focused. In addressing the Middle East, the priority will likely be addressing the JCPOA. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come in only later.”

According to Hatuel-Radoshitzky, Israel should prepare for a Biden administration by making a “proactive effort to establish open and direct communication lines with Democratic Party officials to transform Israel into a bipartisan issue.”

She said Israel should not fear the renewal of Palestinian aid, but should rather perceive it “as an opportunity towards increased US leverage vis-à-vis the Palestinians who will once again perceive the United States as an acceptable mediator.”

Hatuel-Radoshitzky said she believes that returning U.S. aid to UNRWA or returning the United States to the UNHRC or to UNESCO “could play out very positively for Israel if conditioned upon important changes in the way these bodies function. In other words, there is an excellent opportunity to increase U.S. influence in a way that will be conducive to Israel, too.”

Top 5 challenges for the church after this election

Amid all the analysis and opining about the 2020 presidential election, one thing must not be overlooked: The church’s witness in the world has been damaged almost beyond repair.


The politicization of the faith, the abandonment of biblical teaching, the hypocrisy, the sacrifice of truth, the love of money and status — all these have caused the church to lose relevance and authority to speak to modern culture. Of course, erosion of trust in the church did not begin with this presidential election or the 2016 election, although the divisions of the past four years certainly accelerated the trend.

It wasn’t that long ago that American conservatives — and especially Christian conservatives — cared deeply and passionately about absolute truth and strict morality and certain reality. And it wasn’t that long ago that American progressives were accused of promoting an “everybody do your own thing” mentality that empowered looser morality, sexual ethics, and doubts that there is such a thing as absolute truth.

Yet today, it is the progressives who are most likely to be fighting the onslaught of misinformation, fake news, conspiracy theories, and outrageous lies by demanding a consistent standard around a flagpole of definitive truth.

No wonder we’re all confused; some would say the tables have turned and the sides have switched uniforms.

Every publication and pundit out there is commenting on how this election has revealed the deep divides in American society that might as well have us living in two separate universes. And in the midst of this, pastors are left to try to make peace in their churches. Is this possible?

Here are five challenges pastors and church leaders face in these post-election days:


Avoiding both-sides-ism

The natural tendency for peacemakers is to point out that there has been wrong done on both sides and to call everyone to the middle through confession and forgiveness. That will not work in the present moment. Although both sides may feel equally offended by the other, both sides have not acted in the same way or with the same malice. Each “side” must be dealt with on its own merits and actions, just like good parenting requires dealing with each child as an individual. Both-sides-ism is a lazy and unrealistic way out of this quagmire.

“Both-sides-ism is a lazy and unrealistic way out of this quagmire.”


Restoring respect for truth

This is not simply a matter of one side believing the truth and the other side believing a lie. It is, instead, a case of both sides firmly believing their views are true. Except in rare cases, it is not possible for two opposing ideas to be simultaneously true. Somehow, we’re going to have to come to an agreement on what is true and what is false in the real world. Coronavirus has shown us the peril of living in a world of lies. Eventually, lies will get you killed. If the church can’t help us sort out truth from lies, we don’t need to stay in business.

“Coronavirus has shown us the peril of living in a world of lies. Eventually, lies will get you killed.”


Overcoming the love of money

For the church, this is a debt that never gets paid. We’ve got to keep telling this story over and over. Remember that Jesus talked more about money than any other topic recorded in the Gospels. Getting this right sets up all other successes. And yet time and again — in both Democratic and Republican campaigns — appealing to personal economic interests tops all other concerns. Our society has conditioned us to care most about our own economic well-being; the Bible should condition us to see that the love of money is the root of all evil.


Revaluing community

Too often, the church has portrayed “community” as a kind of forced uniformity or assumed uniformity or even homogeneity. We go to church and assume everyone else there thinks like we do, and we tend to cluster with others who look like we do. We foster a community that is as shallow and superficial as a Sunday morning hello at a coffee station. True community places us in the same boat together with everyone given an oar. We’ve got to figure out how to row the boat without capsizing. This is a lesson the church should model. We should be handing out oars, not complaining because the boat is taking on water.

“True community places us in the same boat together with everyone given an oar.”


Loving neighbor

I long for the old days when we could debate what was the best way to love our neighbors, meaning, for example, is it better to give a homeless person money, job training, or food. When we agree we must love our neighbors, we can engage in helpful conversation about how to fulfill the command of Jesus. Sadly, the debate today has moved to another realm: “Must we help that pitiful person?” Or a somewhat gentler adaptation: “That’s not my problem to worry about.” Getting this fundamental teaching of Jesus right would set in motion a lot of cures for the other things that ail us. We love God by loving neighbors as ourselves.


Underlying all this is the need to restore trust in the church. To get there, the root question pastors may need to face is whether they want to serve the church that has been or the church that will be. I’m reminded of our church’s journey toward LGBTQ inclusion four years ago when an older member said: “I know where the trend is going on this and that in 20 years this will not be an issue at all. But can’t we older folks just have our church the way it has been until we die?”

Whatever the issue — don’t get hung up only on the LGBTQ illustration — the church cannot regain the trust of the community until we’re able to see all the community around as beloved of God and not just targets for our conversion.

Church consultant Mark Tidsworth hit this nail right on the head in a recent BNG story: “If you want more young people in the church, you are going to have to drop the belief that social justice issues are off-limits while focusing only on personal piety and salvation. People under 35 write us off as irrelevant because we are unwilling to address the issues of the day.”

It’s time to flip the script and show the world that the authentic church of Jesus Christ solves problems rather than creating problems, tells the truth, loves people more than money, and builds authentic, diverse community.


Credit to Mark Wingfield, serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global, where this article was first published.

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Sudan Agrees with Rebels to Remove Islam as State Religion

Lieutenant general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of Sudan holds up a pen before signing a peace deal with rebel groups on August 31.
Lieutenant general Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo of Sudan holds up a pen before signing a peace deal with rebel groups on August 31.

Peace deals include bold pledges on religious freedom. But much work remains for the transitional government after three decades under Bashir’s strict sharia.

In signing successive peace deals with entrenched rebel movements last week, Sudan drew upon the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.

“The constitution should be based on the principle of ‘separation of religion and state,’” read the text of an agreement between the North African nation’s joint military-civilian transitional council and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM–N).

“The state shall not establish an official religion.”

The declaration of principles further cements Sudan’s efforts to undo the 30-year system of strict sharia law under President Omar al-Bashir, during which Islam was the religion of the state.

The agreement was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, four days after a more inclusive peace deal was signed with a coalition of rebel groups in the Sudan Revolutionary Front in Juba, South Sudan.

The Juba agreement established a national commission for religious freedom, which guarantees the rights of Christian communities in Sudan’s southern regions.

Sudan’s population of 45 million is roughly 91 percent Muslim and 6 percent, Christian. Open Doors ranks Sudan at No. 7 among the 50 nations where it is hardest to be a Christian.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) interpreted the agreement even more widely: to protect the rights of all Sudanese people to practice their religion of choice.

With a stronghold in the southern Nuba Mountains within the South Kordofan region, an area with a significant Christian population, the SPLM–N held out of the initial peace deal specifically because it did not guarantee the separation of religion and state.

“There are no equal citizenship rights, there’s no distribution of wealth, there’s no equal development in the country,” one rebel leader told South Sudan in Focus.

“There’s no equality between black and Arab, and Muslim and Christian.”

But now including most of the major rebel movements in the western Darfur region and the Sudanese south, the democratic transition can continue with national unity.

Following months of popular protests, Sudan’s military overthrew Bashir in April 2019. An interim constitution—which notably omitted reference to sharia law as the primary source of legislation—was signed in August 2019, establishing a ceasefire and a six-month window to achieve peace.

Negotiations began in late 2019, and the February 2020 deadline was extended.

Autonomy is granted to the southern regions of the Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Darfur, which had been split into five regions, will be reunified under its own governor with a special revenue-sharing agreement.

Rebel parties will receive 35 percent of government ministries, and 75 seats in the upcoming 300-member transitional parliament. Individual militants will be incorporated into the national army.

Sudan is currently led by an 11-member Sovereign Council, with one member a Coptic Christian. Currently headed by a military figure, a civilian will take the helm halfway through the three-year transition ending in 2022, with new elections.

Since the conflict erupted in Darfur in 2003, about 300,000 were killed with 2.7 million displaced from their homes. Thousands more were killed in the south since fighting began in 2011.

The civilian prime minister has already implemented significant changes.

In September 2019, Sudan and the United Nations agreed to open human rights offices in marginalized areas with significant religious minorities.

In December 2019, the public order law—used to punish individuals, especially women, in non-conformity with sharia law—was repealed.

And in July 2020, the Miscellaneous Amendments Act repealed the apostasy law, ended flogging for blasphemy, banned female genital mutilation (FGM), and permitted non-Muslims to drink alcohol.

The government additionally disbanded church councils used to control Christian congregations, declared Christmas a national holiday, and stated it is working on a uniform law for all religious worship.

But there is still much to do.

USCIRF noted that promised compensation claims for churches destroyed or confiscated during Bashir’s reign have been held up by bureaucracy. It called for full repeal of the blasphemy law, which still stipulates six-month imprisonment. And much work is necessary to reform remaining Islamist imprints in the judiciary and Ministry of Education.

Despite earlier hopes, Christianity will not be introduced for the first time in the national school curriculum. One pastor has complained that compulsory Islamic education sometimes results in the forced conversion of Christians to Islam.

And following the July repeal of sharia-based measures, thousands of Sudanese rallied against the “apostasy government.”

Sudan has witnessed several failed peace deals in the past, and significant hurdles toward full religious freedom remain.

But Christian leaders are hopeful.

“People here prefer to be cautious,” said Tombe Trille, Catholic bishop of El Obeid, capital of northern Kordofan, to the Vatican’s news agency. “But it is very important that a signature has finally been reached.


“We are all very happy.”



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Friday 28 August 2020

‘Angel mom’ dropped from RNC lineup after promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy

Mary Ann Mendoza was scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night.