- 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)
200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing
The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
Children Missing From Hotels
There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.
When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.
In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.
Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.
Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”
Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing.
However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.” The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.”
Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline.
The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)
100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History
Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”
The NHS Grinds to a Halt
Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.
The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.
Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.
When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.
Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.
In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”
Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.
The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.
During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.
Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament
Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.
“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”
“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”
Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”
Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”
“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”
While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.
Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.
If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.
Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)
Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”
One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.
Epic Games Sued
A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.
The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years.
If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case.
Epic Games Responds
“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.”
Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.
The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children.
“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.”