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Is Israel’s Netanyahu Era Over?

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 18:19

After more than ten consecutive years in power, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s luck may have finally run out. The country’s second election in five months appears to have set in motion the final chapter of his long and political career. But if this is the end for Netanyahu, it’s also proof that he has changed how Israelis think about major policy questions in a way that will ramify long after he’s gone.The Israeli electoral system provides for confusing results in even the most clear-cut election outcomes. The system of electing a parliament — each citizen casts a single vote for one party of his choice, with the 120 seats in the Knesset allocated on a proportional basis among only those parties that get at least 3.25 percent of the total vote — makes it virtually impossible for any single party to win a majority on its own. This has created a system in which blocs of parties, whose components compete separately for seats in the Knesset, are widely understood to back a single candidate for prime minister.In the past few elections, that meant the bloc of right-wing and religious parties consistently scored a majority in the Knesset, electing Benjamin Netanyahu to consecutive terms and helping him become the country’s longest-serving prime minister. So long as Israelis were primarily focused on the conflict with the Palestinians and the threat from Iran, the Right’s victory over what is left of the left-wing parties (which Israelis still identify with the failed Oslo peace process) was all but a foregone conclusion.That seemed to be the case in April, when Netanyahu sought his fourth consecutive term. Parties that had pledged to back him won a clear majority: 65 seats went to the Likud and its partners, 45 to his center-left opponents, and ten to Arab parties.Many assumed this would mean another Netanyahu government. But one of his coalition partners -- Avigdor Lieberman, a onetime aide to Netanyahu who broke with him more than 20 years ago and founded the Yisrael Beitenu Party -- had other ideas. Lieberman has long relied on the votes of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are right-wing on security issues but hostile to the influence of the religious parties aligned with Netanyahu, and the electoral math in April gave him a unique opportunity to sabotage the prime minister.Without the five seats his party won in April, Netanyahu fell one short of the majority needed to govern. Armed with that leverage, Lieberman then made symbolic but noteworthy demands, calling to curtail exemptions from the country’s conscription policies for many ultra-Orthodox men. The religious parties could not comply, and neither could Netanyahu, reliant as he was on their support. The subsequent stalemate caused the prime minister to seek another vote.Now the results are in, and Netanyahu’s choice backfired. Likud lost ground; Lieberman gained a few seats. And while the Blue and White Party -- the leading centrist opposition party led by Benny Gantz, a former general, and Yair Lapid, a TV host–turned–politician -- fell short of a majority, so too did Netanyahu’s bloc. Blue and White heads into negotiations with one more seat than Likud.Since a third election within a year to resolve the deadlock seems unthinkable, that leaves party leaders with a few unpalatable choices. A unity government of the two largest parties — Likud and Blue and White — would seem the logical outcome. It’s also the outcome for which Lieberman has publicly hoped. But Blue and White has pledged never to sit with Netanyahu because of the ethical cloud hanging over him (Netanyahu faces pending corruption charges) and the Likud members of the Knesset have pledged to stick with Netanyahu. Unity thus seems unlikely.Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s attacks on the political influence of the country’s Arab minority have resulted in the various Arab parties — a group that includes Islamists, secular Arab nationalists, and Communists — uniting their own bloc of twelve seats. This faction has the power, should it choose to use it, to help Blue and White leader Benny Gantz get the first crack at forming a new government -- even if they can’t ultimately join it. Netanyahu getting another term in office is still possible, but this appears unlikely.Israel, therefore, may be entering a new political era. But it is an era over which Netanyahu’s shadow will loom. Over the last 20 years, Bibi has taken several major steps that have reshaped Israeli politics -- steps that a new administration would be hard-pressed to reverse.Take diplomacy. Netanyahu was responsible for breaking down Israel’s diplomatic isolation in ways that would have been unimaginable a generation ago, building an international coalition against Iran that has made allies out of formerly hostile Arab nations and is making steady diplomatic inroads in both the Persian Gulf and Africa. The relationships he forged with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Narendra Modi created a singular moment in which it was arguably Israel’s foes that were marginalized on the international scene rather than the perennially isolated Jewish state.Yet on these and other issues, Netanyahu is a victim of his own success. It wasn’t possible for him to castigate his main opponent as a creature of the left, as he had traditionally been able to do. A chorus line of ex-chiefs of staff of the Israel Defense Forces leads the Blue and White party. Indeed, Gantz spent both election campaigns portraying himself as tougher than Netanyahu on security issues and just as willing to assert Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the West Bank settlement blocs. Rather than challenging the consensus on the peace process that Netanyahu had forged, Blue and White is an expression of it.Israelis were once split fairly evenly between the left and the right on the subject of peace. But Netanyahu’s run of political dominance was made possible by the disastrous Second Intifada and subsequent withdrawal from Gaza, which led to the emergence of a Hamas terrorist regime. While the rhetoric between Netanyahu and Gantz’s factions was heated in both of this year’s election campaigns, there was little talk of peace. Instead, the primary issue was whether Netanyahu, now tainted by corruption investigations and burdened by the baggage that any democratic leader acquires after a decade in office, needed to go.It is from this consensus that Blue and White emerged. And it is because of this consensus that Lieberman, no slouch on security issues, felt free to execute a maneuver whose only real goal was deposing Netanyahu.As always, those who underestimate Netanyahu’s political skills do so at their own peril. But his second consecutive failure to win a majority means that the post-Netanyahu era may be about to arrive -- an era that will continue to be dominated by his signature policies.


Sweeping US sanctions on Iran target leaders, oil and trade

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 18:17

Ongoing US sanctions on Iran target Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic republic's top brass, while also seeking to choke trade in a variety of goods from oil to carpets. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday promised details of new sanctions within 48 hours in response to a missile or drone attack on Saudi oil facilities that Riyadh has blamed on Iran. The United States also blacklisted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose US assets were frozen on August 1.


Three hunters mauled in grizzly bear attacks at Yellowstone: 'He was in their face before they even had chance to grab a gun'

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 17:37

Three hunters were badly hurt in two separate grizzly bear attacks in Montana on the same day, state officials have said.All three suffered “moderate to severe” injuries after being mauled by a lone bear in the Gravelley Mountains on Monday, according to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency.


Best smart speakers: Which deliver the best combination of digital assistant and audio performance?

Macworld - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 17:21
With models based on Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and others to come, we’ll help you find just the right model.

Early iPhone 11 reviews, Apple Arcade, your hot takes, and more

Macworld - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 17:00

The early reviews of the iPhone 11 are out; are Apple’s new phones winners? Apple Arcade is here. Plus, your hot takes! That and more are all in this episode of the Macworld Podcast.

This is episode 668 with Leif Johnson, Roman Loyola, and Michael Simon.

Listen to episode 668

To read this article in full, please click here

Teens are pledging not to have kids until the government takes climate change seriously

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:51

Emma Lim, an 18-year-old student at McGill University in Montreal, recently launched a climate-change movement called "NoFutureNoChildren."


It's National Cheeseburger Day: Here are some deals offered by SoCal restaurants

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:39

It's National Cheeseburger Day and plenty of local restaurants are offering deals to help you celebrate right.


Dozens of people charged for illegally distributing millions of opioid pills

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:38

Dozens of people - including six doctors and seven pharmacists - have been charged with fraud for illegally distributing more than 6 million opioid pills.Some of the pills were obtained using counterfeit prescription pads, and the stolen identities of legitimate doctors, prosecutors say.


Arkansas attorney general wants judge barred from her cases

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:25

Arkansas' attorney general is asking the state Supreme Court to reassign cases involving her office from a judge who has been prohibited from handling execution cases, accusing him of regularly being biased against her staff. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's office on Tuesday requested that the court reassign cases from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.


Police: Pirates' Vázquez attempted to have sex with minor

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:09

Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vázquez was being held Wednesday in a Pennsylvania jail on multiple felony charges after allegedly telling investigators he attempted to have sex with an underage girl during a meeting at her house in 2017. Vázquez is charged with statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of minors, all felonies, and a misdemeanor count of indecent assault of a person under 16 years old. The charges are related to Vázquez's alleged encounters with a girl starting in 2017, when she was 13 and living about an hour east of downtown Pittsburgh.


Israel's Election Has Ended in Deadlock. Here's What Could Happen Next

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 16:06

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces an uncertain future and as the official count started coming in, no side emerged with a clear path to government


Navy SEAL who oversaw the bin Laden raid says China's massive military buildup is a 'holy s---' moment

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 15:51

Speaking at an event in Washington, William McRaven, a SEAL who oversaw the bin Laden raid, said the US was approaching a "Sputnik moment" with China.


Makeup guru Bobbi Brown reveals her top six favorite products from Walmart

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 15:50

If we're going to take beauty advice from anybody, it's going to be Bobbi Brown. 


French woman 'killed by partner in front of their three children'

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 15:16

A French woman was killed by her partner in front of their three children, prosecutors in northern France said, prompting hundreds of protesters to gather nearby calling for an end to deadly domestic violence. The couple were in the process of separation, prosecutors said in a statement late Tuesday.


NATO Is Making Sure It Can Stop a Russian Invasion

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 15:11

NATO has stood up a new command who job it is to speed alliance troops and tanks around Europe in order to defend against a Russian invasion.


Illinois opens 24 cases of alleged priest sex abuse after finding reports weren't reviewed

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 14:22

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has opened 24 new investigations into alleged sexual misconduct by Catholic priests.


White House, DOJ Reps Meet with Top Republicans on Expanding Background Checks for Gun Sales

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 13:22

Representatives from the White House and the Department of Justice met Tuesday with senior Republicans to discuss expanding background checks for the sale of firearms within the parameters of legislation first introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.).The relevant legislation seeks to expand background-check requirements to include "all advertised commercial sales, including sales at gun shows,” according to an idea sheet first obtained by The Daily Caller.Such background checks would be conducted “either through an FFL [Federal Firearm Licensee] or through a newly-created class of licensed transfer agents.”White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said that President Trump did not necessarily approve of the plan, despite the fact that White House Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Ueland is among those circulating the idea sheet.The Tuesday meetings were attended by Ueland as well as Attorney General Bill Barr. Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina were also present. There was a planned meeting between Barr and Utah senator Mike Lee, but Barr canceled the meeting.The Manchin-Toomey bill failed to pass last April after it didn't muster enough votes to survive a filibuster. The bill has remained a moderate alternative to more sweeping legislation that would mandate background checks on any and all gun sales. It would require background checks for any commercial sales at gun shows as well as over the Internet. It also expressly prohibits the formation of a national gun registry.


Nigerian women protest over apparent serial killings

Top Stories - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 12:35

Women in southern Nigeria marched in the streets on Wednesday to protest the deaths of several women in hotel rooms by what appears to be a serial killer. "Their killers must be found," the women chanted, many dressed in black for mourning, during the second day of protests in the city of Port Harcourt in the oil-producing Niger Delta region. Eight women have been strangled in hotel rooms in Rivers State in the past two months, police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni said.


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