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

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

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.


African groups isolate Mali: The African Union (AU) on Wednesday suspended Mali from membership following a coup last week, the second in the West African country in just nine months. The AU, an umbrella group of 55 African nations representing the continent, threatened to impose sanctions if Mali does not move to reinstall the previous joint civilian military government. This comes a week after the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also suspended Mali and threatened to impose sanctions (ECOWAS, which established a free trade area, has the mandate to impose hard-hitting regional trade restrictions.) Last August, Mali's democratically elected government was toppled in a coup led by Col. Assimi Goita, who emerged from that dustup as interim vice president. Now, he has detained the transitional president, prime minister and defense minister for not consulting him before forming a new government and seized power himself. Economic sanctions would be devastating for Mali, a poor, landlocked country that has been battling an Islamic insurgency in the north that's displaced half a million people in recent years. Nine months ago, the junta caved and agreed to hold elections in 2022 in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. Will Goita buckle this time?

Attention passengers, Open Skies is now closed: The Russian upper house has voted to ditch the decades-old Open Skies Treaty, a major post-Cold War arms control pact that permits the US, Russia, and 32 other (mostly European) countries to conduct short-notice, unarmed surveillance flights over each other's territory. The Trump administration withdrew the US from the agreement last year, over concerns that Russia was blocking US and NATO-member flights. While then-candidate Joe Biden criticized that move as "short-sighted," he changed his mind once in office, deciding last week not to re-enter the pact for the very same reasons. Russia has long complained that the US, for its part, blocks flights over Alaska, and most NATO members are keen to preserve the treaty, which is viewed as an important confidence-building measure. But Russian President Putin is almost certain to sign the withdrawal order, likely ahead of his upcoming summit with President Biden on June 16 in Geneva.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

In a frank (and in-person!) interview, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

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For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

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As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

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UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

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UN Chief: Still time to avert climate “abyss”

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