Now that Fidel Castro has taken the carriage clock, international affairs has all too few fixed points of continuity. Her Majesty the Queen is still in place. The King of Thailand has been on the throne since 1946. Otherwise one has to turn to the Middle East for reassurance that some things never change. Fly-by-nights like Castro may come and go, but the Israel-Palestine conflict will, it seems, always be with us.
After the one-day peace meeting in Annapolis last November, some believed that was about to change. Surely George Bush, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas wouldn't stand in front of a quarter of the world's foreign ministers and promise to reach a peace accord by the end of 2008 only for nothing to happen.… Seguir leyendo »
Think about climate change long enough and you soon realise that it's more than our lightbulbs that we're going to have to change. Colleagues have already argued on these pages this week, as delegates gather in Bali to hammer out a global accord to avert this catastrophe, that a much more fundamental overhaul will be required, a war on carbon as fierce as the 1940s war on fascism. Madeleine Bunting suggested a return to wartime rationing, in order to curb a hyper-consumerism that is palpably unsustainable.
One could go further, arguing that it is not just excessive consumerism but capitalism's very nature that makes it incompatible with the survival of our planet.… Seguir leyendo »
So now we know: this is what soon-to-be-ex-presidents do. Bill Clinton spent his final hours in the White House trying to patch together a deal between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat and now George Bush promises to spend his last year the same way, confronting the problem that has defeated successive presidents for nearly 30 years. Will he share their fate or could the road from Annapolis somehow, despite everything, lead to peace in Jerusalem?
The reasons to be cheerless are too numerous to count. Start at the top, with the Americans who will preside over the process, which was given a formal launch at the White House yesterday.… Seguir leyendo »
It takes a special kind of genius to unite the warring parties of the Israel-Palestine conflict, but George Bush may just have pulled it off. His proposal for what the US administration calls a "meeting", rather than a peace conference, in Annapolis, Maryland, before the end of the year has elicited a unanimity unheard of in the Middle East. From the hardmen of Hamas to the hawks of Likud, there is a rare consensus: Annapolis is doomed to failure.
"On the Palestinian street, no one has a good word to say for this exercise," says the analyst and longtime negotiator Hussein Agha: "At best people are sceptical, at worst they are calling for a boycott."… Seguir leyendo »
Visit the Sky News website and you'll see in the menu of topics the single word Madeleine, sandwiched between UK News and World News. The story is now so big that it commands its own category, on a par with Politics or Business. There is, of course, no need to supply a last name or any other details: Madeleine refers to what is surely becoming the biggest human interest story of the decade. It's not just the hour-by-hour updates on television news or the you-the-jury phone-ins on the radio. A more reliable indicator is the chatter heard in offices, at bus stops or in queues at the shops.… Seguir leyendo »
Lord knows, it makes no sense to be anything but a pessimist when it comes to the war in Iraq. The occupation remains as bloody and fruitless as the original invasion was fraudulent and needless. The killing and dying go on, with any let-up only relative and slight. So it would be naively hopeful to see in a series of moves these last few days anything so clear as a breakthrough. But we might detect at least a change, the passing of one phase of this dread conflict into another. As Churchill said following the victory at El Alamein in 1942: "Now this is not the end.… Seguir leyendo »
De las lecciones que fue posible extraer de los últimos comicios de Estados Unidos, que enfrentaron hace casi tres años a Bush y a Kerry, con la segunda victoria del primero, hay una especialmente clara: los electores quieren que sus líderes apelen a sus sentimientos, no sólo a la inteligencia.
Pocas personas han registrado las maletas de Gordon Brown para descubrir qué libros va a leer durante las vacaciones, pero ahora que está al frente del Gobierno británico, la lista de sus lecturas para el verano es otro aspecto de la intimidad que ha perdido. Sabemos que entre los títulos que ha elegido se encuentran Engleby, de Sebastian Faulkes, The Age of Turbulence, del ex director de la Reserva Federal norteamericana Alan Greenspan, y el último libro polémico de Al Gore, The Assault on Reason.… Seguir leyendo »
The moment has been anticipated so long, it's easy to lose sight of its strangeness. The handover at Downing Street that will come today was formally promised six weeks ago, trailed last September and implied two years before that, when Tony Blair first announced that he would not fight a fourth election. This has been a slow-motion transition, three years in the making. Even longer, if you buy the Granita legend, which holds that the baton that passes today first left Blair's hand over an Islington dinner table in 1994.
We've had so much time to accustom ourselves to it that when the change comes, shortly after 12.30pm today, it will seem entirely normal.… Seguir leyendo »
The utter confusion did not last long. For a few days, the key players in the Middle East conflict were simply too stunned by last week's events to react. They could see that the landscape had changed completely - that the Palestinian national movement had split in two, with Hamas seizing Gaza, leaving Fatah in charge of the West Bank, thereby stumbling into a "two-statelet solution" no one ever planned. But what this meant for the historic conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, no one was sure.
Now they've had time to regroup, the United States, Europe and Israel think they've worked out a response.… Seguir leyendo »
SSo the Washington journalist who warned me 10 years ago that the internet was doomed, that it would collapse under the weight of all those pages, was wrong. The internet is here and changing everything, the way we work, shop, communicate, even fall in love. But what of society itself? The industrial revolution changed politics completely, leading to universal suffrage, as well as modern socialism, communism and fascism. What will the internet revolution do for the politics of our own age?
Last week the revolutionaries were in town, as Google's high command came to London for a major think-in, led by the CEO, Eric Schmidt.… Seguir leyendo »
I am as old as this war. Officially the war of 1967, the year of my birth, lasted for six days. In reality, it's still going on: it is the 14,600-day war. Witness the violence in Gaza, one chunk of the territory which the young state of Israel - then just 19 years old - conquered in that extraordinary, whirlwind victory. In Gaza, there is fighting among the Palestinians - a barely repressed civil war between the old Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat and the Islamists of Hamas - but also between them and the Israelis. Hamas has resumed firing Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel, a break in their ceasefire.… Seguir leyendo »
Let's hope Lords Hutton and Butler were taking notes. An 81-year-old retired judge, Eliyahu Winograd, has just given a masterclass in how to conduct a genuine, fearless and plainspoken inquiry into a government failure. While our own inquisitors into aspects of the Iraq war retreated either into whitewash (Hutton) or polite circumlocution (Butler), Winograd delivered it straight, and right between the eyes. Asked by the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to probe the country's "second Lebanon war" last summer, he issued an interim verdict on Monday which required no translation from the mandarin code of euphemism. Olmert was, said the judge, guilty of "a severe failure" of judgment, rushing into a "hasty" war with no clear plan, setting "overambitious and unobtainable goals".… Seguir leyendo »