Cliffhanger Election Leaves Israel in a Mess
Benjamin Netanyahu’s gamble last spring to call snap elections rather than give his rival a chance to form a government may have just backfired.
As Amy Teibel reports, with ballots still being counted, Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Blue & White are neck and neck. But in the key calculation — the ability of any party to form a majority coalition in the 120-member parliament — Netanyahu seems further from his goal of retaining power than ever.
That means the country will be focused on arduous coalition talks just as the challenges on its borders from Hamas and Iran intensify and global markets reel from an attack on Saudi oil facilities that has pushed energy prices sharply higher.
It also means U.S. President Donald Trump’s long-touted peace plan for the Middle East could land in the midst of coalition talks — hardly an environment for a warm reception — and just as Netanyahu gears up to fight pending corruption charges.
Netanyahu may end up ruing the decision to call a new vote. It turns out that elections can be like wars: You know how they start, but you never know how they’ll end.
Immovable object | In the latest confrontation with the U.S. over the attack on Saudi oil facilities, Iran has shown Trump that he can’t crush or marginalize the Islamic Republic. As Marc Champion reports, while U.S. sanctions have cratered the Iranian economy, escalation is a dangerous game. Iran has shown it can strike back hard and it’s ultimately too big to invade and defeat — even if there were an appetite for another war among American voters.
- The Pentagon is preparing an assessment on who was responsible for the weekend attack and hopes to make it public.
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif may cancel their visit to the UN General Assembly next week if the U.S. doesn’t issue visas “in the next few hours,” state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Bruising battle | Democrats got a preview of what a bare-knuckle general-election brawl between Trump and one of the top three Democratic primary contenders would look like yesterday when his campaign manager posted a video calling into question front-runner Joe Biden’s mental acuity.
Status check | Hong Kong activists including Occupy leader Joshua Wong pleaded for U.S. action to support the city’s protests while testifying in Washington, as U.S. lawmakers said they’d move forward in pressuring authorities by threatening the financial hub’s special trading status. A top adviser to Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she won’t concede to protesters’ demands and the movement isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.
2020 handover | Malaysian ruling party leader Anwar Ibrahim, who cut a deal to become the next prime minister last year, said he expects to take power around May 2020, dismissing reports there could be other contenders for the role. In an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Haslinda Amin, Anwar condemned the forest fires burning in Indonesia that have caused a dangerous haze in parts of Southeast Asia as “ecological warfare.”
Spanish do-over | Spain is headed for its fourth election in as many years after Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez failed to muster support for a new government. With the political landscape splintered by graft scandals, the economic crisis and the Catalan push for independence, he’ll try to peel away backers in a Nov. 10 vote from would-be governing partners who say he triggered the ballot in pursuit of absolute power.
What to Watch
- European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said today the risk of a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 is now “palpable,” sparking a drop in the pound.
- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is having French President Emmanuel Macron over for dinner tonight at his Roman home in the 16th-century Palazzo Chigi in a bid to mend relations between the two nations.
- Venezuelan lawmaker Edgar Zambrano, a top ally of opposition leader Juan Guaido, was released from jail yesterday as part of agreements reached between the government and elements of the opposition.
And finally ... The manicured estate of the Versailles Palace withstood the French revolution, but now it’s facing a potential greater threat: climate change. Hornbeam trees overlooking the estate’s Grand Canal died this summer, and in Marie Antoinette’s Trianon gardens, the beeches are withering. A warming climate is threatening Europe’s forests with everything from new parasites, more volatile precipitation patterns and devastating wildfires.
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