Morning Brief

Israel Votes—Again

Plus: Britain’s highest court hears a big case, how the U.S. might respond to the Saudi oil attacks, and the other stories we’re following today.

A woman talks on her mobile phone below banners for the Likud party show of Beersheva, Israel, on Sept. 15.
A woman talks on her mobile phone below banners for the Likud party show of Beersheva, Israel, on Sept. 15. HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Benjamin Netanyahu tries again for a record fifth term as prime minister in Israel, Britain’s Supreme Court hears a case on Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament, and how the United States could respond to the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.

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Israel Votes in Tight Race for the Second Time in Six Months

Israeli voters go to the polls today for the second time since April in a repeat parliamentary election that is expected to be tight: Polls show Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party nearly tied with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, with neither party projected to win nearly enough seats—61—for a majority.

Netanyahu is seeking to win a fifth term, but he faces significant challenges to his longstanding political dominance—as well as an indictment on corruption charges looming after the election. Unable to form a government in April, Netanyahu chose to dissolve the Knesset instead. It’s not clear if either Likud or Blue and White will be able to cobble together a majority coalition this time around. But Netanyahu’s rivals might have the numbers, according the the latest polls, to form a so-called blocking coalition.

What happens if neither bloc wins a majority? An inconclusive election result seems to be the most likely outcome. The possible kingmaker Avigdor Lieberman—head of the secular Yisrael Beitenu party—has been pushing for a unity government between the Likud party and Blue and White to sideline the ultra-Orthodox parties. But while this could be good for Netanyahu’s party, it may not be good for him.

In FP, Joshua Mitnick outlines three ways that this scenario could work against Netanyahu: if Israel’s president decides to tap someone else to build a coalition; if other Likud members try to take over party leadership; or if Netanyahu resigns in exchange for clemency.

Netanyahu’s annexation promise. On the eve of the election, Netanyahu pledged to annex “all the settlements” in the occupied West Bank, a gesture intended to court last-minute support from right-wing nationalists. The move follows Netanyahu’s promise last week that he would annex the West Bank’s Jordan Valley if Likud wins—drawing concern from other world leaders. If it happens it could have unintended consequences for Israel in the long run, argues Ian Lustick in FP.

What We’re Following Today

Britain’s highest court hears Brexit case. Today Britain’s Supreme Court will hear cases addressing the question of whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament amid the ongoing Brexit crisis was against the law. It marks the first time the court has been called for an emergency hearing outside of its term time. Critics of Johnson’s Brexit policy hope that if the court rules that he broke the law, Parliament will be recalled—and he could be forced to resign. The hearing follows an embarrassing visit to Luxembourg for the prime minister, where he had intended to show negotiations with the European Union were approaching a deal.

U.S. tones down rhetoric over attack on Saudi oil. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that the United States would like to avoid a war over the attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure—for which it has blamed Iran. (The statement came a day after claiming the United States was “locked and loaded” in response to the strikes.) Much about the attacks remains unclear, including who carried them out and what types of weapons were used. Signs point to drones, missiles, or perhaps both, FP explains. And if the United States retaliates, it’s likely to use only sanctions or cyberweapons.

Venezuela’s government returns to National Assembly. On Monday, Venezuela’s government said it would send its lawmakers back to the National Assembly, which is controlled by the country’s opposition and led by Juan Guaidó. (President Nicolás Maduro has previously said he considers it to be unconstitutional.) The announcement followed the news that Maduro’s government would begin negotiations with smaller opposition parties not backed by Guaidó. Analysts say the move could pave the way for Maduro to call new assembly elections.

Get ready for the U.N. General Assembly. Join FP Editor in Chief Jonathan Tepperman and senior U.N. correspondent Colum Lynch for a subscriber-only conference call on Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. ET as they preview the week ahead. And sign up for U.N. Brief for daily updates and insights from Lynch and staff writer Robbie Gramer during the week of Sept. 23-27.

Keep an Eye On

The U.N.’s rules on cybercrime. Russia and China are trying to set new safeguards against cybercrime at the United Nations, and they favor policies that would allow countries to restrict information technology within their borders. The United States should push back against this vision at the U.N. General Assembly next week, Allison Peters argues in FP.

The Zimbabwe doctors’ strike. The leader of a doctors’ union in Zimbabwe disappeared over the weekend amid an ongoing strike to demand better pay for doctors at public hospitals. On Monday, hundreds of doctors protested his disappearance. His colleagues allege that he was abducted by state security services to put an end to the strike.

Mexico’s asylum agency. Employees at the Mexican agency that processes asylum claims—already overburdened—fear that their workload will increase after the U.S. Supreme Court decision to reinstate Trump’s restrictive asylum policy. Case workers are already working 15-hour days, with 80,000 applications expected this year—more than double the 2018 total.

Forest fires in Indonesia. Indonesian police said Monday that they had arrested 185 people for allegedly starting forest fires that are spreading smoke throughout Southeast Asia. In recent years, forest fires in Indonesia—caused by farmers clearing land to plant their crops—have produced an unhealthy haze that reaches neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Ballot Box

The head of the U.S. Federal Election Commission will hold a meeting today in Washington with social media giants focused on disinformation and digital manipulation ahead of the 2020 election. Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been invited to attend.

Spain’s king decides today whether there is support for a viable coalition government or if Parliament must be dissolved, setting up a Nov. 10 election. On Monday, acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made a last-minute plea to the Spanish opposition to allow him to form a government.

Algeria has set Dec. 12 as the date for its presidential election, months after longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was ousted amid protests. Activists want to ensure the election goes forward without influence from the old regime, while the country’s army chief has pushed for a quick vote.

Odds and Ends

In Bologna, Italy, a masked group called Padrone di Merda (“crappy boss”) that started this year is staging protests outside of businesses accused of exploiting their workers, the Guardian reports. The public shaming tactic has drawn the ire of Italian politicians but taken off on social media: Padrone di Merda is already hoping to expand its activism into other cities.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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