The two-state solution is the new mantra

Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator

In the immediate aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attack on Israeli soldiers and civilians, the US President Joe Biden, and all the American allies repeated the same mantra on cue: ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’.  Much later, the UN human rights expert pointed out that in this instance Israel does not enjoy that right, as the territory they are attacking is a territory they control and are responsible for.

As the millions of people across the globe took to the streets in support of the Palestinian cause of freedom, an end of occupation, and protesting the Israeli attacks on Gaza against unarmed civilians, the western leaders had to stop and re-think their old attitudes, which were proving to be far out of step with the world of today, especially the younger global population which demand justice.  Due to social media, people can see videos and commentary from the scene.  Western media is not inside Gaza and they report from safe distance locations in Israel; however, Arab media reporting in English from the ground in Gaza have brought the conflict close to people on the internet.

The European protests were huge and well organized.  London had 350,000 people in the streets, even though the Home Secretary had called them ‘Hate Marchers’ and was fired for her contempt. Europe is closer to Gaza than the US, and while the US has been traditionally kept captive of the Israeli lobby, AIPAC, the European public has been supportive of the Palestinian quest for freedom.  Many Europeans feel that the European Union has been blindly following US foreign policies which have proved disastrous in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. 

The US State Department employees, under Secretary of State Antony Blinken, called out the war crimes and violations of international law by the Israeli government.  The staff are career professionals and diplomates who voiced concern at US double-standards by the Biden administration, which puts a hold on weapons transfers from US to any country which will likely use the weapons in human right violations. Instead of holding up weapons to Israel, they were fast-tracked immediately even though it was clear they were committing war crimes, human rights violations, and clearly operating against international laws.  Josh Paul resigned from the State Department in an act of conscience.

At the White House, the staff have become younger and more diverse than in past generations.  These professionals complained to Biden about what Israel was doing in Gaza.  Biden and Blinken had to re-think their position of blind approval of Israeli military actions. 

Biden and Blinken started peppering their statements about Gaza with references to the decades old UN resolution for a two-state solution. As the moments progressed, we then heard the same phrases repeated by western leaders aligned with the US.  We heard the Arab leaders echo the call for the two-state solution, and China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa as well.

Experts are pointing to a generational change, or revolution in the minds of people who believe there is an alternative to occupation, and there should be no alternative to freedom and autonomy for the Palestinian people who have suffered since 1948 under a brutal military occupation of the West Bank, and Gaza the largest open-air prison on earth.

The Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the most extremist and racist is Israeli history.  Some of the officials have called the Palestinians ‘animals’, others have called for mass deportations to ethnically cleanse the land, and some have claimed Jews are a superior race. 

Israel likes to claim they are the only democratic country in the Middle East, but their policies against the Palestinians are undemocratic.  Americans who are aged 70 and 80 might be content to hang on to outdated notions, but the younger Americans are questioning how can Israel be considered to share American values, while having a two-tiered justice system which the UN has deemed to be an Apartheid state.

Biden has sent a request to the Senate on October 20 to remove all restrictions on US weapons stockpiled in Israel itself.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN on Sunday he was open to placing conditions on any aid to Israel, with the aim of reducing civilian casualties in Gaza.

“We regularly condition our aid to allies based upon compliance with US law and international law. And, so, I think it’s very consistent with the ways in which we have dispensed aid, especially during wartime, to allies, for us to talk about making sure that the aid we give Ukraine or the aid we give Israel is used in accordance with human rights laws,” Murphy said. 

Murphy said, “Benjamin Netanyahu believed that you could ignore the Palestinians, that you could try to squash their desires for a state and, ultimately, that would bring peace to the region into Israel. That’s just not the case.” He went on to call for a Palestinian state as the only way to long-term peace.

Senator Bernie Sanders listed out demands for the Israeli government in order to receive US aid.  Demanding “an end to the indiscriminate bombing,” a “right of displaced Gazans to return to their homes,” “a freeze on settlement expansion” in the West Bank and no long-term occupation of Gaza by Israeli forces, as well as a commitment to engage in peace talks “for a two-state solution in the wake of the war.”

The road towards a final solution to the Palestinian suffering will likely be long, but it looks like some road signs are being placed along the way pointing to a beginning of the journey.  No one knows how many miles it will take, and what detours and roadblocks may spring up along the path, but the two-state solution is the plan.  The only thing certain, is that this huge effort at peace in the Middle East will need the leadership and support of the White House and US Congress.  With the 2024 election less than one year away, it will need the Biden administration, and any future President’s full support across all party lines.  Peace in the Middle East will have to be an American project with global coordination.

Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist


Türkiye demanding F-16s for NATO expansion – Sweden

Stockholm has done everything it could to get Ankara’s consent, the FM told journalists

Türkiye’s ratification of Sweden’s accession to NATO depends on the US and its willingness to supply fighter jets to the nation, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told journalists at the alliance headquarters in Brussels ahead of a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan.

It follows reports earlier this month that Ankara had allegedly informed NATO members that Sweden wouldn’t join at this week’s meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in the Belgian capital. 

Ankara wants to beef up its fleet of F-16 jets with new aircraft and upgrade kits for existing planes. The US, which previously kicked Türkiye out of its F-35 program for buying Russian weapons, wants to tie the deal with deliveries of F-35s to Greece.

Sweden’s membership in NATO has become “hostage” to Washington’s policies and maneuvers between the two rival members of the bloc, Billstrom said, as cited by Dagens Nyheter daily.

“We have fulfilled our commitments and we expect the Turkish parliament to complete the ratification process, just as we agreed in Vilnius,” the minister said, referring to the NATO summit Lithuania hosted in July. During the gathering, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backed Sweden’s candidacy.

Read more

Member state sabotages new NATO expansion drive – Reuters

The agreement was reportedly facilitated by US President Joe Biden’s promise to overcome resistance to F-16 sales in Congress, which he intends to do by bundling F-35 deliveries for Greece with the deal.

“I’m trying to, quite frankly, put together a little bit of a consortium here where we’re strengthening NATO in terms of the military capacity of both Greece as well as Türkiye, and allow Sweden to come in,” he told CNN at the time.

Senator Robert Menendez, a vocal opponent of selling advanced weapons to Ankara, stepped down from his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs committee in September, after being charged with corruption. 

Erdogan submitted the treaty on Sweden’s accession to the Turkish parliament in late October. 

However, last week, Reuters reported that Ankara had notified NATO members that it wouldn’t be able to officially ratify Sweden’s bid in time for a meeting of foreign ministers that is taking place in Brussels between November 29 and 28. A formal accession ceremony was allegedly expected at the event.

READ MORE: Time to come clean on Israel’s nuclear status – Türkiye

Türkiye’s ouster from the F-35 program happened in 2019 in retaliation for its purchase of Russian S-400 long-range air defense systems. US officials claimed that supplying the jets to Ankara would expose its secrets to potential Russian snooping.

European Central Bank says AI creating, not killing jobs

The adoption of AI is correlated with reduction in wages, according to newly published research

The widespread adoption of artificial intelligence and related technologies has led to an increase in human jobs, but a decrease in wages, according to a research bulletin published by the European Central Bank on Tuesday.

Titled “Reports of AI ending human labour may be greatly exaggerated,” the paper purports to counter fears of AI decimating the labor market with data from 16 European countries taken between 2011 and 2019. 

During the deep learning boom of the 2010s, occupations potentially more exposed to AI-enabled technologies actually increased their employment share in Europe,” the paper states, acknowledging that “the jury is still out” on whether that pattern will hold true in the future. 

Read more

ECB tries to spin silver lining in Eurozone slowdown

The employment share of economic sectors most exposed to AI increased, according to the ECB’s research, with high-skilled positions – and especially those held by younger workers – seeing the biggest boost. AI exposure was twice as likely to benefit workers in the youngest third of the population, the research showed.

However, at least one study cited in the paper showed that individual employers within those AI-exposed sectors reduced hiring for non-AI-related positions – and hiring in general. The effect on low- and medium-skilled jobs was less pronounced, with no indication that software was replacing routine-heavy positions, though earlier studies mentioned by the writers suggested many of these jobs may have been lost in previous years to less advanced forms of automation.

While two of the three studies examined in the paper showed no meaningful relationship between AI exposure and wages, the third found “neutral to slightly negative impacts” on human earnings, revealing that occupations most exposed to AI showed worse wage growth than those insulated from the technology. 

The writers acknowledge that the degree of labor market disruption by AI varied significantly between countries, with some – the paper does not name which – affected adversely by AI-enabled automation, in contrast with the larger trend. 

The ongoing and unpredictable development and adoption of AI and related technologies means “most of their impact on employment and wages – and therefore on growth and equality – has yet to be seen,” the researchers wrote.

The ECB has its own reasons for projecting a rosy future for AI, having announced in a September blog post that it would explore the use of the technology in economic modeling and data crunching, informing everything from routine economic analyses to critical decision-making processes.

The bank’s chief services officer Myriam Moufakkir pledged at the time to “accelerate” the adoption of AI across all applications to keep the ECB “modern and innovative” while safeguarding the privacy and other legal rights of all involved entities.