Israel, Hamas and Gaza: Q&A w/ Peter Zeihan

In the early hours of October 13, Israeli military officials issued an evacuation order for the residents of Gaza City, a sprawling metropolis with over 1 million people. This evacuation order has warranted an early release of our Q&A video, initially scheduled for Monday.

Within this video, I’ll break down what’s going on with Israel and Hamas, what this means for the Gaza Strip and the implications for relations in the region and wider world.

As this continues to develop and you have more questions, feel free to drop them at this link.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Hey everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado the morning of October 13th. We just had our first very light snowfall. The news is that last night, my time and early in the morning on the 13th, the Israeli government ordered all the citizens, the Palestinians of Gaza City, to evacuate to the south because their assault is imminent. The Israelis are going to be rolling in with a significant ground force with the intent of rooting out the entirety of Hamas leadership.

And maybe they even have some indication as to where their hostages are evacuating a million people, plus, which is what lives in Gaza. Two other places within the Gaza Strip, which is the most densely populated spot of humanity on the planet, is a practical impossibility. Of course, people on the other side of the argument are going to say it would have been really nice if Hamas had given the Israelis 24 hours to evacuate before their assault problems on all sides.

Anyway, we had recorded a lengthy video answering to as many of your questions as possible on what’s going on with Israel and Hamas and the Gaza Strip and what it means for wider relations in the region and beyond. The intent was for that to publish on Monday. But in light of this development, we decided to go ahead and release it.

Now, everybody, Peter Zine here coming to you from fall in Colorado. Lots and lots and lots and lots of you who had questions about what’s going on in Israel with the Gaza assaults. I’ll do my best to kind of rapid fire through these. So many questions. Okay. Question number one, how did the Israelis not know? Israel supposedly is the gold standard for intelligence and there aren’t a lot of things in the area that honestly they need to worry about all that much.

If you look at the big picture, Lebanon is a known quantity. Yes, Hezbollah, there is a problem, but Hezbollah is a political party in Beirut. And so there are lines of communications. There’s phones you can tap. And while they’re always worried about fighters in the hills of southern Lebanon launching attacks, whether rockets or missiles or artillery across the border, it’s kind of a known quantity and there are avenues to gather information.

So it’s an issue, but it’s not a critical war series. And civil war hasn’t been a problem on the Syrian border in over a decade. Actually, honestly, it’s been a problem on the Syrian border in three decades, especially since the Israelis literally control the high ground in the Golan Heights. So that’s not an issue. Jordan’s a satellite state that is dependent upon Israel for economic support.

So that goes away. Egypt is functionally an ally and the bulk of the Egyptian population is on the other side of the Suez Peninsula. So there’s just not people there that can theoretically cause problems. That just leaves the Palestinians and there is no one thing for the Palestinians. It’s Palestinian territories are broken into two chunks. The first one is on the West Bank of the Jordan River and kind of a crescent around Jerusalem.

And here you’ve got the PLO who is basically calling the shots. And while the relations between the Israelis and the PLO are Palestinian Liberation Organization, for those of you who don’t drink the Kool-Aid, while relations aren’t ever good, it is a semi functional local government and there are relations and that means there’s ways to monitor what’s going on.

And so that area has been relatively quiet. And then there’s Gaza where Hamas took over what’s been about 15 years now. Gaza is basically an open air prison that houses 3 million people. It’s about twice the size of  the District of Columbia. So it’s one of the most densely populated places on Earth, heavily industrialized lifestyle, but no industrial inputs.

All the food from 90% of the food, 90% of the energy is imported along with all the liquid fuels. So to think that this zone could create a industrial power that controls Israel is of course laughable. But to think that people living in a prison camp, knowing that the height that they could aspire to be mayor of the prison, that’s as good as it gets.

You can understand why some less than savory ideologies might bubble up and why people might think that the situation is hopeless. Or when I go kill a bunch of people, I don’t mean that as justification and just as explanation. Anyway, this is the 1b1 the one thing that the Israelis have always been obsessed about. That’s where all of their microphones appointed.

And so the fact that they missed this is just mind boggling, because there were hundreds of fighters involved, dozens of vehicles using six different transport options. And the Israelis missed it all. Which leads into the second point. In Israel, there will be political connotations here and it will lead to the fall of the Israeli government. Now, the Israeli government was never particularly popular.

And so they’re enjoying at the moment a bit of a rally around the flag moment. And Netanyahu was smart and reached out to all the opposition parties to create a national war council to prosecute the conflict. He really needed to do that. He did do that. But the civilian government underneath that, that’s someone that’s in trouble. Part of its demographic.

The Israelis have some laws that protect basically people who commit themselves to Judaism. So if you’re studying to become a religious scholar and all you do is study the Torah, you don’t have to pay taxes and you don’t have to serve in the military. And that means that you can have lots of kids and don’t have to pay for them, which, you know, encourages people to have kids.

And that means somewhere between ten and 30% of the population, based on where you draw the line of the population, basically doesn’t work but can still vote. And think of that relative you have who’s on disability insurance and doesn’t work and who sits in his La-Z-Boy all day and bitches about how people are screwing up the world a problem and they are a rising demographic because of population growth.

I mean, the demographic and that means that they have been the king maker in any number of governments in recent decades. And they are a strong, strong minority within the Israeli system, and there’s no way to get rid of that. One of the many, many outcomes of being Jewish in a post all the cost world is that you value the opinion and you refuse to silence the voices of anyone within your community.

So the political system in Israel, it works on something called proportional representation, where you vote for a party and if the party gets 10% of the vote, they get 10% of the seats. Normally, if you’re going to have a political system like this, you want to have a floor so that the real whack jobs don’t get into government.

And in Israel, there really isn’t one functionally because they don’t want to silence anyone’s voices. So you have this whole rainbow of whack job right wing parties, right? Which is probably about the right term, is to call them religious fundamentalist parties who are supporting the current government. And they’re not very good at what they do because they’re coming from a stock of people that doesn’t value secular education at all.

So here in the United States, we’ve got Matt Gaetz gets the Florida guy who caused the downfall of Speaker McCarthy and basically made the American Congress nonfunctional. Take him take his awesome hair away and clone him. And that is roughly 40% of the Israeli government right now, people who are absolutely mind numbingly incompetent but have very firm ideas on how the world should work.

And they’re the ones who are now having to explain how they have presided over the greatest intelligence debacle in the world in the last 50 years. That will have consequences. So let’s do a Ron next. At the moment, there are no smoking guns indicating that Iran is behind this. But I would be shocked if they didn’t put their finger on the scale, at least for the timing.

Also, considering the various ways that the Hamas fighters launched into Israel that required nonstandard supplies, which had to come from the outside, and Iran is the most likely suspect. But really, it’s about the timing. The Saudis and the Israelis were working on a normalization process that if it would have completed, you would have taken the most powerful country in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, economically, and as well as one of the larger ones.

And put it basically in the same bucket for security issues as the Israelis. And that would have triggered a number of other countries to follow suit, including places like Oman and Kuwait. And if that would have happened, basically the Iranians would have been facing a wall wall opposition throughout the entire region. Because, remember, the Iranians are Shia and Persian, where most of the region is Sunni and Muslim, Sunni, Shia being the two sets of Islam and Persians and Arabs being the ethnicities.

If that had happened, Israel would have been able to basically work through the Arab world to contain, be the Persians, the Iranians. And it would have been a downhill slide from there, no matter what happens with policy for anyone in the rest of the world. So they had a vested interest in disrupting that and we will probably find out in a month if it worked or not.

There’s an argument going on in Saudi Arabia right now about what to do and how much value to ascribe to the Palestinians. There was one pro forma news release that came out a couple of days after the attack, and that’s been it, although and I can’t underline this enough, this is not an alliance and Hamas is not a proxy of Iran.

Hamas is doing Hamas things for Hamas reasons that are defined by their position in Gaza, living in a prison camp. The Iranians think at best that the Palestinians are animals. Remember, there’s a religious and an ethnic split here. Hamas, like the Saudis, are Sunni and are Arab. And so the Iranians officially consider Hamas, the Palestinians and the Arabs in general to all be apostates and therefore worthy of elimination.

So if there was a deal on the table for the Iranians from anyone on anything like trying to get a discount at Red Lobster, they would sell out Hamas in a heartbeat. And that may well happen considering everything being up in the air these days diplomatically in the region. OC For thing what to expect next in the war, it’s going to be awful.

Hamas is not a unified organization and we’re not talking about the Catholic Church here. We’re talking about an institution that officially runs the place. But they import all their energy and their food. So they in charge of a little bit of distribution, and that’s about it. Security is managed by dozens of independent factions who pay at most lip service to the central government of the Hamas led Gazan government.

And that means that each faction does their own thing in their own way. And the challenge that the Israelis have always had is figuring out who to hold responsible when one of these groups does something. And because if you punish the Hamas formal civilian government for something that a militant group did, it’s not like the formal civilian government has tools or even awareness over some of these factions.

And best guess here is that we have a new faction in play because we see new tactics, new approaches, new aggressiveness, new seem of absolute brutality that we have never seen in the Palestinian movement before. And with that in play, the Israelis are doing what now? The key, and they’re trying to dismantle all of Hamas. So everyone that they are aware of who is in the Hamas chain of command and any faction they’re targeting for elimination now, and they’ve already delivered something like 4000 tons of explosives into the Gaza so far, basically wiping out the entire human infrastructure of the entire organization, every individual faction.

But considering the intelligence failure, that means they’re probably missing the one that actually did the attack. And the only way that the Israelis might be able to find and eliminate those people is by going into Gaza hard on the ground and going building them by building room by room until they find the people that they’re looking for and kill them all.

So you’re talking about a building by building scouring of a zone with 3 million civilians. That will likely take months, if not years. And the human damage will be immense because again, this is a zone, densely populated industrial area with no food or water or power. The scale of the devastation is something we have not seen since at least World War Two.

I think the closest one that I can imagine would be the Russian siege of Grozny in the nineties, which conservatively killed 20,000 people out of a population of a quarter of a million. You’re talking about a zone with so many more people. So no matter what side of this that you are on, be careful who you condemn. No one is in a good situation.

No one is going to come out of this looking good. No one is going to come out of this anything but bloody and bruised and scarred. So careful you condemn, except, of course, the terrorist who do the attacks pluck those guys. Okay, finally, the American angle. The idea that the United States didn’t see this coming, that doesn’t really strike me as an intelligence failure.

Just we have to focus. U.S. has a lot of interest in a lot of places and a lot of eyes and ears, but it has to focus on the places where it sees a strict national interest. Of late, most of that activity has been in the Ukraine zone. So Moscow, Kiev, places in between in order to assist with the war effort.

Israel is a capable country that largely takes care of itself and we have zero interest in Gaza because there’s nothing economically there. It doesn’t sit astride any sort of transport routes. It has no resources. It’s not a manufacturing hub. It’s not an intellectual technological hub. It’s a camp. So we basically let the Israelis deal with that because it’s their concern.

That’s how we deal with pretty much any zone where we don’t have a direct national interest. We outsource to the locals. Okay. But we now know there are at least a handful of Americans who were involved in the attacks on the receiving end and who were kidnaped and taken back into Gaza. And that’s a problem. The United States is not a perfect place, but part of the social contract between the American population and the American government is no matter who you are or where you are, no matter what you have done, we will send to the Marines for you.

But first, we have to know where you are. And since the Israelis had such a colossal intelligence failure, there’s no one to ask which puts the U.S. in an awkward position. There are really only two approaches approach. Number one is you put every eye and every ear that you can spare on the Gaza just to find a couple dozen people.

That’s a huge expenditure of effort for very little payback. We’re going to do it, but that’s a lot of things we can’t be doing instead. And once we know that, we will send in the Special Forces and maybe a marine group and basically blaze a path in and get them out and hopefully it’ll go better than what happened in Iran in 1979.

Feel free to Google that. If you’re under the age of 40, you don’t really catch the reference.

There’s only one other approach that might garner something working from the theory that the Iranians put their finger on the scale for this assault. The Iranians are the only people who have meaningful access to the people who actually carried out the assaults. The first rule of intelligence is you have to go where the information is. Sometimes Americans forget that we put a lot of effort into breaking people who had nothing to do with it because they just happened to be proximate.

For example, waterboarding Osama bin Laden’s driver didn’t get much, but in this case, the people who know something are friends or at least coworkers with the Iranian government. And that means one of the very, very, very, very few places where the United States can turn for information on where to send those special forces is Tehran. So regardless of what you think of the Trump administration or the Biden administration or American approaches to the Middle East in general, we now have a clear and present reason to engage with the Iranians in order to get the information that we need to fulfill one of our most basic sacred social contracts.

And that’s the only way forward for us. What happens in the rest of Gaza, from the American point of view, has now become secondary. It’s all about getting our people back, and that is not going to be a pretty process. Okay. One of these days, people are going to ask me friendly questions, but that’s probably not going to be for a while now.

So everyone take care and I will see you again soon.

Hamas Attacks Israel and Netanyahu Declares War

Hamas, a terror/political group (depending on your politics), has launched an attack on Israel. This has been a multi-faceted attack spanning land, air and sea. Prime Minister Netanyahu has declared war on Hamas as a result.

We’ve already seen Ukraine issue their support of Israel, which is notable based on Israel’s hesitant stance on the Ukraine War. I’ll also be keeping an eye on the ongoing talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia on normalizing diplomatic ties.

These attacks have the potential to break some longstanding logjams in the geopolitical schema of the Middle East. I’ll continue to monitor the developments in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and issue updates as I have more info.

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Hey everyone. Peter Zeihan here comes to you from central Texas. It is the 7th of October. And the news today is that in the early hours of today, Hamas, the political terror group based on your politics that controls the southern enclave of Gaza in southern Israel, launched an attack into Israel proper, demolishing a little bit of the border. Land, sea paraglider attacks and literally thousands of missiles.

And so far they’ve kidnaped at least several dozen civilians and a handful of soldiers and took them back to Gaza with them. Netanyahu Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, has declared war on Hamas and military operations are forthcoming. It’s very hot situation on the ground, very fluid. Don’t have a lot of information for you there. And obviously there’s people who are much better at that than I am.

What I can tell you, there’s a there’s two kind of things that kind of stand out that we need to watch here. Number one, within minutes of the news being reported, the Ukrainian government offered its support to the Israeli government in the in defending against the assault, which is far more than the Israelis have offered to the Ukrainians in response to the Russian invasion.

The Ukrainians have been a little annoyed with the Israelis trying to sit on the fence. The Israelis, for their part, have a population that is roughly one sixth Russian. And so they’ve been trying to not get involved as much as they can because they’re always trying to keep their lines of communication open to the Russians as a way to manipulate events in the Arab world.

It’s going to be very interesting to see if this changes the mindset of folks in Israel at all, because for them dealing with groups like Hamas is kind of an existential issue. And for Ukraine to come down so quickly and so publicly on their side is definitely noteworthy. There is no direct indication of Russian involvement here, but there are a lot of tactics.

We’re very familiar that we’ve seen the Hamas group has actually shared footage of some of its attacks, including attacks on civilian targets, which, you know, under normal circumstances would be considered a war crime pretty much anywhere. But the rules in the Middle East are a little odd. And we know that the senior leadership of Hamas has been in and out of Moscow quite a bit over the course of the last year.

So it’s going to be interesting to see how that whole dynamic changes politically. Second aspect is political, strategic as well, and that is that the Saudis and the Israelis have been hip deep in negotiations on a normalization program. Right now, most of the countries of the Arab world still don’t recognize Israel as a independent state, an entity that has broken a little bit under the Trump administration with Morocco and the United Arab Emirates switching sides.

But now the question is whether the Biden administration gets Saudi Arabia to switch sides. And the debate, of course, is about the Palestinians, not between the Saudis and the Israelis, but among the Saudis. There’s a debate going on within Saudi Arabia itself. It’s generational over whether or not they should just ditch the Palestinians, completely normalize relations with the Israelis, and just move on.

The older generation of the king, who’s probably senile at this point, wants to continue to back the Palestine peons. Were the younger one ruled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman really doesn’t care at all. So we’re going to find out really quickly here who actually holds power in Riyadh. And that is going to have any number of implications, because whenever the world’s largest oil producer and exporter decides to change its political stance on regional affairs and starts backing that up with money, oil and military power, a lot of interesting things can break through very quickly.

So watch Jerusalem and Tel Aviv first to see what they say about Ukraine. Watch Riyadh to see what they say about Hamas. And it’s not very often that we have a big logjam like this, potentially breaking free all at once. It’s going to be interesting to hear.

Saudi Arabia and Israel Want a US Security Deal

Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, has seen the ongoing engagement and security guarantee that the US has with Japan, and he wants a similar deal for Saudi Arabia. MBS will have to offer something pretty attractive to get the US involved in the region again.

As of now, the only offer on the table is formal relations with Israel (in exchange for some undefined concessions to the West Bank Palestinians) and the ~high honor~ of having troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. That’s probably not going to cut it, but it does highlight how concerned the Saudis are about the US pulling out of the region.

Israel is on board with any US involvement, as it would take some weight off their struggling coalition government. But the absence of the Palestinians in all talks up to this point brings into question the seriousness of these negotiations.

This region of the world has been a thorn in the side of the US for decades, and jumping back into the thorn bush won’t be on the calendar anytime soon. If Saudi Arabia and Israel really want to make a deal happen, it’s time to head back to the drawing board.

While some speculate that Xi is moving away from G20 in favor of BRICS, he didn’t even show up to the opening ceremony of the BRICS business forum. So, this announcement doesn’t indicate any political angle; it’s just a reminder of Chinese leadership’s ongoing and accelerating failure.

Xi has purged the Chinese political system of anyone who can form thoughts and potentially challenge his power, leaving him as the judge, jury, executioner, and everything else of importance in China. Even if Xi happened to be the smartest person in the world (which I won’t even comment on), he is still human.

Xi can only do so much alone, and the lack of competence across the Chinese system means that policy stalls wherever Xi is not. While Xi will send a replacement to the summit, concerns over China’s leadership capabilities are mounting, and the question remains – what is next for the Chinese people?

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:

First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.

Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.

And then there’s you.

Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

Transcript

Hey Everybody. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado. And a lot of you have written in asking about ongoing conversations among the Americans, the Israelis and the Saudis about some sort of broad spectrum political and security deal. At the moment, there is it one. It’s not imminent. It’s not even clear what it would be. But the talks are absolutely going on.

So I would just wanted to kind of give you an idea of what is so much at stake, but what the players are thinking. So this is all Saudi Arabia’s idea specifically. Remember Mohammed bin Salman, who was the crown prince? He’s the guy who’s in his thirties who’s running the place. His father, King Salman, is the one who’s probably mentally a vegetable at this point.

So the crown prince really is already in charge of everything. There’s a lot of generational disputes going on which are shaping the talks. But ultimately, what the Saudis want is ongoing American engagement to give them a security guarantee that is on the scale of what the Americans have with the Japanese. The idea is that you station some forces in-country.

Therefore, an attack on the country is considered an attack on the United States and will raise the ire of the military forces of the United States in order to take off and destroy the attacker, who in this case would most certainly be Iran. It’s not clear that the United States is interested at all after 70 years, the United States is finally getting out of the region.

Global war on terror is over. The U.S. is broadly happy with that situation. So in order to get brought back in, the U.S. would have to be offered something fairly significant. And what the Saudis are offering is normalization of relations with Israel. And it’s not that that’s not interesting, but that’s just not anywhere near enough to justify the United States putting its soldiers in harm’s way and beating Iran into a war.

In addition, the Saudis are thinking that just the honor of having military forces in Saudi Arabia would be so high that the Palestinians could get tossed in as a side benefit, with Israel being forced to recognize some sort of shift in authority when it comes to things like the West Bank. This is a long shot. The United States is largely done with the region and the Saudis are basically etching out a position where most other players are the ones who have to give something just for the honor of having a deal with Saudi Arabia.

It screams of Saudi arrogance, specifically by Crown Prince and by himself. Remember that NBC has basically established himself as a bit of a cult of personality, and he’s steadily edged everyone with experience and the older generation out of the system. The talks are being managed by, I believe, one of his brothers. But this is Saudi Arabia. He has like a billion brothers, so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

In fact, it means that if the talks go sideways, he can always execute his brother and just move on as if nothing happened. So I don’t have particularly high hopes that this will happen. But it is interesting from a few points of view because it shows how insecure the Saudis are as the Americans are pulling back from the region.

Now, on the Israeli side, they think that this is all great. Anything that brings the Americans more enmeshed into the region to something that Israel’s broadly going to support, because that means that their troops don’t have to do it. And Israel is a country of less than 8 million people. So having the superpower do things for Israel is something that Israel’s always been a big fan of, but the U.S. hasn’t.

Now, specifically with the Israelis and the Americans right now, relations are not great, largely because the Kurd government of Israel is a little wackadoo. It’s made up of a series of populist and nationalist and religious parties that are somewhat either hateful or stupid. And the Prime Minister Netanyahu is fully aware of that. He had to make a lot of compromises in order to cobble together this coalition.

He knows it’s not working very well. And if he can get a deal with the United States on anything, it would relieve some of the pressure that Washington has been putting on his government versus Palestinians of housing issues and military deployment and economics and and intellectual property theft. There’s a long list of irritants in the relationship right now.

Anyway, that’s where everyone kind of stands with one other a little bit that indicates that you shouldn’t expect this to get resolved very soon and that it’s not clear from the Saudis just how serious they are or are not about looping the Palestinians into the abyss. The older generation, the one that’s in the process of being shown, the door by members.

They’re the ones who are reasonably dedicated to the Palestinian cause. And if in whatever final communique comes out of this deal, Senate, it works. The Palestinians are included. Then you know that in the U.S. is not nearly as powerful as we all thought, and the older generation still has some breath and life left in them. If the Palestinians get at most a cosmetic concession or not mentioned at all, then you know that NBS is large and in charge because he doesn’t care about Palestinians at all.

And weird because this is the Middle East and this is how it works. At this point, the Palestinians haven’t even been consulted or invited to the negotiation table, which is ironically how, you know, that this may be a serious series of talks. All right. That’s it. If something more comes of this, I’ll let you know. Take care.

How to Stop a Dictator: Upholding Israel’s Judiciary

If you want to become a dictator one day, be sure to keep reading.

I’m coming to you from just outside Manapouri in New Zealand. The week’s big news is that the judicial reforms being pushed by Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have been put on hold.

Dictatorship 101 states that the first step towards lifelong power is breaking the independence of the judicial branch. Once that is gone, nothing is preventing you from rising to power. Thankfully, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was able to prevent this from happening in Israel…at least for now.

Attacking the judiciary is no secret, and it can be highly effective when done correctly. Two failed attempts at this are Trump and Bolsonaro. Their attempts to challenge the electoral process were laughed off because they failed to disrupt the judicial branch effectively. For all intents and purposes, that’s probably for the best.

Prefer to read the transcript of the video? Click here

Here at Zeihan On Geopolitics we select a single charity to sponsor. We have two criteria:
 
First, we look across the world and use our skill sets to identify where the needs are most acute. Second, we look for an institution with preexisting networks for both materials gathering and aid distribution. That way we know every cent of our donation is not simply going directly to where help is needed most, but our donations serve as a force multiplier for a system already in existence. Then we give what we can.
 
Today, our chosen charity is a group called Medshare, which provides emergency medical services to communities in need, with a very heavy emphasis on locations facing acute crises. Medshare operates right in the thick of it. Until future notice, every cent we earn from every book we sell in every format through every retailer is going to Medshare’s Ukraine fund.
 
And then there’s you.
 
Our newsletters and videologues are not only free, they will always be free. We also will never share your contact information with anyone. All we ask is that if you find one of our releases in any way useful, that you make a donation to Medshare. Over one third of Ukraine’s pre-war population has either been forced from their homes, kidnapped and shipped to Russia, or is trying to survive in occupied lands. This is our way to help who we can. Please, join us.

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S UKRAINE FUND

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT MEDSHARE’S EFFORTS GLOBALLY


TRANSCIPT

Hey everyone. Peter Zeihan here coming to you from just outside of the southern New Zealand town of Manapouri. The big news that has happened in Israel today or earlier this week is that the judicial reforms that Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, had been trying to push through for a few weeks now, have been, at least temporarily halted.

Now, let’s say that you’re the leader of a country in the free world, and you decide you want it to be in the not so free world so that you can rule pretty much forever regardless of what your motivation is. The first the most important thing that you need to do if you want to hang on to power is to break the independence of the judiciary. Now, you already control the executive branch, at least in part, and the legislative branch that can ebb and flow based on public opinion and elections. But the judicial branch is always the block that prevents authoritarians from rising to power. If you can break that, then you can rule forever.

So in the case of a number of situations throughout recent history, especially in Latin America, in the 1970s and 1980s, local would be dictators would be authoritarians. Breaking the judicial branch was always the first thing to do. And in more recent times, folks like Erdogan in Turkey, that was the first thing you after Viktor Orban in Hungary, that was the first thing he went after. The Kaczynski twins in Poland, that was the first thing that they went after. And in doing so, they’ve basically ensconced themselves as the only power that matters, because once you break the judiciary, it’s just a matter of having some sort of break in public opinion or an election and then the broken judiciary will interpret things your way.

In the case of Netanyahu, he was under a series of corruption investigations. You can say that they were politically charged. You can say that they were real. Doesn’t really matter. With the judiciary intact, those investigations will ultimately go forward. And the only way he can retain immunity is to continue as being prime minister. But as you might have noticed, Israel is a bit of a national security state and the judicial reforms that Netanyahu was trying to do were so damaging to the fabric of the political system that his own defense minister, defense in Israel is a big thing, stood up and said that this has to stop. Netanyahu fired the dude earlier this week, which meant that the coalition that allows Netanyahu to even be prime minister in the first place was suddenly in danger. And so he had to back down, at least for now.

Now, there are other countries that are kind of in play with the same sort of factors. The two that are the most important are Brazil and the United States. In those cases, you’ve got Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Donald Trump of the United States who have both attempted to subvert the electoral process in order to remain in power. But neither of them were capable or competent or whatever the word is you want to use to come up with the idea of breaking the judiciary first. So in every instance where some ally of Trump or Bolsonaro brought a legal case to court to attempt to challenge the electoral system, those cases were laughed out of court by none other than the judges, in many cases the judges appointed by these two men in the first place. So for those of you who are concerned about democracy in the United States and Brazil, I don’t mean to suggest it’s a non-issue. But as long as the courts hold firm and to this point, they seem fine. Even the courts whose judges were appointed by Donald Trump have stood firmly to a man against every single case that has been brought forward to challenge the last general election. We’re okay. And for those of you who are Trump supporters, think of it this way. We survived eight years of Obama and we’re fine. We can certainly survive four years of Donald Trump not being the president.

Alright. That’s it for me. See you guys later.

From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

The administration of US President Donald Trump declared December 6 that from now on the U.S. government would recognize the city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The result has been quite the political cacophony, with condemnations from Trump’s traditional opponents across the United States, a wide bevy of countries – particularly those in the Middle East with an Islamist bent – and throughout the United Nations system.

So what’s the big deal? Israel has held all its capital business in Jerusalem for decades, but nearly all countries run their embassies out of Tel Aviv. The issue is regional politics. Israel conquered the bulk of the city of Jerusalem in wars that occurred after its modern founding in 1948, and as the city is important for three mainline religions, it is often also considered the capital of the once (and future?) Palestinian state. By claiming Jerusalem, the Israelis are not all that indirectly claiming that the Palestinians cannot have it. Trump’s recognition similarly implies that the United States has given up on any meaningful two-state solution, instead siding wholly with Israel – the Palestinians be damned.

As such, the issue of embassy-placement and capital-recognition has been a hot button topic in all things Middle Eastern ever since Israel declared Jerusalem the united capital of Israel in 1980.

But before we condemn or extol the virtues of the Israeli government or the Trump administration, let’s keep a few things in mind.

First, there is not one Arab government that loves the Palestinians. Though maybe not for the reasons you’d think. Before 1948, the Palestinians were the forward-thinking, secular, economically vibrant jewel of the Levant (and by extension, the Middle East). Geography and ports made them a cosmopolitan capital, and a religiously and ethnically diverse population – reflected by Jerusalem – ran contrary to what we see in Wahabbist-states like Saudi Arabia or Shia-hardliners in Iran. As such, they earned the envy or worse of Arab governments everywhere who considered the Palestinian way of life a threat to the fabric of nepotism that was the regional norm. When the Israelis displaced those Palestinians – first in their Independence War of 1948 and later in the 1967 and 1973 wars, the fervor of the celebrations in some Arab governing institutions was only matched by the hypocrisy of their condemnations. So something happening now that heats up the Palestinian issue isn’t really something that any Arab governments feel is particularly problematic. (That is, outside of those countries who host a large Palestinian diaspora and so see riled Palestinians as less something to be encouraged than to be contained.)

Second, the Israelis have physically – and unilaterally – altered their relationship with the Palestinians during the past fifteen years. There is now a thirty-foot-tall concrete wall with precious few access points separating Israel proper from most Palestinian-controlled territories. Even if every Palestinian could simultaneously grab a gun and charge the nearest Jew all at once, the Palestinians simply lack the access to do much anything more than scream. Palestinian suicide attacks dropped off to almost zero not because the Palestinians had a collective change of heart about all things Israeli, but because they are on the other side of an uncrossable barrier. If there is a third intifada, it will rage in Palestinian lands rather than anywhere that the Israelis (or anyone else) cares about.

Third, there is less than a zero chance of a war erupting because of this. Syria is in civil war. Libya is a farce of a non-state. Lebanon is edging into (another) civil war. Iraq is shattered. Jordan is a satellite. Egypt is folding in upon itself into an isolationist dictatorship. Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a not-quite-cold war. Groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State are at war with other Muslim entities; they cannot and have never been able to get at Israel. Sure, groups like Hamas (based in the West Bank) and Hezbollah (based in Lebanon) will continue to lob rockets into Israel, but no one in the region has the capacity to even obliquely threaten Israel with invasion. Israeli diplomats would never say this on the record, but this is the best strategic situation the Jews have been in since the decades immediately after Moses.

Finally, there isn’t an Israeli-Palestinian peace process to protect. Any possible peace between the two peoples require unified positions on both sides in favor of rapprochement – and an underlying strategic or at least economic reason for that rapprochement. None of that currently exists. The Israeli government sits fairly hard to the right and isn’t about to trade land for peace when the wall gives Israel all the peace the government thinks they’ll ever get. The Palestinian “government” is split between Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which favors taking the fight to Israel, and Fatah in the West Bank, which is indirectly on the Israeli payroll. The wall also eliminated the role of Palestinian labor in the Israeli economy, reducing the Palestinian territories to open-air prisons completely dependent upon Israeli power infrastructure and international handouts for operation. About the only institution keeping the “two state solution” alive is the United Nations, and even UN efforts are little more than going through the motions.