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Israel’s Government Collapse Complicates Biden’s Visit

The end of Naftali Bennett’s government gives an opportunity to Yair Lapid, who will become the caretaker prime minister.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid leave after making make a joint statement to the press in Jerusalem on June 20. OREN BEN HAKOON/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at Israel’s political turmoil, Russia-Lithuania tensions, a divided French Parliament, and more news worth following from around the world.

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Israel’s Government Collapses

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at Israel’s political turmoil, Russia-Lithuania tensions, a divided French Parliament, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Israel’s Government Collapses

Israel is on track for its fifth election in less than four years after Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said he would move to dissolve the country’s parliament, the Knesset, this week in a surprise Monday announcement.

The move comes weeks before U.S. President Joe Biden is set to visit, and it adds another chapter to Israel’s continuing political turmoil. New elections are now expected in late October.

In Bennett’s telling, the government will be dissolved in order to preserve the two-tier legal system that separates Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the West Bank. With regulations granting settler protections set to expire at the end of the month and their extension mired in parliamentary gridlock, Bennett said the dissolution—which automatically extends the law until a new government is formed—was necessary to avoid “security risks” and “constitutional chaos.”

In reality, Bennett’s governing majority had been eroding for months as lawmakers in his broad and tenuous coalition defected or lost faith in the government. Haaretz reports that Bennett made the Monday decision in order to preempt rebel and opposition lawmakers who were set to vote to dissolve the Knesset themselves later this week. (Religious parties, which were left out of the coalition, hailed the collapse and credited divine intervention.)

The move opens the door for Benjamin Netanyahu—who is still on trial facing corruption charges—to potentially return as prime minister. His Likud party is on track to remain the largest in parliament in the fresh elections likely to take place in October, although whether he can win enough seats to build a working majority remains to be seen.

Biden’s visit, itself seen as a chance to buoy Bennett’s coalition, is now searching for a purpose. The White House on Monday said Biden still plans to make the journey, which includes a controversial stop in Saudi Arabia.

The trip comes at an opportune time for Yair Lapid, who would have become prime minister in August 2023 under the terms of a rotation agreement. He will now serve as caretaker prime minister during Biden’s visit and hold the role until a new government is formed.

“In all of Netanyahu’s victories, with the exception of his first, he was the interim prime minister. And Lapid will now occupy that position, which will strengthen his hand going into elections,” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East advisor to six U.S. secretaries of state and now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

No fan of Netanyahu, Biden has a chance to help tip the scale in Lapid’s favor and grant him a statesmanlike sheen with the upcoming visit. “Israelis put a lot of stock in how their prime ministers handle Israel’s most important relationship,” Miller said. “It’ll be fascinating to see what signs and signals the administration sends over the next three or four months as we enter the prime ministerial sweepstakes.”


The World This Week

Tuesday, June 21: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Jordan.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles visits India.

Wednesday, June 22: Mohammed bin Salman visits Turkey.

Cambodia hosts a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping gives the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the BRICS Business Forum.

Thursday, June 23: Xi hosts a virtual BRICS summit with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The EU-Western Balkans summit takes place in Brussels.

Friday, June 24: EU heads of state and government gather in Brussels for a European Council leaders summit.

Sunday, June 26: Germany hosts the G-7 summit in Schloss Elmau, in Bavaria.


What We’re Following Today

Kaliningrad tensions. Russia’s foreign ministry said the country “reserved the right to take actions to protect its national interests” after Lithuanian authorities began banning the transport of European Union-sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland. Lithuania’s control of the sole rail corridor from Russia to the exclave puts Vilnius especially in Moscow’s crosshairs.

“The situation is more than serious,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Monday. “This decision is really unprecedented. It’s a violation of everything.”

Also speaking on Monday, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has so far shrugged off the threats: “It’s not Lithuania doing anything: It’s European sanctions that started working from 17 of June.”

Anton Alikhanov, Kaliningrad’s governor, told Russian media that the issue could be resolved diplomatically. “As far as I know, tomorrow Markus Ederer, the European Union ambassador to Russia, will be summoned to the foreign ministry … and he will be told of the appropriate conditions involved here,” Alikhanov said on Monday.

Macron’s bloody nose. French President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble coalition fell well short of an absolute majority following parliamentary elections on Sunday, the first time a reelected president has failed to gather a majority since 1988. In the final tally, Macron’s Ensemble won 245 seats, 105 fewer seats than in the previous election. The left-wing coalition New Ecological and Social People’s Union came second with 131 seats, while Marine Le Pen’s National Rally won 89 seats, a record for the far-right party.


Keep an Eye On

Colombia’s new leadership. Colombia will soon have the first leftist president in its history after Gustavo Petro prevailed over Rodolfo Hernández in Sunday’s presidential runoff, winning 50.48 percent of the vote to Hernandez’s 47.26 percent, according to the latest results. Petro’s win provides the country with another first: His vice president, Francia Márquez, will become the first Black woman to hold the office.

In his victory speech, Petro said he would welcome all members of the opposition to the presidential palace as well as listen to “that silent majority of peasants, Indigenous people, women, youth.”

Sri Lanka’s government. Sri Lanka’s cabinet on Monday approved a constitutional amendment aimed at reducing presidential powers, a key political concern of anti-government protesters as the country endures an economic crisis. The amendment will now be brought before parliament. The move comes as IMF officials arrived in Colombo on Monday to negotiate loan terms with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.


Odds and Ends

Summer anglers have a new record to aim for after villagers on Cambodia’s stretch of the Mekong River landed the world’s heaviest ever freshwater fish: a 661-pound stingray.

The 13-foot-long creature, christened Boramy or “full moon” in Khmer, was released with a tracking device soon after its capture. Boramy takes the title from a 645-pound catfish caught on Thailand’s Mekong in 2005.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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