Foreign Policy

Netanyahu’s time is working out

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May 4, 2021, 5:46 a.m.

Here is today’s foreign policy mandate: The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nearing the deadline for government formation, Biden increases US refugee hat to 62,500 and Colombia The protests continue.

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The clock is ticking on Israel’s new government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hours to reach an agreement to form a government before a 28-day mandate expires at midnight tonight.

Netanyahu’s job is to break Israeli politics out of the Groundhog Day loop it has been in since 2019. The three votes ahead of the parliamentary elections in March do not result in a stable governing coalition.

The results in March were again inconclusive. Neither party won a full majority, and none of the pro and anti-Netanyahu blocs reached the 61-seat threshold required for a parliamentary majority.

Bennett as kingmaker? The balance of power could be with Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and leader of the far-right Yamina party. Bennett appears to have turned down an initial offer from Netanyahu to take turns as prime minister. “I didn’t ask Netanyahu to be prime minister. I asked him to form a government, which he unfortunately cannot, “Bennett told party members on Monday.

A centrist alternative? Should Netanyahu fail to reach an agreement tonight, he could appeal to President Reuven Rivlin to extend his negotiating window. In the past, Rivlin has refused to grant a grace period, but citing the Mount Meron tragedy, Netanyahu has been able to argue that his attention was elsewhere. The liberal newspaper Haaretz has spoken out against giving Netanyahu more time, regardless of the reason. “It is time to put an end to Netanyahu’s policy of tricks and shticks,” the newspaper’s senior editorial said Monday.

If Rivlin gives centrist Yesh Atid a chance to form a government, Bennett could reap the benefits. Party leader Yair Lapid has promised Bennett the first shot in the prime minister’s office if he joins him on a rotating leadership team. “What I offered will be kept and what Netanyahu offered will never happen,” Lapid told his party on Monday. Lapid also mentioned the possibility of forming a coalition with the support of two Arab parties that would expel Bennett.

Driverless mode. With political indecision the norm in recent years, Israel’s foreign policy has been left to the autopilot, writes Shalom Lipner, making it even more difficult for the country to adapt to changes in US policy under the Biden administration. “A functioning government that showed up to work and introduced a certain level of discipline would go a long way towards improving coordination between Israel and the United States,” Lipner wrote in April on Foreign Policy.

What we are following today

Colombia protests. Mass protests in Colombia sparked by President Ivan Duque’s new tax proposals continued on Monday – a day after Duque withdrew the unpopular measures – and are expected to resume today. Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla announced his resignation on Monday, stating in a statement that his presence in the government would “make it difficult to reach the necessary consensus quickly and effectively”. Though Carrasquilla’s association with tax reforms hastened his downfall, it had become a ridiculous thing after failing to give an accurate answer on the current price of a dozen eggs when questioned by local media last month.

Protest organizers are pushing for their advantage after Duque’s rise: on Monday, union leaders called for the withdrawal of health reforms, a universal basic income and the dismantling of the country’s riot police. According to a local ombudsman, 17 people have died in the protests so far.

US refugee admissions. US President Joe Biden said Monday that he would increase the number of refugee admissions to 62,500 for this fiscal year. This is an obvious reversal of an April statement that his administration would maintain the historically low ceiling of 15,000 refugees introduced by the Trump administration. Although White House officials insist he has been misunderstood, Biden has come under pressure from progressive groups and other Democrats to raise the cap. In a statement, Biden admitted that the new cap would not be reached this year, citing the need to “undo” the damage done to the Trump administration.

France’s climate law. The French parliament is set to pass a new law on climate change today as President Emmanuel Macron wants to improve his environmental footprint ahead of the 2022 presidential election. The provisions of the law provide for a ban on domestic flights if the same journey can be made by train for less than two and a half hours; It also introduces “ecocide” as a crime to punish polluters. Environmental groups have criticized the bill for not going far enough, and Macron’s own environmental advisory board said it had “potentially limited impact”.

Trade relations between the EU and India. The European Union and India will revive trade deal talks to strengthen economic ties as both economies face a pandemic-triggered downturn. In a call on Monday, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the resumption of negotiations, which had been halted since 2013 and which are expected to be announced on Saturday. The talks had previously stalled due to disputes on collective bargaining and freedom of movement. “There are clear impulses for strengthening our strategic relationships in the areas of trade, digital, climate change and multilateralism,” tweeted von der Leyen after the call.

Brazil’s COVID-19 investigation. Two former Brazilian health ministers go before a Senate panel today to give testimony to a commission of inquiry (CPI) on President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of federal funds. Henrique Mandetta, who served as Minister of Health in March 2020, and Nelson Teich, Mandetta’s successor a month later, are due to speak. Although the daily number of coronavirus cases in Brazil has fallen from record highs in March, it remains high with an average of around 60,000 new cases per day over the past week.

Belgium has made a territorial gain over its neighbor after a local farmer moved a centuries-old stone marker that delimits the Franco-Belgian border. The farmer from the Walloon municipality of Erquelinnes moved the boundary stone about two meters to make it easier for his tractor to pass, thereby breaking the Kortrijk Treaty signed in 1820. After good-natured discussions with his French counterpart in the neighboring town of Bousignies-sur-Roc, the Mayor of Erquelinnes, David Lavaux, tried to avert a diplomatic incident by asking the farmer to put the stone back where he found it . “He enlarged Belgium, reduced France; It wasn’t a good idea. But I was happy that my city was growing, ”joked Lavaux.

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