Monday. 24/2/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Divide and rule

Could this finally be the one? We’re into the final week of campaigning before Israel holds its third election in a year, hoping to finally break the political deadlock that has evolved between incumbent Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival, Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz. Yet recent polling suggests that neither has managed to swing enough voters their way to radically change the result of the last ballot.

The country is now entering uncharted territory. Having a third election in such a short period – and just six months after the second – is unheard of. But even more unusual are the circumstances surrounding the man at the centre of the storm: Netanyahu is facing three separate corruption investigations and will have to appear in court in March, right in the middle of predicted coalition negotiations. He is the first sitting prime minister in Israel’s history to be indicted – he dismisses the whole affair as an “attempted coup”. But it has done little to dent his popularity: in December Netanyahu won a party leadership poll by a landslide. He has been in power for more than a decade and is clearly bent on staying in position for as long as possible, consequences be damned.

As part of his bid to clinch a fourth term, he is desperately hunting for allies. Most of the usual smaller parties have refused to go into government with a prime minister in the middle of criminal proceedings. As a result, Netanyahu has had to look further right on the spectrum than he might normally. In a bid to garner support, last week he announced 6,200 new homes in contested East Jerusalem – considered by many occupied territory (which means that settlements there violate international law). The upshot, sadly, is that Israel is more divided than ever.

Justice / Belgium and Spain

Trial run

A Belgian court will decide today whether Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president and leader of the region’s independence movement, should face extradition to Spain. Puigdemont has been in self-imposed exile in Brussels since a 2017 referendum on Catalan independence, which the Spanish government considered illegal. “His extradition and imprisonment is possible but it’s unlikely,” says Sebastian Balfour, professor of contemporary Spanish studies at the London School of Economics. “There is a sense among EU magistrates that the charges are not fully legal but instead are political.” The verdict could set tricky legal precedents for the EU. Rejecting extradition could be seen as questioning the impartiality of another member state’s justice system; approving it might lead to accusations of bowing to politically motivated charges. Spain itself seems to be moving in a conciliatory direction: negotiations between the government and Catalan separatists begin on Wednesday. But as the Puigdemont case shows, the country still has a lot of baggage.

Society / Tibet

New year, old tricks

Today marks the start of Losar, or New Year, in Tibet. It’s an ancient tradition that predates the arrival to the nation of Buddhism, let alone the Chinese Communist party (CCP). And it follows hot on the heels of the 80th anniversary of the enthronement of the Dalai Lama, which was marked on Saturday, so it’s certain that Chinese authorities will be paying close attention. Losar is historically characterised by political tension as spirituality converges with civil discontent.

Sixty-one years ago it culminated in the Tibetan Uprising, which saw the Dalai Lama exiled from the country. But while ongoing repression in Xinjiang in northwestern China might have taken the world’s eyes off Tibet, China is still watching. The surveillance apparatus being used to monitor Xinjiang “was pioneered in Lhasa”, says Isabel Hilton, editor of news website China Dialogue. “Losar is a time for extraordinary acts of devotion, which is exactly the kind of thing the CCP hates. It can’t compete with it so it represses it.”

Economy / Manitoba

Friends in the north

If Canada ever hopes to achieve reconciliation with First Nations populations, it needs to improve the economic opportunities for northern communities. The province of Manitoba is making a move by announcing that it will transfer the ownership and operation of its 23 northern airports, as well as five marine and ferry facilities, to the province’s First Nations. The shift will establish the Manitoba First Nations Airport Authority. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has long called for improved transport infrastructure for its northern communities, some of which can’t be accessed by road and instead rely on air links for the arrival of essential goods such as food and medicine. The handover, which is expected to take place during the summer, will allow northern First Nations to control their own transport links, while local ownership of the airports could provide more economic activity. Manitoba premier Brian Pallister described the move as a step towards “genuine reconciliation”.

Transport / Adelaide

Car trouble

According to a new report commissioned by Adelaide’s city hall, the South Australian capital has the most – and cheapest – street parking of any major metropolis in Australia. This abundance of car bays eats into the space available for bike lanes and footpaths, and leaves residents more inclined to shirk public transport for their own four-wheeler. The report’s findings are set to inform the city’s transport strategy and are likely to encourage the development of the public transport network, as well as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. However, it remains to be seen whether it will change the minds of a number of pro-car city councillors who recently criticised a proposed cross-city bikeway, citing concerns over reduced access to on-street parking. This is despite the fact that the city has 42,700 car bays; Perth, a city of similar size, has less than 6,000. It seems that motorists in Adelaide are still in the driving seat.

M24 / The Stack

WePresent, ‘Facility’ and ‘What Do People Do?’

This week on the show we speak to the head of WeTransfer editorial platform WePresent, flick through a magazine about bathrooms and read ‘What Do People Do?’, a Lithuanian title about creative work.

Monocle Films / London

All around the table: deli dipping in London

Hanna Geller and Jeremy Coleman of Building Feasts take us on a tour around their favourite London food shops and pick up supplies on the way to put their effortless hosting skills into practice.

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