- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on three corruption charges.
- The announcement comes just one day after his rival Benny Gantz failed to form a government.
- Gantz had been given the opportunity to form the government after Netanyahu had failed to do so twice before following two separate elections over the course of five months.
- Israel’s Parliament now has 21 days to form a majority, or it will head to a third election in less than a year.
Israel’s attorney general announced Thursday that he was indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, making it the first time in Israel’s history that a sitting prime minister has been indicted.
The indictments levied against Netanyahu stem from three different cases.
One case claims that Netanyahu illegally accepted $264,000 worth of gifts from tycoons in exchange for lobbying. The two others allege that he traded favors for positive news coverage from an Israeli newspaper and a website.
Netanyahu denied the allegations, calling them “fake news” and saying the claims against him were a politically-motivated “witch hunt” run by the left and the media.
The indictments come at a time when Israel is already in a period of unprecedented political turmoil.
Series of Elections
Over the last eight months, Israel has seen two elections and three failed attempts to form a government.
During the first election in April, both Netanyahu’s Likud Party and opposition leader Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party both won 35 seats in Israel’s 120-seat Parliament, meaning neither party won an outright majority of 61 seats.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu the first chance to form a government by building coalitions with the smaller parties to make a majority.
When Netanyahu failed to build a coalition, he proposed and passed a bill to dissolve parliament and hold a second election in September rather than give Gantz or someone else a chance to form a government.
In the resulting September election, Gantz barely edged out Netanyahu, with the Blue and White Party receiving 33 seats to the Likud’s 32.
Netanyahu & Gantz Both Fail to Form Government
Despite the fact that Netanyahu won fewer seats and had already failed to form a government a few months before, Rivlin still chose to give him the first shot at making a government again.
This time, instead of trying to build a coalition with smaller parties, Netanyahu decided to try to form a unity government, under which he and Gantz would come up with an agreement to share power and then pool their seats to make a majority.
But Gantz said he would not form a unity government with Netanyahu as the leader of the Likud as long as Netanyahu faced indictment, and Netanyahu refused to step down as the party’s leader.
As a result, on October 21 Netanyahu announced that he had again failed to form a government and Rivlin handed the mandate over to Gantz, who was then given 28 days to complete the task.
On Wednesday, just hours before the deadline, Gantz announced that he too had failed to build a government. Speaking yesterday, Gantz slammed Netanyahu for his insistence that he maintain his right-wing, ultra-religious bloc rather than trying to create a unity government.
“I will not cooperate with an effort to turn the majority of the people to a hostage being held by a small group of extremists,” he said. “I will not be prepared to impose a radical agenda on the majority of the people who have chosen differently.”
Netanyahu hit back at Gantz, saying that he had been “willing without preconditions to enter immediate discussions with you, even tonight, to form a unity government.”
He went on to say that Gantz’s failure to build a government is his own fault, and accused him of being willing to work with Arab lawmakers, who Netanyahu called “terror supporters.”
However, there is also a third player that has been absolutely key in everything that’s been going on and the repeated failures to form a government: Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the secular ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party.
Lieberman was once a Netanyahu ally and even served on Netanyahu’s cabinet in multiple positions, but last year he denounced Netanyahu, citing the prime ministers growing dependence on ultraorthodox parties.
Lieberman’s decision not to form a coalition with Netanyahu after the first election was ultimately the reason why Netanyahu was unable to form a majority.
In the aftermath of the second election, he has again found himself as kingmaker because he was basically the only chance for Netanyahu and Gantz to form a majority without building a unity government.
If Netanyahu had the support of the religious parties, Lieberman’s seats could give him a majority. If Gantz had the support of the more left-wing parties as well as the Arab party, the Arab List, Lieberman’s seats would also give him a majority.
But Lieberman refused to work with either the ultraorthodox religious parties or the Arab List, so that was that.
Israel & Netanyahu’s Chaotic Political Future
With the series of unprecedented developments over the last few days, Israel’s political future remains up in the air.
Now, Israel’s Parliament will have 21 days to get a majority to support Gantz, Netanyahu, or a third candidate.
If the Parliament can not cobble together a majority in the next three weeks, then Israel will automatically be headed to its third election in less than a year, which would likely happen in March.
Many experts believe that a third election is the most likely scenario.
As for Netanyahu, he will technically remain as prime minister until he steps down or another is chosen.
While he is not legally required to step down unless convicted, that is only because a prime minister has never been indicted before, and while Israel has a law that requires indicted ministers to resign, whether that law applies to a prime minister has not been tested.
Already there are reports that several lawmakers have said they are going to petition the Supreme Court to remove him from office.
Even if Netanyahu does not step down, some experts believe the indictment could make it far more difficult for him to retain power.
While some have also pointed out that he largely kept his popularity with his base in the last two elections even with the charges against him, polls have shown that an official indictment would change the minds of many, including right-wing voters.
Others have also speculated that this could be the final straw for the other parties and could push them to coalition together to dump Netanyahu and avoid a third election.
If Netanyahu were to win, he faces a new legal problem: It will be the first time a candidate is under indictment, which raises questions about whether or not the president would even give him a shot at forming another government.
Even before the indictments, there was some talk in his own Likud party wanting to change leadership after Gantz failed to form a government, and on Thursday a lawmaker in the Likud called for a primary contest for prime minister within the party and said he would be a contender.
See what others are saying: (The Times of Israel) (The Washington Post) (Vox)
Gang That Kidnapped American and Canadian Missionaries in Haiti Seeks $17 Million Ransom
The incident has fueled calls for the government to take action against gangs, which control many territories in the country and have repeatedly carried out large-scale abductions for ransom
The gang that abducted 17 American and Canadian missionaries in Haiti on Saturday is demanding $17 million for their safe release, Haitian officials said Monday.
The group, which consists of one Canadian and 16 Americans, are all part of Christian Aid Ministries, an Amish and Mennonite charity based out of Ohio with a long history of working in Haiti.
While on their way to visit an orphanage in Croix des Bouquets, a suburb of the capital Port-au-Prince, the group’s bus was stopped at gunpoint by the 400 Mawozo gang. The gang is known for being one the most dangerous in the area, reportedly having about 150 members.
Multiple outlets, including CNN and Reuters, report that during the gang’s confrontation with the missionaries some victims managed to get messages out to associates to let them know what was going on. One even managed to drop a pin location on his mobile phone, helping authorities get a better idea of where exactly this happened.
By 4:53 p.m on Saturday, the kidnappers contacted Christian Aid Ministries to make their steep demands. According to authorities, the request is a noticeable jump from the thousands to tens of thousands the gang typically asks for.
Lack of Government Control
While Haitian authorities are involved in the investigation to free the missionaries, they actually have little power in the area. Croix des Bouquets is largely out of the government’s control and is instead run by 400 Mawozo. Government authority being replaced by gang activity isn’t uncommon in Haiti, and in some places, government control is almost completely lacking. This was highlighted on Sunday when Prime Minister Ariel Henry was forced to turn back from a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of revolutionary war hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines due to its placement in gang territory.
The issue makes recovering the missionaries far more complex, but Haitian authorities aren’t alone. The FBI has been involved in the investigation and is continuing to help Haitian authorities.
“The FBI is part of a coordinated US government effort to get the Americans involved to safety. Due to operational considerations, no further information is available at this time,” The agency said in a statement to Reuters.
Reports indicate that the hostages are being held in some kind of safe house for the gang. Currently, no one is believed to be physically hurt. The gang has warned against harming the hostages, although according to a Haitian security forces member who spoke with CNN, the group didn’t seem too worried about those threats.
Haitians Call for Changes
Abductions in Haiti have always been an issue, but the problem has become particularly bad lately. In 2020, the Haitian National Police reported 234 kidnappings. In the first eight months of this year, there have been at least 328.
Some organizations claim that number is actually low. In fact, the Center for Analysis and Research for Human Rights reported that at least 600 people have been abducted this year. The center said that much of the increase was caused by 400 Mawozo, who have figured out that kidnapping busloads of people is more profitable than just taking individuals.
The issue is so prolific that just before the kidnapping on Saturday, a Haitian transportation union called for an indefinite strike starting Monday, with its president further justifying the move in a written statement a day later.
“We call on the government to put an end to the kidnappings and provide us safety or for them to resign immediately. We are the most victims; the transportation sector is an easy target for kidnappers all over the country,” Union President Méhu Changeux wrote. “We lost many members to the insecurity and dozens of members have been kidnapped. The latest tragedy of the kidnapping of the American missionaries shows no one is safe in this country.”
Since Monday, many parts of the country have come to a standstill amid the strike, putting increased pressure on a government with little resources to handle the underlying cause of discontent: gang activity and government instability.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (Associated Press)
5 Dead, 2 Injured After Bow and Arrow Attack in Norway
Police have called the incident a terror attack, though exact details regarding the suspect’s motives remain unclear.
Super Market Attack
The Norwegian town of Kongsberg is reeling from a deadly incident at Coop Extra supermarket on Wednesday that police are treating as “an act of terrorism.”
Shortly before 6 p.m., a 37-year old Danish man entered the market, armed with a bow and arrow, along with other weapons. He then began firing at those inside the building.
Authorities quickly responded and were on the scene within five minutes. Despite a police confrontation with the suspect, the attack continued. Four women and one man were ultimately killed while two others were left injured.
The suspect initially avoided arrest after managing to flee the scene. Police Chief Ole Bredrup Sæverud told reporters Thursday that it took 35 minutes to catch the attacker.
While police described the incident as a terror attack, they refused to specify a motive. Officials did hint that the rampage might have been religiously motivated by revealing that police had previously been in contact with the suspect due to his conversion to Islam and possible connections to radical content and teachings. Still, Sæverud clarified that the perpetrator hadn’t been actively investigated at all in 2021.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who was just hours away from leaving office after she was ousted in recent elections, described reports of the scene as “horrifying” on Wednesday. Incoming Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a Facebook post from Thursday morning that the attack was a “cruel and brutal act.”
Norway’s King Harald expressed his sympathies to the mayor of Kongs-berg, telling the country, “We sympathize with the relatives and injured in the grief and despair.”
“And we think of all those affected in Kongs-berg who have experienced that their safe local environment suddenly became a dangerous place. It shakes us all when horrible things happen near us, when you least expect it, in the middle of everyday life on the open street.”
Attacks of this nature are rare in Norway. In 2019, a right-wing gunman tried to enter a mosque before being overpowered and hitting no one. Wednesday’s attack is the most deadly since July 2011, when a far-right extremist killed 77 people at a Labour party summer camp.
Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murderers or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.
Protests Erupt in Italy Over World’s Toughest Vaccine Mandate
The violence is believed to have been instigated by far-right groups that oppose COVID-19 vaccines and other pandemic-related safety measures.
Green Pass Pushback
Demonstrators gathered in Rome over the weekend to protest against Italy’s plans to require a coronavirus “Green Pass” for all workers starting Oct. 15.
The Green Pass is a European Union initiative that shows whether someone is vaccinated, has recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months, or has received a negative COVID test in the past 48 hours.
Since August, Italy has required the pass for entry at restaurants and use of long-distance trains, along with nearly every other activity that involves interaction with others or use of a public space. Now, the pass will be required to enter a workplace, which critics argue is particularly harsh.
Individuals who can’t produce a valid Green Pass will be suspended without pay, making it the most extreme of any COVID-19 mandate in the world.
The weekend protests started out peaceful, with people chanting “Liberta,” which means freedom. However, the scene turned violent by Saturday when a group of protesters affiliated with the far-right Forza Nuova party decided to storm the headquarters of the CGIL, Italy’s biggest and oldest labor union.
Protesters then marched towards the Prime Minister’s office, prompting police to respond with anti-riot measures like tear gas, water cannons, and shield charges.
It’s unclear how many protesters were hurt in the ongoing fighting, but dozen of police officers were reportedly hurt in the scuffle. By Sunday evening. at least 12 protesters were arrested, many of who are members of Forza Nuova, including its leader Roberto Fiore. Authorities also indicated in a press conference on Monday that it had identified at least 600 other people who took part in illegal activities during the demonstrations.
Fiore was unapologetic about the rioting, and Forza Nuova said in a statement, “The popular revolution will not stop, with or without us, until the Green Pass is definitively withdrawn. Saturday was a watershed between the old and the new. The people decided to raise the level of the clash.”
Saturday’s events have led many of the country’s largest political parties, including the 5Star Movement and the Democratic Paty, to support a motion calling for Nuova Forza and similar groups to be dismantled in line with a constitutional provision from 1952 that bans fascists parties.
While that motion is still going through the legislative process, prosecutors have already seized the group’s website in line with a 1988 law that bans inciting violence through public communications.
“The events [on Saturday] take us back to the darkest and most dramatic moments of our history and they are an extremely serious and unacceptable attack on democracy,” Valeria Fedeli, a senator with the center-left Democratic Party, said on Monday.
The violence from the weekend may make it seem like a sizeable chunk of Italians are against the vaccine; however, over 70% of all Italians are already vaccinated, making it one of the highest rates in the world.
According to polling from the summer, most Italians think the new rules will help in the long run and prevent another catastrophe like last year when the country ran out of room to bury the dead due to the number of deaths caused by COVID-19.