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US aid for Israel & Ukraine hangs in the balance
TITLE PLACEHOLDER | Ian Bremmer | World In :60

US aid for Israel & Ukraine hangs in the balance

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60.

Will the House pass the Senate-approved aid package for Ukraine and Israel?

Well, certainly not if the Freedom Caucus and the Speaker of the House have anything to say about it. So, I mean, as of today, what the Senate has passed with a lot of Republicans on board looks dead in the House. But of course, the ability to jam the House and force them to accept something or there's no government funding, that is a game of chicken that we've seen before and the Senate may well continue to be ready to play. So it is not dead yet, but aid is looking challenging. And let's be clear, irrespective of what happens for 2024, it's going to be very hard to get any more aid for the Ukrainians going forward. And everybody is deeply aware of that reality.

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Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout picture released on January 28, 2024.

Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

Israel and Hamas may be close to a cease-fire. Has the war already spun out?

A drone attack launched by Iran-aligned militants in Syria on Sunday killed three US soldiers stationed in Jordan, even as CIA Director William Burns was in Paris for high-level talks with Egyptian, Qatari, and Israeli officials over a possible cease-fire and hostage exchange with Hamas. The contours of any deal are not yet clear, but The New York Times reported a two-month pause in fighting in exchange for around 100 remaining hostages.

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A convoy maneuvers near the Israel-Gaza border, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Israel, January 24, 2024.

REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Are Israel and Gaza considering a cease-fire?

Israel and Hamas have agreed that in principle an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners could take place during a month-long cease-fire.

The glimmer of hope came after a month of mediation efforts led by Qatar, the US, and Egypt in recent weeks. The talks have focused on releasing Israeli hostages in return for a break in hostilities, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and more aid to Gaza.

However, there is reason to doubt this deal will come to fruition.

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Protesters hold signs demanding the liberation of hostages being held in the Gaza Strip after they were seized by Hamas gunmen on Oct. 7, in Tel Aviv, on Nov. 21, 2023, just hours before the announcement of a four-day cease-fire.

REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel and Hamas: A cease-fire, if you can keep it

Well, we were told to ignore all rumors about a hostage release deal until something was announced officially, so we did.

But now it’s for real: Late Wednesday, Israel’s cabinet approved a limited cease-fire with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of some of the roughly 240 hostages that Hamas abducted during its Oct. 7 rampage through southern Israel. The deal was brokered with help from the US and Qatar.

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Members pf the Jewish youth group, Hillel, raise posters of hostages during a demonstration in support of Israel on the National Mall attended by tens of thousands of people.

Allison Bailey via Reuters

The Gaza hostages: Can Israel really negotiate their release?

Reports continue to circulate of a possible deal between Israel and Hamas that would see the release of as many as 70 women and children held hostage in Gaza since Hamas abducted them on Oct. 7. In exchange, Israel would grant a five-day cease-fire and possibly liberate a number of Palestinian women and children jailed in Israel on minor charges.

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Photo of Israeli forces operating in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday Nov 5, 2023, in an area from which many attempts to attack the Israeli forces through tunnel shafts and military compounds were detected. The Israel Defense Forces says it has killed 10 Hamas field commanders since the beginning of the war.

EYEPRESS via Reuters

Gaza: A dangerous new phase

Israel’s war in Gaza has entered a critical new moment. Israeli forces have surrounded Gaza City, and the operation will now escalate the war in Gaza into block-by-block combat and entry into Hamas’ underground tunnels. The death toll on both sides will likely rise sharply. Israel hopes this phase will last just a few weeks, but the goal remains to destroy Hamas, at least in Gaza City, and there’s no guarantee it can progress at the needed pace. Even if it is successful, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced overnight that Israel intends to assume the “overall security responsibility ... for an indefinite period” following the war, citing ongoing security concerns.

The White House has voiced opposition to this scenario in the long term and is calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting. Israel will likely push forward but has said it is open to tactical "little pauses."

Will this surge of violence in Gaza ignite a regional war? There’s already unrest in the West Bank, but the greater threat comes from Iran’s Middle East proxies — particularly Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthis in Yemen, and Shia militants in Iraq and Syria.

Most key players in this drama — Israel, Iran, the United States, Hezbollah, and Arab leaders — want to avoid a bigger war that would prove costly for all. But there are lots of wildcards here and much that can go wrong as fighting intensifies.

Members of parliament hold placards after the result of the vote on the first motion of no-confidence against the French government at the National Assembly in Paris, France, March 20, 2023.

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

What We’re Watching: Slim win for Macron, protests in South Africa, Trump’s legal woes, Colombia peace collapsing?

Macron’s narrow escape

It came down to the wire, but Emmanuel Macron’s government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in France’s National Assembly on Monday, with 278 voting to topple the government, nine votes shy of the threshold needed to pass.

Quick recap: The motion was triggered after Macron used a constitutional provision last week -- bypassing a vote in the lower house -- to pass a controversial pension reform despite weeks of protests (more on that here).

Not only do 70% of French adults abhor Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62 by 2030 – which he says is necessary to plug the growing debt hole – but the French electorate, which has long had a libertarian streak, is also furious that the government used what it says is an anti-democratic loophole to pass the measure.

Macron’s troubles are only just beginning. Hundreds were arrested in Paris over the weekend and on Monday as anti-government protests turned violent and smelly. Unions have called for nationwide demonstrations and strikes in a bid to pressure the government to roll back the measures (which will never happen).

Prime Minister Élizabeth Borne will likely take the fall and resign. Still, Macron, already unpopular before this debacle, will emerge a diminished political figure. After previously saying he understood that people were “tired of reforms which come from above,” it will be very hard for the ideological chameleon to regain the trust of vast swathes of the population.

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Will the Ukraine ceasefire last? COVID containment in Europe
Will the Ukraine/Russia Ceasefire Last? COVID Containment in Europe | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Will the Ukraine ceasefire last? COVID containment in Europe

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, with the view from Europe:

Will the recent ceasefire between Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists lead to a solution of the conflict?

That's much too early to say. At first, it remains to be seen if this ceasefire will hold. There have been a number of ceasefires and all of them have collapsed sooner or later. We'll see first what happens with this one. Will it lead to further political talks between Kiev and Moscow, primarily? That remains to be seen. I mean, there have been no indication so far of change in the basic Russian attitude of keeping on to Donbass, the one way or the other. So, let's hope for the best but let's be rather skeptical about all that's happening.

Will the recent upsurge of coronavirus and different measures taken against it in Spain lead to a new lockdown in Europe?

No, I don't think it will. I mean, you will certainly see, as you see elsewhere, sort of outburst here and there, but I think that there are better capabilities now in Europe to localize those particular outbursts and try to contain them. So, a return to the big lockdowns that was always the beginning of the year, that is, I think, neither necessary nor likely.

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