Quick Take: Normalizing Israel & UAE relations

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

You may have seen the big news, that the United States facilitating normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, one of the Gulf monarchies. It is a real change in the way we think about the geopolitics of the Middle East. And it just shows how much times have changed.

If you go around the Middle East and ask Arab leaders what their priorities are, they'll tell you Iran, they'll tell you ISIS, al-Qaida, they'll tell you Syria, and Libya, they'll tell you Yemen, they'll tell you domestic instability, but they will not say Israel-Palestine. And that is so different than five, 10, 20 years ago when no willingness to talk to the Israelis unless you actually had some sort of successful peace negotiations between the two. Well, what's happening is the common enemy of Iran is becoming more important, the Palestinians are becoming less important, poorly governed, less powerful, and their former erstwhile friends and supporters are saying, "eh, we've got other priorities."

This is a big deal. And I said that back when Jared Kushner unveiled the peace plan, which, of course, was going to be much less of an attractive deal for the Palestinians in terms of land, allowing for the annexation of some of their territory by the Israelis in the West Bank, giving them a quilt work of territories that were not joined directly, building tunnels and roads to allow them somehow to have a Palestinian state. They were going to get a lot of money in return that was promised by the Americans and others in the region, but the Palestinians were not a part of putting the plan together. The Americans negotiated it basically themselves with their allies, Israel.

And not only that, but President Trump has been quite unilateral in changing the rules on the ground. You know that he, after decades of Congress and presidents calling to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he did it. And a lot of people complained all over the world, but nothing really happened. He also recognized the Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, complaints in the region, no one really did anything. And the reality is that the Israelis are increasingly making the rules. The Palestinians are being left behind. And the fact that on the back of that, with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is facing big corruption scandals at home and might not even last very much longer as PM and his unity government could easily fall apart, but Israel is in a much stronger position geopolitically than it has been before. And that's despite the fact that they've given absolutely nothing to the Palestinians.

I remember reading all of these New York Times op-eds from Tom Friedman saying that, you know, if Israel doesn't form a deal with the Palestinians, that will be it for Israel. Actually, that's not true. And it's because Israel doesn't need the Palestinians. It's a horrible thing to say. It's horrible, particularly for the Palestinians, because these are people that have no capacity for real employment, and education, and opportunity in Gaza. It's over 50 percent unemployment, extraordinary amounts of hunger and no opportunity, but also no opportunity to change the status quo. And they've had really bad governance for decades now, with Palestinian authority and with Hamas. And people just don't find the need to work with them anymore. They're being left behind.

Israel, meanwhile, one of the most effective advanced industrial democracies in the world. A great judiciary, media, open, transparent, educational system, healthcare system, as long as you're not Palestinian. And the fact that that is leading not only to no challenges at home, but even to changing the geopolitics in the region to their favor, breaking through in a way that no one could have anticipated 10 or 20 years ago, just shows you how much the Middle East is changing.

And does give President Trump one of the larger wins he's had diplomatically. And Lord knows we can point to a lot of failures. But this one is one he's going to run a couple laps around because they've seen the change in the Middle East and their pivot away from the Americans being the sheriff in the region, instead recognizing the new geopolitics, is something we're all going to coming to terms with over coming years.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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50: The US will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the decade. The Biden administration's commitment, double the goal set by Barack Obama almost six years ago, was announced to coincide with a virtual Earth Day climate summit attended by dozens of world leaders.

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Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened an "asymmetrical, rapid, and harsh" response for anyone that dares to cross a "red line" with Russia.

What's the red line? Putin says he'll decide on a case-by-case basis. And the cases at the moment are growing: the US has sanctioned Russia over cyber crimes; Putin critic Alexei Navalny is near death in a Russian prison; the Czechs say Russia blew up a Czech munitions depot; and as many as 120,000 Russian troops are reported to be massing along Russia's border with Eastern Ukraine.

Which is to say: there's potentially a Sol Lewitt's-worth of red lines to ponder now.

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