Wednesday. 23/10/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

What lies in Netanyahu’s wake?

For the second time this year, longstanding Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to form a coalition government. Whether his rival Benny Gantz will be able to secure a majority instead is uncertain – his Blue and White alliance beat Netanyahu’s Likud by just one seat in September and parliament is heavily divided. Yet for those opposed to Netanyahu, a right-wing hawk who has been in power for 10 years and is currently facing charges of bribery, corruption and breach of trust, the time has finally come when they can wonder: what could a post-Bibi Israel look like?

It’s unclear whether anyone else who is likely to become Israel’s next leader, Gantz or otherwise, would do anything to change the basics of the moribund peace process with Palestine. However, there is definite potential for improved diplomatic relations with former allies such as the EU and the Democrats in the US – relations that have been severely damaged by Netanyahu’s aggressive stance on settlements and his support for Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Gantz, a career soldier and formerly head of the army, is known for being calmer and more measured than his firebrand counterpart but, given his significant military record, he may not be any better suited to making friends in the region. For now he remains a wild card and that’s assuming he can get into power at all. With a third election in the space of a year on the cards, all eyes are on Israel to see whether change might finally be blowing in – and if so, from what direction.

Elections / Canada

Familiar theme, fresh impetus

As the bones of Canada’s federal election results continue to be picked over, one result in particular has garnered attention. The Bloc Québécois - the long-dormant former powerhouse of separatist politics in Québec - staged one of the most remarkable electoral comebacks in Canadian political history, going from fringe group to the third-largest party in the country’s House of Commons. Single-issue parties often struggle to survive once their issue has been laid to rest – in the Bloc’s case, Québec’s failed, knife-edge independence bid in 1995. But the party, under leader Yves-François Blanchet (pictured), has successfully tapped into an ascendant mood of cultural protectionism in the province, fuelled by a fraught debate on immigration and a controversial ban on religious symbols within government workplaces in Québec. Does this week’s result mean a fresh independence vote in Québec in the near future? Probably not. But it does suggest that voters there see themselves, once again, on a separate path to their counterparts elsewhere in the country.

Politics / Hong Kong

Extradition evolution

Hong Kong’s protests are about to come full circle, with a suspect tied to a murder in Taiwan due to be released from the city’s prison today. Chan Tong-kai, a 20-year-old student, has served 18 months of a sentence for money laundering but he was never properly charged for the alleged murder of his pregnant girlfriend while on holiday in Taiwan. Chan fled back to Hong Kong to avoid the murder charges, dancing around a legal loophole that Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam subsequently sought to plug by introducing a highly contested extradition bill earlier this year.

Fears that such a bill could wind up sending criminals to mainland Chinese courts were what sparked the demonstrations that have now lasted more than four months. Although the demands of activists have moved on to calls for more democracy, Chan’s future remains up for debate, tumbling Hong Kong and Taiwan back into a testy exchange over his extradition.

Housing / The US

Bill for builders

Developers in suburban Maryland could soon have to pay a levy if they demolish existing single-family homes in order to replace them with new ones. Yesterday it was reported that councillors in Montgomery County introduced a bill to tax the construction of often larger replacements that, they argue, are making homes in the area unaffordable. Should it garner further support, the proposed tax would come into effect next year. Other cities faced with housing-affordability issues, and developers with a penchant for characterless new builds, would do well to follow the bill’s progress. If passed, it could stabilise housing prices for residents; at the very least, fewer of Montgomery County’s character homes will be bulldozed in favour of McMansions.

Design / Japan

Creative thinking

With the ambition of incorporating both art and design into its programming, Designart Tokyo is challenging a creative audience in the Japanese capital. The week-long event runs until Sunday and comprises a series of exhibitions across the city. It is geared toward a design-minded crowd but encourages industry players to step beyond the boundaries of their discipline to create more experimental work, covering everything from new plastics to experimental lighting. Case in point: Kotaro Watanabe, director of respected design firm Takram, has created conceptual hour-glasses that are unable to measure time. His charming creations are complemented by an artful book; the exhibition is taking place at Ginza concept bookshop Morioka Shoten. With the design industry’s global calendar already overloaded with commercially driven programmes, it’s refreshing to lose all sense of time exploring the unusual outlier that is Designart Tokyo.

M24 / The Urbanist

Tall Stories 179: Hawksmoor’s churches, London

We take a tour of six distinctive east London churches designed by 18th-century English architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, tracing their history from the first brick to their influence on US postmodernism and UK brutalism.

Monocle Films / Italy

Property prospectus: Turin

Large-scale manufacturing is on the wane in Turin. Discover how the Regio Parco area is making use of empty industrial spaces to create a new independent vibe.

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