Friday 4 June 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 4/6/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Allison Kaplan Sommer

Taking charge

Israel’s political scene is reeling as it plunges into what appears to be a historic transition. After four inconclusive elections, an unlikely group of disparate parties – ranging from far right to far left and including the Arab-Israeli, socially conservative Ra’am party – is poised to replace the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. With Bibi as Israel’s face and voice for the past 12 years, it has been relatively simple both for Israel’s allies and enemies to assess where the country stands, and gauge how to react. Assuming the Knesset votes to approve the new coalition next week, the leadership that will replace him will be far more complicated.

The main player in the new coalition is Yair Lapid (pictured), the centrist head of the Yesh Atid party, which had the second-highest number of seats to Netanyahu’s Likud in Israel’s March election. But Lapid will serve as foreign minister rather than prime minister: in order to convince key right-wing parties to break with Netanyahu, Lapid was forced to concede the top spot to Naftali Bennett, head of the far-right Yamina Party, for the first two years of the coalition’s four-year term. Bennett, an orthodox Jew, is even more ideologically committed to the idea of a greater state of Israel than Netanyahu.

As the bloody conflict with Gaza played out last month while this coalition was forming, Israelis found themselves asking how the country would handle such crisis points without Netanyahu to speak for it. While the new coalition’s focus will no doubt be on the domestic front, it will have no choice but to present some kind of face internationally in order to maintain vital ties around the world. Will that be Bennett’s hardline stance? Will it reflect the unprecedented representation in government of Palestinian citizens in Israel? Or will it be an odd fusion of the two concocted by Lapid? The answer remains a mystery but Israelis and the rest of the world will soon find out.

Allison Kaplan Sommer is a journalist with Israeli’s ‘Haaretz’ newspaper and a regular contributor to Monocle 24.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Vietnam & China

Sea change

China and Vietnam’s navies agreed this week to set up a new hotline to improve their communication and manage the risk of conflict in the South China Sea. Aiming to “proactively cope with emergencies”, the initiative is expected to strengthen co-operation and foster exchange, according to the two countries’ military forces. The new hotline should help to reduce tensions in the contested waters that have been the main conflict area between Vietnam and China in the past couple of years. Beijing has already been actively building closer military ties with several of its neighbours: Cambodia, one of its few allies in the region, announced on Wednesday that China would help it to expand and upgrade its largest naval base. Cambodia’s defence minister told local media that the assistance comes with “no strings attached” but the subtext to superpowers like Washington is clear: China is keeping a close watch on its own backyard.

Image: Getty Images

Diplomacy / Mexico & USA

Migration roots

Kamala Harris heads south of the border this weekend for her first foreign trip since becoming vice-president. Tasked with spearheading the Biden administration’s policy on immigration, Harris’s visit to Guatemala on Sunday and Mexico on Tuesday is part of a broader shift in strategy.

The visit comes just days after the Biden administration ended its predecessor’s “remain in Mexico” policy, which required those applying for asylum in the US to stay in Mexico while their cases were being heard. Rather than focusing on stopping asylum seekers at the border, Harris has pressed for joint development and security initiatives in the so-called Northern Triangle to tackle migration at the source. “Most people don’t want to leave home,” Harris said in a virtual meeting with Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador back in May. “It is in our mutual interest to address some of the root causes.” Her visit offers the first real test of whether the Biden administration can find a better way of working with its southern neighbours.

Image: Courtesy of CST

Transport / Switzerland

Pulling together

Cities everywhere are exploring new modes of travel for passengers and goods alike, and Switzerland just might have a method that could revolutionise freight transport. Cargo Sous Terrain (CST) has unveiled plans for an underground network of unmanned vehicles (pictured) for transporting goods. Routes will run between hubs at logistically important spots throughout the country, such as the outskirts of cities. From state-affiliated companies such as the Swiss federal railway (SBB) and the national post office, to supermarkets and financial institutions, the major players in Switzerland are all on board. And it looks as though the government is willing to do its part too by removing regulatory roadblocks. CST says that the network will be accessible to all market operators and won’t cost the public a penny; the first part of the track could be ready to use as early as 2031. If realised, it could offer a viable alternative to transporting freight on the road or by train – and show off the power of co-operation in the process.

Image: Igshaan Adams, 2021. Photo by Mark Blower

Arts / UK

Points of view

London’s first Gallery Weekend starts today: more than 80 galleries will open their doors to the public, continuing the spirit of collaboration forged in the art world during lockdown. The three-day event features talks, studio visits, late openings and children’s events, and could well become an annual staple. Here are some key exhibitions to look out for:

Tom Sachs: ‘Ritual’ at Thaddaeus Ropac, Westminster. Sachs’s work draws on the subcultures of urban metropolises to offer a sharp critique on consumerism and branding.

Bronwyn Katz: ‘I turn myself into a star and visit my loved ones in the sky’ at White Cube, Bermondsey. The South African artist makes sculptures in vibrant colours from deconstructed metal bed frames, bed springs and other household materials. With the resulting pieces, she tackles issues related to land, ownership, homelessness, belonging, identity and sense of place.

Igshaan Adams: ‘Kicking Dust’ at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre. In his first UK exhibition (pictured), Adams uses weaving, sculpture and installation to explore the intersections of race, religion and sexuality.

Image: Shutterstock

M24 / The Foreign Desk

Explainer 268: Silencing Pakistan’s journalists

Hamid Mir, a well-known journalist in Pakistan, has been prevented from broadcasting, following comments he made criticising the country’s authorities. This is just the latest incident in a series of serious attempts by the military to silence outspoken reporters but, as Andrew Mueller explains, the unofficial junta may have finally gone too far in the eyes of the public.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle Design Awards

Monocle launched its inaugural Design Awards in early 2021 to celebrate the world’s best and brightest talents in architecture, graphic design and industrial design. We invite you to meet a global cast of winners as we celebrate pioneering design projects that make our lives healthier and happier, our cities smarter and our work more creative.


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