How a Plea Deal for Benjamin Netanyahu Could Shake Up Israeli Politics

Jan. 27 2022

The former Israeli prime minister, and present leader of the country’s largest opposition party, is currently on trial for three charges of corruption, which have dogged him for the past five years. According to recent reports, his lawyers are negotiating a possible plea bargain, which would allow him to avoid jail time, but ban him from politics for seven years. While Shany Mor believes it unlikely that the sides will reach agreement, he nonetheless considers possible ramifications:

Israel’s current governing coalition . . . is a disparate mix of two right-wing parties, two centrist parties, two left-wing parties, and one Islamist party. This unlikely grouping joined forces in 2021 out of a desire to end Netanyahu’s twelve-year reign. Having done so, the coalition now holds together thanks only to a self-enforcing equilibrium. The coalition’s left-leaning elements are roughly equal in size to the right-leaning ones, and both sides have respected each other’s political red lines. Maintaining this arrangement has been easy because the only realistic alternative—partnering with Netanyahu—is unacceptable to all.

Removing Netanyahu from the political scene would end a key rift in Israeli politics. In four consecutive elections, roughly half the voters expressed a desire to see him remain in power, and roughly half the opposite. With the polarizing Netanyahu out of the picture, Israel’s conservative parties, which enjoy an enormous majority in the Knesset but have failed to form a coalition since 2015 because some factions refuse to work with Netanyahu, could partner together once more.

To be sure, Netanyahu’s departure might not necessarily trigger an immediate coalition collapse in favor of a new right-wing government. There is still deep animosity between the rightists who helped depose Netanyahu and those who remained loyal to him.

But Netanyahu’s absence would at least change the bargaining power of the various factions within the current governing coalition. The left-wing coalition partners would still have no leverage to forge a coalition of their own, and the conservative factions could demand a higher price for allowing them to remain in the government.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics

How China Equips the Islamic Republic to Repress Its People

In its dedication to bringing totalitarianism into the 21st century, the Chinese Communist party has developed high-tech forms of surveillance using facial-recognition software, a vast system of “social credit,” and careful control over its subjects’ cellular phones. Even stricter and more invasive measures are applied to the Uyghurs of the northwestern part of the country. Beijing is also happy to export its innovations in tyranny to allies like Iran and Russia. Playing a key role in these advances is a nominally private company called Tiandy Technologies. Craig Singleton describes its activities:

Both Tiandy testimonials and Chinese-government press releases advertise the use of the company’s products by Chinese officials to track and interrogate Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang province. According to human-rights groups, Chinese authorities also employ Tiandy products, such as “tiger chairs,” to torture Uyghurs and other minorities.

Iran has long relied on China to augment its digital surveillance capabilities, and Tehran was an early adopter of Beijing’s “social-credit” system, which it wields to assess citizens’ behavior and trustworthiness. . . . Iranian government representatives have publicized plans to leverage smart technologies, including AI-powered face recognition, to maintain regime stability and neutralize dissent. Enhanced cooperation with China is central to those efforts.

At present, Tiandy is not subject to U.S. sanctions or export controls. In light of Tiandy’s operations in both Xinjiang and Iran, policymakers should consider removing the company, its owner, and stakeholders from the international financial system and global supply chains.

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More about: China, Human Rights, Iran, Totalitarianism, U.S. Foreign policy