Morning Brief

Israel’s Political Crisis Deepens

With the indictment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s path out of parliamentary deadlock remains uncertain.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Nov. 13.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Nov. 13. RONEN ZVULUN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is indicted on corruption charges, the United States has started sending asylum seekers to Guatemala, and Hong Kong weighs canceling local elections set for Sunday.

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Netanyahu Indicted on Corruption Charges

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on Thursday for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust as part of a long-running corruption investigation. Netanyahu has denounced the charges, but they put his political future in doubt as Israel struggles to break months of political deadlock and potentially faces its third general election within a year.

Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to be indicted in office, and the charges have already created a new challenge for Israel’s government with the prime minister and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in open conflict. Netanyahu has called the indictment an “attempted coup,” and his critics are likely to petition Israel’s Supreme Court to get him to step down.

Can Netanyahu remain in office? Netanyahu can legally remain in office while under indictment and even during a trial. Lawmakers can’t vote to remove him unless he is convicted and loses all appeals—something that could take years. But an October poll showed that a majority of voters, including nearly half of right-wing voters, believed he should resign as head of the Likud party if indicted.

What does this mean for Israel’s deadlock? On Wednesday, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz missed the deadline to form a new government, leaving the task to the rest of Israel’s parliament. If another lawmaker can’t cobble together a coalition over the next three weeks, another election will be called—the third since April.

Netanyahu’s indictment only adds to the uncertainty. While he can’t be forced to resign while he holds the position of prime minister, it is possible that he could be challenged as party leader. And even if he manages to negotiate a coalition, the president might not hand Netanyahu the mandate to form a government while under indictment.

What We’re Following Today

U.S. sending asylum seekers to Guatemala. The Trump administration has already begun sending asylum seekers to Guatemala under a deal announced in July. While it is set to begin slowly, the first phase is focused on those from Honduras and El Salvador. On Thursday, the first Honduran arrived in Guatemala City on a flight from the United States. The agreement is part of a larger U.S. strategy to restrict access to asylum in the United States—despite the fact that thousands of migrants come from Guatemala. President-elect Alejandro Giammattei says he will review the policy when he takes office in January.

Hong Kong scheduled to hold local elections. Hong Kong is set to hold district elections on Sunday, the first since the unrest that has plunged the city into political crisis began in June. If the election goes forward, more than a thousand candidates will contest 452 district council seats. The city government says it is watching the situation to ensure the vote can be held safely. China’s leadership has reportedly pushed the Hong Kong to allow the elections to go forward—even though pro-Beijing politicians may suffer. But a pro-democracy victory at the ballot box could undermine China’s narrative, Dominic Chiu argues in FP.

Protests flare in Algeria ahead of vote. Algerians demonstrated in the capital for the second consecutive night on Thursday, demanding a presidential election scheduled for Dec. 12 be canceled unless the old ruling elite stands down. The renewed protests suggest that the activists—who ousted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April—could hold daily demonstrations over the next few weeks. The army, which wields significant power, is not officially backing any of the five presidential candidates—all former senior officials.

Keep an Eye On

The measles outbreak in Congo. Nearly 5,000 people have died in a measles outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo—twice the number that have from Ebola in the country. The World Health Organization says the measles outbreak is the world’s fastest-spreading epidemic. An emergency vaccination program was launched in September, but experts say that it has only reached half of children.

A Russian law targeting journalists. Russia’s lower house of parliament has passed a law that will allow authorities to label individual journalists as foreign agents, subjecting them to government audits. While a 2012 law allows the label to apply to non-governmental organizations, it had not yet targeted the media. The new legislation now heads to the upper house and President Vladimir Putin for approval.

Walmart’s footprint in China. Walmart announced on Thursday that it has plans for 500 new stores in China, more than doubling its presence there. The expansion comes despite China’s economic slowdown and its ongoing trade war with the United States. In 2023, China is projected to be the world’s largest market for groceries—a key focus of Walmart’s expansion.

FP Event—Join Foreign Policy’s Food Forever Solutions Summit, our inaugural food security event, on Dec. 3 in Washington. We’ll discuss the most pressing issues facing our global food system, including biodiversity, agricultural innovation, and sustainable business models for a changing world. It will conclude with a culinary challenge where top DC chefs will share delicious dishes using unusual ingredients for you to sample.

Odds and Ends

Two metal detectorists in Britain have been found guilty of theft after failing to declare a hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure they found in 2015 that had been buried for 1,000 years. While some has been recovered, much of the haul—worth 3 million British pounds, or around $3.8 million—has not been accounted for. The pair will be sentenced today.

On Saturday, residents of Bougainville—an archipelago in the Solomon Sea—will start voting in an independence referendum, with observers expecting an overwhelming vote in favor of separating from Papua New Guinea. But the path to becoming the world’s newest country could be complex, the Guardian reports.

That’s it for today.

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

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