The World Today for October 26, 2016


Carrot, Meet Stick

A few months ago, shortly after he became Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman said he would adopt a “carrots and sticks” approach to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

We’re now seeing what that approach looks like.

“We will be the first to invest in a port, an airport and industrial areas,” Lieberman said recently in a rare interview in the Palestinian daily newspaper Al Quds, according to the Associated Press. “If Hamas stops digging tunnels, rearming and firing rockets, we will lift the blockade and build the port and airport by ourselves.”

The result could be a paradise on the Mediterranean, said the Israeli right-leaning politician.

“Gaza could be the Singapore or Hong Kong of the Middle East,” he said.

That’s the carrot.

If Hamas doesn’t disarm and instead chooses to launch another conflict like the 50-day war that raged between Hamas and Israel in 2014, the repercussions would be dire, said Lieberman.

Hamas launched numerous rockets into Israeli territory two years ago. The Israeli air force responded with bombing runs that killed thousands, and destroyed numerous homes and businesses. Gaza is still rebuilding amid a moribund local economy today.

“If they impose the war on Israel, this war will be the final war for them,” said Lieberman. “We are going to destroy them completely.”

That’s the stick.

Notice that Lieberman wasn’t talking about the Palestinian Authority that runs the West Bank. Hamas and Authority President Mahmoud Abbas are rivals, not allies. Abbas has little influence over the US-designated terror group that rules Gaza.

Lieberman had an even harsher message for Abbas, whom he felt could never sign a peace deal with Israel. “This agreement needs someone else, someone capable of taking a tough decision,” said the defense minister.

Abbas’ Ministry of Information issued a statement to the Associated Press criticizing the newspaper as “giving a stage to the murderer Lieberman.”

Lieberman’s mix of incentives and punishments comes at a crucial time in Israel, the New York Times reported.

Small-scale, deadly acts of violence, like teenagers stabbing Israelis, have become common in the occupied territories. Activists are challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. Syrians are firing missiles at Israeli warplanes.

At a recent meeting at the United Nations, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Lieberman’s offer to rebuild Gaza’s infrastructure is the good faith effort that’s needed to help Israelis and Palestinians live in harmony.

“These are the kinds of common-sense steps that, if implemented, will take us forward in a positive way,” Kerry told the New York Times. “Nobody denies that.”

But he added, “There’s no political horizon in any of it.”

Case in point: Palestinian Authority spokesman Jamal Dajani said bridges and roads wouldn’t paper over the animosity between the groups.

“It should not be a favor to provide a kindergarten to a community, nor a playground,” Dajani told the newspaper. “To win hearts and minds – you are not going to buy that with a soccer field, for goodness sake. This should go without saying.”

If nobody is taking the carrots, then all that is left is the sticks.


The Pope and the Devil

To avert violence, Pope Francis has agreed to mediate between Venezuela’s singularly unpopular leader President Nicolas Maduro and his dogged opponents.

The meeting, expected this week, comes amid plans for a massive nationwide protest Wednesday against Maduro – whose opponents say he orchestrated ‘a kind of coup’ to retain power when he squashed a referendum on his recall last week.

The protest follows a vote in Congress Tuesday to open a trial against the president for violating the constitution. Meanwhile, Maduro’s defense minister has vowed that the military will protect the president from any extra-parliamentary efforts to unseat him.

Blocking the opposition’s democratic options could lead to violence, an analyst told NPR. And preventing it won’t be easy, even for the pope.

“If I have to meet with the devil, I don’t have a problem with that,” opposition governor Henrique Capriles said of a potential meeting with Maduro. “But there have to be witnesses.”

Bargaining Chip

London’s Heathrow airport is the latest bargaining chip in the never-ending Brexit row.

Britain backed a $22 billion expansion plan for London’s iconic airport Tuesday, with Prime Minister Theresa May arguing that the huge infrastructure project would both create jobs and improve access to global markets – two thorny issues of the UK’s planned withdrawal from the European Union.

“After decades of delay we are showing that we will take the big decisions when they’re the right decisions for Britain,” Reuters quoted May as saying.

Earlier, a three-year study by Britain’s independent Airports Commission estimated that adding a third runway to Heathrow – slated for completion by 2025 – would create 70,000 new jobs by 2050 and add between 0.65 and 0.75 percent to the UK’s gross domestic product.

Still, opponents of the expansion listing environmental reasons say they will challenge the plan in court.  

Murder in Mosul

If there were ever any doubt, new reports confirm that life in Mosul will get worse before it gets better.

The Islamic State has begun murdering civilians to spread chaos and terror, according to reports received by United Nations human rights workers.

In one case, three women and three children were allegedly shot dead because they could not keep pace with a forced march, the BBC reported. Elsewhere, 15 civilians were reportedly killed and their bodies thrown into a river in an attempt to spread terror.

With the fight for the city expected to take weeks, if not months, the atrocities signal an impending humanitarian crisis that may see hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting, according to the New York Times.

UN officials say the militants killed close to 200 people, including civilians and children, in and around Mosul in the past week – and UN efforts to protect civilians have been undermined by the Iraqi security forces.

A unit of the federal police, for instance, recently raided a camp for the displaced and confiscated tents, latrines, water tanks and other supplies.


Goats of Honor

The architects of Prague’s famous Lucerna Palace – one of the city’s premier entertainment and cultural venues – probably didn’t have farm animals in mind when they envisioned what kind of VIPs would one day grace the halls of their Art Nouveau masterpiece.

But last week, two goats were given the red-carpet – or in this case, comfy hay – treatment as the guests of honor at the opening of a rooftop terrace in the landmark palace.

It’s part of a wider push in the Czech capital to open up more public spaces on the rooftops hovering over the city’s crowded streets.

“I brought the goats… to have an atmosphere of the farm here, to communicate the idea that roofs should get green,” the project’s manager, activist Ondrej Kobza, told Reuters.

Kobza said he hopes to eventually set up a community garden on his 1,000 square meter plot.

Check out some pictures of the star-studded reception here.

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