Official tolerance, and the absence of real opposition parties elsewhere on the political spectrum, gives them a degree of legitimacy they would otherwise lack. Moreover, the Bolotnaya protests demonstrated that the dichotomy between Putin’s authoritarianism on the one hand, and the Manezhnaya thugs on the other, is a false one.To be sure, the Bolotnaya protestors were mostly educated, middle class Muscovites. Outside of Moscow and a few other cities, this demographic is much sparser. With a new round of protests now scheduled for December 24, an important indicator of the movement’s future will be how many people, and what sort, come out to protest, especially in places other than Moscow.Despite this caveat, Putin and his allies are overstating the danger that Russia’s nascent reform movement will be hijacked by hardcore nationalists. Having a serious dialogue about reform offers a more promising way forward for the country than continuing its cynical minuet with Russian nationalism.
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his speech to Congress today, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin and I sat down for a conversation with Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev. He elaborated on the Prime Minister’s speech.After talking to Regev, I interviewed Maen Areikat, the Chief Palestinian Representative to the United States.For the first time Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly said that if the Israelis and Palestinians did reach a final peace deal, “some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders.”Israeli spokesman Mark Regev insists that Israel is expanding only in territories they expect to keep. We tried to press him whether Israel would would commit to not building in the areas it expects to give up as a sign of seriousness about negotiations, but he said that Israel will “play its cards in the process of negotiations” on all the core issues.
He added that Israel can’t agree on a final position of a border without certain “guarantees” from the Palestinians in negotiations that they won’t be attacked from territory they are pulling out of.Maen Areikat told us the settlements that Israel wants to keep as part of the land swaps are problematic. Additionally, he said, Israel’s desire to keep roads leading in and around the settlements for future expansion constitute a lot of land to be swapped, which could affect the character of the Palestinians state.Hamas and recognition of Israel In his speech, Netanyahu urged President Abbas to dissolve his Fatah party’s agreement with Hamas, saying that Israel could never negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by “the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda,” which refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.