JERUSALEM — To Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it’s a “historic opportunity”: the chance to annex large stretches of the occupied West Bank that right-wing Israelis have long coveted, possibly giving the country a permanent eastern border for the first time.
Annexation would also cement his place in history, carving out a permanent legacy for Israel’s longest-serving leader. And although he has not disclosed the scope of his plan, he has promised to move forward with it as soon as July 1.
But as that date nears, a growing chorus of respected former Israeli military, intelligence and diplomatic officials is denouncing any unilateral annexation as a grave risk to Israel’s security.
Imposing Israeli sovereignty on territory the Palestinians have counted on for a future state could ignite a new uprising on the West Bank, these experts warn. Neighboring Jordan could be destabilized. Israel’s move would be broadly denounced as illegal, potentially leading to international isolation.
And the resulting furor, they say, could distract from efforts to intensify pressure on the country Mr. Netanyahu has long portrayed as the greatest threat facing Israel and the world: Iran.
“In the military, you learn at the lowest level to focus on the main effort,” said Amos Gilead, a retired major general in military intelligence who was also an envoy to the Arab world. “To be united with the Arabs against Iran is an unbelievable advantage,” he said. Instead, he said, “We will unite the whole world against us.”
Already, Arab leaders have warned that annexation would threaten Israel’s progress in forging ties with their countries, in part over their common adversary in Tehran — progress that Mr. Netanyahu has brandished as proof of his statesmanship.
The Trump administration supports annexation in principle, and several Americans, including Ambassador David Friedman, are part of the joint Israeli-American committee that is working in secret to map Israel’s new borders.
But annexation is fueling consternation among Democrats in Congress and is opposed by the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., all of whom favor a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mr. Netanyahu has not responded publicly to the criticism, saying recently, “The less I say about this now, the greater our chances of achieving the best result.”
And the few officials in a position to explain and defend his thinking have refused to do so publicly. His office refused to comment for this article, as did Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador in Washington and a key figure in the annexation push.
Mr. Netanyahu promised last fall to annex the strategically important Jordan Valley, a move that would create an eastern border abutting Jordan. In January, he said he would annex even more: about 30 percent of the West Bank, including dozens of existing Jewish settlements, in keeping with a conceptual map in the Trump administration’s peace plan.
But the administration has since called upon Mr. Netanyahu to reach a consensus with his centrist coalition partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who has opposed unilateral moves. Their private talks have produced trial balloons — from a modest, largely symbolic annexation to taking the whole 30 percent, or moving in phases — but little clarity.
The Palestinians have rejected any unilateral move as a violation of Israel’s commitments to mutually negotiated borders under the Oslo accords. They have withdrawn from the agreement and the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, has suspended security cooperation with Israel in protest.
The fear most unnerving Israelis is that their sons and daughters could be sent into combat. If the Palestinian Authority collapses or Palestinians respond with an uprising, Israel could be forced to militarily reoccupy a restive West Bank.
“Look us in the eyes,” demands a new ad campaign by a prominent group of opponents, Commanders for Israel’s Security, over a photo of a young Israeli infantryman. “Admit that you have no idea how unilateral annexation will end.”
Backers of annexation downplay the odds of a resurgence of violence on the West Bank, noting that similar predictions after President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv never materialized.
But security experts say that annexation would be far more provocative, tantamount to saying that the state that Palestinians thought they were building was no longer in the cards.
“The moment there is unilateral annexation, the Palestinian Authority will lose its legitimacy,” Mr. Gilead said. “If they do, sooner or later they will not be able to show their faces in the Palestinian street. And who will pay the price? Our soldiers.”
Israeli taxpayers could pay, too: Resuming a full-blown military occupation would cost billions, experts say. In addition to ending security cooperation, Palestinian officials started the financial equivalent of a hunger strike to show they are willing to let the authority collapse if Israel annexes territory.
Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired general in military intelligence who is among the most outspoken supporters of annexation, dismissed the idea that Israel would have to take full control even in Palestinian cities.
“It’s nonsense,” he said. “We are not going to annex Nablus. The Palestinians will take care of themselves.”
But relegating the Palestinians to self-government in confined areas — places Israeli critics have likened to “bantustans” — could close the door to a viable state, forcing Israel to choose between granting Palestinians citizenship and leaving them in an apartheidlike second-class status indefinitely.
“If we take steps that make separation from the Palestinians impossible, we may undermine or destroy the very root of the entire Zionist enterprise,” said Sallai Meridor, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States.
Repercussions could be felt in Jordan, a key security partner for Israel, where a majority of the population has Palestinian roots.
The Palestinian majority will put pressure on King Abdullah II to take bold action against Israel in response to any annexation, experts say. And annexation would reinforce fears in Jordan that the Palestinians, denied a state on the West Bank, would try to make Jordan their new homeland instead.
Israeli analysts say he could close Jordan’s embassy in Israel, possibly scrap a new deal to import natural gas from Israel, or even curtail security cooperation that includes intelligence sharing and allowing overflights by Israeli jets attacking Iranian targets in Syria.
Mr. Kuperwasser discounted the impact of any Jordanian reaction.
“There are limits in how far they can go,” he said, speculating that the kingdom’s heavy dependence on aid from Washington would limit its response.
Mr. Netanyahu has wowed Israelis by making diplomatic inroads in the Arab and Muslim worlds. He has crusaded against Iran’s nuclear project and its ambitions in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. And he has relegated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the international back burner.
But annexation could undo much of that diplomatic progress in an instant, critics warn.
A senior United Arab Emirates diplomat warned Israelis that annexation would reverse Israel’s efforts to forge deeper ties with his country and the wider Arab world. A host of countries have issued statements opposing annexation, and the German foreign minister flew to Jerusalem last week to urge Israel to stand down.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said Thursday that annexation “would inevitably have significant consequences” for the bloc’s relationship with Israel.
Mr. Meridor, the former ambassador, warned in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot of damage to Israel’s ties “with the overwhelming majority of the world’s countries,” adding: “True, the relationship with President Trump is important and good, but should we put all our eggs in one basket?”
At a minimum, he said in an interview, annexation would pose an immediate problem for Israel’s envoys by depriving them of their strongest response to questions about the protracted subjugation of Palestinians.
“This was the easiest and most compelling answer that any Israeli diplomat could give throughout the years,” he said. “‘We’re willing to negotiate, to compromise, but the other side turned us down.’ That’s an asset we’ve had. And we may lose it if we annex unilaterally.”
To Mr. Kuperwasser, the goal is not just to expand Israel’s territory but to show the Palestinians that they will lose something for refusing to engage with Israel on the basis of the Trump administration’s plan.
“Before, we needed the consent of the Palestinians for any move,” he said. “This new paradigm says, from now on, you don’t have veto power.”
Mr. Kuperwasser said annexing the Jordan Valley was the best way to drive that point home, because the Palestinians want it as a gateway to the Arab world, while Israelis consider controlling it nonnegotiable for security reasons.
He acknowledged some of the diplomatic risks and expressed hope that they could be mitigated beforehand. But he said it was more important not to miss a “golden opportunity” that could evaporate with a Trump defeat in November.
Even an opponent of annexation, Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan, acknowledged what he called a rare “alignment of the stars” in favor of it: a president with a “messianic mission” to support Israel, and the pandemic and economic turmoil diverting regional attention to local matters rather than geopolitics.
“It’s a Rolls-Royce, but the price fell by half,” Mr. Eran said. “It’s red, electric, and you have to recharge it only once a week. Who wouldn’t want that deal?”
The New York Times just turned one of its columns into an NFT
The buyer will have the chance to be featured in the major newspaper and all proceeds of the sale will go to an NYT charity fund.
The post The New York Times just turned one of its columns into an NFT appeared first on The Block.
The New York Times has turned one of its columns into a non-fungible token (NFT) and it’s up for grabs.
“Why can’t a journalist join the NFT party, too?” wrote NYT tech columnist Kevin Roose in a tweet thread explaining the initiative.
According to the column, the proceeds of the 24-hour sale will go to the publication’s Neediest Cases Fund, which supports social causes in New York and elsewhere. In addition to this, the buyer will be featured in a follow-up article about the sale, along with their name, affiliation, and an image of their choosing. Buyers also have the option to remain anonymous.
At press time, the NFT was bidding at 4.65 ETH (about $7,600) on NFT marketplace Foundation, which hosted the sale of the “Nyan Cat” graphic for $600,000.
The Times is the latest publication to explore the use of NFTs, which are akin to digital certificates or tags connected to a piece of art or creative work. The data is held in the form of a token on a blockchain network, with the idea being that said tokens are unique and scarce.
New York Times Writer Turns Latest Column Into NFT
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New York Times reports on Racism Allegations at Coinbase
2020 has turned out to be a tough year for popular cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, as the company and its founder’s ‘apolitical’ culture stance, has left the company open to even accusations of racism.
The crypto trading platform was recently the subject of a New York Times report, which highlights the various racial issues within the company, pointing towards several departures of Black employees and a consistently low percentage of Black hires.
Coinbase has denied the presence of such issues, and has even hired outside consultants and conducted internal investigations into these claims by current and former employees. The reviews were not able to confirm these allegations.
However, the company’s hiring record reveals that Black employees consistently comprise about three percent of its workforce. Depending on the field chosen in official employment statistics, this is anywhere from one-half to one-third of what’s the industry average. Corporate expansion also had no effect on this percentage.
The report noted that other tech companies, such as Square, PayPal and Twitter have worked at increasing the share of Black employees in their firms.
The report even cites a number of employees, with One Black employee stating that her manager suggested in front of other employees that she was dealing drugs and carrying a gun, based on racist stereotypes.
Another noted that a co-worker at a recruiting meeting openly described Black employees as less capable. While another employee said managers spoke down to her and her Black colleagues, adding that they were passed over for promotions in favor of less experienced white employees. These incidents altogether have led to the wave of departures at the company.
“Most people of color working in tech know that there’s a diversity problem,” said Ms. Butler, who resigned in April 2019. “But I’ve never experienced anything like Coinbase.”
The New York Times report continues that Black employees of the firm were hurt by the decision of the company’s leadership who did not address the matter. The employees had also organized a meeting with the executives, and CEO Brian Armstrong had said:
“There was this outpouring of, like, Why does the company not have my back?”
It all started back in September
It all originated from a blog post from the CEO that stated that Coinbase was ‘mission-focused’ and it suggested that activism was a distraction from that mission. The conversation went deeper for those at the company as a memo said those who wanted to maintain their activism would have to take a severance.
The New York Times report particularly highlights one line in this company blog post. “We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission.” According to the report, the post with this line outraged the employees.
NYT Reveals Claims of ‘Racist or Discriminatory’ Treatment of Employees at Coinbase
The NYT critique of Coinbase’s internal diversity policies quotes former employees who complain of “racist or discriminatory” treatment.
The New York Times has published a critique of Coinbase’s internal diversity policies, with several former employees complaining of “racist or discriminatory” treatment.
The report by journalist Nathaniel Popper, published Friday, is based on commentary from 23 current and former Coinbase employees. It paints the picture of a company that “has long struggled with its management of Black employees.”
Coinbase, which became aware of a potential story during the fact-checking process, attempted to front-run the story Wednesday evening. The company emailed a statement to its employees and then published that email in a blog post, alerting the public to an imminent “negative story.”
“Given that this story may be read by your friends, family and professional contacts, we wanted to give everyone a heads-up and provide some important context,” the statement reads. Notably, it expressed the company’s belief that the NYT’s report would “likely quote” three former Coinbase employees and one former contractor. This proved to be an underestimation.
The NYT’s report details several incidences of allegedly discriminatory behavior, ranging from racial stereotyping to inadequate practices around the hiring and promotion of Black employees. The Times reports that at least 11 former employees contacted the human resources department or their managers about such incidents.
Crypto, like the larger tech industry, has come under fire for a lack of diversity. In an opinion piece for CoinDesk titled “The Crypto Community Needs to Stand Up and Fight Racism,” Robert Greenfield, CEO of Emerging Impact, wrote, “The crypto community is conveniently selective about what aspects of society it wants to change.”
“Most people of color working in tech know that there’s a diversity problem,” said one former Coinbase employee, Alysa Butler, in Popper’s article. “But I’ve never experienced anything like Coinbase.”
Kim Milosevich, a Coinbase spokesperson, told the New York Times the company “does not tolerate racial, gender or any other forms of discrimination.” She is also quoted as saying, “All claims of discrimination are treated very seriously, investigated by both internal and third parties, and the appropriate action is taken.”
Coinbase, an $8 billion exchange, made headlines in September after CEO Brian Armstrong published an open letter declaring Coinbase as an “apolitical” and “mission driven” company, with the understanding that social justice issues should not be discussed on company time or channels.
Days later, the company offered a severance package for all employees who were uncomfortable with Armstrong’s mission statement. As of Oct. 14, 5% of Coinbase employees had left the firm.
Coinbase is one of crypto’s most valuable and public exchanges. The company is reportedly exploring a public stock offering in 2021.
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