Prime Minister

Annals of Berlusconi
October 10, 2009

Italy's top court has decided that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is not immune from prosecution, and political analysts are speculating that his corrupt, absurd reign will soon come to an end. Berlusconi struck back at his critics yesterday. Here is Rachel Donadio's brief summary in today's New York Times: Mr. Berlusconi said he had no plans to step down. “I am the best prime minister ever,” he said at a news conference on Friday, Italian news media reported.

Ironed Curtain
October 08, 2009

After the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008, the European Union found itself in a difficult position. Moscow had not only invaded a neighbor for the first time since the Soviet assault on Afghanistan in 1979. In recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, it had also broken the cardinal rule of post-cold war European security: that borders in Europe would never again be changed by force of arms. Yet Georgia, too, had clearly made mistakes, not the least in embroiling itself in a military conflict with Russia that Georgia's own allies had repeatedly warned against.

Deep Denial
October 06, 2009

Toughened by their frontier ethos, steeled by serial wars, Israelis are not prone to flattery. Most, in fact, eschew using the closest equivalent to the Hebrew word for flattery--chanupa--in favor of the derisive Yiddish-derivative, firgun. An Israeli joke holds that the word, slashed by a red diagonal line, graces the exit from Ben-Gurion Airport, together with the warning, "You are now entering a Firgun Free Zone." Not surprisingly, then, several Israeli commentators reacted unflatteringly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

The End of the Beginning
September 28, 2009

With apologies to Winston Churchill, President Obama may not have presided over the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last week in New York, but he seems finally to have marked the end of an embarrassing beginning to his Middle East diplomacy. The president and his senior advisors came to office nine months ago eager to say and do what George W. Bush didn’t.

The Israeli Prime Minister
September 26, 2009

The New York Times gave about six inches to Bibi Netanyahu's speech at the General Assembly, and this in an article he shared with Hugo Chavez who spoke for four times the duration allowed by the rules. This is a habit among tyrants, and Chavez is no exception. The same Times page carried a 24-inch piece about Gadhafi, not on his filibuster at the U.N. (which it covered more than amply on Thursday), but dealing with the dictator's appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Should Israelis Be Declaring Victory After Today's Summit?
September 22, 2009

After much anticipation of this week's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, early reports indicate that President Obama spent most of his time "sternly urging Israeli and Palestinian leaders to do more to make Mideast peace talks possible." It's an unimpressive message from a president that has been urging the sides "to do more" for quite a while now, to no avail. Israel has refused the "total settlement freeze" that U.S.

The Stockholm Syndrome
September 18, 2009

When Zvi Mazel was summoned to the Swedish Foreign Ministry back in January 2004, he knew he was in trouble. As Israel’s top diplomat in Stockholm, the 64-year-old had just done something markedly undiplomatic--not exactly rare for Israeli envoys. No, he hadn’t remarked upon the “yellow skin and slanted eyes” of Asians. No, he hadn’t taken part in a child-pornography ring.

Back to Reality
August 31, 2009

President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are reportedly planning to meet next month on the sidelines of a UN conference in New York. An international Arab-Israeli peace summit might follow, which Israeli diplomats have already nicknamed “Obamapolis” after the most recent failed attempt to re-launch negotiations, the Annapolis Summit.

Japanese Swing
August 29, 2009

  In September 2005, Junichiro Koizumi, then Japan’s prime minister and leader of the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), defied expectations and led his party to a smashing victory over the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in that year’s general election.

Washington Diarist
August 26, 2009

On August 4, Haaretz reported that Benjamin Netanyahu called Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod self-hating Jews. A spokesman for the prime minister later denied this, but I have heard from Israeli friends that this conspiratorial explanation is quite popular in the prime minister’s office. I have no reason to believe otherwise. The accusation of ethnic infidelity is an old feature of the political culture of the Likud. The defenders of Greater Israel have values, but the critics of Greater Israel have motives.

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