US Embassy in Jerusalem

US Embassy in Jerusalem

Speaking of polarization, few issues are as divisive or intractable as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Yesterday’s ceremony marking the openingof the US Embassy in Jerusalem provided a stark and bloody portrait of that divide. Triumphant pomp in Jerusalem, horrific bloodshed at the Gaza border (at least 58 Palestinians killed in the worst violence in years), and outcry internationally.


The crisis will only deepen today as Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary, while Palestinians recall the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) in which hundreds of thousands of their forebears were displaced during the creation of the Jewish state.

Three lenses through which to look at this.

Middle East Peace — Supporters of the embassy move say that by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital unilaterally, rather than leaving that issue to be negotiated as part of a peace accord, Washington is shrewdly forcing the Palestinians to deal sooner rather than later, lest their scope for negotiation narrows further. But critics say the move undermines Washington’s already dubious status as an even-handed broker between Israel and the Palestinians, and needlessly inflames Palestinian sentiment. The Trump administration may have the “ultimate” peace deal up its sleeve, but it’s hard to see any serious proposals moving forward in the current environment.

The domestic view for Bibi and Trump — Both men face potentially crippling investigations at home, and each is dealing with several foreign policy crises at once. The US embassy move gives both a key boost among their constituents. For Bibi, landing the US Embassy in Jerusalem enjoys broad support among Jewish Israelis, whatever their other divisions and misgivingsmay be. And a huge majority of Jewish Israelis also support the Israeli military’s handling of the Gaza border protests. For Trump, meanwhile, the move is a gift to the evangelical Christian voters who turned out in historical numbers for him in 2016. Trump will need those voters to stay on-side in 2018 and, of course 2020. This helps him do that.

The regional view — To the deepening dismay of the Palestinians, Middle East peace is — for Washington, for Israel, and for other key Arab governments such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE — a less important priority than the region’s primary geopolitical fault line now, which is Iran. Don’t take it from us, take it from the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh which, back when the US first announced the embassy move, ran an editorial which argued that “the Arabs must realize that Iran is more dangerous to them than Israel.”

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They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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