Israel’s 4th Election in 2 years

Israel had its fourth legislative election in a two-year period to establish a single dominating party rather than a coalition. Despite staying short of a clear parliamentary majority, Netanyahu’s Likud party has remained popular. The recent election results on 23rd March 2021 signified the possibility of another election in the summer to end the political deadlock. While Netanyahu remains popular, protests have erupted in Israel against Netanyahu’s policies and leadership. Critics have also accused Netanyahu of seeking new elections solely for the purpose of gaining enough support in parliament to pass legislation to end the legal proceedings against him. Netanyahu has refuted the charge, as well as any personal involvement in any potential criminal immunity moves.

The candidates who ran in the elections are as follows. 

Benjamin Netanyahu – Likud party leader and runs his campaign on hopes to vaccinate the population and normalise ties with some Arab countries. But he is the first sitting prime minister to be indicted and is facing three corruption trials, earning him the title of “Crime Minister”. In his campaign, he has used his vaccination success and is offering one state solution and peace with the Arabs. Then is Naftali Bennet who belongs to the right-wing Yemina party and has criticised Netanyahu’s approach towards the pandemic but is likely to join Netanyahu’s coalition. Another right-wing candidate is Gideon Saar, the leader of New Hope party which supports settlement construction in the occupied west bank and opposes the Iran Nuclear deal. His campaign agenda is similar to Netanyahu’s. Then there is the TV host turn politician, Yair Lapid, the leader of opposition Yesh Atid party. He is considered the main challenger candidate to Netanyahu, even though he has served as a coalition partner in Netanyahu led government in 2013. 

Exit polls showed the country remained divided, according to Mr Yohanan Plesner, President of the Israel Democracy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, and a fifth national election remained a viable choice. “At the same time, if Bennett joins his alliance, Netanyahu would be closer than ever to forming a narrow government comprised of the most radical elements of Israeli society,” Mr Plesner said. 

On Twitter, Netanyahu remained cautious with his words to declare victory, he said, “It is clear that a clear majority of Israeli citizens are right wing”, expressing the country’s ideological preference. This allows for further analysis on why the citizens are maintaining the stable right-wing government in Israel. 

Likud is expected to be the largest party with 30 seats, down from its existing 36 seats. Yesh Atid, the centrist opposition party led by Mr. Yair Lapid, came in second place with 18 seats. Mr. Lapid, 57, had hoped that the anti-Netanyahu bloc would be big enough to depose the veteran leader, who has been in power since 2009. Although, the results appeared in favour of Netanyahu, he would have to stitch together an unlikely coalition that might include Yemina party, Jewish ultra-Orthodox, ultra-nationalist and Arab parties to secure another term. 

 

 

United Arab List (UAL) leader Mansour Abbas has proposed collaborating with Netanyahu to resolve the needs of Israel’s 21 per cent Arab minority – a stance opposed by most Arabs, and which forced Abbas’ faction to break from a coalition of Arab parties ahead of the vote. However, it seems unlikely that Mansour Abbas will be added to the Netanyahu led coalition. Netanyahu may provide Abbas some benefits under Socio-economic development and political representation but not a seat in the government. Although Bennett’s right wing Yemina party is yet to decide if he wants to join Netanyahu’s coalition, there is a good chance that it will. What he has said to the press is that he will do what is good for the state of Israel, which indicates that he will go with Netanyahu and extract a high price from him. Since analysts highlight that Bennett is interested to gain the position of Minister of Justice and to implement changes in the ministry of Justice, it is possible that Netanyahu negotiates a position in the ministry of justice for Bennett. Besides, for helping Netanyahu form a government, he may want a rotating prime ministership as well. 

So, what does the new coalition mean for Israel? Since Israel has not had a budget for three years, they need a stable government to revise the 2018 budget. However, the new coalition could be less stable than anticipated, this is because the coalition parties can influence and raise demands from Netanyahu, resulting in a fairly unstable government. Despite Netanyahu being the Prime Minister for the past 2 years, he has not had majority in Knesset supporting his government, resulting in coalitions that have time and gain failed to bring political stability in the country. 

Another aspect of Israel’s frequent election is because analysts believe that Netanyahu does not want to loose his power and revisit the corruption charges. He is scheduled to be back in court by the second week of April, possibly as the serving Prime Minister. But since he has not gained enough majority in the Knesset, his influence to revisit the charges may be low. It was anticipated that after winning majority, Netanyahu may replace the court judge who may work in his favour, however, with the new coalition he may feel the threat to be prosecuted on corruption charges.  

Israel’s population faces the dilemma to vote for an alternative who is better than Netanyahu, however, the opposition fails to provide such a leader that the population could vote for. It is fair to say that Netanyahu has made great progress to vaccinate the population and end the lockdowns which affected many layers of the society. However, the critical masses of the opposition remined intact and even grew slightly in the past two years. The current polls indicates that Netanyahu has exhausted the electoral pool of which he has been living as Prime Minister. 




European Union Development Aid Policies

The European Union (EU) has performed on a global scale but despite providing aid to more than half of the world, EU’s significance remains marginal. Failure is prominent in EU’s complex aid architecture and in the EU’s ineffective actorness. The population is increasing, and new economic problems are on the rise. Moreover, EU has achieved to establish a foreign aid dependency with the poor countries.

Some countries rely on aid instead of promoting local businesses, but this has seen a change since China’s economic investment has increased, especially in the African continent. EU has sufficiently provided the developing and least developed countries with development aid under social, economic, and humanitarian form but it has failed to reconstruct the unsuccessful aid deals. In terms of economic growth, EU has made little progress, but it has launched initiatives that in the long term are beneficial. The position of EU in the development aid policies will be viewed from different dimensions in this article and its success and failure will be validated in the following paragraphs.

The European development aid is considered a soft power by the realists. The Official Development Aid (ODA) is given to the third world countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India (refer to figure 1.0).

Fig 1.0 First world is in Blue, Second world is in Red and the Third world is in Green.

Initially, EU only provided aid to African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.  In 1963, Yaoundé Agreement served as a reciprocal preferential trade access for ACP countries to the common market and the establishment of European Development Fund provided funds to ACP countries. This agreement was revised overtime by Lomé Convention in 1974, upgraded by Cotonou Agreement in 2000 which was replaced by Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs). Since 2000 ‘Cotonou’ system, the conditionality of EU aid is good governance, improvement of human rights and introduction of market economics (European Commission). With the enlargement of the EU, it has gradually shifted from ACPs towards the world’s poorest countries and to avoid ‘intra-developing’ country trade discrimination.

This was highlighted in ‘Everything but Arms(EBA)’and ‘General System of Preferences (GSP)’ initiatives. GSP had three main objectives; To contribute to eradicating poverty by expanding exports, to encourage good governance and sustainable development and to safeguard EU’s economic and financial interests. EBA, however, focuses on least developing countries like Afghanistan and Cambodia. It permits free access for all products from 40 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) except the ones with a military use.

Fig 1.2 Countries benefiting from EU support; Source: European Commission 2017

EU’s trade policy is primarily made of liberalising tools such as the free trade agreements. However, development aid has not driven EU’s trade strategy: in search of bilateral liberalisation with emerging economies has threatened other developing countries’ preferential access. EU development aid has proven to be counterproductive, for instance, Under the Cotonou Agreement, African countries gained access to EU markets without paying export duties. Uganda has not exported a single kilogram of sugar to European Union Market despite having a quota to export 50,000 metric tons of sugar. While Uganda imports 50,000 metric tons of sugar from Cuba and Brazil. Local entrepreneurs struggle to find trade opportunities and to find work in the private sector because the policy and institutional setting is hostile to local business.

EU primarily prioritizes sustainable agriculture and food security for development cooperation. Its long-term solutions include, supporting ecologically sustainable approaches and empowering smallholders in agriculture. However, in practice, the agricultural sector receives the development aid while the commitments remain unfulfilled. There is a lack of transparency in reporting, raising doubts on EUs accountability. Moreover, the funding is biased towards countries of strategic interest and industrial and export crops ignoring the needs of smallholders. In 2005, European Consensus on Development recognized the role of agriculture proving to be essential for poverty reduction. Resulting in 2007, the launch of €1bn Food Facility that focused on small-scale manufacturers, and in 2010 the launch of the Food Security Policy Framework (FSPF) established gender mainstreaming, ecologically sustainable approaches, and support to small-scale producers. Following years produced an implementation plan and since 2014, the European Commission compiled consolidated EU-wide biennial progress reports. The new European Consensus on Development, adopted in May 2017, reiterates the central importance of smallholder farmers. In practice, however, the investments do not match its policy priorities. Gender inequality in agriculture is very low, ¼ of EU agriculture aid targets small-scale producers and EU’s official development assistance (ODA) has consistently supported industrial and export crops with significantly higher budgets than food crops. For instance, the EU spends 3.6 times as much agricultural development aid in Europe as in sub-Sahara Africa. When workers do not get fair wages and must work in extreme conditions, mostly in developing countries, they migrate to developed countries in search of a better future.

EU’s solution to migration and refugees is also a failure in the long-term. For example, The European Union has guaranteed €3 billion under the EU-Africa Trust Fund, to provide development assistance to address the underlying causes of migration from Africa. However, this strategy fails to channel aid to the needy, failing to meet the long-term goals. The EU is under the assumption that by sending more aid, migration to Europe will decrease but there’s little evidence to support this strategy. Moreover, researchers from the Centre for Global Development, reported that this strategy might have the opposite effect. For example, the Fund’s project demonstrates that the main factor of funding allocation has been migration patterns. Researchers observe that aid does not curb the migration issue and this aid has failed to boost the poor economies primarily because EU has prevented people from migrating to neighbouring countries for work, depriving communities of economic opportunities. Poor countries encourage migration to attain a better standard of living and a better income.

Between aid and growth, some authors argue that there is a favourable relationship, while others claim that aid is ineffective and in the long run aid has a negative effect. Development aid is a limited resource and should be used efficiently, along with reformation of laws and agreements. EU aid has played a pivotal role to boost economies in some countries like Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Bolivia, Indonesia and Ghana but it has also failed despite funding huge sums of money in the economies like Haiti, Kenya, Somalia, Papua New Guinea and more. The EU’s aid effectiveness commitments were considered impractical because the developing countries and the aid agencies active in the area were not involved in the policy making process. A major weakness for donors’ actions can be lack of domestic influenced reforms. In Mozambique, for example, the donors failed to collaborate with the domestic forces which was perceived as doors interfering with internal politics by the media and the citizens.  This made the negotiation process slower, and the EU failed to implement and sustain at a global level. The Executive arm of the EU provide aid estimated at 58 billion dollars annually. However, heavy bureaucratic procedure and the poor management resulted in the money being lost.

EU needs to decrease its spending on aid and focus on economic cooperation spending. For example, China advocated cooperation instead of aid. China does not politicise the aid conditions. Therefore, developing countries are more persuaded to grow without following any restrictions or governance conditions. China is becoming EU’s competitor because of its different development aid policy approach. For China, non-interference portrays respect for partner countries, developing the basis for aid effectiveness while for EU, Non-interference has slowed down partner countries’ development and reform. Furthermore, for EU, democracy, Good governance and advocating human rights are internal to the process of sustainable development but China believes that all kinds of policies, should be judged by the recipient’s country.

New donors like China have further complicated aid coordination on the ground. Firstly, new donors focus on infrastructure, while EU seems to be focusing on social sectors. Secondly, the Treaty of Lisbon has designed a way for a more coherent European Union external action. Simultaneously, having poverty eradication as a central goal of EU development policy has ignited fear of continued politicization of relations between the developing countries and the EU. Meanwhile, Belt and Road Initiative, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and other infrastructure and investment opportunities have resulted more productivity and is considered more popular than development aid alone.EU needs to decrease its spending on aid and focus on economic cooperation spending. For example, China advocated cooperation instead of aid. China does not politicise the aid conditions. Therefore, developing countries are more persuaded to grow without following any restrictions or governance conditions. China is becoming EU’s competitor because of its different development aid policy approach. For China, non-interference portrays respect for partner countries, developing the basis for aid effectiveness while for EU, Non-interference has slowed down partner countries’ development and reform. Furthermore, for EU, democracy, Good governance and advocating human rights are internal to the process of sustainable development but China believes that all kinds of policies, should be judged by the recipient’s country.

Conditionalities put forward by the EU works on improving economic and government framework with an objective of making effective and efficient use of donated funds. In essence, magnifying the benefits. However, there is a need for accountability and liability to the donor and to the citizens who are in support of development aid budgets. Conditionality has been used for reasons such as pressuring recipients into ending human rights violation, reforming their authoritarian regimes, enforcing liberal economic policies, and holding transparent electoral processes. Moreover, these conditions could also prevent the risk of migration to the EU countries and if the third world countries are stable enough to run an economy, the level of migration may decrease.

On the governance part, the EU negotiates with ACP to provide aid based on good governance, application of human rights and the introduction to market economies. However, there are internal and external factors contributing towards the development policy failure. Lack of cooperation between the member states and the EU and the way in which development aid policies have become politicized, denotating, for international development the national policies coexist with the policies proposed and implemented at the EU level.

In terms of international development, EU has been determined to fund development aid but due to social, political, and economic factors the aid has not been efficiently utilised. Besides, there is no clear relation proving more aid provides faster growth, including the countries with good environment policies and strong institutions. EU’s approach towards eradicating poverty has been persistent but aid is not the only way to fight poverty, asit is recommended to have a “radical rethinking of the way to fight poverty”.

EU’s political aid conditionality has a bad pedigree. It has failed to stop authoritarian leaders from rigging election, corruption and committing human rights violations. Regardless of some good case studieson political conditionality and budget support,this arena lacks systemic research into the successful applications of political conditionality or the possible effects it might have. Aid for trade strategy was adopted in 2007 and it was established to boost trade efficiency and reduce poverty in LDCs. This strategy is funded by the European Union and its member states that delivered 32% of global AfT flows in 2011 (€9.5 billion). The graph below illustrates annually aid provided for trade volume.

Figure 1.4 Aid for Trade Volume; Source: European Commission 2019

Moreover, the EU’s Everything but Arms (EBA) Agreement focuses on Least Developed countries (LDC) which grants quota free, duty-free access to all products except arms and ammunition. Afghanistan, for example, benefits from the EBA preferential arrangement by exporting duty and quota free products to the EU’s single market, except arms and ammunition. However, the latest statistics illustrate the decline in trade, at a total of €352 million. Hence, the EU needs to critically access the consumption of its resources and alter any arrangement that is not being efficiently utilised.

To conclude, the EU has proven to be effective in enforcing laws and planning out arrangements, but it has failed to efficiently implement and reform regulations that were unsuccessful. New donors and competitors like China have increased the complications between the EU and the developing world by providing investment opportunities rather than aid that does not get efficiently utilised. EU’s continued efforts on eradicating poverty and establishing good governance has maintained the dependency of the developing world on the EU but a fraction of aid has been lost in corrupt dealings. Hence, EU policies are counterproductive. EU’s development aid policies have helped countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan in times of crisis, but the problem of poverty and good governance remains a big issue.




The UAE-Israel Relations and its Impact on Palestinians

Introduction

For many decades, Arab and Muslim states have remained hostile towards Israel and supported the Palestinian cause. The 21st century has seen many developments that Israel has established with the world, especially the Arab countries. The Middle East has tried to modernise with time, including its foreign policy that has sparked debate on sensitive issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict and the new peace deal. While Israel’s peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain provides opportunities for trade, cybersecurity cooperation and lessens Israel’s isolation, it questions the chances of Palestinian independence.

The new peace-deal

Many experts and authors have tried to assess the significance of the peace deal in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Different narratives emerge from the literature and media as the challenge to resolve the conflict increases. The ancient normative approach that has been applied to this issue was to isolate Israel, by countries closing their borders and restricting any economic exchange. This has resulted in assuring Palestinians that they have support from around the world. The emerging consensus among some scholars is that if Arab/Muslim countries establish peace with Israel, a better policy solution can be formed to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, the question is to what extent can the Muslim countries benefit from Israel’s growing economy and innovation by establishing trade relations?

As experts and authors continue to reflect on the advantages of the peace deal, it is important to reflect on the intention of the countries recognizing Israel. The true nature of the peace deal seems to be based off on economic and trade relations, rather than to encourage a two-state solution regarding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The initial statement issued by the UAE for the peace deal was to obstruct Israel’s plan of annexing the West Bank. However, as proclaimed by the Israeli officials, the UAE statement is invalid.  The DAWN news published the reality of the “peace treaty” illusions developed by the UAE, that may cost the Palestinians their land and their rights. As per Turkey and Iran, the anti-Israel states, claim that the former US President Trump influenced the motive of establishing the peace deal, in order to promote US’ Gulf state allies’ bilateral relations. So, when the idea of reforming the methods to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict is concerned, the real intentions of the states must be acknowledged. This is because the ideology of a state has a great impact on its politics. If a capitalist country decides to recognise Israel to better trade relations, then the threat to Palestinians is significant. The new approach towards Israel may still put the Arab/Muslim countries in a difficult situation.

Cybersecurity perspective

The cyber security cooperation between Israel and the UAE has been established in the recent years. According to Al Jazeera, the UAE has poured hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase the Pegasus spyware from Israel based on the conditions set by Israeli Intelligence service. A Palestinian analyst, Issa uncovers that “the Palestinians are at the weakest point ever in history”.

The NSO group is an Israeli company that sells the product called Pegasus, which is a spyware for mobiles. The company was founded in 2010 and has over 500 cyber security experts. Pegasus is the company’s essential product, used for offensive hacking. According to Cooper Quintin, a cyber security specialist, Israel is one of the most sophisticated cyber actors in the world. This is because the Israeli forces are training its military officials to use such offensive hacking in their Defence department. The NSO company claimed that it was launched to detect and prevent terrorism but the people it has targeted is questionable, as human right activists, politicians, and the elites are usually the ones targeted. So, the question arises, who are the NSO clients? Although the company is supposed to work for the government and is legally advised to not sell its services, it extends it services to other countries. The spyware service has been sold to Mexico, Saudi Arabia, UAE and even Colombia.

A possible analysis of UAE-Israel cybersecurity cooperation clearly indicates Israel’s ability to exploit confidential information of countries top officials with an advanced spyware in use. Israel can easily attain a position where rather than asking the US, it can turn to Saudi Arabia or UAE to make Palestinians accept a deal favourable for Israelis.

Conclusion

To witness Israel’s strength in cybersecurity and innovation, an allied sentiment of the Muslim countries on Israel-Palestinian conflict may be difficult to achieve. To approach Israel with a proposal for Israel-Palestinian conflict is risky business, as Israel has better and advance technology that can cause serious damage politically and economically to other countries. Considering the imbalance of power between majority of the Muslim countries and Israel, a safe approach would be to get Israel to recognise its boundaries with Palestine’s agreement before more countries open its borders to Israel with the intention of trade.




Sino-India rapprochement, real or diplomatic deception?

Introduction

The new decade has welcomed many possibilities for China, as it emerges as the new superpower. Almost every Asian country is involved in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), despite India’s protest against it. The geopolitical dynamics between India and China have been rough and uncertain – without guaranteeing a cooperative future. China has promoted “peaceful co-existence” stance with India but its activities in South Asia interprets a growing influence and a threat for India. This paper provides a brief analysis of the reality of Sino-Indian relations by viewing South Asia’s influence.

Sino-Indian rapprochement: Relations with South Asia

China’s engagement with South Asian countries emphasizes bilateral rather than the multilateral dimension of interactions. Moreover, China’s regionalism foreign policy, a soft power approach has uplifted China’s image but has served as a detriment to India. This is because China has stepped in to help South Asian (SA) countries with their need to build infrastructure when India has struggled to provide resources to SA countries. For example, China signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Maldives and also helped the Maldives build an International airport. Nepal has also benefited by signing the BRI plan, as China has allowed Nepal to use its land as a getaway for trade, and has promoted Nepal’s tourism sector. Another significant gain for China in SA was the Hambanthota port in Sri Lanka. The port, built with China’s assistance was eventually leased to China for 99 years because Sri Lanka was unable to pay back the Chinese loans.

India and China’s relation has been affected by their diplomacy in SA, that has impacted the Sino-Indian rapprochement. Chinese foreign policy’s significant aspects are non-interference and its image projection. China’s non-interference policy is appreciated by many countries as they do not have to adhere to rules on climate protection or labour rights. As for its image projection, China’s “Wolf Warrier” diplomacy tries to appeal to its audience and advance its interests abroad. Whereas, PM Modi has taken policy changes, to promote Delhi’s ability to establish regional peace and economic integration. India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy helps India focus on reconnecting with its smaller neighbours. Therefore, regionalism may open opportunities for functional cooperation between the two countries in the region, but their pursuit of regional integration may also destabilise the region. Thus, China’s growing political and economic influence in South Asia is evident and inevitable. Moreover, the two countries have gone to war with each other, first over the Tibet region that China considers its domestic territory and second over the Ladakh border, which is also a cause of conflict and a more recent phenomenon.

Conclusion

It appears that India’s relations with the smaller neighbours have deteriorated and China has exerted its influence in the region which ultimately threatens India. The threat India faces is its lack of influence in the region and an ally of Pakistan becoming a superpower. The relation between the two may be played by China as “cooperative”, but viewing South Asian relations of the two countries, it reflects that the mutual trust is lacking. Thus, diplomatic deception is evident between the two countries.