Banker Coup: Goldman Sachs Takes Over Europe

‘Goldman Sachs rules the world’
A self-described financial ‘expert’ makes incendiary remarks about bankers but former Goldman traders disagree.
Goldman Sachs made $4bn by short-selling the market on subprime mortgages, leading critics to say the financial giant profited from an economic crisis it helped to create [GALLO/GETTY]

As economists worry about a break-up of the euro zone and protesters on the other side of the pond crash Wall Street, one self-described independent trader summed up the growing schism between the financial elite and the rest of the world by telling the BBC: “Governments don’t rule the world; Goldman Sachs rules the world.”

While Alessio Rastani has never worked for a major firm in the City of London – and actually lives in a small house owned by his girlfriend – his candid comments have gone viral on the internet, in a possible sign of the times. He might be considered a fraud and admits to wanting media attention, but his comments still have people talking.

“I go to bed every night dreaming of another recession,” Rastani told the BBC. “It’s an opportunity … When the market crashes, when the euro and the big stock markets crash… you can make a lot of money from this.”

In less than 12 months, the savings of millions of people is going to vanish and that is just the beginning.”

Rumours have been circulating on the internet, since the video went viral earlier this week, wondering if Rastani is a member of the “Yes men” – a satirical protest group who pretend to be corporate executives – but that does not seem to be the case. The rhetoric is either a candid portrayal of a rotten system or the musings of an attention hungry nobody, depending on who you ask.  

“This idea of the testosterone fuelled alpha male in suspenders and a tie as the ‘independent trader” is not the reality, said a former Goldman Sachs trader who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “This guy [Rastani] wants to be a caricature of Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street.”

Goldman’s ‘decline’

Robert Shiller, professor of economics at Yale University, told Al Jazeera that the “person interviewed is young and unknown” and “yet he makes some very provocative statements”. Other analysts, including the former Goldman Sachs trader, concur with Shiller.

“If Goldman ruled the world, they wouldn’t have made the losses they suffered in 2008,” the former Goldman trader who now works for a hedge fund told Al Jazeera. “He is right that governments don’t rule the financial world … markets are driven by opinions.”

In a 2009 interview, Goldman Sachs’ chief executive Lloyd Blankfein explained his banking career as “Doing God’s work”, while Sidney Weinberg, the firm’s high profile managing partner from the 1930s to the 1960s described the fund’s strategy was “long-term greedy”.

But another former Goldman trader, who spent six years working in the City of London and has since moved to another major investment bank, doesn’t think Weinberg’s analysis holds true for the Goldman of today.

“In the 1980s and 90s, it was the most prestigious firm … Whenever a trader would see Goldman taking the other side of a bet, it would scare them,” the trader told Al Jazeera. “Over the past six months the perception of the bank has completely changed.”

After the BBC aired the Goldman video, the trader and his colleagues received a tersely worded memo from their employer. “My office got an e-mail saying ‘this is exactly what we don’t want you doing’. We can’t access the clip at work. A lot of places have really clamped down on these kinds of things because of the climate.”

Across the western world banks, bankers, speculators, hedge funds and brokers are generally loathed by the public. A Pew Research poll in April 2010 found that only 22 percent of US respondents rated banks and other financial institutions as having “a positive effect on the way things are going in this country”. Banks scored lower in public confidence than other generally distrusted groups including Congress, the federal government, big business, labour unions, and the entertainment industry.

Unsurprisingly, former Goldman traders blame reckless individuals for problems in the financial system, rather than the broader institutional framework which allows massive profits and socialised risks.

The second ex-Goldman financier points to the recent case where a UBS trader lost $2.3bn in client funds through risky bets. “There are thousands of people who worked in the financial industry; a minor percentage of that group has responsibility for the crisis,” the second trader said, adding that he has “contempt for a lot of bankers”.

Playing both sides

But critics say rot runs to the financial system’s core. By exploiting superior position, legal loopholes and insider knowledge, firms like Goldman have, at times, made money betting on a recession.

“A variety of strategies exist to profit from downturns; these are often lumped under the term ‘shorting the market,” Richard Wolff, professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, told Al Jazeera. “Instruments exist that allow investors to bet on a downturn and profit if and when the downturn occurs (in a specific stock or bond or derivative or in groups of them).”

Goldman, for example, invested in subprime mortgages in the US, initially making money from selling a product which kick-started the 2008 recession, and then made more money betting against the market, as they allegedly knew the trouble they had caused.

“Of course we didn’t dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts,” Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in an e-mail dating from November 2007 and uncovered during a US Senate investigation in 2010. By shorting the market on subprime loans, Goldman reaped a profit of $4bn, while its rivals were hemorrhaging cash from the loan scheme.

“I think the biggest failure of the last five years has been the lack of regulations,” said the first former Goldman trader.

At the height of the boom, then UK finance minister Gordon Brown claimed that “we will never return to the old boom and bust” economics. The economy went bust soon afterwards.

“The crystal ball is more cloudy than it has ever been in the last five or ten years,” the second Goldman trader said when asked about the possible demise of the euro zone and Rastani’s comments that average people’s savings will evaporate. “The underlying issue is that people cannot see a fundamental driver of growth in the next five years.”

Despite allegations that they rule the world, there isn’t much Goldman Sachs can do about that.  

Goldman Sachs rules the world

November 16th, 2011

The Vampire Squid: Our New Master

“The governments don’t rule the world. Goldman Sachs rules the world,” claimed a shockingly outspoken trader, Alessio Rastani, on the BBC two months ago. “The savings of millions of people are going to vanish,” he said, warning viewers they should “get prepared” because “economic crisis is like a cancer, if you just wait and wait thinking this will go away, just like a cancer it’s going to grow and it’s going to be too late.”

What was interesting about the media response to this was that, rather than focus on the substance of what the trader was saying, it instead went on a wild goose chase trying to decide whether or not he was a hoaxer belonging to a group called the “Yes Men”. But on one point at least Rastani was absolutely right: Goldman Sachs – aka the Vampire Squid – really have the world squeezed tighter and tighter right now within its blood-sucking tentacles.

Consider the three biggest new EU appointments:

The new president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, Italy’s new prime minister, Mario Monti, and the new Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos all reportedly have the US investment bank as a common denominator.

Here’s James Creedon with the full details:

Papademos was involved in Greece’s transition from the drachma to the euro. One of the things that made this transition possible was, of course, a gross exaggeration of the health of Greece’s finances – aided and abetted by advisers from Goldman Sachs who showed Greece how to conceal its debts using complicated financial instruments called swaps.

I think most of us, on whichever side of the political argument we find ourselves, can agree that these developments are not healthy. Here is the take on it from a blogger at Liberal Conspiracy (not normally considered Telegraph Blogs’ ideological soulmate):

Some serious questions must now be asked about democracy in the Eurozone. What Draghi, Monti and Papademos also have in common is that they are classically trained orthodox economists who have spent a good part of their lives working for the European bureaucracies and banks that have bought about this disaster.

I disagree with his analysis of why this is a problem. (He’s from the Left-leaning New Economics Foundation, and is worried that these Eurocrat banksters might get in the way of the massive Keynesian public expenditure he believes is the solution to all our ills…). But I share his disgust, as indeed I share the disgust at bankster corruption and profligacy expressed by the Occupy crowd.

We need to find common ground here, I think – those of us who believe (as the Occupy crowd do) that the current crisis is caused by the failure of capitalism and those of us who believe (as I do) that it is caused by the failure of corporatism, welfarism and – ultimately – the fiat money system. While we are busy being distracted by our particular ideological hobby horses, we are being shafted by a political bankster corporatist elite which doesn’t give a stuff about us because we are the little people and we are of no consequence to the New World Order they wish to impose on us.

Beware the Vampire Squid: whether you are on the Left or the Right it will feast on your blood and suck you dry all the same.

The EU’s architects never meant it to be a democracy

The rise of a “technocracy” was always part of the plan for Europe.

12 Nov 2011 

So, as headlines scream that vain bids to save the euro threaten us with “Armageddon”, the EU’s ruling elite has toppled two more elected prime ministers, to replace them with technocratic officials who can be trusted to do Brussels’s bidding.

The new Greek prime minister, Lucas Papademos, was the man who, as head of Greece’s central bank, fiddled the figures to enable Greece to get into the euro (against the rules) in the first place – before being rewarded with a senior post in the European Central Bank. He is no more democratically elected than Mario Monti, who will most likely be Italy’s new prime minister and had hurriedly to be made a “senator for life” to qualify him for the job. Monti’s main qualification is that, as a former senior EU Commissioner, he has long been a member of the Brussels elite himself.

One of the few pleasures of watching this self-inflicted shambles unfolding day by day has been to see the panjandrums of the Today programme, James Naughtie and John Humphrys, at last beginning to ask whether the EU is a democratic institution. Had they studied the history of the object of their admiration, they might long ago have realised that the “European project” was never intended to be a democratic institution.

The idea first conceived back in the 1920s by two senior officials of the League of Nations – Jean Monnet and Arthur Salter, a British civil servant – was a United States of Europe, ruled by a government of unelected technocrats like themselves. Two things were anathema to them: nation states with the power of veto (which they had seen destroy the League of Nations) and any need to consult the wishes of the people in elections.

As Richard North and I showed in our book The Great Deception, this was the idea that Monnet put at the heart of the “project” from 1950 onwards, modelling his “government of Europe” on precisely the same four institutions that made up the League of Nations – a commission, a council of ministers, a parliament and a court. Thus, step by step over decades, Monnet’s technocratic dream has come to pass.

The events of last week were by no means the first time that an elected prime minister has been toppled by the Euro-elite. The most dramatic example, as we also showed in our book, was in 1990, when Mrs Thatcher had emerged as the biggest obstacle to the next great leap forward in their slow-motion coup d’etat, the Maastricht Treaty, creating the European Union and the single currency. Following her ambushing at a European Council in October 1990, when she was outnumbered 11 to one, the trap was sprung. An alliance between the European elite, led by Jacques Delors, and our own Tory Europhiles, led by Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine, brought her down within weeks.

They had disposed of the greatest political obstacle to the onward march of their project just as ruthlessly as they were later to brush aside all those referendums expressing the objections of the French, the Dutch and the Irish to their Constitution. The one thing for which there has never been any place in their grand design is democracy. What a pity the Today programme didn’t wake up to that years ago.

The BBC reveals how Blair’s ‘multi-billion-pound gaffe’ may triple our electricity bills

I would not have wished it on anyone to sit through last Monday’s laborious Panorama, entitled “Who’s Fuelling the Rise in Your Fuel Bills?”, but two things about it were remarkable. One was that it was the first BBC programme, as far as I know, to admit that electricity from wind turbines is “eye-wateringly more expensive” than that from conventional power stations. According to one estimate cited by Panorama, Chris Huhne’s wish for us to spend £200 billion on renewable energy in the next nine years could triple our electricity bills, pushing millions more households into “fuel poverty”.

The programme’s other startling feature was an interview with Sir David King, formerly Tony Blair’s chief scientific adviser. This confirmed that in March 2007, the prime minister had made “a multi-billion-pound gaffe” when he signed us up to the European Council’s historic commitment that, by 2020, the EU would derive 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources. What Blair did not realise, as he and the EU’s political leaders argued “until two or three in the morning” without their technical advisers, was that “energy” includes many things, such as gas for heating, which cannot be derived from renewables.

A Treasury official explained to Panorama that they had worked out that Britain could not hope to generate more than 15 per cent of its electricity from renewables. But Blair recklessly signed up to a target which meant that 32 per cent of our electricity would have to come from renewables, which would be fantastically expensive were it even feasible. By the time King and Blair’s other advisers learnt what he had let us in for, it was too late.

The programme ended with the ineffable Mr Huhne assuring us that “the overall effect of government policy will be to lower bills”. Even the BBC was clearly not convinced.

Nov. 11, 2011

Regime Change in Europe: Do Greece and Italy Amount to a Bankers’ Coup?

By Stephan Faris

The voice of the people isn’t something the markets seem to want to hear these days. First there was Greece, the cradle of democracy itself, where early this month, the merest mention of a referendum offering its citizens a say in a series of severe austerity measures was enough to send the markets into a tailspin. The ultimate result: the collapse of Prime Minister George Papandreou’s ruling coalition, the rejection of any notion of bringing the proposal before the people, and the installation of a caretaker government under the leadership of Lucas Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank and, until earlier this week, a visiting professor at Harvard.

Then came Italy. As Athens threatened to go under, Rome found itself under pressure not so much for its level of debt — which though high is generally considered within the limits of sustainability — as much as for the erratic behavior of its flamboyant prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. On Monday, investors seemed to make the collective decision that he could no longer be trusted at the helm of the euro zone’s third largest economy and sent Italy’s cost of borrowing up towards crisis levels. By the end of the week, not only was Berlusconi finished, so was the very idea of holding a vote to replace him. The markets had spoken, and they didn’t like the idea of going to the electorate. “The country needs reforms, not elections,” said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council on a visit to Rome Friday.(See the top 10 worst Berlusconi gaffes.)

Indeed both Papandreou and Berlusconi had been respectively berated and belittled by Angela Merkel of Germany and Nicolas Sarkozy of France. It is almost as if Franco-German displeasure combined with the disapproval of the markets was enough to bring about regime-change. As in Athens, the plan in Rome is to replace the outgoing prime minister with somebody from outside the political class. Mario Monti, a neo-liberal economist and former EU commissioner who seems designed with the idea of calming the markets in mind, is expected to take over from Berlusconi after he resigns Saturday. For many in the two battle-scarred capitals, the fact that Papademos and Monti aren’t directly accountable to the public isn’t a problem. It’s the reason they’re being called in. Both countries have been tasked by the EU to attempt to restore confidence through deep cuts, sharp tax hikes and painful restructurings of the economy. The two technocrats have been tapped to lead because no politicians wants to face the electorate after doing what the markets have decreed needs to be done. “Democracy has very serious limitations.” says Roberto D’Alimonte, a professor of political science at Rome’s LUISS University. “It has the ability to kill itself, to self-destruct. [Bringing in a technocratic government] is not good or bad. It’s necessary.”

In Greece, the political class lost its credibility with the blowout over the referendum, says George Pagoulatos, a professor of European politics and economy at the Athens University of Economics and Business. Though the vast majority of the public is not eager to undergo the unpopular austerity measures, the probable consequence of not passing them — abandonment by the EU and a chaotic exit from the euro — is seen with even more distaste. Papademos, a respected economist untainted by the political slugfest, is thought to have the credibility and legitimacy to see the program through, allowing the two main political parties that have agreed to support him to renounce responsibility when the reforms start to pinch. “Theoretically, he has the capacity to apply policies that are politically costly,” says Pagoulatos. (See how Berlusconi used the politics of sex to build his career.)

In essence, what a technocratic head of government allows a country’s elected officials to do is disperse the cost of passing unpopular legislation. By carefully hewing to the middle of their country’s political spectrums, and pulling together packages of cuts that spreads the pain as evenly as possible among all sectors of society, Papademos and Monti, neither of whom would likely ever stand for election, have a chance to pass reforms that would otherwise be impossible. “The key in Greece and Italy and everywhere else is fairness,” says D’Alimonte. “And that can only be done by a government that is not responsive to a single electoral base.”

Of course, neither economist will be able to push anything through if there isn’t a consensus that something must be done. And the lack of direct voter buy-in heightens the risk of populist dissent down the road. But, until now, the motivation has been provided by the threat of a market meltdown and a subsequent economic collapse. In Italy, Mario Monti was greeted with applause in the Senate Friday, a day in which the country’s stock exchange gained 3.68% as stability seemed to be at hand.

Yet, until the moment he’s sworn in, Monti’s ascension is far from a done deal, and it didn’t take long after the markets had closed for the weekend for it to start to come under fire. Though Monti, a former advisor to Goldman Sachs, is heavily championed by the country’s respected president, many in parliament have spent the week whispering that Berlusconi’s ouster amounts to a “banker’s coup.” “Yesterday, in the chamber of deputies we were bitterly joking that we were going to get a Goldman Sachs government,” says a parliamentarian from Berlusconi’s government, who asked to remain anonymous citing political sensitivity. With less than 24 hours until Berlusconi’s expected resignation, other names, closer to the outgoing prime minister, were beginning to be floated. If the markets object, the world will find out as soon as the opening bells ring on Monday.

Sep. 02, 2010

Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace

By Karl Vick / Jerusalem

Heli and Eli sell condos on Exodus Street, a name that evokes a certain historical hardship in a neighborhood that suggests none at all, the ingathering of the Jews having entered a whole new realm here. The talk in the little office is of interest rates and panoramic sea views from handsomely appointed properties on the Ashdod waterfront selling for half what people are asked to pay in Tel Aviv, 18 miles (29 km) to the north. And sell they do, hand over fist — never mind the rockets that fly out of Gaza, 14 miles (22.5 km) to the south. “Even when the Qassams fell, we continued to sell!” says Heli Itach, slapping a palm on the office desk. The skull on her designer shirt is made of sequins that spell out “Love Kills Slowly.” “What the people see on the TV there is not true here. I sold, this week, 12 apartments. You’re not client. I tell you the truth.”

The truth? As three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still see their country as being defined by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on. (See pictures of 60 years of Israel.)

Now observing two and a half years without a single suicide bombing on their territory, with the economy robust and with souls a trifle weary of having to handle big elemental thoughts, the Israeli public prefers to explore such satisfactions as might be available from the private sphere, in a land first imagined as a utopia. “Listen to me,” says Eli Bengozi, born in Soviet Georgia and for 40 years an Israeli. “Peace? Forget about it. They’ll never have peace. Remember Clinton gave 99% to Arafat, and instead of them fighting for 1%, what? Intifadeh.”

Another whack for the desk. “The people,” Heli says, “don’t believe.” Eli searches for a word. “People in Israel are indifferent,” he decides. “They don’t care if there’s going to be war. They don’t care if there’s going to be peace. They don’t care. They live in the day.”

The Good Life Is Real
And what a day it is. When it reaches the eastern Mediterranean, the sun strikes molecules at an angle that erases the possibility that anything can matter except this sky, that sea and the land between. In Ashdod the sensation travels on golden dunes that march up from the beach through a shimmering new city center and out to a crisp, clean perimeter marked by yet another row of splendid new high-rises, white towers that hold the light for an instant, then release it into the realm of general good feeling. Breakfast here is cucumbers, yogurt, honey, bread and crumbly white cheese. You never felt better.

“The good life in Israel is real, while all the rest is somehow blurred,” says Ari Shavit, a good man, a serious man, who writes a regular column for Haaretz, the influential daily that has made hand-wringing a thing of frequent beauty since 1918. Still, a few years ago Shavit left his family home in Jerusalem, the capital, where more and more of life is so serious — all that stone — and settled in Tel Aviv, a beach city. (See TIME’s photo-essay “Palestinian ‘Day of Rage.’ “)

No place in Israel is more than 40 minutes from a stretch of sand, but only Tel Aviv is known as “the bubble.” Its sidewalk cafés are a way of life. On a Saturday, when Jerusalem turns into a mausoleum in observance of the Jewish Sabbath, a driver wandering Tel Aviv passes kite surfers and bikinis but rarely a disapproving look from a man under a fedora, the headgear of the ultra-Orthodox Jews who, along with politically active religious nationalists, increasingly fill the space vacated by secular Israelis both in the physical city of Jerusalem and in the matters decided there.

“There was a time when people felt guilty about the Tel Aviv bubble,” says Shavit. “Then it turned out the bubble was pretty strong. The bubble was resilient.” Indeed, there are times when you can think most of the nation is within it. Polls are clear on the point. In a 2007 survey, 95% of Israeli Jews described themselves as happy, and a third said they were “very happy.” The rich are happier than the poor, and the religious are happiest of all. But the broad thrust, so incongruous to people who know Israel only from headlines, suits a country whose quality of life is high and getting better.

But wait. Deep down (you can almost hear the outside world ask), don’t Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity? Well, not exactly. Asked in a March poll to name the “most urgent problem” facing Israel, just 8% of Israeli Jews cited the conflict with Palestinians, putting it fifth behind education, crime, national security and poverty. Israeli Arabs placed peace first, but among Jews here, the issue that President Obama calls “critical for the world” just doesn’t seem — critical.

See a story on Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

Is the U.S. pursuing the wrong Middle East peace process?

“There is no sense of urgency” about the peace process, says Tamar Hermann, a political scientist who has measured the Israeli public’s appetite for a negotiated settlement every month since 1994, the year after the Oslo accords seemed to bring peace so close, Israelis thought they could touch it. They couldn’t. It flew farther away in 2000, when Yasser Arafat turned down a striking package of Israeli concessions at Camp David. What came next was the second intifadeh, a watershed of terror for an Israeli majority who, watching and suffering waves of suicide bombings, saw no reason to keep hope alive.

“They watch less and less news,” Hermann says of her compatriots. “They read political sections of the newspaper less. They say, ‘It spoils my day, so I don’t want to see it.'” The market responds. Newspapers print fewer pages of politics — as little as half as much now as just a few years ago in the popular daily Maariv, says editor Yoav Tzur — and more pages of business news. “The rise in real estate prices is more interesting to the public than future talks … that no one knows will lead to something,” says Hadas Ragolsky, executive producer of the 5:00 report on Channel 2, Israel’s leading news station. (See pictures of the Pope visiting the Holy Land.)

It’s not just real estate that serves as a measure of economic success. Israel avoided the debt traps that dragged the U.S. and Europe into recession. Its renown as a start-up nation — second only to the U.S. in companies listed on the Nasdaq exchange — is deserved. A restless culture of innovation coupled with the number of brainiacs among the 1 million immigrants who arrived from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s has made Israel a locus for high-tech research and development, its whiz kids leapfrogging the difficult geography to thrive in virtual community with Silicon Valley.

All this has combined to make the Palestinian question distant from the minds of many Israelis. And the distance is not only figurative. The concrete wall Israel erected on its eastern side during the second intifadeh sealed out not only suicide bombers but almost all Palestinians. An Israeli Jew can easily pass an entire lifetime without meeting one. “The wall,” marvels a former Israeli negotiator, “put the Palestinians on the moon.”

Looking for a Partner
It’s quiet there, over on the Moon. In the West Bank, the territory administered by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, technocratic Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is taking a serious stab at governance, starting by professionalizing security forces. Even before the shooting deaths of four Jewish settlers by Hamas operatives on Aug. 31, the worst such incident since March 2008, Fayyad’s security forces had arrested more than 300 Hamas supporters in dread of an attack like that. The Gaza Strip — the dark side of the moon, sealed off and ruled by Hamas — has been largely quiescent since the thunderous military operation Israel ended in January 2009. (See pictures of Mahmoud Abbas.)

Israel’s walls work so well that its foremost security challenge is now what’s thrown over them. Hizballah has an estimated 40,000 missiles pointed at Israel from its Lebanon redoubts, and Hamas collects a wide assortment of arms that enter Gaza through tunnels. In the peace talks, the “final status issues” are supposedly the borders of a Palestinian state, the question of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinians who fled their homes six decades ago. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his first priority will be to make sure that if Israel pulls its 10,000 troops out of the West Bank, its high ground will not become the latest launchpad for yet more rockets. He wants Israeli inspectors stationed on the Jordanian border to ensure nothing is smuggled in.

All that, of course, is a way for Netanyahu to talk about what he really wants to talk about, which is Iran. Tehran supplies the missiles to both Hizballah and Hamas and is closing in on the capacity to put nuclear warheads on its own long-range missiles. It is that danger that consumes Netanyahu, not the one posed by his immediate neighbors. “The Palestinian is no longer seen as a strategic threat anymore,” says Hermann. “A nuisance, yes.”

So the Palestinians need to make themselves listened to again. A few days before leaving for Washington, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat looked into a camera. “Shalom to you in Israel,” he said. “I know we have disappointed you.” In a bold, not to say desperate, bid to rouse ordinary Israelis, seven senior Palestinian officials addressed themselves to Israel directly in online videos. Each clip concludes with the words “I am your partner. Are you mine?” The videos spoke straight to the core doubt of the huge Israeli majority who in poll after poll say a two-state solution is best but are dubious that it will ever happen because the Palestinians won’t play ball. “During the elections, a lot of people told me there is no partner on the other side,” says Tzipi Livni, head of the opposition Kadima Party and a former Foreign Minister. She clicks on the video spots with evident relish. “This is good,” she says.

Watch TIME’s video “Israel’s Lonesome Doves.”

See TIME’s Israel covers.

Gadi Baltiansky, of the pro-peace Geneva Initiative that made the videos, argues that the moderate Palestinians in them will not be around much longer. Teddy Minashi, looking at wannasurf.com in his Ashdod law office (“Crowded by screamy locals,” reads a comment about the Ashdod beach. “War keeps away foriners”), doesn’t hear that. “We’re not really that into the peace process,” he says. “We are really, really into the water sports.” Minashi and his friends organized to block a fishing port that would have undone the best break on the beach. “People here now concentrate on improving their lives, in the sense that they don’t think too far ahead,” he says. “Me, myself, I don’t believe in this era we’ll achieve peace with our neighbors. So now we concentrate on what we can do, how we can improve our lives.” Ashdod, Minashi says, “is a very good example of that.”

Involved, Like It or Not
And so it is. Dating from the 17th century B.C., the city is among the world’s oldest. Its biblical history alone features the Ark of the Covenant, one plague of boils, another of mice, and an Ethiopian eunuch. But all that was deep beneath the dunes when a handful of Moroccan Jews were dropped here by Israel’s government in the mid-1950s. Modern Ashdod would be a “development town,” Israel’s version of housing projects in an American city, down-market and all the grittier for its massive port. (See more about Israel.)

“Some people, it’s not the war,” says Heli in the condo sales office, ready to defend his hometown. “They hear, Ashdod?” But they show up and find a city that is part resort, part microcosm for an immigrant nation turned inward. “It basically reflects the big picture in Israel,” says Mayor Yechiel Lasry, who has remade the city with the help of Soviet immigrants, some 60,000 of whom settled in Ashdod. Educated and conservative, the Russians flexed their political muscles and accelerated the rightward political drift that had begun with the second intifadeh.

The Russians also made the good life better, and not just because of their technological skills. Their taste for high culture means Ashdod has a ballet, a music school, a museum and the Andalusian Orchestra, which specializes in compositions from Moorish Spain, where Muslims and Jews made beautiful music together. Perched above the beachfront promenade that runs 6 miles (10 km), a new performing-arts center evokes a baleen whale.

“It’s a concept,” says Lea Divan, scanning the immaculate seafront from a table at the Puzzle Café, her view framed by palm fronds. “It’s a state of mind.” It’s not a Middle Eastern state of mind, though; the freeways and beaches, universities and start-ups bring to mind California, not Cairo. “That’s kind of what they’re going for,” says a waitress, taking away the breakfast Divan shared with Carmela Balosher-Orovan, her friend of six decades — a relationship that spans the lifetime of Israel. Divan was born on a kibbutz and was still nursing when it was attacked in the fighting Israelis call the War of Independence and that Palestinians know as the Catastrophe. “She suckled fear with the milk of her mother,” says Balosher-Orovan, whose experience in Haifa was in its way no less unsettling. Jews and Palestinians got along well in the mixed city until 1947. Then Arabs attacked the local refinery. “It was a shock,” she says. “These were my friends!” (See pictures of heartbreak in the Middle East.)

Sixty-three years and eight wars later, Divan and Balosher-Orovan have seen enough to know that for all the surf breaks, the palms and the coffee, the conflict is never truly done, never far away; that it shadows the good life like the soldier — in civilian clothes but with an M-16 slung across the back — who trails schoolchildren chattering down the sidewalk on a field trip. When Divan moved to Ashdod eight months ago, her first question to prospective landlords was always, Does this apartment have a bomb shelter?

“I’m on vacation,” says Balosher-Orovan with a determined look. “Part of my vacation is not to listen to the news every half-hour.” But she knows — as many Israelis affect not to know — that the news matters. New talks? Experience offers small hope, the women say. But if the sides are talking, they’re not fighting. And thinking of her old neighbors, Balosher-Orovan still believes that people will naturally get along if their leaders allow it. So they are paying close attention and insist that anyone who claims otherwise is telling a tale. “You have a son in the army, and your sister’s son is in the army. You’re involved!” Divan says. Ignore the peace talks? “It’s impossible. You can’t do it. You’d have to live in a bubble.”

Banker Coup: Goldman Sachs Takes Over Europe

Financial terrorists who caused collapse pose as EU debt crisis saviors

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
Monday, November 14, 2011

Precisely as we warned all along, the very financial terrorists responsible for the economic collapse have now exploited the crisis to pose as saviors and oversee a banker coup – with Goldman Sachs stooges now in control of both Italy and the European Central Bank.

Mario Draghi

The objective of the coup is to exploit the euro debt crisis as a vehicle through which to create a European federal superstate that will transfer all remaining control over national affairs to Brussels. The globalists have already started the process, hand-picking two unelected stooges to replace democratically elected Prime Ministers in Greece and Italy.

Silvio Berlusconi was the Colonel Gaddafi of Europe. Despite his personally loathsome character, Berlusconi was proving to be an obstacle for the banker coup and was hastily dismissed, not by the will of the people, but as Time’s Stephen Faris explains, by an action of insiders who control the markets.

“On Monday, investors seemed to make the collective decision that he could no longer be trusted at the helm of the euro zone’s third largest economy and sent Italy’s cost of borrowing up towards crisis levels. By the end of the week, not only was Berlusconi finished, so was the very idea of holding a vote to replace him. The markets had spoken, and they didn’t like the idea of going to the electorate. “The country needs reforms, not elections,” said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council on a visit to Rome Friday.”

Berlusconi’s replacement is the ultimate globalist stooge, former EU Commissioner Mario Monti, an international advisor for Goldman Sachs, the European Chairman of David Rockefeller’s Trilateral Commission and also a leading member of the Bilderberg Group. Monti is a safe pair of hands for the next stage of the banker coup, when the euro crisis will be hijacked to concentrate even more power into the hands of the very people who caused it in the first place.

“This is the band of criminals who brought us this financial disaster. It is like asking arsonists to put out the fire,” commented Alessandro Sallusti, editor of Il Giornale, a Milan newspaper owned by the Berlusconi family.

Similarly, when Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou dared to suggest the people of Greece be allowed to have their say in a referendum, within days he was dispatched and replaced with Lucas Papademos, former vice-President of the ECB, visiting Harvard Professor and ex-senior economist at the Boston Federal Reserve.

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

Papademos and Monti have been installed as unelected leaders for the precise reason that they “aren’t directly accountable to the public,” notes Faris, once again illustrating the fundamentally dictatorial and undemocratic foundation of the entire European Union.

On Friday, we also highlighted how the onslaught of doomsday rhetoric about the collapse of the eurozone could just be another ruse to concentrate more power into the hands of the EU in its bid to to create a centralized European economic government that would dictate decisions to all member states.

Low and behold, the European Central Bank is now being hailed as the entity to “save the eurozone” by bailing out Italy, France and Spain.

And who has just been installed as President of the European Central Bank and billed as the “savior of Europe”? None other than Mario Draghi – former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International. Starting to notice a trend?

Of course, the strings attached to this bailout will accomplish precisely what the Eurocrats wanted all along, a closer-knit “political union” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for yesterday, or in other words a federal superstate that will eviscerate what remaining independence and sovereignty European nation states have left and hand it all over to Brussels.

The entire EU debt crisis is nothing less than a flagrant banker coup d’état designed to empower the same financial terrorists who caused the initial collapse in 2008 by suddenly withdrawing huge amounts of credit from the market.

The crooks who popped the bubble in the first place are now setting themselves up as the heroes who will ride to the rescue to prevent worldwide depression – at the cost of European nation states surrendering control over their economies to unelected EU dictators like Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso.

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Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show.

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For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
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