Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: January 2024
Thursday, 25 January 2024 19:59

Profiles in corruption: The Cory legacy

Second of a series

THE first part of this series on the riveting Philippine corruption tales portrayed the stark display of naked power by President Noynoy Aquino when their Cojuangco family heirloom, their crown jewel, the Hacienda Luisita, was threatened and sold for a pittance upon the decision of Chief Justice Corona's Supreme Court. But this egregious act was further exacerbated by corrupt senators blatantly selling their votes to impeach Corona. As to the participation of some lawmakers in the pork barrel scam, Art Aguilar, a Harvard colleague, had to remind me that "the Supreme Court ruled the DAP unconstitutional, yet no senator was sanctioned ... no CoA disallowance! Meantime CoA [is] running after govt employees who got peanuts as allowances and separation pay." How true! There is nothing the Filipino can do about this unless President BBM uses the remaining years of his watch to revisit and correct similar anomalies inflicted on the country by all administrations before him. As to Cory Aquino, Ferdinand's nemesis, perhaps BBM's greatest legacy he leaves behind in an attempt to restore his father's image is to put in proper perspective her own.


Upon her assumption to power, President Cory's first act was to promulgate Executive Order 1, creating the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) under the slogan "Nakaw na yaman, ibalik sa bayan," tasked to recover the ill-gotten wealth that the Marcoses, relatives and their cronies in the oligarchy amassed over two decades.

The PCGG was the Cory government's leading-edge instrument, given a free hand to investigate and pursue cases in court, sequestrations, and compromise settlements with the Marcos family, their cronies, and the oligarchs whose assets appear in their names. They were entrusted with negotiating with foreign governments and banks to facilitate the recovery of Marcos assets abroad. And they took over the boards of these sequestered companies, many of which were milked with profligate travel allowances and unliquidated cash advances. These companies have gone bankrupt.

But the recovery process of the ill-gotten wealth was itself marred by anomalies and corruption. President Cory, who was a politician's wife but not one herself, was thoroughly unfamiliar with the arcana of governance and the pragmatism of political compromise, admitting that she was a "mere housewife" and solely concerned with restoring the democracy that was lost during the Marcos regime. Although President Cory was never personally corrupt, her naïveté allowed an environment where corrupt cronies and oligarchs proliferated, manipulated and soiled her saintly image.

She, therefore, relied on the advice of the members of the transitory disinherited elite, the class she was born into, and appointed many of them to sensitive positions in government. More tragically, she depended on the "Kamag-anak Inc." for guidance on how to govern and recover the Marcos loot. It is believed that much of this ill-gotten wealth was siphoned off to these people. She let loose the foxes on the chicken coop.

And there were questionable compromises and directives. Foremost of which is the return of assets of the pre-martial law elite families, resurrecting the old oligarchy. The Lopezes got back Meralco and ABS-CBN, the sale of Philippine Airlines to her nephews, and the return of the PLDT to the Cojuangco relatives. And a festering issue was a reported 38 sequestered companies of Kokoy Romualdez (Imelda's brother) worth billions allegedly sold to President Cory's brother-in-law Ricardo "Baby" Lopa for $250,000, days after Marcos fled the country (Seth Mydans, The New York Times, Oct. 17, 1988). In his defense, Lopa intimated that the Marcos family had seized the companies from him when Ferdinand came to power 20 years earlier. This could be true, but Cory, the paragon of morality, should have acted like Calpurnia, Cesar's wife — above reproach.

CARP, anti-feudal instrument

But the issue that impacted heavily on the populist image of President Cory was her flagship Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that was meant to address our feudal land ownership. Cory was enamored with what South Korea, Taiwan and China did in the 1950s and 1960s to liberate the landless, particularly the farmers and the rural sector, from the shackles of poverty towards the path of economic development. The Philippine version of CARP was likewise fashioned to redistribute agricultural land to farmers and provide them with support services to ensure their productivity and welfare. This necessitated the breaking up of large estates, some of which dated back to the Spanish encomienda and were awarded to a multitude of small farmers, appropriately compensating the landowners.

In the 19th century, Japan's Meiji Restoration redistributed land from feudal lords to small farmers, which led to increased agricultural productivity, rural development, and the growth of a strong agricultural sector and eventual industrialization that even propelled Japan's economy to underpin a war and its "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere."

These successes were in total contrast with the Philippine CARP implementation, which was disfigured by anomalies and corruption, hindering its effectiveness and leading to discontent among farmers. There were unreasonable delays in actual land distribution to the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs), bogged down by bureaucratic red tape and non-cooperation by the landowners themselves. The bureaucracy, government officials, the middlemen and the landowners colluded to manipulate land valuation.

CARP perversions

To hold on to their estates, owners sought exemptions from CARP rushing conversion of huge swaths of these productive agricultural lands to non-agricultural or commercial and residential purposes, precipitating an inordinate spike in real estate development, housing subdivisions and new town centers — displacing thousands of tenants and farmers, driving them to city slums looking for alternative work.

And those ARBs lucky enough to be new owners of plots suffer from a lack of government support services, unable to fully utilize the land they received due to a lack of necessary infrastructure, credit and technical assistance. This resulted in low productivity and limited economic benefits for the beneficiaries and their eventual destitution.

What is unconscionable was the introduction of the stock distribution option (SDO), an alternative to actual land distribution allowing landowners to incorporate their holdings and distribute shares of corporate stocks to agricultural workers instead of transferring actual land ownership to them. This scheme circumvented land redistribution and maintained landowner corporate control over agricultural resources. Farmers were coerced or deceived into accepting the SDO, leading to continued landlessness and exploitation.

In effect, this undermined the core principle of CARP of distributing land to the landless, emancipating them from the shackles of a feudal system that bred more poverty, deprivation and social injustice. SDO perpetuated the dominance of landowners over the agricultural sector.

The effect on the farmers and the body politic was instantaneous, sparking widespread protests and resistance from farmers' organizations and agrarian reform advocates, and the motley allies of Cory hammered out against the martial law regime that inspired the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986.

This anomalous scheme, evasion of CARP on a grand scale exempting her family's Hacienda Luisita, had the full backing of President Cory. The erosion of the dreams and promises of EDSA and the betrayal of the Filipino perhaps started from this point on.

Looking back, Ferdinand and Cory were faces of the same coin, manipulated by the eventual beneficiary — the oligarchy.

Published in LML Polettiques

First of a series

WHILE still fresh in our memories, we review some of the great accounts of corruption in the country. These are cautionary tales for BBM, who is perceived to be taking his administration on a crusade to whitewash his father's deeds. I don't blame the son for undertaking this admirable filial duty. This partly explains why BBM has to constantly travel all over the world, brandishing another face of the Marcoses.

Perhaps he is out to repair Macoy's reputation abroad and reverse the iconic symbols of profligacy during the martial law years, among which is a wretched parody of an image imprinted globally — his mother's 3,000 pairs of shoes. But all these matters do not matter if the son revisits the corruption issues of his predecessors, from Cory to the Deegong, learns from them, and even — my fervent wish — pursues and rectifies these travesties. Even if BBM does nothing in the remaining four years of his presidency but resolves these corruption issues and punishes the miscreants, he will be on his way to becoming a great president.

This column begins a nostalgic but bizarre review of corruption, most of which were investigated and, for a time, caused their perpetrators their 15 minutes of fame and then either quashed, relegated to the back pages, forgotten, or eclipsed by subsequent scandals. The events are not sequenced in chronological order but organized as to their impact on our political culture, defining each post-Ferdinand E. Marcos administration.

PNoy and Corona

A case in point is the Chief Justice Renato Corona affair during President Noynoy Aquino's watch. To refresh our memories, toward the end of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's presidency, she appointed Corona as Supreme Court chief justice upon the retirement of Reynato Puno. This so-called midnight appointment was controversial as it came on May 12, 2010, shortly after President Aquino 3rd's election on May 10. Arroyo installed a close ally purportedly to protect her from possible corruption cases during her administration. President Aquino preferred another ally Maria Lourdes Sereno — who, in fact, was appointed to replace Corona but was later impeached herself during the next administration of President Duterte.

Bribery allegations

The ruling of the Corona-led Supreme Court that President Nonoy Aquino's family Hacienda Luisita (4,916 ha) was to be distributed to 6,000 farmer-beneficiaries and reversed the P5 billion payment to the Cojuangco clan to the original valuation of only P200 million, and making this resolution "final and executory," may have sealed Corona's fate. "It would be the height of irony if the Cojuangco family lost Hacienda Luisita when Noynoy Aquino became president." (Carmen Pedrosa, PDI, April 29, 2018.)

The Senate, acting as an impeachment court, found Corona guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. Based on trumped-up charges, he was removed from office, making him the first chief justice in Philippine history to be impeached and convicted.

But this is not the end of this sordid tale. One of the senator-judges, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed in a curious privilege speech that discretionary funds to the tune of several billions were used to influence the proceedings against Corona, with President Noynoy openly pushing for his conviction. Jinggoy stated, "...after the conviction of the former chief justice, those who voted to convict were allotted an additional P50 million ... I maintain, however ... that I stand by my decision in my vote to convict the former chief justice and assure our people that I was never influenced by this incentive which came after the fact."

No serious investigation was made on the allegations of bribery, for who will investigate the powerful who hold the levers of power, backed by the presidency. There were 20 senators who voted to convict and three to acquit. The three were Joker Arroyo and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, now deceased, and the third was Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

Of the 20 who voted Corona "guilty," eight are still sitting senators — the Cayetano siblings, Alan Peter and Pia; Escudero, Lapid, Legarda, Koko Pimentel, Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada — who spilled the beans on the alleged bribery. The other 12 are Angara (deceased), Drilon, Guingona 3rd, Honasan, Lacson, Osmeña 3rd, Pangilinan, Sotto 3rd, Trillanes 4th, Villar, Enrile and Recto.

DAP/PDAF scams

Three years after the Corona debauchery was practically swept under the rug, another scandal erupted. The scam involving the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), also known as the pork barrel, was a series of corruption scandals involving the misappropriation of government funds intended for development projects.

The main architect of the PDAF scam was a well-connected businesswoman, Janet Lim-Napoles, who set up fake nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to siphon off public funds, which were allocated through the senators and congressmen's PDAF.

Some of the senators involved in the Corona impeachment and bribery fiasco were implicated in the PDAF scam: Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. These honorable gentlemen were accused of channeling their PDAF allocations to Napoles' spurious NGOs in exchange for kickbacks. These three were later arrested, detained, and faced trial on plunder and graft charges.

Enrile was initially detained, but the Sandiganbayan allowed him in 2018 to post bail for humanitarian reasons. Enrile, who will be 100 years old next month, is currently the chief presidential legal counsel in BBM's government.

Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla were both arrested in 2014 and faced trial for plunder and graft charges but were released on bail after three years of detention. The Sandiganbayan acquitted both of the plunder charges but found them guilty of graft while sitting senators. Both were sentenced to a minimum of six years and a maximum of 10 years in prison, and both remain free on bail as they have filed appeals against their conviction.

These three plunder defendants who were up for reelection in 2019 were allowed to run for office as they were not administratively sanctioned by the Office of the Ombudsman, and the judgment of conviction on several graft cases was not final and executory. In the subsequent mid-term elections, Enrile lost, but Estrada and Revilla won and are currently sitting senators of the land.

The same fate has not befallen the other co-accused and those implicated in the scam, including Richard Cambe, the former chief of staff of Revilla; Jessica "Gigi" Reyes, former chief of staff of Enrile; and Janet Lim-Napoles, an ordinary influence peddler albeit a criminal genius but did not have the kind of status accorded the powerful. In July 2023, the Sandiganbayan found her guilty of graft and malversation of public funds in relation to the PDAF scam, sentencing her to a total of 70 years, five months, and 13 days in prison.

These dramatis personae of the two corruption issues, the Corona impeachment bribery case and the PDAF scams, are powerful people gifted by the Filipino electorate to these prestigious positions: exemplars of the nobility of public service. After cursory investigations and some convictions that may go nowhere, they took advantage of the massive publicity surrounding these scandals and parlayed this notoriety to propel them to greater heights in the political firmament. All these transgressions forgotten and perhaps even forgiven.

This, too, is a sad indictment of the Filipino electorate.

Published in LML Polettiques
MANILA – The move to amend the economic side of the constitution is garnering more support than changes on political provisions.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III admitted, too, that "just a minority" of senators are supporting Charter change (Cha-cha).

"Just to be realistic and to be honest, with the feedback, although informal feedback that we have been getting, I believe that the effort to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution has bigger support than the effort to amend the political provisions of the Constitution," Pimentel said in an interview with CNN Philippines on Monday.

Pimentel reiterated he is open to constitutional review and changing the form of government to federalism but proposals should be clear.

"Those who are calling for the amendments must speak in specific terms. Hindi po pwedeng puro general lang (This cannot be just in general)," he said.

He is also aware that the House of Representatives cannot pursue with the charter review without the participation of the Senate.

“It is impossible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Sonny Angara believes a review is needed for the “vintage” 1987 Constitution.

"You know, that's almost 40 years. The world has changed a lot from 1997. I think, economic boundaries have come down. The Speaker (Martin Romualdez), I think, had mentioned about economic provisions being reviewed. So, I think that's something worth reviewing because we need some flexibility in that area also," Angara said in a separate interview with ANC.

Romualdez previously said the House will start studying during the Christmas break how to pursue Cha-cha next year, focused on economic provisions to make it "more attuned, sensitive, and responsive to the times." (PNA) 
Published in News
MANILA – The move to amend the economic side of the constitution is garnering more support than changes on political provisions.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III admitted, too, that "just a minority" of senators are supporting Charter change (Cha-cha).

"Just to be realistic and to be honest, with the feedback, although informal feedback that we have been getting, I believe that the effort to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution has bigger support than the effort to amend the political provisions of the Constitution," Pimentel said in an interview with CNN Philippines on Monday.

Pimentel reiterated he is open to constitutional review and changing the form of government to federalism but proposals should be clear.

"Those who are calling for the amendments must speak in specific terms. Hindi po pwedeng puro general lang (This cannot be just in general)," he said.

He is also aware that the House of Representatives cannot pursue with the charter review without the participation of the Senate.

“It is impossible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator Sonny Angara believes a review is needed for the “vintage” 1987 Constitution.

"You know, that's almost 40 years. The world has changed a lot from 1997. I think, economic boundaries have come down. The Speaker (Martin Romualdez), I think, had mentioned about economic provisions being reviewed. So, I think that's something worth reviewing because we need some flexibility in that area also," Angara said in a separate interview with ANC.

Romualdez previously said the House will start studying during the Christmas break how to pursue Cha-cha next year, focused on economic provisions to make it "more attuned, sensitive, and responsive to the times." (PNA) 
Published in News

AT the start of a new year, people are normally buoyant that things will get better, discarding the practices of the old with new year's resolutions that are soon discarded before the first month is out. My view is contrarian: 2024 is no better than 2023. It could get worse. Then, we shall also discard 2024 and hope for a better 2025. We enjoy deluding ourselves in the looming unknowns to escape the realities of sordid and unbearable knowns.


The world can't do without wars and conflicts. It is the nature of the beast revealed over the millennia fraught with immense human suffering, loss of life and long-lasting traumas. Conversely, they are the engines of growth and, in their aftermath, produce spurts of significant progress, as in the two world wars. Foremost of these are economic growth and industrialization as countries rebuild and modernize their economies. From the ashes of war, Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union rose, and America assumed the role of the first true hegemon of the modern century. America understood only too well the value of war and its aftereffects and thus invested heavily in defense industries and continued to mobilize resources for future war efforts, maintaining its reputation as a warmongering state. Technological advancement surged as dividends of war: radar, laser, nuclear energy, GPS and computers — the lifeblood and arteries of the modern world. And the internet!

The two post-world war periods saw medical advancements and techniques in saving lives: surgery, prosthetics, cloning, the discovery of antibiotics and penicillin, and improved methods for treating infectious diseases and vaccines, which helped 21st-century medicine understand and defeat Covid-19. Paradoxically, it is a double-edged sword as it added years to human lifespans, prolonging lives, wreaking havoc on the world's population, bringing to the fore the scary reality of a 'Malthusian catastrophe' — a disequilibrium between overpopulation against the Earth's capacity to feed itself.

Major wars also resulted in political restructuring and redrawing of national boundaries, with dominant nations gobbling up smaller ones, leading to the birth of new countries, alliances and changes in political systems. For a time, World War 2 resulted in a Cold War with America and the defunct Soviet Union (USSR) on opposite camps, advocating contradictory ideologies — democracy and liberal capitalism on one end and totalitarian-socialist-communism on the other and countless permutations in between — including the dreaded theocracy, government of priests, imams and rabbis deriving its authority from religion and the sanctity of their religious text — the Quran, Torah and the Bible. This convergence has reared its ugly head in the Middle East.

And more wars

However, we deny and close our eyes to the root cause of the Palestine and Middle East conflicts — religion, not a simple misinterpretation thereof but translating its faith-based perversions into political action. These faiths have long shrouded themselves with the cloak of geopolitics, and there seems to be no solution to these conflicts in the near term unless men of goodwill and, more importantly, moral leaders with secular predispositions take control of their governments and champion the human dignity of the adversaries.

But the foreseeable future belies these expectations. As we speak, Hezbollah, the Islamic "party of God" in Iran, is flexing its muscles and may enter the fray, sensing beleaguered Israel as weak and vulnerable even with America's sponsorship. Expect 2024 to witness an escalation with the West Bank and Lebanon in the northeast getting into the act. More killings. More blood.

Ukraine may be in its death throes as the Republicans in America awaiting the presidency of Donald Trump may no longer want to finance Ukraine. And NATO is drained out. With Ukraine abandoned by America, Putin resurrects his image in Eastern Europe, sowing renewed fear in the old Eastern alliance now within NATO's tentacles.

China's playing chicken with its daily jet sorties violating Taiwan's airspace and establishing its de facto nine-dash-line in the South China Seas, challenging the presence of America's formidable 7th fleet in what Xi Jinping considers as China's lake, is a disaster in the making.

All these could flare up anytime, escalating the current wars or even igniting new ones. But short of resulting in nuclear Armageddon, it is nothing comparable to what has been staring us in the face — the big elephant in the room.

Climate change-global warming

For the uninitiated, climate change will spell the end of the human species if not mitigated. The United Nations' definition of climate change: "refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil and gas), which produces heat-trapping gases."

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that the Earth's climate is unequivocally warming. Since the pre-industrial era, the global average temperature increased by 1.1 degrees Celsius. Unless mitigated, it is expected to continue increasing to a tipping point, the threshold beyond which the deterioration becomes irreversible, even if, by that time, the factors causing this temperature increase are eliminated.

Scientists disagree on the exact tipping point. But this is irrelevant, academic and stupid. The imperatives are putting in effect the Paris Agreement protocols to veer away from the tipping point. This international treaty on climate change adopted in 2015 covers climate mitigation, adaptation, and finance. Agreed to by almost 200 countries, its basic aim is "to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

The overall strategy is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the key stipulations include shifting away from fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy (solar, wind); promoting energy-efficient practices, technologies and infrastructures reducing energy consumption; and using electric vehicles and improving public transportation.

Protect and conserve existing forests, undertaking large-scale reforestation, effectively capturing and storing carbon dioxide to offset emissions. Implement sustainable farming practices, reducing deforestation for agriculture and encouraging regenerative land management techniques. And to incentivize businesses, particularly in the developed world, to implement policies like carbon pricing and cap-and-trade systems.

Where we are at

Now, the reality is that the Paris Agreement requires monitoring and reporting of carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, but it does not have the ability to force a country to reduce emissions. The law-making system of each country has preponderance over the decisions made according to the Paris Agreement. Even peer pressure and soft power are lame instruments for coercive sanctions.

The biggest transgressors currently responsible for the most emissions are the world's two biggest economies, China and America. In June 2017, President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement. And China abandons its commitments.

Planet Earth is currently not on track to stay below the goals of the Paris Agreement. And scientists with tongue-in-cheek declare that we are on track to the sixth mass extinction in the Earth's geological history.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 03 January 2024 09:16

An agonizing start for 2024

THE Abrahamic religions have different perspectives and treatment of Christmas. For Christians, a big thing as they commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. It was first celebrated circa the 4th century on December 25, the date of his birth traditionally attributed to Pope Julius 1st. The Eastern Orthodox using the Julian calendar for their liturgical year celebrates January 7, corresponding later to the Gregorian calendar.

Judaism does not celebrate Christmas although coinciding with the season is Hanukkah, a minor festival that reaffirms their faith commemorating the re-dedication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. This is an eight-day festival celebrated from December 7 to 15 by lighting candles for each day of the festival.

Islam does not recognize Christmas, as Isa is just a minor prophet not central to their faith. But Islam and Judaism respect the Christians for this festive season and oftentimes participate in non-religious events — parties and gift-giving.

But during this season of festivities, toward the end of the old year, it is traditional and conventional for civilized people to wish everyone "a prosperous incoming year," however untraditional and uncivilized the world behaved the past year and will continue to conduct itself in the coming months.

Blood will continue to flow

The Ukraine-Russian war has now gone 678 days. UN statistics reveal that in this war, Russian fatalities have reached approximately 120,000-360,000, and 30,000-70,000 Ukraine military personnel. Add to this is approximately 10,000 civilians killed.

CNN reports that to date, "...87 percent of the total number of active-duty ground troops Russia had prior to launching its invasion of Ukraine has been lost, 315,000 battlefield fatalities of the original 360,000; and two-thirds of its pre-invasion tanks, a source familiar with a declassified US intelligence assessment provided to Congress told CNN." (Katie Bo Lillis, CNN, Dec. 13, 2023)

The first few months of 2022 was a disaster for Russia. But the much hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive, egged on by US/NATO, faltered through the fall, and Ukraine is not expected to make any major sorties over the coming months — bringing the war to the current stalemate.

And the statistics now tell a different story and project a different conclusion. Ukraine will lose! Russia has a population of 145 million against Ukraine's 40 million. Some 300,000 Russians were mobilized in 2022, raising another 425,000 in 2023. Although well-trained and better-equipped, Ukraine can't match the Russians on battlefield loss replacement. And Russia's frontline soldiers have began to learn to fight.

Aside from the advantage of manpower, Russia has the industrial base to support a war of attrition — which currently is turning into one. This has allowed Russia to produce huge amounts of armaments for a conventional warfare — tanks, aircraft, helicopters and, more importantly, artillery tubes and shells.

Ukraine doesn't have the industrial base needed to underpin a war of attrition. Ukraine depends on NATO, particularly the US. And these countries, whose blood aren't spilled in this war, are tired and drained out. Ukraine President Zelenskyy recently traveled to Washington begging for aid. But Republicans have been less than enthusiastic in putting good money after bad. Without the military and economic aid vital to Ukraine's ability to fight, it's a cooked goose.

Russia understood this only too well. After the failed Ukraine counteroffensive, a deadlock will exhaust a US/NATO resolved to pursue this war. The current status is that Russia controls roughly 20 percent of Ukraine with its hold on the southwestern Oblasts of the Donbass region. It may annex another four Oblasts before a ceasefire is declared.

A ceasefire will have to be declared, but this will merely be like the frozen conflict similar to the 38th parallel armistice in the Korean peninsula. Russia, the victor, need not occupy the whole of Ukraine but will reduce this into a crippled dysfunctional state, keeping its economy wrecked until a friendly government is installed.

And America, its main sponsor, will be mired in the Ukraine muck.

Israel-Hamas war

This conflict has gone on for 88 days and counting. Like in Ukraine, America, Israel's main sponsor, will sink deeper in the mud. America, which is joined at the hip with Israel, can't extricate herself. It's the tail wagging the dog. The two-state solution fashioned to enable the protagonists, the Jews and the Palestinians, to live side by side is now dead. What Israel is gunning for is the creation of a Greater Israel, which includes Gaza plus the Golan Heights seized from Syria, the Jordanian West Bank plus East Jerusalem, all annexed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The problem with this Greater Israel scenario is that Gaza, the largest open-air prison in Palestine, with 2.1 million population, 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank, and 2.2 million within Israel itself roughly equal Israel's 7.3 million Jewish population. With the birth rate and demographic trends favoring the Palestinians, Israel would very well soon cease to be a Jewish state. What will in fact exist is an apartheid state.

And apartheid Greater Israel is a formula for disaster. A hotbed for a series of uprisings similar to the first Intifada of December 1987-September 1993 that ended with signing of the first Oslo Accords. And the second Intifada that began in September 2000 to late 2005.

Israel is also facing an internal political reality that may exacerbate the conflict. The political center of gravity in Israel has moved far to the right with the Ultra-Orthodox demographics giving them much more influence in the coming years. The ultra-right which rejected Zionism, some of whom don't recognize the State of Israel itself don't serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The right and the Zionists originally intensified expropriation and settlement of occupied territories, expelling the Palestinians, and were the causes of the intifadas and conflicts. They have rejected and will continue to reject the two-state solution. (Excerpts from John Mearsheimer's Israel-Hamas ... presentation to the Center for Independent Study, Brisbane, Australia, CIS, Oct 30,2023.)

In an article, Husam Zomlot, Palestinian ambassador to the UK (Guardian, Dec. 9, 2023), minced no words accusing Israel of carrying out mass murder in Gaza while the world is watching this Christmas. He wrote:

"Today, as the world watches Israel's mass murder in Gaza, the wholesale destruction of entire areas, towns and cities, the mass displacement of nearly 2 million people, the global rules-based order has never looked more impotent or imperiled. In less than two months, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza has, according to Save the Children, killed more children than the number of children killed in global conflict zones every year since 2019..."

Wikipedia (Dec. 22, 2023) shows 22,000 people killed and 55,000 wounded, including 68 journalists, on both sides and 135 UNRWA aid workers. The Gaza health ministry reports 21,411 Palestinians (including 6,150-8,000 children) have been killed, 36,000 injured, and 7,000 missing, totaling over 58,000 casualties since the war began. An Israeli official said that about 5,000 militants had been killed by the beginning of December 2023.

On the other hand, Hamas killed 1,200 people in the October 7 attack on Israel and taken 240 hostages. Whatever the statistic say, blood still flows!

A prosperous new year, indeed!
Published in LML Polettiques