By Gideon Rachman
Every time Israel holds an election, it makes a point to the world and to itself. The country has suffered widespread condemnation for its military actions in Gaza. But it remains a lonely democracy in the Middle East.
When an election was called in Israel earlier this week, most people assumed that the likeliest outcome was that a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu would be replaced by another government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet early developments in the election campaign – supplemented by early opinion polls – suggest that Mr Netanyahu may not be such a shoo-in, after all. Read more
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge entered its 24th day on Thursday, and is now one of the longest-running conflicts for a country that typically fights short wars.
The Israeli military is moving deeper into Gaza, inflicting a level of civilian casualties during its war on Hamas that troubles the international community’s conscience, but which it has been unable to stop.
Behind the scenes, serious diplomatic manoeuvering to end the war is starting. As the stronger party by far in the conflict, Israel holds most of the cards in any ceasefire agreement.
But there are other players too: Egypt shares an interest with Israel in disarming Hamas, an ally of its suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, and restoring calm to a troublesome border region. Hamas, too, needs to calculate what it can get out of its third war with Israel, as talks on a post-war order involving the US, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and other countries get underway.
As they do, a few end-game scenarios are emerging (the assessments of each one’s likelihood of coming to pass are my own): Read more
Israel set itself clear goals when it launched its assault on Gaza. Stop the rocket fire into Israel and close the tunnels that might allow Hamas to infiltrate fighters into Israel. Some 18 days into the offensive, and these goals have not yet been achieved. But that is not the only sign that Israel’s Gaza offensive is going wrong. On the contrary, there are multiple signs that Israel is losing control of the situation: Read more
• Lebanon on the brink: political gridlock, economic torpor and the machinations of pro-Syrian Hizbollah have once more pushed the crossroads of the Middle East to the edge of collapse.
• In Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is coasting towards victory in presidential elections, keeping policy vague and democracy off the agenda.
• A plan by Pope Francis to celebrate mass in a Jerusalem room believed by Christians to have hosted the Last Supper has brought criticism, controversy and conspiracy theories worthy of a Dan Brown novel.
• While the public interest case against Pfizer’s takeover of the UK’s AstraZeneca is weak, the tax case for it is compelling, says Tony Jackson.
• The New York Times tells the tale of the plight of those left behind after the elopement of Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet. Read more
♦ Young ‘scrapper’ squares up for reform battle. The challenges awaiting Matteo Renzi, the 39-year-old centre-left leader likely to form Italy’s new government
♦ As Britons struggle to protect their homes from unprecedented floods, the sandbag – the traditional bulwark against rising water – has been branded by experts outdated and hopelessly ineffective.
♦ Termite robots build the future. The FT looks at a ground breaking experiment in artificial intelligence.
♦ How an Arab/Iranian women’s movement to fight patriarchy through reclaiming the body has become intertwined with revolutions in the Middle East.
♦ Carlo Strenger in Haaretz slams the Israeli right’s use of ‘the holocaust card’ whenever the settlement policy is criticised by overseas allies.
♦ For romantically inclined smart readers: The Economist explains the science of love at first sight. Read more