Top of the Agenda: Israelis Expected to Return Netanyahu to Office
Israelis are voting on Tuesday in an election that is expected to see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu win a third term in office, pushing the Jewish state further to the right (Reuters). Netanyahu's Likud party, running alongside the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu group, looks to have fewer seats than it did in the previous parliament, as opinion polls have showed a surge in support for the far-right Jewish Home party (al-Jazeera). The next government faces mounting challenges at home, including a major budget crisis and looming austerity cuts likely to exacerbate discontent over the cost of living (BBC).
"So the union between the two parties was a success, even though the joint list has been hemorrhaging seats. It created a faction that will be much bigger than the next largest one (which polls say will be Labor); it fixed the identity of the next prime minister; and it set the character of the election campaign as a battle between right and left," writes Yossi Verter for Haaretz.
"Netanyahu will try to form the largest coalition possible, because he wants to be in a situation where no one party can bring him down if it leaves the coalition. What is interesting is that the run-up to the election is marked by mudslinging. And then the period after the election is characterized by parties trying to show how they can actually get along and be members of this coalition," says CFR's Robert Danin.
"[The] wise U.S. policy would be to concede, and maybe even welcome, Mr. Netanyahu's reelection while quietly urging him to construct a centrist government. In the coming months Israel and the United States will likely have an urgent need to communicate clearly and cooperate closely on the threat of Iran's nuclear program; and they must try to preserve the prospect of Palestinian statehood," writes a Washington Post editorial.
Philippines Takes South China Sea Row to UN
The Philippines has asked a UN tribunal to intervene in its long-standing South China Sea territorial dispute (PhilippineStar) with China, calling China's activities a violation of its sovereignty.