Archive for November, 2016

November 16, 2016

What about Israel and Saudi Arabia?

This story made me curious about what exactly is going on between Israel and Saudi Arabia. In 2015, the Economist called them “the new Frenemies.” What can we tell from the google?

Better (friendlier) Saudi media coverage of Israel, according to jpost: “Saudi state-run media appears to be softening its reporting on Israel, running unprecedented columns floating the prospect of direct relations, quoting Israeli officials and filling its newsholes with fewer negative stories on Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.” (or here, here, here) Or, Saudi Arabia “remained notably quiet during Israel’s bombing campaign against the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip” in 2014. In 2014, “former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal published an op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.”

Meetings between Saudi and Israeli officials:  Anwar Eshki, a retired Saudi major general, and Dore Gold, a former senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official. They began secret contacts in 2014 and went public in 2015. Eshki visited Israel and met with Gold at a hotel, not the Foreign Ministry. (The Saudi government denied Eshki was an official emissary.) On May 5, 2016, “former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki bin Faisal and retired Israeli Major General Yaakov Amidror spoke together at a Washington event hosted by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.”

Diplomatic formalities. After Egypt gave (returned) two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia in April 2016, the “Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed that Riyadh had given Israeli policymakers written assurances of the continued safety of the Straits of Tiran.” (and here)

They have economic ties: “Saudi Arabia has developed clandestine business deals with Israeli companies in recent years, even though Riyadh officially maintains a stringent boycott on Israeli goods. To circumvent the trade boycott, Israeli goods have been shipped to Saudi Arabia under the purview of foreign companies. This circumvention has allowed Israeli IT products and irrigation technology to enter Saudi markets.” And seltzer.

And military arms or cooperation?

  1. Rumors that Israel offered Saudi Arabia the Iron Dome missile system have been denied.The alleged idea was to help Saudi defend itself against rockets from Yemen.
  2. In 2013, Britain’s Sunday Times reported cooperation on a possible military attack on Iran (in Ha’aretz’s words): “According to the diplomatic source quoted by the Times, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israel use its air space, and assist an Israeli attack by cooperating on the use of drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes.”
  3. In 2016, Amos Yadlin, head of military intelligence 2006-2010, suggested cooperation “is done below the screen.” Reports of “an uptick in backdoor dealings.” Intelligence cooperation regarding Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah seems likely.

Aside: in Nov, 2015, Israel opened a diplomatic mission in the United Arab Emirates.

Do you have more useful links on Israel and Saudi Arabia? Let us know.

November 11, 2016

20 Reasons Trump Beat Clinton

This election was super-close. Trump didn’t win key states by much. I say that because that means that if you change many different factors, each one might have changed the outcome. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  1. Trump’s slogan was clearer (Make America Great Again) and it was easy to see how he tied it to policy change on trade and migration. I don’t think #StrongerTogether has the same umph or link to policy.
  2. Clinton is a woman. Some people who might support a generic Democratic candidate won’t support a female one. Gender.
  3. Trump claimed the change mantle. He was a true outsider, never been in government, never worked in DC, never given a thought, as far as I can tell, to the collective good. Contra the Clinton speeches to Wall Street argument and emphasis on all her experience in government.
  4. Hard for a party to win a third straight term. (thus h/t George H.W. Bush. h/t FDR.)
  5. GOP voter suppression. For example, one report suggested 300K voters were turned away in Wisconsin due to Wisconsin’s voter ID law. If people with ID problems skew lower class, Clinton likely lost many more votes there. Also, see North Carolina.
  6. Trump went for major non-transparency and pulled it off. Broke the bipartisan norm and refused to release his tax returns, I assume because they would show he cheated, he wasn’t worth as much as he claimed, he gave little or nothing to charity, and/or he had investments in Russia. Similarly, his talk of how as president, he would create a “Blind Trust” for his businesses. His refusal to be transparent cost him less politically than what the information would have showed.
  7. Was Tim Kaine a good VP pick? What did an old-ish eastern, white guy add to the ticket? (OK, maybe a VA victory)
  8. Enough people had pro-Trump/anti-Clinton motivation and were willing to overlook a) non-stop lying by Trump b) his anti-women views 3) his bigotry. Some of his macho stance and bullying probably appealed to some voters: he’s tough; he wins; he puts people in their place.
  9. Clinton has been in the national spotlight for 25 years. That is unprecedented for a presidential candidate. It gives your opponents decades to slime you. And if they keep throwing slime, even if all most of it is false, you look slimed. And people believe the next slime because they remember the last one even if the last one was total BS.
  10. Clinton’s alleged email problem. The substance was a big nothing-burger. But the obsession with it, including by the media to the detriment of policy coverage, was amazing and reinforced. (It was par for the course for DC – see Colin Powell as Secretary of State, see 22 mn missing emails from GW Bush administration. But you cannot argue everyone else did it or even they did it more. See #3 above) Politico had a great story on how it actually happened and what that tells us about the US government (and what starving the govt of funding does to its IT resources).
  11. Comey’s late intervention. His last-minute statement, one report suggested, led to a 3-point Clinton drop in the polls.
  12. Unprecedented foreign meddling in a US election. R-u-s-s-i-a. Wikileaks. We may learn more about Russia as time passes.
  13. The Democrats have a great story about helping those bypassed by globalization and the information economy. Helping people get health care (ACA). Pro-education. Providing a cushion in tough times. Obama’s call for massive infrastructure investments (blocked by GOP). I didn’t hear Clinton tell that story. Honestly, maybe she did on the stump, and I missed it.
  14. Trump’s bigotry. Clearly the white nationalists, the KKK, the alt-right (I detest that term) were emboldened by his candidacy. He tapped into cultural anxiety which is a polite way of saying displeasure at equal rights for all regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, and the like.
  15. Clinton was not a great candidate. I hear that. I think it relates to other things I have mentioned, her being a female wonk with a lot of baggage. Not as charismatic an orator.
  16. Campaign choices. See #13. Also, should she have been more about here’s what I am going to do and less here is why Trump is unfit? Did she campaign in the states that needed her presence most? Or, did she appeal enough to the left and Bernie voters? OR, were GOTV allocations spread to the right states?
  17. Trump got free media. A ton. He is great at hogging the spotlight.
  18. The national GOP (e.g. Ryan, McConnell) mostly decided to embrace and support a candidate they knew was unfit to be president. Had they broken with Trump, some GOP voters would have followed.
  19. Trumpism is built on years of national GOP rhetoric and polices. The national GOP paved the way.
  20. The electoral college. She may win by as many as 2 million votes and still lose. She won over more people than he did.

What would you add?