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What We're Watching: Israel's strange bedfellows, Mali's isolation, Open Skies closed

Israel's new, weird government: Israel's political class never misses an opportunity for dramatic effect. And that's exactly what happened Wednesday when Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party informed Israel's president that he had successfully cobbled together a coalition government just minutes before a procedural deadline at midnight. It's an historic outcome, ending the political reign of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 15 years in power. The new coalition government will be rotational: Naftali Bennett, head of the rightwing Yamina party, will serve as PM until 2023, at which point he will switch roles with Lapid, who will serve as foreign minister until then. The government will be one of the most ideologically and religiously-diverse in Israel's history, including Jewish nationalist parties, right wing politicians who defected from Bibi's camp, left-wing parties, as well as Raam, an Islamist Arab party. Plenty of challenges await the new government, and Bibi is surely going to be a thorn in its side as head of the opposition in the Knesset. But after endless election cycles, many Israelis are rejoicing that they finally have a (fractious) new government.

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Netanyahu on the verge of losing power in Israel; US spying on EU?

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

Is Netanyahu's time as Israel's prime minister about to end?

It does look that way. Though of course, like with everything in Israel politics it's right down to the wire. Can they put this unity government, where the only thing they're unified on is everyone wants to get rid of Netanyahu, together by midnight Israeli local time. If they can it's the end of Netanyahu's term, 12 years tenure in office. Though the government's not going to last for long. They agree on absolutely nothing else. There's no policy that'll happen, maybe they get a budget together. That's about it. But my God, yes, indeed. It does look like Netanyahu's probably going to be out.

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Israel's historic (and fractious) post-Bibi government

After four elections in two years, Israel is finally on the brink of forming a new government. But for the first time in 12 years it won't be headed by someone named Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu.

The new power-sharing coalition is likely to be one of the most ideologically-diverse in the country's history. How, after years of dysfunction and deadlock, did we get here, and how might this new government shape Israeli politics and policymaking?

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What kind of leverage does Biden really have with Bibi?

The bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas is now in its second week. Hamas militants are firing rockets at major population centers in Israel, while the Israeli military continues to pound the densely-populated Gaza Strip with artillery and missiles. More than 200 Palestinians are dead and at least 10 Israelis have been killed.

Given the lopsided death toll and the humanitarian impact of the fighting in the Gaza Strip, critics of Israel's campaign have called on the US, Israel's closest ally, to do more to stop the violence.

Until Monday evening, the Biden administration had pointedly avoided calling publicly for a ceasefire, allowing more time for Israel to respond to the ongoing Hamas rocket attacks, but also deepening the humanitarian impact on the people of Gaza.

Why didn't the US intervene before the death toll mounted? And what kind of leverage does Washington, in practice, have over the situation?

A few things to consider.

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Could an Islamist be Israel's "kingmaker" now?

It's an all-too familiar dance in Israel by now: politicians campaign, activists canvass, and the public laments another draining and inconclusive election. Rinse repeat.

Now for the fourth time in just two years, Israelis have voted in general elections. The polls are closed and the votes are being tallied. With 88 percent of votes now counted, what do we know so far and what are the possible outcomes?

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Israel's "anyone but Bibi" election

Israel's merry-go-round politics are front and center again as Israelis are set to head to the polls on March 23 — the fourth time in two years. Billions of shekels later, will Israel's longest-serving Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu finally be shown the door?

While anything can happen in Israel's tumultuous politics, Bibi's downfall seems as likely as ever (though the race is tight) as his Likud party languishes in the polls. So what's changed, and what's the state of play as the campaign enters the homestretch?

Who are the key players?

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Will these world leaders keep their resolutions?

Let's be honest, who knows if 2021 will really be a better year than 2020.

On the one hand, you might say, "how could next year possibly be worse than this one?" On the other, 2020 has taught us that things can always — always — get worse.

But either way, YOU can always be a better YOU, and world leaders are, in principle, no different. Here's a look at the pledges that several world leaders are already making for the new year.

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What We're Watching: Israel's collapsing government, Nicaragua's opposition ban, new COVID strain goes global

Israel barrels towards another election: After failing to resolve a stalemate over the national budget, Israel's unwieldy Knesset (parliament) was on the verge of collapse Tuesday, making it all but certain that Israelis will head to an election on March 23, the fourth time in two years. But what's changed since Israelis voted less than a year ago? The once-competitive center-left Blue and White Party which gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party a run for its money, has hemorrhaged support since its leader Benny Gantz agreed to sit in a coalition government with the extremely divisive Netanyahu. Meanwhile, the defection of a long time Netanyahu ally, Gideon Saar — who recently left Likud to form his own right-wing party — spells big trouble for Netanyahu, whose popularity has nosedived amid accusations that he's fudged the pandemic response. The incumbent PM now faces a tough battle against a group of right-wing parties who are doing well in the polls and could band together to form a coalition that doesn't include Netanyahu for the first time in 11 years. The stakes couldn't be higher for the Israeli leader, who faces a host of legal troubles and is desperate to retain the top job so he can pass legislation that ensures his immunity from prosecution. Netanyahu is in for a tough battle come March.

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