The new socialist president will steer France away from his predecessor’s hardline policies, writes Muhammad Sahimi for PBS.
Assembling a coalition with communists and smaller center-left parties, Hollande campaigned on a platform of 60 points, only four of which were devoted to foreign policy. It is unlikely, under his administration, that France will pursue military adventures in the Middle East or be dragged into one by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, who have repeatedly threatened to launch a preemptive strike against the Islamic Republic. Hollande has indicated that he will pull France’s 3,600 military personnel from Afghanistan a year earlier than Sarkozy promised and that he is interested in more normal relations between the European Union and Iran; at the same time, he has pledged to be tough with those Middle Eastern nations who violate the rights of their citizens.
Party leader Shelly Yachimovich has breathed new life into Labor, but her stance on key issues is still unclear, writes Emanuel Shahaf in the Times of Israel.
[H]er reluctance to make any statements of consequence regarding controversial but critical topics — Israel’s continued control over the territories, relations with the Arab minority, and growing apprehension over the erosion of the status quo vis-à-vis the religious establishment, to name a few — leave many Labor supporters wondering where she is headed.
Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine does not believe that early Israeli elections automatically mean Netanyahu is planning a fall attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The only reason the West has stepped up its previously weak sanctions on Iran that led to the current lackluster negotiations is that they believed Israel would act unless they started behaving as if they cared about the problem. As most informed observers have noted, the chances of the talks achieving anything that would actually lessen the danger are slim. But if the Iranians as well as Obama and his partners think Israel will strike in the fall that could put tremendous pressure on both sides to do more than diplomatic game playing.
Isabel Kershner of the New York Times looks at the crackdown on Palestinian journalists who speak out against the ruling classes.
As Palestinian journalists and activists, imbued with the spirit of the Arab Spring, become more daring and enamored with the possibilities of new media and social networking sites, the primary instinct of some in the Palestinian Authority has been to crack down. Palestinian society, mostly conservative, has traditionally been served by a staid and obedient news media. But the communications revolution has shaken things up.