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Monday, January 30, 2006
Hamas and Aid
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:15 am

Via the AP/NYT: Rice Wants Nations to End Hamas Aid.

This is hardly a surprise, and, indeed, I am not sure that there is any other course of action to take until Hamas is willing to make the needed transition away from terrorism and is willing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Of course, the degree to which sufficient international agreement will emerge on the topic is another matter.

One would like to think that the stark realities of the situation, such at the Palestinians’ need for funds and the glaringly obvious fact that Israel isn’t going away, whether Hamas wants it destroyed or not, would eventually take hold in the minds of Hamas’ leadership and lead to some level of moderation. However, that amy be too much to hope for.

Here are some figures:

U.S. aid is a small part of the $1.6 billion annual budget of the Palestinian Authority.

About $1 billion comes from overseas donors — more than half of that from European nations. The rest is a mix of funds from international donor agencies, Arab and Asian governments, and the U.S., which gave $70 million in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority last year.

Separately, the U.S. spent $225 million for humanitarian projects through the U.S. Agency for International Development last year, and gave $88 million for refugee assistance.

Those figures bespeak of the lack of a functioning government and economy in the PA, given that such a substantial amount of the money has to comes form abroad. Further, it reminds ones of the massive amounts of cash that have flowed in, but that have then flowed out to Arafat and his cronies, rather than into the building of institutions and infrastructure.

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Weapons of Mass Destruction linked with Dealing With Hamas
PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » EU and Aid to the PA linked with [...] EU and Aid to the PA By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:35 am Along the lines of this post, we have the follwoing via Reuters: EU ready to continue Palestinian aid: draft text. The story is [...]
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Election Watch: Israel
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:07 pm

Via the CSMIsraeli right may gain ground

Hamas’s ascendancy is liable to cast the unilateral pullbacks supported by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and by a majority of the Israeli public in a more troubling light. Meanwhile, the shock of a new Palestinian government run by a group formally committed to Israel’s destruction has offered the Israeli right and Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu new ammunition to stage an electoral comeback.

There is something ironic about Hamas, even indirectly, helping Netanyahu.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006
How Not to React to an Electoral Defeat
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:43 pm

Via Reuters: Gunmen storm Palestinian parliament

Firing into the air,
Fatah gunmen and police stormed Palestinian parliament buildings on Saturday in growing unrest after their long-dominant party’s crushing election defeat by Hamas Islamists.


Turmoil since the parliamentary election landslide has fueled fears of inter-Palestinian strife as Hamas tries to form a government and possibly take over security forces packed with Fatah loyalists at odds with the Islamic militants.

Thousands of gunmen from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah held protests across the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, many firing automatic rifles into the air.

They took over parliament in the West Bank city of Ramallah for about 20 minutes, shouting demands from the roof before descending peacefully. Fatah militants and police also seized the parliament building in the Gaza Strip.

One of the signs of a maturing/mature democracy is when the party in power is able to graciously accept being the loser of an election (and, likewise, that the winner is able to win graciously). My finely trained political science sense tells me that almost anything that involves “thousands of gunmen” does not qualify as accepting defeat with grace. I am especially certain that taking over the parliament for twenty minutes with said guns isn’t winning with grace.

The irony here is that there has been all this hand-wringing over Hamas and now Fatah’s members are running amuck.

We are still early in this process, so conclusions cannot be reached, but this quite clearly isn’t the kind of behavior we want to see.

And an area to watch: the P.A. security forces:

In a message clearly aimed at Hamas, Palestinian Authority police commander Ala Hosni said the Islamist group would not be in charge of security forces because they came under the authority of President Abbas.

“The security institution is the only guarantee to prevent sedition and civil war. Civil war began in Somalia after the collapse of the army and security institutions,” Hosni said.

An armed political party is antithetical to proper state formation, let alone to democratic norms.

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Friday, January 27, 2006
More Analysis of the Hamas Win
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 5:42 pm

Abu Aardvark (political scientist Mark Lynch) has an interesting post on the Hamas win in the PA, Hamas: tests acoming, in which he notes two reason why these electoral results are important and interesting.

First, they test some of the recent premises of the Bush foreign policy, and provide significant challenges that the administration needs to confront:

It is an article of faith among virtually all Arabs and Muslims that in 1992 the United States and Europe green lighted the Algerian military coup after the Islamist FIS stood on the brink of electoral victory. This has been taken for a decade and a half as the definitive evidence that the American and European commitment to democracy was a hypocritical farce: democracy only if our allies won.

The Bush administration has talked a lot about democracy, about past mistakes in American policy towards democracy in the region, and so forth, but I think it’s fair to say that most Arabs remain deeply suspicious. Recent Arab elections haven’t really tested whether this has changed. Iraq under American military occupation is sui generis. In Egypt there was never any chance that the Muslim Brotherhood would be allowed to actually win, and even if it somehow had Mubarak would have remained in control over a relatively impotent Parliament. Jordan’s Parliamentary elections have been sufficiently gerrymandered (via electoral law) to ensure a strict ceiling on Islamist seats. Sudanese Islamists arrived on the back of a military coup.

How the US reacts to a democratically elected government that it does not like, and that brings with it the terrorist and fundamentalist baggage that Hamas does will say an awful lot about how genuine our support for democracy qua democracy actually is. Further, it tests various hypotheses that under-gird the Bush administration’s foreign policy of spreading democracy as a means of spreading peace and stability.

Indeed, the US has a long history of talking a good game on democracy, but of choosing (especially during the Cold War) reliable non-democratic allies over democratically elected left-leaning regimes (just ask the Guatemalans and Chileans, to name two examples). So, the Hamas victory tests the question of exactly how important fostering democracy really is to US policy.

Second, this situation will provide data of significance to help with some key questions that political scientists have been asking:

Hamas winning and presumably moving to form a government is the first real instance of an Islamist movement on the brink of winning power democratically since 1992. If they take power, we are going to see some major political science propositions put to the test: does power moderate or radicalize Islamist groups? Will they be willing and able to work with non-Islamist parties in a coalition? Will they use their democratic victory to abolish democracy? Will Islamist groups concentrate on the pragmatics of rule or resort to foreign policy grandstanding? Will they use their position of power to pursue terrorism? Will they be willing to set aside doctrine and work pragmatically with Israelis and Americans? Will they use government power to impose unpopular sharia rule over their people? Will they oppress Christian and non-Islamist Muslims? Most academic and policy analysis of these questions has remained counterfactual and hypothetical, since there have been no actual examples of an elected Islamist group in power. That could now change.

All very interesting and important questions. Clearly one case cannot answer any of them definitively, but it is a boon for the study of such issue to have such a case to examine.

Also, the Head Heeb has a lengthy, but interesting and informative, analysis of the elections and their implications.

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Fruits and Votes » Blog Archive » The magnitude of the Hamas sweep: The electoral system did it linked with [...] to call specific attention to the following: Mark Lynch at Abu Aardvark, Steven Taylor at PoliBlogger, and Jonathan Edelstein at The Head Heeb. Propagation: [...]
Speaking of Polls
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:21 am

Via Reuters: Almost half of Israelis say talk to Hamas: Poll

The opinion poll in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily newspaper showed 48 per cent of Israelis favoured talking to a Hamas-led Palestinian government, while 43 per cent were opposed.

The survey was conducted before preliminary election results were announced on Thursday.

To be honest, that is a higher number than I would have guessed. I wonder if the reality of having to deal with Hamas will drive that number up or down.

And btw: as this relates to my previous post-this poll has more validity than the eavesdropping polls I mentioned below, as information on this topic is quite high in the Israeli population, and the question is a straightforward one.

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Post-Election “Exchange”
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:00 am

Via Reuters: Hamas, Fatah gunmen exchange fire in Gaza

Hamas and Fatah gunmen exchanged fire in the Gaza Strip on Friday, the first such gun battle since the Islamic militant group crushed the long-dominant Palestinian faction in a parliamentary election, witnesses said.

What, since yesterday?

Well, at least the Dems and Reps don’t have “gunmen”…

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A Knight’s Blog » More P.A. linked with [...] preacher at Friday prayers. You don’t say! I’m shocked — SHOCKED! As the Sultan so aptly observed (relative to the line “the first such gun battle since the Islamic militant [...]
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Prelim Seat Totals in PA Elections
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:32 am

Via the BBC: Hamas secures stunning poll win

According to preliminary results, Hamas won 76 seats to 43 for the ruling Fatah party, giving them a majority in the 132-seat chamber. The turnout was 77%.

That’s 57.6% of the seats.

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bRight & Early » A Quick Lunch Look-See linked with [...] ood of a filibuster. The landslide win by Hamas is being well covered by: The Jawa Report, Dr. Steven Taylor (Poliblog), James Joyer (OTB), Sister Toldjah, Stop The ACLU, Ed Morrissey (Captain's Quarte [...]
It isn’t War v. Peace in Palestine
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:08 am

As per the thesis of my previous post, I would note the following from Time: Why Rising Popularity Poses a Dilemma for Hamas

The first thing that people in the West Bank town of al-Bireh noticed about their new mayor was that he turned up for work on time. Previous mayors had often arrived late, if at all, but Omar Hamayel, 29, has a lot to do. Though al-Bireh is relatively wealthy compared to other towns in the West Bank, its streets are littered with garbage, streetlights and water pipes are broken and unemployment is high. “The fact that when the staff comes to work I am here and when they leave I am still here means that they see a sense of responsibility becoming a reality,” says Hamayel, a former chemistry teacher who was elected mayor a month ago. His employees have taken notice. “He’s at his desk by 8 a.m. and works through after the doors are closed and people leave,” says Ahmad Arqoub, a civil servant who has worked for the town since 1980. “He is really trying to make a good impression.”


Hamayel is a member of Hamas, the radical Islamic group that has actively pursued the violent overthrow of Israel, killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and rocket attacks and is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S. But Hamas has also emerged as a major a political force, positioning itself as the chief rival to Fatah


In towns like al-Bireh, Hamas has built popular support by providing a disciplined alternative to Fatah, which is seen by many Palestinians as corrupt, inefficient and unable to run a garbage collection service, let alone negotiate with Israel. Hamas has long run its own medical clinics, schools and soup kitchens for the poor—mostly in the Gaza Strip, its stronghold. In last year’s local elections, Palestinian voters gravitated toward Hamas because of its reputation for having “members with a clean record,” as Mayor Hamayel puts it, in a reference to Fatah’s many corruption-tainted officials. Residents of towns where Hamas won control say they are now better run than they were under Fatah.

This is normal politics. Hamas has been able to be more effective in local governance, Fatah has been less than successful at national politics and there has been substantial corruption within Fatah dating back to Arafat. This isn’t a dichotomous choice between war and peace. It has more to do with the simple, yet very important things: trash pickup, elected officials who put in a days work and social services.

I am not declaring Hamas the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I am noting that proper analysis of this situation cannot overlook these factors.

I will say that the development, even incomplete development, of normal politics in the PA is a good thing for peace in the long-run. If daily life becomes more bearable in the PA, then the incentive for the population to see the destruction of Israel as their only hope for a better life will recede and the ability of the militants to be seen as a road to a better life will equally dim.

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Weapons of Mass Destruction linked with Hamas Rising
Don’t Oversimplify the Palestinian Electoral Results
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:49 am

Writes Ed Morrisey at Captain’s Quarters this morning:

the Palestinians should be judged by the choices they have made this week. They have chosen war and the annihilation of Israel over the two-state solution favored publicly (if not fervently) by Fatah. Europe and the United States need to wake up from their delusional dreamland of a situation where both sides in this conflict want a peaceful conclusion and a world without hatred for their children and grandchildren. Clearly, the Palestinians want war, and they have made no secret of using their children and grandchildren as bomb fuses in order to perpetuate it.

While there can be no doubt that those who voted for Hamas knew the group’s position on Israel, this is a radical over-simplification of a complex political situation. For one thing, it isn’t as if Fatah was utterly opposed to political violence, or that their members were all lily-white in terms of their innocence vis-à-vis terrorism. Remember: Fatah came out of the PLO, which was Hamas before Hamas was Hamas.

I point this out to note that the notion that there was a stark choice for the Palestinian voters between a “peace” party and a “war” party is incorrect. For one thing, that was not, as best as I can tell, what the campaign was about. The key issues in this election were corruption and the fact that Fatah has had a difficult time delivering on basic governance in the PA.

To crystallize these events into such declarations as “They [Palestinian voters] have chosen war and the annihilation of Israel” and “the Palestinians want war” is to ignore any attempt to analyze why the voters chose as they did and to assume that the Palestinians view in a very binary way (i.e., War:Not War). It also assumes that the only thing that Hamas does is terrorism. I am no apologist for Hamas, but do know that they do more within the Palestinian community than bombing Israel. The hope, such as it is, is that those portions of Hamas that are oriented toward policy and governing will start to evolve and become more important than the militant wing. Again: Fatah was the political wing of the PLO and all of a sudden the view is that they are the “peace” party (again, an oversimplification). If the PLO evolved to that point, there is reason to think it can happen to other militant groups. Indeed, whether it is the Sinn Fein (Ireland) or the M-19 (Colombia), to name a two, there are examples of militant groups evolving into political parties. Indeed, unless there is going to be a total elimination of every single member of Hamas, it is clear that the hope is that at some point its members would evolve away from violence towards politics.

That the Hamas victory creates problems is undeniable. That I would have preferred Fatah to remain in control is certainly the case. However, I take some solace that Hamas comes to power through legitimate elections, not a military take-over and that they will have to govern. Governing has a way of changing organizations, especially when they are beholden to voters.

Let’s put it this way: of the possible scenarios, this is far from the worst. The collapse of any semblance of democratic norms would have been far worse, as would have been a violent take-over of the PA, as in either case there would have been no sense of accountability to anyone. When a groups takes power by force, the only challenge to their power is other violence. Had Hamas used guns to achieve control, they would have been unassailable. However, if Fatah can be voted down because of lack of policy success, so can Hamas. The US and Israel, despite the obvious problems with Hamas, need to walk a tightrope that denounces Hamas’ political violence while encouraging the entrenchment of democratic norms.

Could this all degenerate into war? Certainly. Will Hamas have to eventually deal with the fact that Israel isn’t going anywhere? Yes. Perhaps the best way for the latter to come about instead of the former is for the leadership of Hamas to be in a position to have to deal with practical reality, something that one has to do in government, but one doesn’t have to do sitting on the outside looking in, where radical theories can sound far better of an option than they tend to be be when actually applied.

I am not pollyannish about the chances for success, but would recommend caution in declaring that the Palestinians have chosen war and that the response from the US and Israel should be as stark as Morrisey suggests. However, one guesses that his position will be echoed by many in the next several days.

h/t: OTB

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A Knight's Blog linked with Hamas Leader Requests Meeting With Abbas - Yahoo! News
protein wisdom linked with Palestinian People to the World: "What can we say? We're some FIESTY sumbitches, ain't we?"
Weapons of Mass Destruction linked with Hamas Rising
It’s Hamas in an Upset
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:19 am

Via Reuters: Hamas wins upset victory in Palestinian election - Yahoo! News

The shock outcome, acknowledged by Fatah ahead of official results, would not automatically unseat President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate elected last year after Yasser Arafat’s death. But he has said he might resign if unable to pursue a peace policy.


“Hamas has won more than 70 seats in Gaza and the West Bank, which gives it more than 50 percent of the vote,” said Ismail Haniyeh, a leader of the group whose charter calls for Israel’s eventual destruction.

The concept of Hamas making a transition to political party was an encouraging one. The idea of Hamas being in a position (as was the indication last night) to be in a coalition government with Fatah was potentially problematic. The idea of Hamas ruling certainly creates a whole new problem set.

Given that the US and the Israelis have stated that the they won’t deal with Hamas unless they renounce violence and recognize Israel, the ball is decidedly in Hamas’ court.

One also has to wonder about what will happen to future funds to the PA from the US…

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Caution on Palestinian Exit Polls
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:58 pm

Matthew Shugart explains why we should take Palestinian exit polls with a grain of salt.

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Election Watch: the Palestinian Authority
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:23 pm

Via the AP: Hamas Doing Better Than Expected in Vote

Hamas fared better than expected in Palestinian elections Wednesday, exit polls showed, raising the prospect that the ruling Fatah Party might be forced to form a coalition with the Islamic militant group that calls for Israel’s destruction. The outcome could put Mideast peacekeeping at risk.


An exit poll by Bir Zeit University in Ramallah showed Fatah winning 63 seats in the 132-member parliament with 46.4 percent of the vote and Hamas taking 58 seats with 39.5 percent. Smaller parties received 11 seats, according to the poll of 8,000 voters in 232 polling stations. The poll had a one-seat margin of error.

A second survey showed Fatah beating Hamas 42 percent to 35 percent, or 58 seats to 53. Official results are due Thursday.

This will create a difficult situation for both Israel and the US, depending on the final role played by Hamas in the new government.

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Fruits and Votes linked with Palestinian exit polls suggest Fatah lead but Hamas advantage
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Palestinian Elections
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:25 pm

The CFR has a linkful article on tomorrow’s Palestinian elections.

Charles Franklin has the polling.

And Matthew Shugart moves from Canada to the Middle East and takes a look as well.

Meanwhile, the CSM discusses: Why Hamas is gaining in Palestinian polls and notes the following:

According to the latest figures from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, based in Ramallah, 42 percent of Palestinians will vote for Fatah, while 35 percent will vote for the Hamas-backed Change and Reform Party.

But it is unclear how Hamas’s popularity will translate into policy. The group, which is responsible for the greatest number of suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians, only recently became involved in municipal, let alone national, governance.

On the one hand, it is easy to be skeptical about anything associated with Hamas, given their involvement with terrorism. On the other, if the group (or even just parts of it) could make a transition form violence to electoral politics, that would be a boon for the people of the region.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Israeli Cabinet and Election News
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:19 am

Via the BBC: Woman appointed Israel’s new FM

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has chosen a woman as his new foreign minister - only the second such appointment in the country’s history.

Tzipi Livni, 47, who is also Israel’s justice minister, replaces Silvan Shalom, who resigned last week.


Only one other woman has ever held the foreign affairs portfolio - Golda Meir, who went on to become prime minister.

So, no pressure!

Livni is amongst the group that shifted to Kadima:

A former Likud MP, Ms Livni, 47, quit the party in December to join Mr Sharon’s new centrist party, Kadima.

Plus, some election-related news:

The Labour party has meanwhile chosen candidates for Israel’s elections, to be held on 28 March.

Labour leader Amir Peretz is guaranteed the number one slot on the list, while former housing minister Isaac Herzog and Ophir Pines-Paz won the second and third spots.

Recent polls suggest Kadima will score a comfortable majority in the elections, with Labour second and Likud trailing third.

Filed under: Middle East, Elections | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Saturday, January 7, 2006
Pat Robertson: Embarrassment
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 11:04 am

Via WaPo: White House Denounces Robertson’s Remarks on Sharon

Speaking on his Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club,” Robertson said yesterday that God was punishing Sharon for dividing the land of Israel.

“Sharon was personally a very likable person, and I am sad to see him in this condition, but I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who ‘divide my land,’ ” Robertson said.

Sharon was “dividing God’s land, and I would say: Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U. [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America,” the 75-year-old Baptist minister said.

Here’s an alternative theory: Sharon is 77-years-old, overweight (to put it mildly), has a high-stress job (to put it mildly) and has had health problems recently.

Robertson is an embarrassment to any who profess Christianity and often a general embarrassment to the United States, when he makes comments like this that, no doubt, get international attention.

The Permanent Guest Blogger commented on this the other day as well.

No surprise that the White House doesn’t want anything to do with the comment.

Filed under: US Politics, Global Politics, Middle East | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
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