What We’re Watching: Bibi’s big plans, Lula’s tough choice, US-bound travel from China, Zelensky’s plan

Meet the new government of Israel

When Israel’s new government is sworn in on Thursday, it will be the most far-right coalition in Israel’s history. Led by Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, whose right-wing Likud party garnered the most votes in last month’s race, the bloc consists of two ultra-Orthodox parties as well as right-wing and far-right parties. To get coalition partners on board, Netanyahu made several overtures to Religious Zionism, a far-right alliance that finished third in the polls, including agreeing in principle to annex the disputed West Bank and Israel’s sovereignty over to apply the settlements. Still, Bibi, a shrewd politician, hedged his bets and said the timing and implementation of such a policy would depend on the judgment of the PM. What’s more, the coalition agreement includes 1.6 billion shekels ($450 million) annually for the development and construction of roads in the West Bank, while also plans for legislation that would allow business providers to provide services based on their religious beliefs. reject – generally seen as measures to legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Bezalel Smotrich, the ultra-nationalist head of religious Zionism and future finance minister, has an op-ed inWall Street Journal titled “Israel’s New Government Isn’t What You’ve Heard” in which he pushed back against claims that the new government will undermine the independent judiciary, but many Israelis are concerned.

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Lula’s decision on demonstrations

Tensions are running high ahead of Sunday’s inauguration in Brazil. In a number of Brazilian cities, protesters who claim that this year’s election was rigged by outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro have gathered outside the military headquarters in the hope of persuading the army to overturn the result. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the incoming president, has so far said little about this problem, but after police exploded a bomb and arrested a suspect linked to one of these camps in Brasilia, before Lula’s inauguration On Sunday, the rose reached the boiling point. . Flavio Dino, who will serve as Lula’s justice minister, warned that these camps would become “incubators of terrorism.” Security concerns are high before Lula’s swearing-in, and Dino is considering ordering the police to break up the camp. We will see if this can be done peacefully and how the protesters will change tactics if they are forced to disperse.

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US to require COVID tests for travelers from China

The CDC announced Wednesday that the United States will require travelers from China, Hong Kong and Macau to record negative COVID tests before entering the country, starting Jan. 5. Washington joins a growing list of countries — Japan, Italy, Malaysia, and India — to implement such travel restrictions as Beijing blunders away from its zero-COVID policy, resulting in millions of infections and fears of new mutations (no!). Still, it’s hard to know what’s really going on in China because of the Chinese Communist Party’s penchant for secrecy. While official state data claims 62,592 symptomatic COVID cases were recorded in the first 20 days of December, a leaked memo from China’s National Health Commission seen by Financial Times in the Bloomberg claims that as many as a whopping 250 million Chinese residents contracted COVID during that period. (Beijing previously said it would stop collecting data on asymptomatic cases.) President Xi Jinping, for his part, does not take kindly to being embarrassed — especially by Washington. How will he react?

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What we ignore: The Zelensky plan

For the past month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been talking about a 10-point peace plan to end Russia’s war against his country. He shared it at the November G20 summit in Indonesia and with President Joe Biden during a recent trip to Washington. One of the 10 elements that Zelensky demands is the complete withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine and the restoration of the borders that separate the two countries. In other words, he asks for a full Russian capital. There is nothing in this plan that can form the basis for real negotiations with Vladimir Putin, because the Russian president seems to believe that a Russian defeat in this war is unthinkable. In contrast, Zelensky believes, perhaps rightly, that Ukraine will win the war, and he also sees no reason to compromise. This is not a peace offering but a statement of defense. The only real meaning of this plan is that it signals Ukraine’s confidence that Russia cannot win. Both of these leaders will be severely tested in 2023.



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