- Israel held its third election in less than a year. Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to win, though his bloc of right-wing parties is still predicted to be short of a majority.
- The win is a massive victory for the embattled leader, who was indicted on corruption charges before the election, and who many believed was falling from power.
- There are still problems ahead: It’s unclear if Netanyahu can legally form a government because there is no precedent for an indicted sitting prime minister.
- With the prospect of a fourth election, leaders are determined to figure something out, but it’s uncertain if that will be enough to overcome the differences that have prevented them from forming a government the last three times.
Israel’s Third Election
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is projected to win the country’s third election in less than a year.
The election comes after the embattled leader failed twice before to form a coalition government, plunging Israel into political chaos.
Netanyahu’s repeated inability to form a government and the subsequent turmoil left many wondering if this was the end for the country’s longest-serving prime minister who has largely defined Israeli politics for the last two decades.
Netanyahu’s political future was further called into question in November when he was indicted for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. The move marked the first time in Israel’s history a sitting prime minister had been indicted.
But the results of Monday’s election seem to point in the other direction. With 92% of votes counted, Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party came out on top, winning a total of 36 seats in Israel’s 120-seat Parliament.
Even more notably, the prime minister’s bloc of right-wing parties won a total of 59 seats— just two seats short of a majority.
Victory for Netanyahu
The win represents a huge victory for Netanyahu for several reasons.
First, out of all three elections, it marks the first time he won more seats his main rival, Benny Gantz. Gantz’s Blue and White Party won 32 seats, and his center-left bloc won a total of 54 seats.
Second, it indicates that Netanyahu’s base does not care that he has been indicted on corruption charges since the last time they voted for him. In fact, voter turn-out was actually the highest it has been for all three of the elections.
And third, it shows Netanyahu’s incredible staying power and stronghold on Israeli politics.
Speaking Monday night, the prime minister called the election outcome the “biggest win” of his life, and a “victory against all odds.”
“They eulogized us, they said it’s the end of the Netanyahu era,” he said. “But we turned everything upside down.”
This is clearly a big win for Netanyahu, but his problems are far from over.
Because a sitting prime minister has never been indicted, the whole situation is entirely unprecedented. As a result, it’s unclear if Israel’s president can even legally ask Netanyahu to lead his party in trying to form a government.
To that point, Israel’s Supreme Court avoided ruling on that question back in January, probably because they hoped the election would solve their problem.
Now, it’s almost certain that the highest court will be asked to make the difficult decision to either stop an elected official from taking power or allow a leader accused of bribery and fraud to form a government.
The timing here is also important. Netanyahu’s hearing is set to happen in two weeks, and if convicted, a whole other set of problems could arise.
Even if he is allowed to form a government, the question that has ultimately caused him to fail each time still remains: can he get a majority?
While Netanyahu won more seats this time around than in the past elections, his right-wing bloc did not. In the first election, the group of right-wing parties won 60 seats, and they were still unable to form a 61-seat majority.
Despite the fact that different parties have won different seats in the last few elections, many of the same problems still remain, which, if unresolved, could lead to a fourth election.
But on the other side, no one wants another election— or at least they do not want to be blamed for it.
The prospect of a fourth election might provide more incentive for the parties to try to figure something out, but it is uncertain if it will be enough to reconcile differences that have prevented a government from being formed three times already.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera) (Haaretz)
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.”