Israel and Palestine: Majority favors two-state plan

A poll published Nov. 22 showed that 55.6 percent of Palestinians and 53 percent of Israelis support the principles of the unofficial peace plan called the Geneva Accord, drafted by former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin and former senior Palestinian Authority figure Yasser Abed Rabbo.

The survey, commissioned by the Washington-based Baker Institute, asked 1,241 Israelis and Palestinians what they thought about the peace plan’s provisions, without mentioning it by name.

The British newspaper The Independent observed that Israeli voters are losing faith in right-wing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s ability to fulfill his promise of “peace with security.” All Israeli voters have been mailed a copy of the Geneva Accord, and radio advertisements are promoting it.

Kenya: Union leaders against cuts

Union leaders, including the head of the Central Organization of Trade Unions, are warning the government against implementing World Bank and IMF conditions that destroy workers’ rights.

Speaking at the Tom Mboya Labor College in Kisumu on Nov. 28, top leaders of 13 unions said cutting government workers would push the country deep into poverty.

“If the government wants to be unpopular, then let it retrench civil servants, freeze employment, suspend salary increases and privatize strategic state enterprises,” COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli told a workers rally in Mombasa over the weekend. He added that Kenya can sustain its economy without foreign aid, provided the government steps up the fight against corruption and the collection of tax revenue.

Venezuela: Alternative proposed to FTAA

Speaking in Caracas at last week’s opening of the fifth General Assembly of the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez proposed “redesigning a path” to replace the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement with a system aimed at maximizing prosperity in Latin American countries.

Calling FTAA a mechanism for “disintegration,” Chavez urged participants to design a new path “that takes us to an economic and social model to achieve full equality and contentment.” He called attention to the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of America (ALBA), an integration proposal that originated in Venezuela.

Chavez said the FTAA is part of a policy of neoliberalism and “free market” economics which is now seen as outdated and “no longer the future of the countries of the continent.”

United Kingdom: Rail workers to switch parties?

Three major Scottish branches of Britain’s largest rail workers union are seeking to switch allegiance from the Labor Party to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), the BBC reported last week.

Branch leaders of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) cited the SSP’s support for returning the railroads to public ownership, and for repealing antiunion laws.

Earlier this year, RMT general secretary Bob Crow observed that members were getting “fed up” with Prime Minister Tony Blair’s New Labor, and suggested the union could switch its support to the SSP.

At its annual conference last summer, the RMT voted to let local branches support parties other than Labor, and cut its contribution to the Labor Party significantly.

The RMT’s executive committee is expected to approve the Scottish branches’ decision, and other branches are reportedly considering the move.

Canada: Demand hearings on missile defense

The Canadian Peace Alliance is demanding the government hold immediate public hearings on Canada’s participation in the U.S. missile defense program, according to the Canadian newspaper People’s Voice.

Major antiwar coalitions in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and other Canadian cities have now organized anti-missile defense campaigns.

In May, Defense Minister John McCallum announced the federal government is negotiating Canadian involvement in the program. In June, 38 Liberal Party Members of Parliament joined the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois in voting against Canadian participation, saying it leaves the door open to weaponizing space.

Besides Britain, which said in January that it would join the missile defense system, no other country directly supports the project. (However, other forms of involvement exist; see below.)

Japan: New anti-missile venture with U.S.

Japan plans to co-produce the next generation of ship-to-air anti-missile missiles with the U.S., the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun said last week. The newspaper said the joint production of the missiles is designed to maintain and promote Japan’s competitive lead in military technology. Japan has studied development of the missiles with the U.S. since 1999.

The Japanese Defense Agency aims to clear the way for their production within several years, but the joint production could require a review of Japan’s ban on weapons exports, Asahi Shimbun said. Japan banned export of weapons to any country in 1976, but in 1983 changed its policy to allow military technology exports to the U.S. alone.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (