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SPOTLIGHT: ISRAEL-PALESTINE TALKS IN PARIS, A "USELESS CONFERENCE"?

The headlines in France on the new Mideast conference are hardly inspiring. "The French initiative will fail," declared right-leaning daily Le Figaro. Newsmagazine Le Point was more succinct: "A useless conference," it noted.


As is often the case with Israel-Palestine peace talks, expectations are low at the international conference that is starting today in Paris. Israeli foreign minister Dore Gold roundly rejected it even before it started. The gathering will include representatives from 28 Arab and Western countries and organizations but the most important stakeholders will be missing: Israel and Palestine will not participate in the talks. "We don't want to act in the place of the Israelis and Palestinians but we want to help them," French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France Info radio station this morning, underscoring that direct talks between the two do not work.


The conference will aim to be pragmatic and use a new, original approach that draws on lessons from previous failures, including that of the U.S.-led peace talks in 2014, when negotiations collapsed after an agreement deadline expired. It's important to remember that this conference is only a first step and would hopefully prepare the ground for direct negotiations in the fall of 2016.


In recent years, the Israel-Palestine situation has taken a backseat to other conflicts unfolding in the Middle East. Today's Paris talks are an attempt to bring it back into the spotlight. "We're not going to reinvent the wheel," French newspaper Le Monde quotes a negotiator as saying in Paris. But maybe it'll get the machine going — once again.

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Geopolitics

AMLO Power Grab: Mexico's Electoral Reform Would Make Machiavelli Proud

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO, says his plans to reform the electoral system are a way to save taxpayer money. A closer look tells a different story.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico votes

Luis Rubio

OpEd-

MEXICO CITY — For supporters of Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) the goal is clear: to keep power beyond the 2024 general election, at any price. Finally, the engineers of the much-touted Fourth Transformation, ALMO's 2018 campaign promise to do away with the privileged abuses that have plagued Mexican politics for decades, are showing their colors.

Current electoral laws date back to the 1990s, when unending electoral disputes were a constant of every voting round and impeded effective governance in numerous states and districts. The National Electoral Institute (INE) and its predecessor, the IFE, were created to solve once and for all those endemic disputes.

Their promoters hoped Mexico could expect a more honest future, with the electoral question resolved. The 2006 presidential elections, which included AMLO as a recalcitrant loser, showed this was hoping for too much. That election is also, remotely, at the source of the president's new electoral initiative.

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