- 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)
Wealthy Canadian Couple Posed as Motel Workers To Jump Vaccine Queue
- Rodney Baker, the CEO of a Canadian casino company, resigned this week after he and his wife were caught traveling to a remote area in Yukon that is home to many indigenous people to jump the coronavirus vaccine queue.
- The two allegedly posed as motel workers and were given the first dose of the vaccine but raised suspicions when they asked to be taken straight to the airport immediately afterward.
- Both individuals received two fines, one for failing to self-isolate and a second for failing to follow their signed declarations, adding up to $1,150 each.
- The White River First Nation is calling for stiffer penalties, saying the small fine would be meaningless to the wealthy duo. For reference, the former CEO was paid a salary of more than $10.6 million in 2019.
Couple Dupes Local Healthcare Workers
Like many other countries, officials in Canada have been working hard to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations. In the Yukon territory specifically, health workers have been giving priority to remote communities with elderly and high-risk populations, as well as limited access to healthcare.
One of those areas is Beaver Creek, which is home to many members of the White River First Nation. However, Beaver Creek is now making headlines after two wealthy Vancouver residents traveled there to jump ahead in the vaccine queue.
The two culprits were identified as 55-year-old Rodney Baker, president and CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp, and his wife, 32-year-old actress Ekaterina Baker.
They reportedly flew from Vancouver to Whitehouse, then chartered a private plane to the remote community. Afterward, they went to a mobile clinic where they were able to receive the Moderna vaccine after saying they were new hires at a nearby motel.
Their presence raised suspicions given how small the population is in Beaver Creek, but the two raised even more eyebrows when they asked to be taken straight to the airport after receiving their doses.
Workers from the vaccination clinic checked with the motel and alerted law enforcement when they learned that the Bakers had lied about working there.
The couple was stopped just as they were preparing to fly back to their luxury condo in downtown Vancouver. According to CBC, both individuals received two fines, one for failing to self-isolate and a second for failing to follow their signed declaration, adding up to $1,150 each.
Indigenous Community Responds
“We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes,” the White River First Nation’s Chief Angela Demit said in a Facebook statement addressing the situation.
She also told The Washington Post that she wants to see stiffer penalties for the couple because the relatively small fines would be “essentially meaningless” for such wealthy individuals. For reference, Mr. Baker’s annual compensation in 2019 was reported to be more than $10.6 million.
Janet Vander Meer, the head of the White River First Nation’s coronavirus response team, also called the incident, “another example of ongoing acts of oppression against Indigenous communities by wealthy individuals that thought they would get away with it.”
“Our oldest resident of Beaver Creek, who is 88 years old, was in the same room as this couple. My mom, who’s palliative, was in the same room as this couple,” she told Globalnews.ca. “That’s got to be jail time. I can’t see anything less. For what our community has been through the last few days. The exhaustion. It’s just mind-boggling.”
To prevent situations like this in the future, a spokesman for the Yukon government said it would implement new requirements for proving residency in the territory.
As far as the Bakers, Rodney resigned from his role at Great Canadian this week. A spokesperson for the company, which is currently the subject of a separate money-laundering probe, says it “has no tolerance for actions that run counter to the company’s objectives and values.”
See what others are saying: (CBC) (The Washington Post) (Yukon News)
Protests Erupt Across the Netherlands Over COVID-19 Curfew
- For the third night in a row, Dutch police clashed with protesters and rioters in ten cities across the Netherlands.
- The protests are a result of frustrations over the 9:00 p.m. – 4:30 a.m. curfew the country imposed to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
- Rioters looted across major cities and even burned down a coronavirus testing site. So far, 184 people have been arrested and thousands have received fines for their participation.
- The Prime Minister has said that when possible, the curfew would be the first safety measure to go, but he also made it clear that those rioting over it were criminals and will be treated as such.
Violence Over Coronavirus Curfew
The Netherlands faced riots and protests over coronavirus curfews and lockdown measures for the third night in a row.
The protests raged across ten cities, including major ones such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. Authorities say that 184 people have been arrested so far, and thousands have received fines for their participation.
Protesters are particularly upset with an ongoing curfew in the country that puts restrictions on travel between 9:00 p.m.- 4:30 a.m.. It’s meant to slow the spread of the virus by preventing nightlife activities; however, critics have questioned just how effective those measures actually are.
Beyond the skepticism, the Netherlands is also facing a spread of misinformation about COVID-19, leading many to downplay how dangerous it is.
Last night’s protests led to violence with police, as well as a COVID-19 testing site being burnt to the ground. Wider Dutch society has been shocked by the violence since protests of this nature are relatively rare in the nation.
Mayors across the country vowed to introduce emergency measures that are intended to help deal with the protests.
Coping With the Virus
Regarding the curfew itself, the government has refused to budge on the issue. When responding to last night’s violence, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that when possible, the curfew would be the first safety measure to go. Still, he also made it clear that those rioting over it were criminals and will be treated as such.
The Netherlands had managed to maintain the virus relatively successfully, six months ago, it had among the lowest new daily cases in Europe, with around 42 daily new cases in July. That all changed in September when cases began to rise dramatically, peaking of 11,499 daily new cases on Dec. 24.
Due to the imposed restrictions, cases began to fall again, although they are still far higher than they were in the summer of 2020.
See What Others Are Saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (NPR)
Thousands Protest in Russia Demanding Release of Putin Foe Alexei Navalny
- Russia faced some of the largest protests it has seen in recent years after thousands took to the streets Saturday demanding the government release opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
- Russian authorities declared the protests illegal and detained more than 3,500 people from more than 100 cities, including Navalny’s wife.
- The government also released a statement addressing Navalny by name for the first time, attempting to discredit claims he has made, including the idea that President Vladimir Putin has a billion-dollar villa on the Black Sea coast.
Largest Russian Protests in Recent History
Russia experienced some of its largest protests in years Saturday after opposition figure Alexei Navalny called for demonstrations to be held following his arrest.
Supporters demanded Navalny’s release but also called for an end to perceived rampant corruption in the Russian state.
Tens of thousands took to the streets and clashed with police in more than 100 cities, with independent monitors claiming that 3,500 people were detained by police. Among those detained was Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, who was targeted by authorities during the protests. She is reported to have been released by Russian media agencies such as TASS.
Despite Russian authorities declaring the protests illegal and warning of repercussions for those who attend, the protests managed to reach a wide range of people. According to the New York Times, over ⅓ of protesters in Moscow said they had never protested before.
Despite the movements current popularity, it may be difficult to turn the popular, anti-Putin movement into something more.The protesters span a broad range of the political spectrum, from far-left communist and anarchist groups to nationalists and libertarians, meaning that while they dislike Putin and the corruption in the Russian government, they agree on little else.
Changing the Message
The protests unveiled a new shift in how Russian authorities deal with Navalny. In the past, authorities and state-backed media never mentioned him by name in order to downplay him; however, that changed this weekend.
Newscasters aired multiple programs to discredit him and paint him as a tool of the West, while Putin denied Navalny’s claims that he has a secret, billion-dollar villa on the coast of the Black Sea. Based on his salary of $133,000 a year, Putin would only be able to afford a single home in Russia. However, there is speculation that due to corruption and embezzling, Putin is likely the actual richest person alive.
Regarding Navalny himself, he’s still in jail pending court proceedings on Feb. 2. If those go poorly for Navalny, he could be in prison until the mid-2020s, but he is more concerned about his immediate future.
In a video to supporters prior to the protests, he made it clear that he has no intention of committing suicide. That statement was likely made due to the fact that many Russian dissidents seem to die via suicide, with much speculation about whether or not that was actually the case.