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Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his corruption trial at Jerusalem's District Court

Abir Sultan/via REUTERS

Will Pegasus set Bibi free?

Israel’s spy agencies are notoriously sly operators. They have been known to take out high-profile targets in far-flung places around the world. Most famously, the Mossad tracked down and killed those involved in the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

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What We’re Watching: Ukraine’s tumultuous politics, Netanyahu’s endgame, escalation in Yemen

Ukraine’s political woes. While Russia maintains tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, domestic politics in Kyiv are becoming increasingly contentious. This week, former President Petro Poroshenko — who was elected in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution ousted a longtime Putin ally and then defeated for re-election in 2019 — has now returned to Ukraine after a month abroad to face a host of criminal charges. Those charges include treason, an alleged crime related to his decision to sign government contracts to buy coal from mines held by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Poronshenko, a businessman worth $1.6 billion, says the deal was necessary to keep Ukraine from economic collapse and that the charges are an attempt by current President Volodomyr Zelensky to distract from unfavorable perceptions of the country’s (currently lousy) economic outlook. He also calls it a manufactured crisis and a “gift” to the Kremlin, because it distracts from Russia’s ongoing aggression. Also, on Friday US Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to continue talks on resolving the Ukraine standoff.

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What We're Watching: Bibi on trial, Iran nuclear talks resume, Kosovo's election

Bibi on trial as deadlock continues: One political commentator described it as "the ultimate Israeli split screen." As Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's corruption trial finally kicked off after months of delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, political parties were meeting with Israel's President Reuven Rivlin to "recommend" whether the incumbent PM or the opposition should be given the first shot at trying to form a new coalition government after Israelis recently went to the polls for the fourth time in two years. Back in court, the prosecutor said that the PM made "illegitimate use" of his power to obtain favorable media coverage and other luxury perks, with Bibi responding by calling the trial an "attempted coup." The political temperature could not be hotter right now: though Netanyahu is likely to have the votes to try and form a government in the next few weeks, political stalemate persists, making it increasingly unlikely that he will be able to hobble together a workable coalition. Netanyahu also must appear in court three times a week, a massive distraction as he tries to save his political career. All this comes as Israel tries to revive its post-pandemic economy without a stable government or a national budget. The prospect of a fifth election looms large.

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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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What We're Watching: Myanmar protests test the generals, Haiti's political chaos, Netanyahu in the dock

Myanmar protests test junta's patience: It didn't take long for the Myanmar military junta to get an earful from the streets. Since staging a coup last week, in which they detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, they have been met with a growing protest movement in the capital, Naypyidaw, and other cities across the country. Flying the flag of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party and carrying images of Lord Buddha, the protesters say they are demanding an end to "dictatorship." The generals, for their part, have so far showed restraint, deploying water cannons against the protesters this time, rather than shooting them dead, as they ended up doing in 1988 and again in 2007. But the military has warned ominously that it won't tolerate actions that undermine "state stability, public safety, and the rule of law." With the world watching, will the generals change tack and crush the protests after all — in the end, who's to stop them?

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