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Forecast podcast: At least three dead in surging violence following West Bank attacks

Route 443 near Giv'at Ze'ev Junction, with pyramid-shaped stacks of razor wire forming a section of the Israeli West Bank barrier

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Agnese Boffano discuss a deadly surge in violence in the West Bank, plus more on German Chancellor Scholz visiting the White House, China’s top annual parliamentary meetings, French President Macron wrapping up his Africa tour and Turkey’s NATO talks with Finland and Sweden.

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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jaime Calle Moreno, Vivian Wang, Sophie Perryer, Alex Moore and Agnese Boffano.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

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

Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


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 March 2

In this week’s forecast we’ve got German Chancellor Scholz visiting the White House, China’s top annual parliamentary meetings, French President Macron wrapping up his Africa tour, NATO accession talks for Finland and Sweden and a look at the surging violence in the West Bank.

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

German Chancellor Scholz to visit White House

Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno

JIMMY: German Chancellor Olaf Schulz and U.S. President Joe Biden will meet at the White House on Friday.

As the meeting follows the anniversary of Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine, discussions will include a range of topics, including transatlantic security, support for Ukraine and their continued cooperation economically and through trade. 

Earlier this week, U.S. officials claimed there was a disagreement with Germany on sending tanks to Ukraine, saying Germany would not send Leopard II tanks unless the United States also delivered Abrams tanks. Germany disputes that claim.

Now, cooperation between Germany and the United States is typically a smooth relationship, but the occasional political or economic dispute has occasionally put them at odds. 

Aside from the tank issue, Germany will also seek to address the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, and more specifically, how some policies are giving companies in Mexico and Canada an advantage over their European counterparts.

It remains to be seen if the U.S. will make more public statements regarding these two diplomatic issues.

China’s ‘Two Sessions’ begin

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: China’s top annual parliamentary meetings will begin this Sunday. 

Major leadership transitions are set to be finalized, including Xi Jinping’s precedent-breaking third term as the country’s president. 

Of course, Xi is virtually guaranteed to secure an unprecedented third term after abolishing term limits in 2018 and winning a third stint as the Communist Party’s leader at the party congress in October. 

These annual meetings will be China’s first since the country’s dramatic lifting of “zero-COVID” measures in early December and come amid rising global tensions over surveillance balloons and China’s ties to Russia.

Now, the National Party Congress is fundamentally a rubber-stamp legislature and the Consultative Conference is an advisory body without much influence, so major political surprises are unlikely in the next week, especially with the Chinese Communist Party’s priorities having largely been decided during last year’s party congress

Still, “intensive” and “wide-ranging” institutional reform are on the agenda, and the upcoming leadership shuffle will be something to watch, with Li Qiang expected to be named the country’s next premier and Ding Xuexiang expected to be named the next executive vice-premier.

Macron concludes four-nation Africa tour

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Gabon, Angola, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo through Sunday.

The four-nation tour comes as he seeks to restore France’s tattered relationship with parts of the African continent.

This will be Macron’s 18th trip to Africa since taking office and his second in this term. 

In a speech shortly before his departure, Macron announced a further scaling-back of the French military presence in Africa, with existing bases to be co-run with host nations. 

In the same speech, Macron heavily criticized the presence of the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group in Africa, calling it the “life insurance of failing regimes.” He also said won’t allow France to be a “scapegoat” for the ongoing Islamist insurgency.

Now, while in Angola, Macron is keen to emphasize France as a partner in the environmental arena and is expected to announce an agricultural accord to improve domestic food production. 

The final stop of the tour, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is also designed to demonstrate Macron’s willingness to mediate in the conflict with Rwanda over the latter’s support for the M23 rebel group.

Turkey NATO bid talks with Finland and Sweden

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: NATO accession talks for Finland and Sweden will resume Thursday in Brussels.

Finland and Sweden broke decades of policy last year by applying for NATO membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Turkey has thus far refused to allow Swedish accession, which has in turn held up Finland’s

Sweden, in particular, has drawn Turkey’s ire over what Ankara claims is Stockholm’s harboring of Kurdish groups Turkey considers to be “terrorists” as well as protests they consider to be hate crimes that are covered under Swedish free speech laws. 

Now, Turkey remains one of two NATO countries that have not ratified Finland and Sweden’s accession bids alongside Hungary, with Budapest possibly due to hold a parliamentary vote in late-March. 

NATO members are hoping that Turkey and Hungary will move to approve Finland and Sweden’s bids by July when NATO is due to hold a summit in Lithuania

Finland, meanwhile, has already begun the process of hardening its border with Russia.

West Bank incidents

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Our last item for this Forecast is on the recent escalation of violence in the West Bank. For more on that I spoke with fellow editor Agnese Boffano.

JIMMY: Hello Agnese. 

AGNESE: Hey, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: You know, Agnese, it’s been just about a month since you were on the podcast and we spoke about the situation in the West Bank. Unfortunately, it seems things haven’t calmed since then. Hoping you can give us an update. What’s the latest?

AGNESE: Yeah, Jimmy, it’s both with pleasure and pain to be back so soon. But yeah, last weekend we saw a series of incidents across the West Bank. So firstly, we saw two Israeli settlers fatally shot by a suspected Palestinian gunman near Hawara in the northern West Bank. No group has yet claimed responsibility for this attack, although several organizations including Hamas have praised it. And as of Wednesday evening when we’re recording this, the suspect is also still at large. Then shortly after that shooting, on Sunday evening Israeli settlers entered the Palestinian town and began to attack not only its residents, but also set fire to several cars and buildings.

JIMMY: Were there any injuries related to this apparent revenge rampage?

AGNESE: Yes, the settler attack led to at least one Palestinian fatally shot by Israeli fire during the riots. And this was in the town of Za’tara, south of Hawara and close to the settlement of Kfar Tapuach. The Palestinian Red Crescent also said that two other people were shot and wounded, a third person was stabbed and a fourth person was beaten with an iron bar. And this is on top of some 90 others who were treated for gas inhalation. At least 35 Palestinian homes were also burned in the attacks and several residents had to be evacuated as a result. And you know, this comes into the context that this weekend’s events came days after one of the deadliest Israeli raids in the West Bank in nearly 20 years, which left 11 Palestinians, including several unarmed civilians, killed. And this was in Nablus in the West Bank.

JIMMY: How have both sides reacted to this latest violence?

AGNESE: On the Israeli side, Israel’s defense minister has called for a reinforcement of security across the West Bank, which seems to be the staple following a shooting attack or a deadly raid, which they anticipate will bring some further incidents. On the other side, on the Palestinian Authority, President Abbas condemned the settler attacks and criticized the military for, you know, he said failing to protect Palestinians. And this is because it’s in an area where security falls entirely under Israeli control, according to Oslo and international law.

JIMMY: And the US? Has the Biden administration weighed in on any of this?

AGNESE: The US has weighed in with some comments as they usually do after a series of incidents like these. It, you know, it said it expected Israel to prosecute the settlers involved in the, they said, rampage of Palestinian homes and vehicles. But it’s worth noting also that, although Israeli police have since arrested six settlers in relation to the attack, human rights organizations pointed out, and have pointed out for years now, that charges are only really pressed in a very slim minority of settler violence cases. Haaretz came out with a report a few years ago saying that only 4% of settler cases are actually prosecuted. So to what extent this US expectation will actually come into fruition, we’ll have to see.

JIMMY: Well, as usual, my final question for you then is, what should folks be watching for next?

AGNESE: So since the incidents from last week, we’ve continued seeing arrests and we’ve continued seeing military raids, which have become a near daily occurrence across the West Bank. So we’re definitely going to see more of those. For example, on Monday, another gunman killed an Israeli-American near Jericho. And a few days later on Wednesday, we saw several Palestinians injured and arrested after being shot during a raid in Aqabat Jaber refugee camp. And these will, as I said, probably continue, you know, whether there’s peace talks mediated by Jordan like we saw last week or messages of condemnation or calls for de-escalation by the UN or the US. With regards to prosecution for the Israeli settlers, as I said, that is very unlikely. But we can expect human rights organizations and media outlets coming out with more detailed accounts of, you know, what exactly happened during the rampage. And one last thing that we should be watching out for, and I thought it would be worth mentioning, as you know, the Israeli Knesset is in the midst of passing a series of controversial reform bills that have been met with thousands of anti-government protesters across Israel. And one particular bill, whose first reading was actually passed on Wednesday, is particularly significant and likely to escalate tensions even further. And that is the death penalty law that is being debated for those convicted of murder with, as the law states, the intent of harming the State of Israel, which you know, is mostly targeted towards Palestinians. So we’re gonna have to wait and see if these bills go through the required three readings before passing into law.

JIMMY: Well, Agnese, I think we’ll leave it there for today, but as always, I thank you for keeping us up to speed and I really appreciate it. 

AGNESE: Thanks, Jimmy.

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jaime Calle Moreno, Vivan Wang, Sophie Perryer and Alex Moore. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello at factal dot com.

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

Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: Route 443 near Giv’at Ze’ev Junction, with pyramid-shaped stacks of razor wire forming a section of the Israeli West Bank barrier (Photo: Etan J. Tal)

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