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North Korea

Did Donald Send Dennis? A Reality Check In Pyongyang

Kim Jong-un in April 2017
Kim Jong-un in April 2017
Stuart Richardson

Basketball star-cum-celebrity apprentice-cum-cultural envoy Dennis Rodman is in North Korea for yet another rendezvous with his "lifelong friend" Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of the hermit kingdom. When Rodman last visited Pyongyang in 2013, he blasted then President Barack Obama for nurturing hostile relations between the U.S. and the pariah state. But now, under Donald Trump's watch, the flamboyant celebrity's travel plans take on a whole other dimension.

Indeed, Trump is also a friend of Rodman's, and both have brought a similar Reality TV flare to the serious business of international politics. As Rodman prepared for his expedition Monday, President Trump was busy turning his Cabinet meeting into a strange episode of how-much-I-love-my-boss. One-by-one, in front of the television cameras, Trump's cabinet secretaries showered him in stilted praise reminiscent of contestants' eleventh-hour flattery when he hosted the Celebrity Apprentice. Or, perhaps, a Kim Jong-un appearance before the Central Committee?

Trump and Rodman in 2009 — Photo: Open Sports

By now, what was once disregarded as a television star's antics has been fully assimilated into the political playbook. The American president has vowed to chart new ground in international relations with the same off-the-cuff brio, promising to solve in a snap such intractable problems as Middle East peace, global terrorism and, yes, the stand-off with North Korea.

Rodman, 56, headed to Pyongyang with four Americans sitting in North Korean prisons, including Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old University of Virginia student whom the People's Republic accused of "hostile acts' in early 2016 in a case that made headlines. UPDATE: Warmier's parents told CNN on Tuesday that he had been released. Some wonder if President Trump has sent Rodman to negotiate the release of Warmbier and his compatriots. After all, Christian missionary Kenneth Bae credited the former NBA star with a role in his 2014 liberation.

No doubt, any successful prisoner release orchestrated by Rodman would be a PR coup for the President. But what if Trump has even bigger plans for the trip? The President has already tossed out decades of standing US policy toward Pyongyang, saying he was ready to meet directly with Kim Jong-un to try to diffuse the threat of North Korea's nuclear program. Can a thoroughly tattooed and much-pierced basketball star be the man to set up that encounter? Sounds like the stuff of Reality TV.

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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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