Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu calls for early elections

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for general elections to be held on September 4, over a year early. Netanyahu’s Likud party has been the most stable it has been in years, and is looking to capitalize on polls that indicate the conservative, right-wing party will win over a quarter of the seats in ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for general elections to be held on September 4, over a year early. Netanyahu's Likud party has been the most stable it has been in years, and is looking to capitalize on polls that indicate the conservative, right-wing party will win over a quarter of the seats in the Knesset. Netanyahu made the announcement on Monday after a speech Sunday night at the Likud party's annual conference in Tel Aviv. He said, "I am not interested in a year and a half long election campaign that would damage the country. I would rather have a four-month swift election campaign that would bring [the] political system to stability quickly." The cabinet agreed to the new timeline, but it must be approved by a vote in the Knesset. The expedited elections are believed to be, in part, a move to strengthen the coalition in advance of a possible second term for U.S. President Barack Obama. Additionally, they will stall the end to the controversial Tal Law, which allows ultra-orthodox men to avoid compulsory military service.

Syria

On Monday, Syrians held the first "multiparty" parliamentary elections in 50 years, according to the government, amid continued violence across the country. The Syrian government billed the elections as proof of political reform, under the slogan "Your future is in your hand." However the opposition criticized it as a farce, and the elections are not expected to change the dynamics of the 14-month conflict. Under the 50-year rule of the Baath Party, the parliament has not been an influential body, considered a "rubber stamp" for the president. The current assembly does not include any opposition members. According to officials, nearly 7,200 candidates are contesting 250 seats, and over 14 million people are eligible to vote. However, the opposition has instituted a widespread boycott and general strike. Meanwhile, clashes were reported in Deir al-Zour, as opposition forces responded to tanks with grenades. Additionally, explosions targeted major cities over the weekend leading up to the election day.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for general elections to be held on September 4, over a year early. Netanyahu’s Likud party has been the most stable it has been in years, and is looking to capitalize on polls that indicate the conservative, right-wing party will win over a quarter of the seats in the Knesset. Netanyahu made the announcement on Monday after a speech Sunday night at the Likud party’s annual conference in Tel Aviv. He said, "I am not interested in a year and a half long election campaign that would damage the country. I would rather have a four-month swift election campaign that would bring [the] political system to stability quickly." The cabinet agreed to the new timeline, but it must be approved by a vote in the Knesset. The expedited elections are believed to be, in part, a move to strengthen the coalition in advance of a possible second term for U.S. President Barack Obama. Additionally, they will stall the end to the controversial Tal Law, which allows ultra-orthodox men to avoid compulsory military service.

Syria

On Monday, Syrians held the first "multiparty" parliamentary elections in 50 years, according to the government, amid continued violence across the country. The Syrian government billed the elections as proof of political reform, under the slogan "Your future is in your hand." However the opposition criticized it as a farce, and the elections are not expected to change the dynamics of the 14-month conflict. Under the 50-year rule of the Baath Party, the parliament has not been an influential body, considered a "rubber stamp" for the president. The current assembly does not include any opposition members. According to officials, nearly 7,200 candidates are contesting 250 seats, and over 14 million people are eligible to vote. However, the opposition has instituted a widespread boycott and general strike. Meanwhile, clashes were reported in Deir al-Zour, as opposition forces responded to tanks with grenades. Additionally, explosions targeted major cities over the weekend leading up to the election day.

Headlines  

  • A U.S. drone attack reportedly has killed a top al Qaeda leader in Yemen, Fahd al-Quso, wanted for his involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole and the 2009 Christmas day bombing attempt.
  • Egyptian protesters marched to the parliament to demand the release of 300 people detained in last week’s Abbasiya clashes three weeks ahead of presidential elections.
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced further setbacks in the second round of parliamentary elections with his supporters taking only 13 of 65 seats.

Arguments and Analysis

‘The Emperor Has No Clothes: Palestinians and the End of the Peace Process’ (International Crisis Group)

"The inescapable truth, almost two decades into the peace process, is that all actors are now engaged in a game of make-believe: that a resumption of talks in the current context can lead to success; that an agreement can be reached within a short timeframe; that the Quartet is an effective mediator; that the Palestinian leadership is serious about reconciliation, or the UN, or popular resistance, or disbanding the PA. This is not to say that the process itself has run its course. Continued meetings and even partial agreements – invariably welcomed as breakthroughs – are possible precisely because so many have an interest in its perpetuation. But it will not bring about a durable and lasting peace. The first step in breaking what has become an injurious addiction to a futile process is to recognise that it is so – to acknowledge, at long last, that the emperor has no clothes."

‘Iranian Cyber-Struggles’ (Narges Bajoghli, Middle East Report Online)

"But what happens when digital means of communication and coordination are no longer an option for activists or, at least, a very dangerous option? The state of activism in Iran, nearly three years after the largest protests since the 1979 revolution, offers a cautionary tale for partisans of social media’s emancipatory promise. The Internet, in fact, has become the site of a protracted cat-and-mouse game as the state attempts to reassert its control after the 2009 presidential election, which large segments of the population believe to have been stolen by the state for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The very qualities that make new media so attractive to people seeking change from below also make them an ideal means of surveillance and manipulation from above."

‘The Shape of Things to Come’ (Jonathan Guyer, The Cairo Review of Global Affairs)

"A former ambassador to Saudi Arabia who has also served a stint at the World Bank, Amr dropped additional hints at what may be the contours of Egypt’s future foreign policy. He advocated stronger relations with Asia and particularly with China, and noted that he has traveled extensively in Asia as well as in Africa in his capacity as foreign minister. He also noted that Egypt’s ambassadors have been "very active" in expanding economic relations with Brazil, China, and India. He said that Egypt is currently pursuing cooperation with Libya and Sudan, and an expansion of cooperation with Nile River Basin states. Not to forget Egypt’s Arab neighbors, with whom Cairo is eager to develop a closer bond. Amr said that he speaks with his counterpart in Tunisia-where an anti-regime revolt in December 2010 launched the Arab Spring-about twice a day."

‘Gulf has a role in how much influence Iran has on Iraq’ (Hassan Hassan, The National)

It is not news that Iran’s influence in Iraq is growing. But there is a misplaced assumption in the Gulf that because of sectarian tendencies and proximity, Iraq’s political tilt towards Iran is inevitable and natural. In light of such assessments, the Gulf has been reluctant to expand diplomatic relations with Baghdad. Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister, told me in a recent interview that a "breakthrough" is being reached in relations with the Gulf. During meetings last Monday in Baghdad, he said, progress was made towards resolving outstanding disputes. Qatar, he said, pledged to consider resumption of diplomatic relations within the year. Saudi Arabia is likely to open its Arar border crossing to boost trade with Iraq. The remaining states already have diplomatic representation in Iraq.

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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