Weekly Update: November 7, 2022

Netanyahu Wins Election for Prime Minister Despite Corruption Trial

By Bushra Bani-Salman

Benjamin Netanyahu lost his position as Prime Minister last year due to corruption charges but will now return as Prime Minister. Netanyahu’s allies also won 64 seats in the legislature, leaving current Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s allies with 51 seats. 

Netanyahu governed Israel for a majority of the past 25 years, and previously included the centrist party on policies. Now, his agenda seems to only impress the far-right. His far-right policies are known to antagonize Palestinians and empower Ultra-Orthodox Jews. 

Netanyahu supporters in the coalition include far-right leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who hopes to oversee the police force. Ben-Gvir was rejected from army service for being considered too extremist. His policy proposals are to deport anyone “against the State of Israel” and give Israeli soldiers more freedom to shoot Palestinians. He is known for previously hanging a picture in his home of an Israeli settler who killed 29 Palestinians in a mosque in the West Bank, until 2020. Some Palestinians hope with the rise in popularity for Ben-Gvir, the world will pay attention and witness what they go through.

Despite Netanyahu saying he will not use his authority to alter the judicial process of his corruption trial, his coalition partners have noted they will try to legalize his accused crime or even dismiss the entire trial. Netanyahu’s allies wish to further weaken Israel’s justice system, to loosen the Supreme Court’s oversight of the parliamentary process. Additionally, they hope to end Palestinian autonomy in occupied West Bank, which has raised concerns with opponents that the new government could curb any hope of an end to the occupation. 

Netanyahu is accused of corruption and the trial entail three separate cases. In Case 1000, he is accused of accepting around $300,000 in gifts from years 2007 to 2016 for Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian Billionaire James Packer. This includes accusations that Netanyahu lobbied the U.S. government to renew Milchan’s visa. In Case 2000 and Case 4000, Netanyahu is accused of discussing other quid pro quo agreements that would allow him to get supportive coverage from newspapers.

In South Africa: A New Zulu King and the Ethiopia-Tigray Peace Talks

By Osetemega Iribiri

A New Zulu King

Last week Saturday, October 29, 2002, Durban, South Africa, witnessed its first Zulu king coronation since 1971. The event was marked by President Cyril Ramaphosa officially recognizing the new king, Misuzulu kaZwelithini. The president said, “Our king is indeed officially the king of the Zulu nation and the only king of the Zulu nation.” This recognition is essential in legitimizing his position after a legal tussle with his brothers that categorized his ascension. This recognition also gives the 48-year-old king access to government resources and support.

The AmaZulu king is the custodian of his traditional customs and land. Although the king does not bestow executive power, due to his ceremonial and spiritual role, he wields great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who comprise nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population of 60 million. King Misuzulu became heir apparent to the throne through his mother’s will, the late Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu. She was the interim leader after the death of her husband, King Zwelithini in 2021.

Ethiopia-Tigray Peace Talks

Also, still in South Africa, the African Union moderated peace talks between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigrayan leadership. The mediation team was led by African Union special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria. He was supported by Uhuru Kenyatta, former president of Kenya, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former deputy president of South Africa. The organizers of the peace talks maintained radio silence throughout the negotiations making it hard to gauge the progress of the talks. Fortunately, after a week of mediation in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, the silence was broken. On Wednesday, November 2, 2022, both sides agreed to permanently silence the guns and end the two years of conflict in Tigray by signing a peace deal. The deal was signed by Redwan Hussien, President Abiy’s national security adviser, and Getachew Reda, a senior leader in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The deal contains measures for disarmament, the restoration of essential services, a plan to allow humanitarian access to Tigray, reintegrating of Tigray’s regional government back into the central government, and noted that the Ethiopian government would rebuild all infrastructure damaged in the war.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo noted, “this moment is not the end of the peace process, but the beginning of it.” The situation is still fragile, primarily because of forces inside (Amhara group) and outside (Eritrea) Ethiopia capable of derailing the process and tipping the country back into war. Eritrea had fought the TPLF alongside Ethiopia. It is unclear if the Eritrean government had agreed to the deal signed in South Africa. Crucially, it is uncertain if the Eritrean government would withdraw its troops from the region. Equally conflicted is the leadership of Ethiopia’s ethnic Amhara group, who provided political and military support to President Abiy in his campaign against the Tigrayans. They have long claimed that western Tigray, where Ethiopian forces were accused of ethnic cleansing, rightfully belongs to the Amhara region. Nevertheless, the draft deal says the Ethiopian and Tigray sides agree to stop “collusion with any external force hostile to either party.”

The resolution of the civil unrest is very vital to the health of the people of Tigray. The World Health Organization had raised the alarm about the region’s deeply worrying, deplorable state of health. There is a shortage of medical supplies such as vaccines, antibiotics, and insulin, an increase in unrecorded deaths from preventable and treatable illnesses, malnutrition, and malaria, and a growing number of non-functional health clinics.

The conflict between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray government began in November 2020. The Abiy-Ahmed-led-Ethiopian-government accused the TPLF of seeking to destabilize Ethiopia by orchestrating ethnic violence across the country. Also, that summer, Abiy Ahmed had promised to hold the country’s first genuinely democratic elections. However, he postponed them, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. They accused him of unconstitutionally extending his presidential term. Consequently, the group held its own regional elections, claiming a decisive win. Subsequently, Abiy’s government declared the Tigray elections invalid. Overall, the two sides called each other illegitimate in the lead-up to the TPLF attack on the Sero base. Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray after accusing TPLF of attacking federal army camps. This conflict has since killed thousands of people, displaced millions, and left thousands on the brink of famine and severe malnourishment.

Algeria Hosts Arab League Summit

By William Lucht

The first Arab League summit to be held in two years since the Covid-19 pandemic is being hosted by Algeria. Algeria seems to be positioning itself back into international and regional politics since its eclipse in the wake of Bouteflika’s illness, the protest movement, COVID-19, and the financial crisis. The summit is not off to the best of starts though. Wedge issues exist which concern allegiances to Palestine and Israel, territorial claims made in North Africa, and regional problems which persist in the wake of the Arab Spring. 

Three members have already stated they will not be in attendance. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the United Arab Emirates leader Mohammed bin Zayed have both confirmed they are not coming to Algiers, as has Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. Those who are expected to attend, the Presidents of Egypt, Tunisia, and the Monarchs of Kuwait and Qatar, which makes up two-thirds of the Summit.

Domestic Algerian audiences are already criticizing the summit, stating its’s decadence could be money spent on national issues. Along with this criticism, is that the summit will produce little progress. Algeria in a past summit failed in persuading the Arab league nations suspension of Syria.

Ties with Israel have continued to push states into camps which now percolate under the surface representing deeper grievances which will create challenges at the upcoming summit. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan have normalized ties with Israel, and this has been seen by some as a betrayal of Palestinians. Arab states remain splintered after the Arab Spring, as continued conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Libya leak into other regions touching states like Turkey and Iran.

Algeria also must contend with its neighbor Morocco in the upcoming summit as the two have become increasingly divergent from one another. Algeria’s grievance concerns Morocco’s deal with the US to build closer ties to Israel in return for US support of Morocco’s claim on Western Saharan territory. In contrast, Algeria supports the Polisario group currently fighting against Moroccan claims on its sovereignty.

Lula’s Victory, Bolsonaro’s Defeat

By Ciara Perez

On Sunday, October 30th, leftist candidate Luiz Lula won the presidential election by an incredibly small margin of 50.1% to Bolsonaro’s 49.1%. Jair Bolsonaro did not speak publicly for two days after the election results. When he did address the public on Tuesday, he agreed to transfer power to Lula.  

The next day, tens of thousands of Brazilians gathered outside of military bases across the country, calling for military intervention “to save Brazil’s democracy from a rigged election”. They’re calling for a new election. Protestors set up highway blockades, creating miles-long backups and disrupting transportation and freight. The blockades have caused more than 60 miles of traffic jams, the cancellation of flights, the cancellation of buses, and fuel shortages.  This does not come as a surprise, as Bolsonaro has been preaching election fraud within the electronic voting system for months leading up to the vote.  

“The military, which helped oversee the election, found no signs of fraud” and have not considered intervening in the transfer of power. If the protests gain more momentum, they may seek support from Bolsonaro to urge his supporters to go home.

Lula has promised to “end hunger, zero tolerance for deforestation in the Amazon…and restore democracy to Brazil”. He will overturn many of Bolsonaro’s policies, including pro-gun measures, and plans to restore Brazil’s leadership on climate change. Lula’s victory “will help consolidate a leftward shift in Latin America where, from Mexico to Argentina, the biggest countries are run by leftist presidents”.

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