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Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu walks to address his supporters at his party headquarters during Israel's general election in Jerusalem.

Reuters

Netanyahu clinches it

With around 99% of the vote counted, Israel’s former longtime leader Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is in prime position to reclaim the prime ministership, with his Likud Party having secured 32 parliamentary seats out of 120, the most of any party. Bibi is now on track to form a coalition of 64 seats made up of extremist ultra-nationalist, anti-Arab, and anti-LGBTQ parties, as well as ultra-Orthodox groups. Many post-mortems will be written in the weeks ahead, but one of the biggest stories is the failure of Meretz, a flagship left-wing party, to reach the 3.25% threshold needed to even make it into the Knesset, marking the first time that Meretz won’t sit in parliament since its founding in 1992. Israel’s left-wing establishment is pointing the finger at Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli, who in the run-up to Israel’s fifth election in under four years, refused to merge with Meretz to boost the left’s electoral prospects, and the anti-Bibi bloc more broadly. Netanyahu will now do his usual shtick to try to cobble together a coalition. Though he has the numbers on paper, this won’t be a cakewalk: Many of Bibi’s “natural partners” will make their support contingent on certain demands, like portfolio leadership positions and cash for their communities. Bibi will have to make everyone happy to get over the finish line, and it won’t be easy.

A sticker and a banner of election campaign, depicting former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other politicians, are seen in Tel Aviv.

Reuters

Israel’s fifth election in under four years: Will anything change?

We’ve seen this movie before: An ill-suited coalition government collapses, electioneering kicks off, and Israelis drag their feet to the polls.

On Tuesday, Israelis vote to elect a new government for the fifth time since April 2019. Former longtime Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is looking to make a comeback nearly 18 months after he was relegated to opposition status. Accustomed to the trappings of PM life, Bibi has made no secret of the fact that he despises the indignity of playing second fiddle and desperately wants his old gig back.

As Israel votes yet again, what’s changed, what’s stayed the same, and what are the likely outcome(s) of round five?

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REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

What We’re Watching: Contentious SCOTUS decisions, Russia's Snake Island retreat, Israel’s new PM, G7's topless fantasies

SCOTUS hands Biden a win and a loss

The US Supreme Court on Thursday handed down decisions in two closely watched cases. First, the court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency can’t enforce rules limiting carbon emissions at existing power plants. The six conservative justices who backed the majority opinion said only Congress should regulate climate policy. The long-running case – which made its way through the courts during the Obama, Trump, and Biden presidencies – is emblematic of the broader fight between coal-loving Republican states and Democrats pushing for more action on climate change. The decision will also complicate Biden’s pledge to switch the power grid to clean energy by 2035 – and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Crucially, the US is the world’s second-largest carbon emitter after China. SCOTUS’s subsequent ruling, however, went in Biden’s favor: two conservative justices joined the court’s progressive wing to scrap the “Remain in Mexico” policy, a Trump-era immigration law requiring some migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. Still, a federal judge has blocked Biden from lifting another Trump-era immigration restriction, so this ruling is unlikely to have a significant impact on the immigration landscape ahead of November’s midterms.

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Ari Winkleman

Déjà vu in Israel: Another government crumbles

Political tumult is again the order of the day in Israel, where the fifth election cycle in three years is about to kick off. Crippled by dysfunction and tribalism, Israel has joined the ranks of countries like Italy and Greece, where general elections have been known to occur with infuriating frequency.

What sparked the latest government collapse, and how might Israel overcome this period of chronic stalemate?

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Israeli PM Naftali Bennett speaks next to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset in Jerusalem.

REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

What We're Watching: Bennett throws in the towel in Israel, Petro wins in Colombia, Macron loses majority in France

Israel faces fifth election in three years

Israelis are headed to the polls, again, for the fifth time in just over three years. After almost two months of being on the brink of collapse following a number of high-profile defections that made it lose its parliamentary majority, the fragile eight-party coalition government led by PM Naftali Bennett is set to disband. In the coming days, Bennett and his main coalition partner, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, intend to dissolve the Knesset (parliament) and call a fresh election in October or November. Lapid will serve as caretaker PM once Bennett steps down, but Bennett will retain the Iran portfolio as part of the power-sharing agreement. Former PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, who now heads the opposition, celebrated the demise of an unwieldy government whose members could pretty much only agree that they didn't want him as prime minister. Bibi, for his part, is (surprise!) gunning for a return to power despite being on trial for corruption. Will his rightwing Likud Party win enough seats and allies to cobble together a majority to form a government, or will Israel's political deadlock continue with no end in sight?

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Voting in Australia's federal election.

Annie Gugliotta.

What We’re Watching: Aussies vote, Turkey threatens Nordic states, elections loom in Israel

What will voters decide Down Under?

Aussie voters head to the polls on Saturday to decide whether to keep Prime Minister Scott Morrison (ScoMo) of the right-leaning Liberal-National Coalition in power, or to pass the baton to the Labor Party’s Anthony Albanese. Speak to any Aussie, and they’ll tell you that neither bespeckled, middle-aged candidate inspires much excitement. Still, someone has to win! After nearly two years under some of the tightest COVID lockdown restrictions in the world, Aussies appear ready for change: Albanese, a left-leaning centrist, is leading in national polls by 2%. That’s encouraging for ScoMo, who just two weeks ago was trailing by 8 percentage points. The election cycle has been dominated by the cost-of-living crisis currently plaguing many advanced economies. Though unemployment in Australia has hit record lows, inflation is outpacing wage growth. Albanese, a long-time politician with little cabinet experience, has made a series of gaffes recently about the economy that likely contributed to the narrowing margin. According to ABC, some 5-8% of Aussie voters are still undecided. That could be the difference between whether Labor comes out on top after nearly a decade in opposition government. As Signal’s resident Aussie (Gabrielle), I am off to vote!

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Putin greets Orbán during their meeting at the Kremlin in 2018.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS

What We’re Watching: Hungary hearts Russian gas, Israeli government in trouble, Ukrainian exodus

Hungry for Russian gas, Budapest will pay in rubles

Fresh off his decisive election victory last weekend, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán broke with the rest of the EU on a key point of pressure against Moscow on Wednesday, saying he’s ready to pay for Russian natural gas in rubles if the Kremlin asks him to. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently threatened to cut off gas entirely to the EU — which relies on Russia for 40 percent of its supplies — unless member states pay for the stuff using Russian currency. Although the Brussels says no way, it’s ultimately up to each individual country to decide what it wants to do. Orbán, among the most Russia-friendly leaders in the EU, also runs a country that depends entirely on Kremlin-exported gas. Still, while Budapest may be going rogue against the rest of the EU on this, it wouldn’t make much of a financial difference for Moscow: Hungary accounts for just 3% of Russia’s gas exports to the continent. Meanwhile, stricter US sanctions — which include Russia’s largest bank since Wednesday — are pushing the country closer to a technical default on its sovereign debt.

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

Abir Sultan via REUTERS

​Will Bennett ditch Ukraine peace talks to focus on domestic terror?

Israel is facing its worst domestic terror wave in nearly a decade after 11 people were killed in three cities in just one week.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who’s been focused on high-stakes international diplomacy in recent weeks, is now mounting a full-court press to contain the deteriorating security situation at home.

What are the domestic and international implications of the brutal terrorism plaguing Israel?

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