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Bibi’s Bid Backfired

Bibi’s Bid Backfired

With 95 percent of the votes counted, Israel's election still hasn't yielded much clarity about who will be running the country. If it feels like we've been here before that's because we have — this is Israel's second vote in five months. Back in April, voters just barely gave Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu's Likud party the most votes, but he failed to form a government, and called a do-over rather than let his chief rival, Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party, try to form a government of his own.


Did his move pay off? One Haaretz reporter summed it up best: "Nobody won, but Netanyahu definitely lost."

What happened? Neither Netanyahu's Likud party nor Blue and White has a clear path to attaining a majority in the 120-seat Knesset. As of now, Likud is projected to win 32 seats, trailing Blue and White's 33. Both parties have teamed up with others to strengthen their negotiating positions: Netanyahu would command a 56-seat bloc of right-wing and ultra-orthodox parties, while Gantz's center-left grouping would pick up 44 endorsements for prime minister. Meanwhile, the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties has 12 seats, making it possible that an Arab Israeli could become opposition leader for the first time in Israel's history.

Avigdor Lieberman, kingmaker? This spring, it was Avigdor Lieberman, a wily far-right secularist, who doomed Bibi's chances of forming a government by defecting from the Likud-led coalition. After yesterday, he is a potential kingmaker again: his party, appealing largely to Russian-speaking Israelis, has currently won a crucial eight seats, which will be coveted by both Netanyahu and Gantz.

What happens next?

A unity government — A coalition made up of both Blue and White and Likud remains likely. But there are many forms such a government could take. Who would serve as prime minister? Will Likud depose Netanyahu this time around? Gantz says he will not serve in a unity government with Netanyahu so long as the Likud leader remains implicated in corruption scandals. If a unity government is the outcome, pull up a chair and get comfortable – coalition talks could take weeks, if not months.

Netanyahu forms a single right-wing bloc — Netanyahu has already reached out to his natural coalition partners – right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties – suggesting that he's working towards preventing a "liberal, nationalist" coalition that Gantz would hope to lead. If Netanyahu can win them over, he would have the biggest bloc, improving his chances of forming a government.

Center-left government — Gantz could bridge the gap needed to form a minority government with support from the Arab parties, but neither side seems enthused about that prospect. If it happens, it would be an extremely tenuous coalition.

Election 3.0 — It's the option that nobody wants, but if deadlock persists, Israel could head for its third election in just 12 months. President Reuven Rivlin has said he will do everything in his power to avoid another election, but that would require some parties to compromise. And lack of compromise is what led to repeat elections in the first place…

Would any of this change Israel's foreign policy? Probably not much. Benny Gantz would certainly offer an opportunity for Israel to reset its relations with countries disaffected by Netanyahu's cozying up to illiberal nationalist leaders. (Think of this "warm embrace" with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro or Bibi's affection for Hungary's Viktor Orban.) But Gantz is a former army chief whose actual views align closely with Netanyahu on many foreign policy issues, including the threat posed by a nuclear Iran. On the Palestinian issue, Gantz recently echoed his rival on annexing part of the West Bank, leading Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to conclude: the difference between Gantz and Netanyahu is like the "difference between Pepsi Cola and Coca-Cola."

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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