Geopolitics

Abraham Accords Unleashed: The Middle East Will Never Be The Same

The peace accords signed between conservative Arab states and Israel are the start of an inevitable opening for the Middle East, and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan means a new post-American, post-oil future.

-Editorial-

BOGOTÁ — Days ago, passing through the Ben Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv, I could see prominent signs announcing direct flights between Israel and Casablanca in Morocco, and with Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Manama the capital of Bahrain, and Cairo. These were in addition to the dozen daily flights linking Tel Aviv and Istanbul, which have been operating for some years.

And to think on top of that, we now see the opening of Saudi airspace to flights to Israel, which would have been unthinkable just a few years back.

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Bad Ruses, Good Reasons: How To Avoid Military Service In 5 Countries

In the countries that require military service, those who refuse to serve must either try to explain their exemption or find a creative short-cut to avoid the obligation. Here are some examples.

Military conscription has ebbed and flowed through history, typically depending on national security (wars), economics (jobs) and demography (young men). In recent years, many countries have outright eliminated the draft or replaced it with a civil service requirement. At the same time, other countries have been bringing back obligatory military service to respond to security threats or as a solution to rising high school dropout and unemployment rates. Morocco reinstated conscription in 2018 after 12 years, with a 12-month required military service for all men and women aged 19 to 25.

Amid newfound tensions around the Baltic Sea, the Swedish government also decided to reintroduce military conscription in March 2017, though for a limited number of citizens - 4,000 men and women were selected from a pool of 13,000.

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Free WiFi For All? Cities (And Nations) Making Universal Digital Access A Right

Whether it's to bridge the socioeconomic digital divide or to attract tourists, foreign businesses and digital nomads, the time may be ripe to offer free internet access across society. Here are some of those leading the push.

For years, certain big cities have been wooing tourists and remote workers by offering free WiFi hotspots to help find the best restaurants or connect for meetings from a park bench. This month, Mexico City won the Guinness World Record for most free WiFi hotspots in the world, with 21,500.

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Whiff Of History: Archeologists Discover Very Old Egg In Ancient Toilet

Archeologists digging near the central Israeli city of Yavne have uncovered the most delicate of artifacts in the remains of an ancient cesspool. Inside the 1,000-year-old cesspool, they were surprised to find an apparently intact hen's egg, dating all the way back to the Byzantine period, according to daily Haaretz.

Dr. Lee Perry Gal, a poultry expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority, explained how extraordinary it was to find the egg: "Eggshell fragments are known from earlier periods, for example in the City of David, Caesarea and Apollonia, but due to the fragility of the eggs, almost no whole hen eggs have been preserved. Even on a global level, this is an extremely rare find."

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Israel
Piotr Smolar

Bad Actors, Same Script: Israeli-Palestinian Tragedy Plays On

The current spiral in the Middle East is a stinging reminder for the world, and particularly the United States under Joe Biden, that the violence will always return.

-Analysis-

Violence, rockets, sirens, airstrikes. Shared fear. Israeli shelters, gutted buildings in Gaza. Deaths on both sides. Concerned communiqués from abroad calling for deescalation. The usual script of the Israeli-Palestinian drama advances in proper order. Each actor returns to his role, with no certainty of tomorrow or long-term plan, with no other acceptable recourse than lethal force, while waiting for a future return to a precarious, necessarily precarious, calm.

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Israel
Hossein Aqay

Any Means, All Fronts: Netanyahu's Shadow War On Iran

The Israeli Prime Minister has taken his cue from a bold predecessor, Menachem Begin, to curb Islamic Iran's regional presence and nuclear threat by any means necessary.

-Analysis-

LONDON — Israel's suspected strike against the Natanz nuclear plant in Iran has taken its shadow war with the Islamic Republic to a new high. It is a battle that began in the 1980s with Iran creating the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and which continues today, fueled by the Islamic Republic's ideological, ballistic and atomic expansionism.

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Israel
Louis Imbert

Pandemic Prompts Israel's Ultra-Orthodox Youth To Cut Loose

The COVID-19 crisis has upended normal routines and led some young Haredims to drop out of school, experiment with drugs and distance themselves from family.

BNEI BRAK — Neighbors discovered the plump, 16-year-old boy out out behind their building in Bnei Brak, the capital of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the Haredim, meaning those who "tremble before God." He was sleeping on an abandoned office chair.

A video of the boy — we'll call him Gadi, for the sake of discretion — circulated from neighbor to neighbor until it reached Tova Bouriya, an ultra-Orthodox mother of Yemeni origin. As the head of the association Tov Ba'lev, she keeps her door open to teenagers on the street. Bouriya then contacted Gadi's grandfather, an influential Sephardic rabbi, who made it clear that he is disowning the boy.

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Israel
Anne Sophie Goninet

The Second Wave And Risks Of Rising Suicide Rates

PARIS — After first reckoning with the physical toll of COVID-19, the world also began to register the risk of rising rates of depression and isolation as the first wave of the virus forced hundreds of millions of people to stay confined at home for months at a time last spring. But now the second wave is raising the stakes, as mental health experts warn about the risk of an uptick in suicide.

Some parts of the world have already been experiencing "waves of suicides' such as Malawi, which reports a 57% increase between January and August in comparison with 2019, or India, as the pandemic put many out of a job and without financial resources. But according to a French study, with a second wave taking its toll on people's hopes and long-term economic effects, the worst is yet to come.

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Israel
Mourad Kamel

Arab-Israeli Rapprochement: Is Saudi Arabia Next?

The accord to normalize relations between two Arab countries and Israel is a major diplomatic victory for U.S. President Donald Trump, who has made good on a pledge to bring a breakthrough to Middle East negotiations just before his bid for reelection in November.

Still, the fast-moving events of the last month — culminating with Tuesday's signing ceremony at the White House of what's being called the "Abraham Accords' — are above all a sign that real change may be on the way to the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that it took Israel 26 years between the second peace agreement with an Arab country (Jordan) and the third last month with the United Arab Emirates, but only 29 days to seal its fourth, with Bahrain last Friday. In a video posted to his Twitter profile, Netanyahu promised "there will be more" Arab countries that follow this path.

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BBC

The Latest: Israel Stampede, Brazil COVID Deaths, Instagrammable Bird

Welcome to Friday, where dozens die in a stampede at a religious festival in Israel, Brazil's COVID death toll surpasses 400,000 and an owl-like bird is crowned Instagram influencer. We also look at how a Taiwanese oenologist is working to turn his country into a tropical wine terroir.

• Dozens killed at Israeli religious festival stampede: At least 44 people were crushed to death and hundreds more injured in a stampede at an over-crowded religious festival in northeastern Israel.

• As Brazil death toll tops 400,000, warnings for Latin America: The number of COVID deaths has risen to 400,000, the second highest in the world after the United States. Experts warn that the death toll could continue to grow in the coming months in Brazil, and elsewhere in Latin America, due to the slow vaccination campaign and the early loosening of restrictions.

• Deadly clashes at Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan border: At least 13 people were killed and dozens injured after disputes over water surveillance equipment erupted in gunfire on Thursday. Poor demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Tajik border has already led to several clashes over the three decades since the countries became independent.

• Myanmar civilians look to flee to Thailand: If conflicts intensify between the Myanmar army and ethnic minority Karen fighters, thousands of Karen villagers are likely to seek refuge in Thailand. Around 2,000 villagers have already fled to Thailand, according to Thai foreign ministry.

• Zulu queen dies: Zulu Queen Mantfombi Dlamini has died from an unspecified illness aged 65, only a month after becoming interim leader of South Africa's largest ethnic group after her husband, King Goodwill Zwelithini, died from diabetes-related complications.

• EU vs. Apple: The EU's antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager has accused Apple's App Store rules of breaking European antitrust law by undermining developers the U.S. giant competes with.

• The most "Instagrammable" bird: Researchers have singled out frogmouth, a bird species often mistaken for an owl, in a study about how social media users interacted with some of the most popular bird photography accounts on Instagram.

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BBC

The Latest: Jerusalem Clashes, Russia Pulls Back Troops, Brexit Ponies

Welcome to Friday, where tensions between far-right Jewish activists and Palestinians escalate in Jerusalem, Russia withdraws troops from Ukraine border and four ponies jump over Brexit obstacle. German conservative daily Die Welt also tells us why the country's political parties should keep a close eye on the Greens' candidate in the upcoming chancellor election.

• Hundreds injured in East Jerusalem clashes: Clashes in East Jerusalem between far-right Jewish activists, Palestinians and Israeli police have left over 100 people injured. Tensions have escalated between Palestinians and Jewish extremists since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, on April 13.

• Indian hospital fire kills 13: At least 13 persons have died after a fire ravaged the intensive care unit of an hospital treating COVID patients near Mumbai. This incident comes as India is facing its highest number of cases and oxygen shortages.

• Russia to withdraw from Ukraine border: Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Thursday that Russia will pull back its troops near Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Western countries had criticized what they viewed as a show of force.

• UK calls out China in Uyghur genocide: The House of Commons has stated for the first time that a genocide against Uyghurs is taking place in the north-west China's Xinjiang region. MPs are asking the British government to take action, while Beijing condemned the declaration.

• SpaceX rocket launch: NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide have successfully lifted-off on a SpaceX rocket heading to the International Space Station. The launch, originally planned for last Thursday, was delayed because of poor weather conditions.

• State funeral for Chad's slain president: Thousands of people have gathered to pay tribute to Chad's late President Idriss Deby, who died in clashes with rebels on Monday. French President Emmanuel Macron and several African leaders are expected to attend the funeral, in the capital N'Djamena.

• Ponies overcome Brexit hurdle: Four ponies, bought as a birthday gift and detained for a month at Belfast Port over incorrect post-Brexit paperwork, are now to be released, but may face a 30-day quarantine upon arrival in Britain.

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Israel

Worldcrunch Today, Dec. 24: Brexit Latest, Alibaba Probe, Zoom With Santa

Welcome to Thursday, where Israel announces a 3rd national lockdown, a Brexit deal looks imminent, and we've got the price for zooming with Santa in Lapland. We also look at the effects the pandemic is having on the gig economy.

SPOTLIGHT: JOE BIDEN'S REAL CHALLENGE: MOVING BEYOND ANTI-TRUMPISM

President-elect Joe Biden's ample support base is fluid and can melt away, if his administration ignores the social and political grievances that led millions to vote for Donald Trump, writes Federico Finchelstein in Buenos Aires-based daily Clarin:

U.S. President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will face immense, and in many ways unprecedented challenges, upon taking office on Jan. 20. Future historians will have much to say on how "Trumpism" or radical right-wing views espoused by the outgoing President Donald J. Trump, took populism close to fascism and dictatorship. But history will also record how, after one term, he was rejected on Nov. 3. A record number of Americans — more than 81 million — voted for Biden, united by their opposition to Trump and his ideas.

As the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges said, it wasn't love that brought them together but fears. The question concerning the United States now, and in the future for countries like Brazil and Hungary is: Can you engage in politics merely on the basis of fear of what has already happened?

On the one hand, Biden is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis. On the other, he must solve a political crisis, which actually can point to some precedents.

How should he rebuild democracy and generate genuine support among those who voted for him simply for not being Trump? Biden will need to be more than just honest, or not racist or discriminatory. It will not be enough for him to merely avoid scandalizing the public or manipulating and demonizing the media.

Biden needs to widen democracy, and improve living conditions, healthcare and education in order to represent his voters and avoid the inertia of the past.

In many cases, anti-Trumpism warned of the dictatorial dangers and risk of fascism inherent in the president's style of leadership. But critics often presented an alternative myth: that of historical exceptionality. This was the idea of a normality before Trump that was not in fact entirely "normal." As the case of Marine le Pen"s repeated candidacies in France shows, a "barrier" is not enough to keep long-term votes and support from gathering.

The pre-Trump period had its share of problems: elitism, technocratic predominance, aggressive police tactics, stock market and banking deregulation, President Barack Obama's inaction — or at times regressive measures — regarding immigrants, lack of gun control legislation, massive incarceration rates for ethnic minorities and restrictions on public education and healthcare that, alongside other issues, distanced many voters from the Democratic Party.

Should it view the Trump presidency as an interlude, the Biden administration will see its large support shrivel — as it will without proper judicial investigations into possible criminal actions by the outgoing president.

With foreign policy and U.S. relations with democratic and authoritarian leaders, one can expect a rapprochement with the European Union — but what will happen to Trump's global accomplices? Which policy will it adopt toward the tropical Trump that is Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil? How will it act with the Nicolas Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela or the Saudi kingdom?

Doing nothing is not a viable option, though it is always possible Trump will stick around in politics as a useful reminder to citizens of the failures of his administration. In any case. Trump may allow Biden a few months of complacency and inaction.

That Trump, and to a lesser extent the Republican Party, are currently rejecting the democratic results of an election should be a warning against urgently declaring the last four years an exceptional event in an otherwise healthy democracy. American democracy must be improved and widened in social, economic and political terms.

After the end of the Latin American dictatorships of the Cold War, as happened in Europe with the fall of fascist states in 1945, many eminent intellectuals espoused the same, misplaced optimism. They were naive because authoritarianism and xenophobia persisted on both sides of the Atlantic after those periods.

Considering fascism and authoritarian populism as aberrations rather than expressions of strong, local and global trends, can impede the work of democratic reconstruction needed to uproot them.

There are patterns of continuity in U.S. history, as in any history, and change as well. We must record our histories and both the friends and enemies of democracy, if we want to defend it and improve it for the future.

— Federico Finchelstein / Clarin

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Israel
Steven Davidson

For African Asylum Seekers, No Way Out Of Israel

An Israeli law enacted in mid-2017 amounts to a de facto salary cut for African asylum seekers, plunging the community into a financial crisis.

JERUSALEM - In May 2017, Israel effectively cut one-fifth of asylum seekers" wages, hoping people such as Eden Tasfamariam would leave the country.

This single mother and asylum seeker from Eritrea fled to Israel almost 10 years ago with her children. She did so after the Eritrean government imprisoned them as retribution when her then husband, a conscripted soldier who had been imprisoned for arguing with a superior, fled the country. Under surveillance and fearing for their lives, they left Eritrea shortly after their release.

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Israel
Nathalie Hamou

Why Israel Is Letting Its Tech Startups Go

The Silicon Wadi, as Israel's tech sector is known, has a penchant for creating innovative new companies. But rather than grow to maturity, they're often sold off early to larger, foreign firms.

TEL AVIV — "Who will be the next Waze?" Israeli newspapers asked in 2013 as soon as the startup, founded just five years earlier in a Tel Aviv suburb, was sold to Google for $1 billion. "Who will be the next Mobileye?" they asked four years later, when the vehicular anti-collision software, developed in Jerusalem starting in 1999, was sold for $15 billion to Intel, another U.S. giant.

Announced some years apart, these two "mega-deals' were relayed by the media and public officials in this nation of 8 million people as cause for national celebration, and as further proof that in Israel, there's nothing taboo about selling startups to foreign companies.

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Israel
Mohamed Seif El Nasr

BDS And Me: Time To Spread Boycott Of Israel Far And Wide

-Essay-

CAIRO — As someone who fully supports the Palestinian cause, it is challenging to write an article about boycotting Israel for fear of being dragged into the particulars of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In a world that is very much manipulated by biased media, it is hard to resist the urge to first rebut Israel's nonsensical arguments and list its daily brutalities, beginning with its right to exist as a state. Zionism is, after all, a colonial movement, as per the affirmation of the founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, himself.

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FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG

A Bloody Contrast, 24 World Front Pages After Gaza Killings

PARIS — The world reacted in a chorus of shock Tuesday after the deadliest day in Gaza since 2014, as Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians protesting at the border against the opening of the new American embassy in Jerusalem. U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize the holy city as Israel's capital, against the will of almost the entire international community, has been the source of deadly clashes for months. But the response of Israeli Defense Forces on demonstrators Monday was brutal. Haaretz, the progressive Israeli daily, posted an editorial Tuesday titled: "Stop The Bloodbath."

The death toll had risen Tuesday morning to 60, with more than 2,000 wounded. As those killed yesterday are being put to rest, more protests are expected as Palestinians also commemorate the 70-year anniversary of the Nakba, when more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes in the 1948 war.

The killings have sparked protests as well as official condemnations from around the world, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, who said he was "profoundly alarmed and concerned by the sharp escalation of violence and the number of Palestinians killed and injured in the Gaza protests."Many of Tuesday's newspaper front pages captured the contrast of Tuesday's events, where Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump was beaming during the inauguration of the new embassy, while unarmed civilians were being killed just miles away at the border. Le Monde"s lead article opened with the following words: "Champagne in Jerusalem, blood in Gaza."

ISRAEL

Haaretz

Israel Hayom

The Jerusalem Post

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