Israelis are voting today in what has become a contentious parliamentary election. During the campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed security issues, especially the threat posed to Israel by a nuclear Iran, and has touted his speech to the U.S. Congress earlier this month. Opponents, though, have said that Netanyahu has strained Israel’s critical relationship with the United States and failed to address the sharply rising cost of living in Israel.
If Netanyahu’s Likud Party wins out, he will serve a historic fourth term as prime minister, but the latest opinion polls, which came out last Friday, showed his support slipping behind competition from the more liberal Labor Party. In response, Netanyahu has campaigned aggressively to the right over the last couple days. In campaign events yesterday, he told supporters that no Palestinian state would be established during his premiership and that he approved the construction of settlements in Jerusalem explicitly to block the expansion of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. Though polls close tonight, analysts say it could take weeks for Israeli parties to form a coalition government. After casting his ballot this morning in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he would not form a coalition with the Labor Party, his primary rival.
Assad and U.S. partners rebuff Kerry’s comments on negotiations
On Monday, the State Department walked back comments made by Secretary of State John Kerry that suggested that the United States would be willing to support negotiations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “[T]here has always been a need for representatives of the Assad regime to be a part of this process,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said yesterday. “It has never been and would not be Assad who would negotiate.” U.S. coalition partners France and Turkey also pushed back on Kerry’s statement, saying that Assad could not be part of a negotiated transition. In a statement on Monday, Assad was dismissive of Kerry’s comments. “Any talk on the future of the Syrian president is for the Syrian people and all the declarations from outside do not concern us,” he said.
- An Egyptian court sentenced Mohammed Badie, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and 13 others to death for allegedly planning attacks against the state; Badie has received the death sentence previously but it was reduced to life in prison.
- After eight years as envoy to the Middle East Quartet, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to step down this week and his role and the structure of the Quartet “reconfigured.”
- Gunmen from the Islamic State kidnapped 20 international medical workers from a hospital in Sirte, Libya, on Monday.
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said this morning that Iran will continue to increase oil production and plans to raise exports to 1 million barrels per day if a nuclear deal is reached and sanctions are lifted.
- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a disclosure lawsuit on Monday against the U.S. government to establish the criteria for being placed on the “kill list,” the list of designated terrorists subject to the U.S. targeted killing policy, which has never been revealed.
-J. Dana Stuster
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