Israel's back-room deal strengthens an authoritarian trend

Jonathan Cook

Israeli ID card with emblems of Kach and Nazi party superimposed

Mr Netanyahu has created a national unity government that more precisely reflects the majority mood: an unalloyed, aggressive and xenophobic rightwing consensus.

Israelis barely had time to absorb the news that they were heading into a summer election when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday pulled the rug from underneath the charade. Rancourous early electioneering had provided cover for a secret agreement between Mr Netanyahu and the main opposition party, Kadima, to form a new, expanded coalition government.

Rather than facing the electorate in September, Mr Netanyahu is expected to comfortably see out the remaining 18 months of his term of office. Not only that, but he will now have the backing of more than three quarters of the 120-seat Israeli parliament, leading one commentator to crown him yesterday the "king of Israel".

The announcement may have taken Israelis by surprise, but it fully accorded with the logic of an increasingly dysfunctional Israeli political culture.

Predatory Capitalism Failed

Stephen Lendman

Independent observers knew it long ago. Today's global economic crisis provides added confirmation. In 2008, a staunch champion of the system expressed second thoughts. More on him below.

An ideology based on inequality, injustice, exploitation, militarism, and imperial wars eventually self-destructs or gets pushed.

Growing evidence in America and Europe show systemic unaddressed problems too grave to ignore. They remain so despite millions without jobs, savings, homes or futures.

Imagine nations governed by leaders letting crisis conditions fester. Imagine voters reelecting them despite demanding change. OWS aside, one day perhaps rage will replace apathy in America. The latest jobs report alone provides incentive enough to try and then some.

On May 4, the Labor Department reported 115,000 new jobs. It way overstated the true number. Official figures belie the dire state of things. At most, two-thirds the headline total were created. Even that's in doubt.

Most were low-pay, part-time, or temp positions with few or no benefits. Decades ago, workers would have avoided them. Today, there's no choice.

The report also showed economic decline. Expect much worse ahead. In 2008, Main Street Americans experienced Depression. It rages today. Poverty's at record levels. Real unemployment approaches 1930s numbers. Dire conditions are worsening.

Announced job cuts are increasing. Hiring plans are down. Compared to year ago levels, they're off 80%. Income is stagnant for those lucky to have work. The private diffusion index measuring growth fell sharply month-over-month.

The unemployment rate decline reflects discouraged workers dropping out. They want jobs but can't find them. The Labor Department considers them non-persons. They're not counted to make official figures look better.

Incoming French president signals budget cuts, handouts to banks

Kumaran Ira & Alex Lantier

After winning the French presidential election on Sunday, the Socialist Party’s (PS) François Hollande is already positioning himself to drop his limited election promises on social spending and attack the working class with deep budget cuts.

Hollande’s victory reflected a broad popular rejection of incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy’s austerity policies and his unpopular imperialist wars. However, any hopes for change from the incoming government will be rapidly disappointed by Hollande, who is moving to carry out reactionary policies. During his campaign, Hollande vowed to slash over €100 billion in deficit spending to have a balanced budget by 2017, while making a few proposals for social measures, like increasing school subsidies and hiring more teachers.

On Tuesday, Hollande’s campaign team told Reuters that Hollande’s advisers are pressing him to use a report from France’s leading audit body, the Cour des comptes, to justify ditching his limited campaign promises and intensify social cuts.

The report is due to be released after the June 10-17 legislative election. This would allow the PS to conceal its agenda of social austerity from the voters, while it seeks to put together a government, then rapidly move on with cuts after it has assembled a parliamentary majority and formed a cabinet on the basis of deceitful promises.

What Does the Taliban Attack on Kabul Portend?

Najmuddin A. Shaikh

Afghan security officials survey the damage of Tuesday's attacks
in Kabul, claimed by the Taliban.

The “spectacular” Taliban attack on numerous venues in Kabul and in three provinces seen in conjunction with the suspension of talks between the Americans and the Taliban in Qatar and the vehement Taliban rejection of talks with the Afghan government has reinforced the apprehensions of the Afghan people that peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a distant dream and exacerbates fears that the completion of the foreign troop withdrawal will not only bring economic hardship but chaotic security and political conditions. These apprehensions and fears are justified but, in my view, they should not have been accentuated by the Taliban attack.

When one examines the details of the Taliban attack what emerges is that the Taliban occupied buildings in the most closely guarded part of Kabul for more than 18 hours but did little material damage. On the government side the loss of life was limited to 8 members of the Afghan Security Forces and some 4 civilians. 36 Taliban, on the other hand lost their lives. The Taliban spokesman could term these admittedly well-coordinated attacks as a “remarkable achievement” but the government and NATO could even more validly claim that the response of the Afghan forces showed that they had acquired the professionalism to handle such attacks and defeat them with minimum loss of life. By and large this assertion could be accepted even though it is clear that the Afghan forces needed to rely on NATO helicopters and their weaponry to finally dislodge the insurgents from their vantage points.

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