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Who is Avigdor Lieberman?

Who is Avigdor Lieberman?

Following another inconclusive election this week, Israel's politics are in turmoil, and the man at the center of the battle to form the next government is neither the embattled prime minister nor the opposition leader who appears to have bested him.


Avigdor Lieberman is head of the right-wing secular party, Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel Our Home"). It was Lieberman who prevented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government earlier this year following elections in April, by refusing to join any coalition that included the ultra-Orthodox religious right. And, as our Gabrielle Debinski wrote yesterday, it is Lieberman who's now refusing to give Netanyahu the support he needs to remain prime minister.

Lieberman, born in the Soviet Union and raised to reject religion, is the son of a Red Army soldier who served seven years in a Siberian prison camp during Stalin's time. Over more than three decades in Israeli politics, Lieberman has served a succession of governments with the top jobs on National Infrastructure, Transportation, Strategic Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Defense. He's even been Deputy Prime Minister. He has known Netanyahu since 1988 and served in his Likud-led governments before breaking away to start his own party in 1999.

Throughout his career, Lieberman has proven a prodigious creator of political chaos and an intensely controversial figure. For example, he has

  • Called for Palestinian prisoners to be drowned
  • Called for "disloyal Arabs" to be expelled from Israel and later insisted they should be beheaded
  • Expressed hope that Israeli Arab lawmakers who speak to Hamas would be executed
  • Suggested, while serving as Israel's foreign minister, that Egypt's then-leader Hosni Mubarak could "go to Hell"
  • Assaulted a 12-year-old boy

Why is Lieberman so powerful? Because Israel's system rewards small parties with big power. The Knesset, Israel's parliament, has 120 seats. His party appears to have won just eight of them in this week's elections, but the latest projections show that neither of the largest parties—Netanyahu's Likud (31 seats) or Benny Gantz's Blue and White (33 seats)—has enough potential partners among other parties to assemble a majority of 61 seats. At least not without Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu.

Lieberman said Wednesday that he wants a unity government that includes Blue and White, Likud, and his party—but that he will only serve in a government that prioritizes secularist policy changes that break the grip of ultra-Orthodox religious parties on the current (outgoing) government. Blue and White says it can accept a unity government, but not with Netanyahu as prime minister as long as he faces indictment on corruption charges.

Here's the catch: What Avigdor Lieberman gives, he can take away at any moment. All the parties involved know the price of his loyalty is subject to change without warning, and they will negotiate with him cautiously.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

"The jury is out" European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde says when asked if things in Europe will get economically worse before they get better. "All I know is that it's going to be a journey, and probably a long journey." Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of a new GZERO World episode.

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