Non-coronavirus news: Israel’s deadlock, Sanders' future, and Putin's forever plan

Non-coronavirus news: Israel’s deadlock, Sanders' future, and Putin's forever plan

Israel's deepening political woes: A week after Israel's parliamentary election – its third in less than a year – neither the incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor his rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party, appear well positioned to form a coalition government. Earlier this week, it seemed that Gantz might just be able to form a minority government backed by the Joint List of Arab parties, but this plan fell through when two Blue and White members refused to sit in a government backed by Arabs. Israel's deepening political instability comes just as Netanyahu is set to appear in a Jerusalem court to face three corruption charges on March 17. A series of elections and a caretaker government have meant that for more than a year there's been no economic policy in place to stem the country's growing budget deficit. Now, as the coronavirus outbreak presents major challenges for Israel's economy, the political wrangling is delaying the passage of a much-needed state budget.

Is it over for Bernie Sanders? Bernie Sanders entered yesterday's primary elections in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Washington, Idaho, and North Dakota fully aware that he needed a good result in most of these states in order to keep his presidential campaign alive. That's because his rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, has built a fairly strong delegate lead and the older and more heavily African-American demographics of the states that appear next on the primary calendar favor Biden. Sanders came up short. When the votes from yesterday's contests are fully counted and the delegates allotted, it will be clear that Biden has become the overwhelming favorite to capture the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and to face off with Donald Trump in the November election. Sanders may remain in the race a few more weeks, but this contest is effectively over.


Putin's forever plan: After 20 years in power, Russian President Vladimir Putin just can't get enough. Last month, he proposed constitutional amendments that would create various indirect ways for him to remain Russian-in-Chief even after term limits kick in at the end of his current term in 2024. But yesterday he pulled out all the stops: After a little-known lawmaker proposed resetting the clock on those limits, beginning in 2024, Putin theatrically swept into the chamber to deliver a speech in which he graciously accepted the possibility of serving two more six-year terms (until 2036), pending approval from the constitutional court. Spoiler: the constitutional court will approve. Credible polls tell us that Putin is genuinely popular, and many Russians, particularly businesspeople and politicians, prefer the imperfect system they know to the prospect of a struggle for power when Putin leaves the scene. But there's a big difference between "approval of Putin" and "approval of 16 more years of Putin." And the last time he found a gimmicky way to return to power (from 2008-2012 he served as prime minister to evade presidential term limits) it provoked massive street protests.

What We're Ignoring

A 2032 Olympics bid for an imaginary city: Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, wants his country to host the summer Olympics in a dozen years' time. After filing an initial bid last month to host the summer games in Jakarta, Jokowi is reportedly considering changing the venue to Indonesia's new, high-tech capital city on the island of Borneo. There is a slight catch: the city doesn't exist yet. Construction won't begin until next year. We feel comfortable ignoring this story until the city at least has a name.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

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

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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:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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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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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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