🌍 Israel’s new government wants to reshape the country’s judiciary
Plus: Will Biden sell F-16s to Turkey?
Hi there Intriguer. Climate activists (including Greta Thunberg) protesting against the expansion of a coal mine in Germany this past weekend deployed a mud wizard to fend off riot police. Yes, you read that correctly, but rather than us explain further, go watch the clip – it might be the best laugh you’ll have all week!
Today’s briefing is a 4.5 min read:
- 🇮🇱 Tens of thousands of Israelis protest against judicial reforms.
- 🛫 Turkey might finally get F-16 fighter jets from the US.
- ➕ Plus: Global access to electricity is decreasing, how the papers are covering the start of Japan-India joint air force drills, and can Africa’s first heat officer make her city livable?
– VC & EP
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇨🇳 China: Chinese officials announced on Saturday (14 January) that 59,938 people died from Covid between 8 December and 12 January. Officials reported only 5,272 Covid deaths during the previous three years of the pandemic.
- 🇧🇬 Bulgaria: Bulgarian President Rumen Radev asked the country’s pro-Russian Socialist Party to form a government on Monday (15 January) after the two largest parties’ coalition talks failed.
- 🇵🇼 Palau: Officials in Palau and the Marshall Islands signed Memorandums of Understanding with the United States that would pave the way for stronger economic and security cooperation.
- 🇸🇻 El Salvador: Salvadoran officials arrested five prominent environmental activists last week (11 January) for alleged homicide. Critics worry the arrests were politically motivated.
- 🇹🇳 Tunisia: Thousands of people flooded into the capital Tunis on Saturday (14 January), the Arab Springs’s 12th anniversary, to protest President Kais Saied’s anti-democratic reforms.
Correction: We used the 🇧🇯 Benin flag instead of the 🇪🇹 Ethiopian flag in yesterday’s “Around the World”. Our apologies, and thanks to our sharp readers for pointing out the error!
🇮🇱 ISRAEL | DEMOCRACY
Despite widespread protests over the weekend, Israel’s new government is just getting started
Briefly: An estimated 80,000 Israelis marched through Tel Aviv on Saturday night (14 January) to protest the new government’s proposed judicial reforms. Thousands more protested in Haifa and Jerusalem, and on Monday, university students staged walk-outs across the country.
Israel’s new government, led by the indefatigable six-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is considered the most right-wing in its history. Since taking office on 29 December, the government has moved to expand West Bank settlements, cut funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA), and outlawed the Palestinian flag in public settings.
But its proposed judicial reforms brought thousands of Israelis onto the streets. The reforms would:
- Allow lawmakers to select a majority of members on the panel that appoints Supreme Court justices.
- Allow a simple majority of lawmakers to overrule a Supreme Court decision.
Critics say the reforms would undermine the independence of an institution that has long been a bulwark against majoritarian rule. According to the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Esther Hayut: “Anyone who claims that the majority who elected their representatives to the Knesset thereby gave them an ‘open check’ to do as they please bears the name of democracy in vain.”
Intrigue’s take: The Israeli right’s ascendancy shows no signs of slowing: the right-wing, ultra-Orthodox Haredi population’s birthrate is more than double the overall birthrate, and stagnation on Israeli-Palestinian peace has empowered supporters of the status quo. While these kinds of mass protests may become more frequent, the Israeli left will likely continue to lose influence over the political process.
Also worth noting:
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been on trial for corruption charges since 2019.
- Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh warned that the PA could collapse without additional Israeli funding.
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: The beginning of the first-ever joint air drills between India and Japan in Tokyo this week.
Links: Kyodo News, Global Times, The Economic Times
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✈️ THE US | DIPLOMACY
Biden wants to sell F-16s to Turkey, but will Congress let him?
Briefly: US President Joe Biden will seek Congressional approval for a major arms sale to Turkey involving 40 F-16 fighter jets. Turkey first requested the upgraded jets in October 2021, but Turkey’s acquisition of a Russian air defence system put the kibosh on negotiations.
Intrigue’s take: While President Biden insists that the jets are not part of a quid-pro-quo, it’s hard not to see the F-16s as pawns in a larger game of diplomacy. For example, the US has openly said Sweden and Finland are ready to join NATO, but both countries require Turkey’s approval before they can join NATO.
Getting the deal through Congress won’t be easy. US Senator Bob Menendez has vowed to block the sale until Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “ceases his threats, improves his human rights record at home […] and begins to act like a trusted ally”.
Also worth noting:
- Greece has also asked to purchase US warplanes. Tensions between Greece and Turkey have flared in recent months.
- The US was Turkey’s leading arms supplier until 2018 (it’s now Italy, Russia and Spain, in that order).
📊 GRAPH OF THE DAY
As a digital business, we’re thrilled that more than 75% of the world’s population has access to electricity. Unfortunately, experts expect that number to decline for the first time in 20 years.
According to the International Energy Agency, high energy prices and lack of funding are reversing a decades-long trend. In order to achieve the global goal of universal electricity access by 2030, countries will have to make up a $30.2B funding shortfall.
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
We’re very online, so you don’t have to be:
🗳️ POLL TIME!
Are democracies in danger around the globe?
Which of these items are NOT made using rare earths?
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 💻 Computer hard drives (3%)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ X-ray machines (2%)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 📽️ Movie projectors (6%)
⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 💨 Air con units (4%)
🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🔒 Door locks (29.2%) – Correct answer!
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 ⬆️ All of them are (57%)