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    European Union Tag

    Greece and the Eurozone have been unable to reach an agreement ahead of a bailout deadline which quickly approaches on June 30th. If negotiations fail, Greece could leave the European Union and ultimately face economic collapse. The situation is already causing a dash for cash in the debt strapped country. Bloomberg reports:
    Greeks Line Up at Banks and Drain ATMs as Tsipras Calls Vote Some Greek banks were beginning to limit cash transactions as hundreds of people lined up outside branches and drained cash machines after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called a referendum that could decide his country’s fate in the euro. Two senior Greek retail bank executives said as many as 500 of the country’s more than 7,000 ATMs had run out of cash as of Saturday morning, and that some lenders may not be able to open on Monday unless there was an emergency liquidity injection from the Bank of Greece. A central bank spokesman said it was making efforts to supply money to the system.

    On February 10, 2015, I wrote about legislation introduced in the House targeting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, whose goal is the destruction of Israel through economic, cultural and academic boycotts. The legislation, called the United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act, focuses on the "economic" boycott of Israel, expanding upon prior legislation implemented several decades ago in response to the Arab League Boycott of Israel. The legislation reportedly was intended to force European countries and companies, where the BDS movement has some influence, into adopting anti-BDS policies and procedures as part of a proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the U.S. The EU would be forced to choose between a massive free trade agreement which would bring enormous economic benefits to the floundering EU, or the anti-Israel BDS movement. You could have a boost to European economies and employment, or you could have BDS, but you couldn't have both. The sponsors of the legislation presumably expect Europe to choose prosperity over anti-Israel activism. In reviewing the legislation initially, however, it was unclear to me whether the provisions would have the intended effect:

    Greece's new prime minister Alexis Tsipras is finding out that his country's massive debt won't go away just because he wants it to. Maybe that's why Germany has a strong economy and Greece doesn't. Jane Wharton of Express UK reported:
    Merkel refuses to write off Greece's debt In her first interview since Syriza won the Greek election last weekend, Angela Merkel has made it clear the debt stands but she hopes they stay in the eurozone. The far-left party stormed to victory last weekend with 36 per cent of the vote, promising to ditch austerity and renegotiate the country's £180billion bailout from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - also known as the troika. Their finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has said this troika of global institutions is "rotten" and has refused to work with them to renegotiate bailout terms. Syriza is now beginning to roll back on the austerity measures imposed by the EU on the previous administration in exchange for the loans. However this morning the German Chancellor said that while Europe will continue to show solidarity with Greece and other nations hit by Europe's debt crisis, the debts must be repaid in full. Speaking to Hamburger Abendblatt, she said: "I do not envisage fresh debt cancellation. "There has already been voluntary debt forgiveness by private creditors, banks have already slashed billions from Greece's debt."
    It's amazing what can happen when a politician is told he can't spend money he doesn't have. The Tsipras administration, which knows it doesn't have the negotiating power (or money) to defy reality has quickly adopted a new position.

    The economy of Greece has been a disaster for years due to massive entitlement and pension programs. Decades of overspending finally caught up with the Greek government in 2010, when their financial system nearly collapsed. Other countries in the European Union, notably Germany, loaned Greece billions on the condition that Greece would impose austerity measures; those measures eventually produced small results at a slower rate than expected. Frustrated with austerity and cuts to benefits, the people of Greece recently elected a new prime minister from the far left Syriza party named Alexis Tsipras. Tsipras won by promising to end the pain of austerity and to renegotiate Greece's debt, which means that the people of Greece have forgotten what caused their problem in the first place. Nicholas Paphitis of the Associated Press via ABC News writes:
    Greece's First Radical Left Prime Minister Sworn In Tieless and eschewing the traditional religious swearing-in ceremony, but with a surprise coalition deal in the bag and a sanguine international reception, radical left leader Alexis Tsipras took over Monday as austerity-wracked Greece's new prime minister. Hours earlier, the 40-year-old's Syriza party trounced the outgoing, conservative government in Sunday's national elections, on a platform of easing social pain and securing massive debt forgiveness. Although Syriza fell tantalizingly short of a governing majority in the 300-seat parliament, Tsipras moved quickly Monday to secure the support of 13 lawmakers from the small, right-wing populist Independent Greeks party, raising his total to 162. "''We have the required majority," Tsipras told Greek President Karolos Papoulias, shortly before being sworn in as prime minister, the youngest Greece has seen in 150 years and the first incumbent to take a secular oath rather than the religious one customarily administered by a Greek Orthodox official.
    Fans of Tsipras are celebrating, but his victory presents a whole new set of problems.

    For years many the feeling was that Europe had unquestioned leverage with Israel and therefore could take sides without losing its clout. But trade and tech have taken their toll on this assumption. Israel is building alliances in Asia, and European leverage is sure to suffer. Former Israeli foreign and defense minister, Moshe Arens, explains in Ha'aretz Why Israel is shifting eastward.
    On reflection this is not totally unexpected. For many years the economic development of the countries in East Asia has been outpacing the economic development of Europe. Japan made giant strides in the years after World War II. South Korea followed suit. China has become the economic wonder of the twenty-first century. There are, as well, indications of accelerated economic development in India, the world’s largest democracy. It is natural that Israel’s economic relationship with these countries would begin to rival its relationships with the countries of Europe, a Europe which seems to be in permanent economic crisis and lagging behind the Asian tigers. ... Despite the centuries of anti-Semitism that marked most European nations and the guilt borne by them for their actions during the Holocaust, Europe, in recent years through the machinery of the European Union, has waged a constant campaign of criticism and condemnation of the policies pursued by Israeli governments, going so far as to impose economic sanction against Israel.
    The second point was made in an op-ed in late February by Clemens Wergin in the New York Times, Why Israel no longer trusts Europe.
    To Europe, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all problems facing the region — a view in no way altered by the Arab Human Development Reports published by the United Nations since 2002, which showed that Arab autocracies and cultural backwardness were the root of the region’s woes.

    Northwestern University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich has been doing wonderful work exposing the myth of the Israeli "illegal" occupation of Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank").  You really need to watch the videos we have posted here, The Legal Case for Israel and The historical fiction of Israel’s “occupation”. Given the war on Israel declared by the American Studies Association and two other smaller anti-Israel boycott groups, and the need to correct so much of the anti-Israel propaganda behind it, here is Prof. Kontorovich's explanation of the legal history of the region again: Now Prof. Kontorovich has come out with a challenge to the European Union to treat Israel's "occupation" the way it treats other "occupations" -- and the Europeans are none too happy. As reported by The Times of Israel, Why is this occupation different from all other occupations?:
    Many Israelis have long felt that the European Union is biased against them. Two legal scholars – a former Israeli ambassador and an American Jewish international law professor — think they’ve found the perfect case to prove the claim: A new fishing deal, signed between the Europeans and Morocco, which applies beyond Morocco’s internationally recognized borders, taking in the territory of Western Sahara, even though Morocco invaded that area in 1975 and has occupied ever since.
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