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Forecast podcast: Israel faces political crisis amid escalating violence in East Jerusalem

A long distance photo of Jerusalem. In the foreground is a cemetery. In the midground is the Dome of the Rock and the Old City. Beyond those structures are modern buildings and barely visible, due to distance, construction cranes.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Agnese Boffano discuss the political crisis unfolding in Israel, plus more on round two of the French presidential election, South Korea easing coronavirus restrictions, the end of El Salvador’s state of emergency and Somalia’s parliament electing its leadership.

These stories and more are also available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Jess Fino, Jaime Calle Moreno, Irene Villora and Agnese Boffano.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com.

Podcast Transcript

JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:

Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is April 21st.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got round two of the French presidential election, South Korea easing coronavirus restrictions, the end of El Salvador’s state of emergency, Somalia’s parliament electing its leadership and a look at the political crisis unfolding in Israel.    

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Second round of French election

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: Voters will cast their ballots in round two of the French presidential election on Sunday. 

The runoff election between President Emmanuel Macron and far-right opponent Marine Le Pen comes after no candidate secured a majority in the first round of the election.

In voting earlier this month, Macron secured nearly 28 percent of the votes while Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally party, secured just over 23 percent. 

Left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon failed to progress to the second round after coming in third place with 22 percent of the vote. 

Protests against Le Pen erupted in Paris over the weekend, with police deploying tear gas at least once.

Now, according to recent polling, Macron has managed to consolidate his lead over Le Pen. In fact, polls have him up by around 7 to 12 percentage points

Still, Le Pen’s strong results in the first round has worried European Union officials. The far-right candidate has pledged to cut France’s contributions to the E.U., tighten border controls and call for a referendum on immigration policy.

South Korea eases coronavirus restrictions

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: South Korea is starting to phase out its coronavirus restrictions. 

In fact, beginning Monday, it will allow people to eat and drink in public areas such as movie theaters and religious institutions.

A large coronavirus wave caused by the omicron variant reached its peak in March with more than 621,000 cases in a single day. 

Since then, the Korean government began winding down restrictions. 

Starting this week, the country loosened its social distancing rules that limited the number of people allowed in a building. It also ended limits on business hours of restaurants and bars.

And earlier this month, President Moon said he hoped South Korea would be a leading country to switch to endemic measures

Now, face coverings are still required in most public places, but the government plans to revisit that rule later this month. 

Finally, with its highly vaccinated population and widespread trust in the public health system, if coronavirus cases continue to drop, analysts say South Korea could be well equipped for a post-pandemic world 

El Salvador’s state of emergency expected to end

Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno

JIMMY: El Salvador’s state of emergency is expected to end Tuesday.

President Nayib Bukele announced the 30-day state of emergency after the country saw a large uptick in violence over three days last month.

That violence resulted in at least 87 deaths across the country. 

Of course, with the state of emergency came sweeping security measures, including arrests without warrants or charges, the monitoring of some communications and strict restrictions on gatherings. 

These measures have reportedly resulted in more than 13,000 arrests, targeting prominent gangs like MS-13 and 18th Street.

Now, the state of emergency has infringed heavily on human rights and led to media censorship

Police have reportedly used unnecessary and excessive force, including torture and degrading treatment, and journalists were threatened with arrest and up to 15 years in prison if suspected of “relaying gang messages.” 

Finally, while the state of emergency is expected to end, Bukele could still extend it under the umbrella of further eradicating gang violence. And that could lead to the arrest of more civilians and journalists.

Somalia parliament leadership elections

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Somalia’s parliament leadership elections start Tuesday.

Over two days, the body will elect their Lower and Upper House speakers amid an extended electoral period that’s been marked by attacks from Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab. 

Somalia’s parliament swore in most of the new lawmakers of its two chambers last week after months of delayed elections amid a power struggle between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble. 

Of course, as the political crisis dragged on, Al-Shabab militant attacks targeting security forces and officials further destabilized the country. 

The most recent attack claimed by the group injured at least six people earlier this week during a parliamentary session to register speakership candidates.

Now, the appointment of new parliamentary speakers will precede the presidential election in a country that hasn’t held a popular election in 50 years

In the most recent parliamentary election, only community leaders voted on behalf of their constituents. 

The date of the presidential election has not yet been announced.

Israel political crisis

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the political crisis unfolding in Israel. For more on that I spoke with Factal Editor Agnese Boffano. 

JIMMY: Hi, Agnese. 

AGNESE: Hey, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Hey, you know, let’s just jump right into things. Seems as though there’s a bit of a political storm brewing in Israel. Can you tell us about that?

AGNESE: So, the Israeli coalition lost its majority in the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, when a couple of weeks ago whip member Idit Silman, from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, announced that she would be defecting and essentially joined the opposition. And if you remember, this coalition was already quite fragile to begin with. It’s also known as the Bennett-Lapid government and was formed in June 2021 to oust the then longtime serving Prime Minister Netanyahu. But in order to gain this majority, the coalition was formed, encompassing politically different parties ranging from the right wing Yamina to the Arab bloc, which is also known as the United Arab List, led by Mansour Abbas. But, so fast forward to today, and as a result the Knesset finds itself in a bit of a deadlock with both the coalition and the opposition holding 60 out of the 120 member seats. And, of course, the coalition can continue to serve despite lacking an outright majority, but it also means that, you know, it might be a bit trickier for the governments to, for example, pass legislation and it also puts on the table the possibility of the Knesset dissolving altogether.

JIMMY: And this is all happening at the same time as new clashes in East Jerusalem. Can you explain that a bit? And has the escalating violence had any impact on Israeli politics?

AGNESE: Yeah, it definitely has, especially ever since we witnessed quite a lot of violence on Friday, the 15th of April. It was on a day that coincided both with Ramadan and Jewish Passover. And what happened was that Israeli forces raided the compound of Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem shortly before dawn prayers, and this then developed into a large-scale deployment of tear gas and stun grenades by the military, which they claimed was in retaliation of stone throwing by Palestinian protesters and worshippers on the site. But either way, the day ended with over 150 Palestinians injured and more than 400 others arrested. So this has definitely had an impact on Israeli politics because we’ve subsequently seen the Arab bloc be quite vocal about what it called barbaric attacks on Palestinian worshipers. Abbas, the leader of the United Arab List, a few days later, then decided to freeze the bloc’s membership in the coalition in protest.

JIMMY: Well, with the Arab bloc of the coalition freezing that membership and Silman joining the opposition, is this the end of Bennett’s government?

AGNESE: Well, not necessarily. It is true that Bennett’s coalition now faces less support in the parliament, but it’s worth noting that although the opposition could motion for a no-confidence vote, the Arab bloc has frozen the membership for a period of two weeks and Abbas has emphasized that they will not be supporting a no-confidence vote if it arises, meaning that the opposition led by Benjamin Netanyahu would in that case not have the majority support of the 61 members of Knesset to pass such a motion. And at the same time, we’re witnessing more and more raids, though, more and more arrests and military violence across the West Bank, which continues to also anger the Arab-Israeli community, which is a community that Abbas’s party pledged to represent. So, you know, further escalation could definitely further destabilize the already fragile political scene inside the Knesset.

JIMMY: Well, considering all that, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

AGNESE: So, the Arab bloc decision to freeze its membership was done more so for declarative purposes, as the Knesset is now in recess and will not be returning until the eighth of May. But, the United Arab List has been particularly vocal that their appeasement with Bennett’s government at the end of the two-week term is conditional to respecting the rights of the Palestinians and something that they believe recent violence as seen at Al Aqsa (Mosque) fails to uphold. So, we’ll most likely need to keep monitoring the situation both in Israel and the West Bank, particularly East Jerusalem, and not forget Gaza as well. We’ve started seeing some cross-border shelling over the last couple of days. So this is important to see if any tensions are going to arise, what effects they’re going to have on Israeli national politics.

JIMMY: Well, Agnese, as always, I appreciate your taking the time to keep us informed about things in the region. Thank you for that. 

AGNESE: Thanks, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care

JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Jess Fino, Jaime Calle Moreno and Irene Villora. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Lead photo: Aerial View of City of Jerusalem (Kevin/Pexels)

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