Thursday 28 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 28/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Reuters

Affairs / Yossi Mekelberg

Law and order

A contentious draft bill to extend the exemption of compulsory military service to Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews has dominated public discourse in Israel this week – and threatens to topple the country’s coalition government. The timing of the current crisis follows last month’s temporary injunction by the High Court of Justice, which ordered the state to explain why the Israel Defense Forces should not begin drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students.

Israel’s government has often relied on the support of the Haredi to form coalitions and exemptions from the military have always been one of the ultra-Orthodox’s non-negotiable demands. The secular establishment has also maintained a kind of reverence towards those who dedicate their lives to traditional Jewish scholarship. Since Haredi birth rates are much higher than the rest of the Israeli population, the exemption of several hundreds has, over time, turned into the exemption of tens of thousands.

This unfairness stems not only from the fact that the ultra-Orthodox do not serve in the military in order to continue their studies but also because it is paid for by the public. Many Haredi families rely on state benefits, financed by those who serve in the army and, ultimately, keep ultra-Orthodox families afloat. This happens while government representatives have the chutzpah to demand legislation that takes Israel on a path towards theocracy. It is a watershed moment – and for more liberal-minded Israelis, enough is enough.

Yossi Mekelberg is an associate fellow with the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Big ask: Gabriel Attal to trial prime minister’s questions

Image: Getty Images

Politics / France

Any questions

For the next five Wednesdays, France’s new prime minister, Gabriel Attal, will carry out a parliamentary experiment. He will take questions for 45 minutes on a range of topics from some of the National Assembly’s 577 députés. It’s hoped that the new format will “boost interest” but opposition parties have accused the government of creating a spectacle.

The practice is not uncommon across Europe; Denmark, Norway and Sweden’s parliaments carry out monthly sessions. Across the Channel, the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session has been a fixture of the UK House of Commons since 1961. Free to attend, though often oversubscribed, it’s arguably the best theatre in London. Done right, as in the case of prime minister Liz Truss, whose tenure was brief, and the routinely underprepared Boris Johnson, these sessions have served to reveal their fatal weaknesses. In France, however, it risks shifting attention and political responsibilities away from the president.

Business / Brazil

Record breakers

Uruguay-based e-commerce giant Mercado Libre has announced plans to invest a record 23bn real (€4.26bn) in the Brazilian e-commerce market in 2024. The company, which owns the most popular online platforms in Latin America, is looking to raise its annual investments in Brazil by 21.1 per cent compared to 2023. This will entail opening new distribution centres across the country to expand its presence.

More than half of Mercado Libre’s revenue comes from the Brazilian market, which, alongside Mexico and Colombia, has continued to grow since the coronavirus pandemic. In Europe, e-commerce expenditure has slowed but Mercado Libre’s investment shows that the model can still thrive in other markets.

Society / Thailand

Marriage of minds

Thailand’s House of Representatives has voted to legalise same-sex marriage in the country. The landmark bill, which is a first for a Southeast Asian nation, was passed by all of Thailand’s major political parties but will still need approval by the senate and the king before it can become law. The bill authorises marriage between same-sex couples and gives them full adoption-and-inheritance rights. Thailand took its first steps towards becoming one of the most LGBT-friendly destinations in Asia when it passed a ban on gender-identity discrimination in 2015. And approving this bill cements the country’s position as one of the most liberal countries in the region.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Lisette Luik

Top of the tree

Lisette Luik is the co-founder of Arbonics, an Estonian technology company that calculates the carbon-removal potential of land, allowing landowners to quantify this data more easily. Luik tells Monocle about the service, the importance of biodiversity in forests and how she hopes to expand her business.

What does Arbonics do?
We’ve built a data platform where landowners can access an analysis of their land to assess whether it is suitable for afforestation [the planting of new forests]. We also generate a report for the landowner that tells them whether their ground is suitable for carbon storage. We then recommend which trees they should plant, how to diversify their plants and how much carbon could be stored over a long period.

How do you help with maintaining biodiversity and making forests healthier?
People often talk about planting trees but this isn’t something that we do at Arbonics. Instead, we talk about growing forests. A forest is an ecosystem; it’s more than just trees. There are plants, birds and bugs that are essential for its operation. This diversity makes woods more resilient, especially in the face of climate-change-induced problems such as fires. A forest that’s managed for both timber and biodiversity is going to last longer and store more carbon than what might be called a tree plantation. This is where you plant a lot of trees in a straight row and kill every other species that tries to come near them.

What are your next steps for expanding the business?
We want to launch a second product about how to better manage forests to increase resilience and carbon storage. We also want to increase our footprint; we’re currently only working in four countries. This needs to double over the next 18 months, which will require a lot of work.

For our full interview with Lisette Luik, tune in to the latest episode of Eureka, the companion programme to ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Brett Erickson

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Jewellery special

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