Geopolitics

Is Israel Using Brazil To Test Waters Of A One-State Solution?

A showdown over Israel's choice for ambassador to Brazil, pro-settlements leader Dani Dayan, shows the Netanyahu government may be set to abandon the two-state solution that has promised Palestinians a homeland.

A 2014 pro-Israel protest in Sao Paulo
A 2014 pro-Israel protest in Sao Paulo
Clóvis Rossi

-Analysis-


SAO PAULO â€" A diplomatic battle is brewing in the corridors of power from Jerusalem to Brasilia.

After Israel nominated Dani Dayan to be its new chief diplomatic representative in Brazil, opposition to the appointment has grown in the Latin American state. Dayan is the former head of the Yesha Council, which represents the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Still, the showdown over his nomination is about more than just the job, and it reaches far beyond Brazil.

The activists trying to convince Brazil to reject Dayan's nomination see this is an Israeli attempt to sell the world on the idea of a single, binational state, for both Jews and Palestinians. This would be a direct challenge to the widespread international consensus that says there must be two states: Israel, and a state for the Palestinians. The so-called "two-state solution" is a demand that Dayan has fiercely and publicly opposed.

"Yes, I see Dayan's nomination as a sort of test to put that idea forward, the idea of a binational state instead of two states,” says Mossi Raz, a former Knesset member of the leftist Meretz party and head of the Peace NGO Forum, an Israeli-Palestinian umbrella group.

It could of course be just another conspiracy theory, like the many that emerge every day about that part of the world. But this one has a certain logic. Why indeed would Israel suggest a former settlement leader when everybody knows how viscerally Brazil opposes Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories? Why would Israel want the appointment of someone who defends a one-state solution if Brazil â€" and Israel too, at least officially â€" still insists on a two-state solution?

Two-faced

What's certain is that this move from the Israeli government is not, as it claims to be, a way to build stronger ties between the two countries.

Dayan was born in Buenos Aires in 1955, and moved to Israel at age 15. Photo: Wikipedia

So could Dayan’s nomination fail? From the Israeli side, this hypothesis seems unlikely now that the two main opposition leaders, Isaac Herzog of the Zionist Union and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid (There’s a Future), have called Henrique Sardinha Pinto, the Brazilian ambassador to Israel, to express their support for Dayan's nomination, even though they oppose his stance on settlements

The protocol usually observed is that the host country must give its permission for the nomination. When they happen, rejections are usually conveyed privately.

"Brazil is very afraid of a confrontation with Israel," Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, recently told website Arutz Sheva. "It is very hard to oppose Israel on the international front. No country in the world wants a bilateral one-on-one confrontation with the state of Israel."

Liel is one of three former ambassadors who oppose Dayan's appointment, thus running the risk of being regarded as traitors. But like Mossi Raz, he justifies his opposition by saying he fears the potential consequences of a one-state solution.

"We believe that if within the next year or two serious negotiations about two states do not begin, then there will be a binational state here whose Jewish character will be in doubt, as will its democratic character," he says.

In other words, because the fertility rate of Palestinians is much higher than that of their Jewish counterparts, Israel’s Jewish character would soon be supplanted. And the only way to stop this would be to scrap the basic rule of majority-rules democracy.

In the context of Dayan's nomination, it's worth noting the result of research conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which shows that 66% of Palestinians reject the idea of resuming negotiations with Israel without the cessation of settlement construction.

Furthermore, two-thirds of Palestinians surveyed said they no longer believed in a two-state solution, precisely because of settlement expansion, which eats away land that international law says should remain Palestinian.

And now, against its will, Brazil has been placed right in the middle of one of the world's most intractable and explosive conflicts.

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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