Could Israel and Gaza Agree to a Long-Term Truce?

Most experts agree that when it comes to Gaza, something has to change fast. The humanitarian crisis in the strip is severe and quickly deteriorating, but Israel won’t lift its blockade until Hamas ceases aggression against Israel. Could a long-term truce in which Israel eases the blockade and Hamas ceases all military activities (sometimes referred to as a “hudna”) be a viable solution for both parties?

Israel is considering agreeing to a long-term cessation of hostilities with Hamas after rejecting the offer for weeks… Egyptian and Qatari officials are each proposing and mediating their suggestions for an agreement that would see Israel significantly ease its blockade of Gaza in exchange for the complete cessation of rocket fire and of the digging by terror groups of cross-border tunnels used to carry out attacks in Israeli territory. Hamas would also have to agree to not use materials allowed into Gaza under the loosened restrictions for its military apparatus.

Hamas offers truce deals whenever it runs into serious trouble. In 1997, the movement felt isolated after being left out of the Palestinian institution-building that appeared a preparation for the establishment of a Palestinian state under the terms of the Oslo peace agreements…The Hamas political leadership has been aware for a while that absent a significant easing of the siege, the organization will no longer be able to run the Strip since the popular protests by desperate residents would not only be directed at Israel but would also turn against Hamas.

…the terms of cease-fire are beyond what either Israel or Hamas could ever possibly agree to. For Hamas they would require the dismantling of its military capabilities… Israel would have to agree to fully lift the blockade of Gaza, open the borders, the construction of a seaport and an airport in Gaza and some even say a freeze on Israel’s military development. These conditions for both parties are beyond imaginable… Today there is no basis for any form of trust between the parties.

Should Israel Recognize the Armenian Genocide?

Whether or not Israel should recognize the Armenian Genocide has been a topic of debate for decades. Many considerations are at play including diplomatic relations with Turkey, worries about equivalence with the Jewish holocaust, and humanitarian concerns. Now, as diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel have hit a low, Israeli MKs are starting to think that the time has come to officially recognize the Armenian genocide. More at Haaretz.

…Nothing will change without Netanyahu’s say-so. No legislation can pass without his consent and no new diplomatic policy can be adopted either, as he is also Israel’s foreign minister. Netanyahu is a strategic thinker… He will officially recognize the Armenian genocide only if he thinks it fits his purposes. That may be the wrong reason, but for once in this debate, for both Israel and the U.S., raw national interest and moral obligation are perfectly aligned: In a war against fanatics, truth is a powerful weapon.

Israel’s frustration with the Turkish behavior is great, and the anger at Erdoğan is skyrocketing. However, even in such times of crisis, it is worthy to remember the strategic, economic and diplomatic importance of the relations between both countries… it is not self-evident for Israel to have full, even if problematic, diplomatic relations with a key regional state that has a large Muslim population. These relations should not be casually waived.

[Likud MK Amir Ohana] contends that this “is an important issue for anyone who cares about justice and righteousness.” The bill’s other author, Itzik Shmuli from the opposition Zionist Union party, stressed the bi-partisan nature of the push… Nevertheless, Ohana conceded that, “over the years, the Israeli government hasn’t recognized it as a genocide because of its desire to improve diplomatic ties with Ankara,” before qualifying that “Turkey has now decided to side with Israel’s enemies, so the train has left the station—it’s the right time…”

Is Trump-Kim Diplomacy Still on Track Ahead of the Summit?

After weeks of optimism, diplomacy between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seemed to hit a few snags this week. Kim threatened to abandon the summit meeting with Trump but Trump later backed away from his demand of full denuclearization without reciprocal concessions. Today, reports have surfaced that North Korea has destroyed its nuclear test site as promised. Does this mean things are back on track? More at New York Times.

North Korea claims to have dismantled its only known nuclear test site, detonating explosives and collapsing its entrances in front of international television crews in a highly symbolic move… Experts have said while decommissioning the site is an important diplomatic gesture, it will not affect the North’s nuclear arsenal. Earlier on Thursday, North Korea reminded the world it was not shy about , saying the US had to choose whether it wanted to “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown”.

To the Trump administration’s credit, there appears to be something in the air that leads one to believe (or at least hope) that an agreement can in fact be struck. While we are still in the opening stages of the diplomatic process, the White House is taking diplomacy with the utmost seriousness… And yet while we are all hoping and praying for a successful outcome, the U.S. must also prepare for the likelihood that no amount of concessions will persuade Kim Jong-inept to part ways with his “treasured sword.”

Most likely, the June 12 encounter will still go ahead – Kim and Trump each appear fascinated by the prospect of meeting one other, and for both the summit itself will be seen as a significant diplomatic victory. What does seem increasingly clear, however, is that the sort of breakthrough some in the White House had hoped for – particularly Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons – was never really on the table.

What’s the Real Difference Between Rural and Urban America?

It’s assumed that urban America and rural America diverge on politics, religion, and culture. But is it true? A new Pew study reveals surprising finds about America’s rural and urban communities.

…while rural, urban, and suburban communities have unique problems, they have surprising, perhaps often overlooked, similarities… In recent years, the opioid epidemic has devastated a number of white, rural communities. But data shows that it is urban, black populations that have seen the steepest increases in overdose deaths. This epidemic is a shared challenge, and the findings of the Pew survey demonstrate that. In it, similar shares of rural (50 percent) and urban (46 percent) respondents report drug addiction being one of the biggest problems facing their communities.

Urban life might actually be a bit warmer than people think, and rural life a little colder… There are surely differences of opinion between urban, suburban, and rural Americans… but as the data reveals, it’s not the case that there is something fundamentally different about the sense of community among each cohort. That should make urbanites feel better about moving to the country, and country folk heading to the city.

…election results show that urban and rural Americans are increasingly at odds with each other. The new survey confirms both believe the other group doesn’t understand their problems or share their values. And political scientists warn that place-based resentments — “no one respects rural America” or “Trump is at war with cities” — can be easily exploited by politicians.

Did the NFL Make the Right Call on “Kneelers?”

The NFL has a new policy on kneelers — players who choose to protest by kneeling (rather than standing) during the National Anthem. The new policy states that all players must stand if they are on the field, though they may choose not to be present during the anthem. Critics of kneelers say that the practice is unpatriotic and disrespectful, but critics of the NFL say that the new policy is silencing legitimate political protest. More at ESPN.

Kneeling during the anthem was always a kind of plea — for an America that works the way the civics textbooks say it does. But making the plea raises the fact that America doesn’t, in fact, function according to its founding story; we’re not all individuals whose rights are equally protected… and it isn’t clear that our representative bodies are interested in doing anything about it. All Colin Kaepernick and others ever did was ask.

The National Football League, bowing to a fan base cynically riled up by a culture war commander-in-chief who branded peaceful protesters “sons of bitches,” will require its players to stand for the National Anthem if they’re on the field when the song is sung. As a purely legal matter, it’s well within the league’s right as a private employer to set clear codes of conduct for workers while they’re on the clock. As an expression of American values, it reeks. What’s next, an edict demanding unbroken eye contact with the flag, and for all of Francis Scott Key’s words to be sung in perfect key?

The NFL’s decision to practically require players to stand for the national anthem should serve as a wake-up call. Not because the decision is unconstitutional—but precisely because it isn’t. For decades, Americans have treated sports leagues as though they’re part of the public square. That, after all, is why the national anthem is sung at football games to begin with: because these are civic occasions, supposedly, and time for us to all come together as Americans… But the NFL isn’t the state.

Should Amazon Be Selling Surveillance Tech to Law Enforcement?

Amazon is selling its facial recognition service, Rekognition, to law enforcement agencies – a move that has many citizens (as well as the ACLU) quite concerned. Rekognition could arguably help law enforcement make use of surveillance footage more effectively, but is Amazon selling out American privacy? More at Ars Technica.

Year by year, for the foreseeable future, surveillance hardware and software will keep improving, extracting ever more information. Threats to privacy will proliferate. Communities will theoretically be able to choose whether or not their police officers make use of a given piece of new technology. But in practice, if the status quo persists, even the most intrusive innovations that portend the most radical changes in society will be quietly adopted without public notice or debate or votes that force elected officials to be accountable.

Facial recognition systems have long struggled with higher error rates for women and people of color — error rates that can translate directly into more stops and arrests for marginalized groups. And while some companies have responded with public bias testing, Amazon hasn’t shared any data on the issue… At the same time, it’s already deploying its software in cities across the US, its growth driven by one of the largest cloud infrastructures in the world. For anyone worried about algorithmic bias, that’s a scary thought.

Police have been using facial recognition services for years, but mostly in partnership with smaller technology companies with a narrower focus than Amazon. The FBI even has its own face recognition database that is said to have access to more than 400 million images. In fact, about half of all American adults are in at least one law enforcement facial recognition data base, according to research from Georgetown Law.

Today’s Hot Issues

Could Israel and Gaza Agree to a Long-Term Truce? Should Israel Recognize the Armenian Genocide? Is Trump-Kim Diplomacy Still on Track Ahead of the Summit? What’s the Real Difference Between Rural and Urban America? Did the NFL Make the Right Call on “Kneelers?” Should Amazon Be Selling Surveillance Tech to Law Enforcement?