🌍 Blinken to visit Israel and Palestine as tensions flare
And: Fiji’s new prime minister is pivoting away from China
Hi there Intriguer. Being the good diplomats we are, we try to stay out of our own headlines, but… we’ve grown again! Jeremy Dicker has joined Intrigue this week as our Managing Editor! Jeremy previously served as a diplomat in the US, Peru, and Mexico. Fun fact: he was awarded Peru’s Presidential Medal for Distinguished Service. Funner fact: the President who bestowed the honour has since been charged with corruption (Jeremy promises these two facts are unrelated…).
Today’s briefing is a ~5 min read:
- 🧨 A new round of violence shakes Israel and Palestine.
- 🇫🇯 Fiji’s new prime minister is ending a security agreement with China.
- ➕ Plus: How the papers are covering the attack on Azerbaijan’s embassy in Iran, and why you should buy all your burgers in Cairo.
– VC & EP
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇨🇳 China: The European Space Agency’s director general says there are “no plans” to send astronauts to China’s newly-completed space station.
- 🇹🇭 Thailand: A 27-year-old political activist has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for insulting the Thai king. Thai authorities have been cracking down on anti-monarchy speech since mass protests in 2020.
- 🇷🇺 Russia: Russia has accused the EU of wanting to incite a “geopolitical confrontation” with its new civilian mission to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.
- 🇵🇪 Peru: A group of legislators have submitted a motion to impeach Peru’s new President, Dina Boluarte, for how she has handled violent protests across the country.
- 🇺🇬 Uganda: Uganda’s first oil drilling programme began last Tuesday (24 January), with an oil production target set for 2025.
🧨 ISRAEL-PALESTINE RELATIONS
Blinken to visit Israel and Palestine amid deadly tensions flare-up
Briefly: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in Jerusalem today and head to Ramallah tomorrow to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials amid another flare-up of tensions.
Some context: On Thursday (27 January), the Israeli Army conducted a raid in the city of Jenin, killing seven militants and two civilians. The following night, a Palestinian gunman killed seven Israelis outside a synagogue in Jerusalem.
This latest escalation of violence comes after a particularly deadly year in the West Bank. Israeli security forces killed 166 Palestinians in 2022, the highest number since the UN started keeping records in 2005.
On the agenda: Antony Blinken has a long list of topics to discuss with Israeli and Palestinian authorities, including security threats from Iran and the Russo-Ukraine War. But the recent outbreak of violence is likely to dominate Blinken’s visit.
Intrigue’s take: Israel’s new far-right government may use the recent clashes to push some of its more controversial agenda items, including judicial reform, loosening gun laws, and settlement expansion. Across the Green Line, the Palestinian Authority’s popularity has plummeted, and it is facing “one of its worst [financial crises] in recent years.” All in all, 2023 is off to a bad start for the Middle East Peace Process.
Also worth noting:
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: The deadly shooting at the Azerbaijani Embassy in Tehran on Friday.
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🇫🇯 FIJI | DIPLOMACY
Fiji’s new prime minister is pivoting away from China
Briefly: Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has suspended the country’s police chief and signalled that he would end a controversial security agreement with China that his predecessor signed in 2011. In comments to the Fiji Times, Rabuka said that Fiji’s “system of democracy and justice systems are different so we will go back to those that have similar systems with us.”
Rabuka is (sorta) new to the job – after staging two(!) military coups in 1987, he served as prime minister from 1992-1999. Rabuka led a coalition of opposition parties that narrowly defeated incumbent Frank Bainimarama last December. Fiji maintained close ties with Beijing throughout Bainimarama’s 16-year tenure, most notably through a 2011 deal that increased cooperation between Fijian and Chinese police forces.
Intrigue’s take: Rabuka’s rebuke is another obstacle for China’s campaign to make friends in the Pacific – last year, it failed to win support for an ambitious regional trade and security deal. Is Fiji’s new approach a temporary setback for China in the Pacific or a sign of a broader trend?
Also worth noting:
📊 CHART OF THE DAY
The Economist published its annual Big Mac index last week, which has been used as a popular measure of purchasing-power parity (PPP) since 1986.
Lettuce explain: According to the theory of PPP, the price of goods and services should correspond to the relative exchange rate between two countries. So, if one US dollar hypothetically equalled four British pounds (a “quarter-pounder”, if you will), then PPP says that a burger costing one dollar in the US should cost four pounds in the UK.
If you’re hunting for some McArbitrarge, head to Cairo, where a Big Mac costs less than US$2.
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
Some light-hearted news to start your week off on the right foot:
- The British secret service had to shut down a training school after its location was mistakenly revealed
- For the first time in 45 years, zero Indian Rhinos were poached in 2022
- A Japanese senior aide was chided by his mother for keeping his hands in his pockets during official business
- Some tech-savvy fish managed to break into their owner’s account and spend $4 on video games
🗳️ POLL TIME!
Is the US-Israel relationship at risk of fraying?
Yesterday’s poll: Are you worried about the proliferation of domestic spyware?
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🙅 No, better to have the technology to spy on the bad guys (9%)
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 😠 Yes, it’s abused too often (64%)
🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🤷 Google already knows everything about me, so who cares? (27%)
Your two cents:
- 😠 M.T: “Spying on your own people only leads to further miss trust of gov’t, and it is already getting too low as it is.”
- 🤷 J.L: “I’m not special in any way and don’t do anything with my time that is a threat to the establishment. Whoever is looking at my stuff is wasting their time.”
- 🙅 T.L: “As our online footprint grows as individuals, we need to realize that access to that information that we produce by utilizing that space can never be fully protected. It’s our definition of privacy that needs to change, not necessarily our expectation of it.”