Geopolitics

Israel’s Only Path To Peace Must Begin With A Palestinian State

Op-Ed: As Palestinians arrive at the United Nations in search of recognition of their statehood, Israel’s isolation grows deeper. Israelis have justifiable existential fears, but must accept there is only one way to achieve lasting peace and security: a P

The Western Wall in Jerusalem (DavidSpinks)
The Western Wall in Jerusalem (DavidSpinks)
Arrigo Levi

And so, Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel, the one of Russian immigrants and ultra-orthodox Jews, is managing to isolate itself more deeply than it has in decades. This isolation comes in a region which, for reasons of history and memory, it inexorably belongs to, but where it is seen as the last residue of European colonization - an unacceptable witness to the historic decline of Arab civilization. This is why the third Jewish state in history still must face the question of its very survival.

However this hypothesis appears unrealistic when visiting the blossoming cities and countryside of the Jewish state. Prophets dreamt that the day would come where the road to peace would run from Egypt to Babylon, passing through Jerusalem: in this region, as in few others, history seems to repeat itself millennia later.

But, you could ask, is it with the Palestinians, and only the Palestinians, that Israel needs to make peace in order to be accepted by everyone? The answer is a little less sure than it seems.

We all breathed a sigh of relief when the large revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt featured no slogans or cries aimed against Israel. The vicious assault of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was a brutal wake-up call to these optimistic assurances. We need to face reality – the Jewish state, for prejudices old and new, is still viewed with hate by the Egyptian masses, and not just by them.

But we were assured the Egyptian military would absolutely not re-open the question of the peace treaty with Israel. Instead, in Cairo they're now saying there may be some possible changes. And meanwhile a large majority of the countries of the world are declaring their conviction that Palestinians have a right to their own state to be recognized at the UN; and Israel and America seem, until now, unable to grin and bear it. And then, no matter what happens at the General Assembly, people are expecting assaults at the Israeli border, with the risk of incidents capable of having repercussions for the Arab minority within the Jewish state.

The majority which governs the State of Israel today recognizes, in principle, that "a Palestinian state must be established," as Dan Meridor, Israel's Deputy Prime Minister, assured La Stampa's Jerusalem correspondent Francesca Paci. This is notable progress. But while waiting for the day for this to happen, Israel does not intend to end the expansion of the Jewish colonies, because it would be "unrealistic" to impede someone from "buying a house only because he's Jewish."

And yet Israel has left the Gaza Strip and repatriated the Israelis who were residing there with force. This didn't seem "unrealistic" in relation to greater interests of the State. But today Israel appears paralyzed by its fears, confronted with an "Arab revolution" in which it sees, and not without reason, only danger.

And so, the prospects of a new negotiation seem to vanish into an uncertain and far-off future. Let's admit it: Making peace with the Palestinians might not be enough to make peace with all Arabs. Several generations may need to pass before meeting this long-term objective. But Israel still needs to run the gauntlet of Palestine in order to make peace with everyone: and it is only on this front that Israeli diplomacy can act.

If not, Israel risks remaining so tremendously alone in a land which was irrevocably promised to the Jews, but which has been repeatedly denied to them. This is where the extraordinary spiritual force should be concentrated of a people who, after a millennial diaspora, has re-infused life to a Jewish state.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - DavidSpinks

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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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