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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 22, 2013

Top of the Agenda

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 (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.

This CFR backgrounder explains the South China Sea territorial disputes.

NORTH KOREA: The United States presented a draft resolution Monday to the UN Security Council that would tighten sanctions (Yonhap) against North Korea for its rocket launch.



Police Killed In Kabul

Suicide bombers killed at least two police officers Monday after storming the headquarters of the Kabul traffic police department. It was the second assault (LAT) in less than a week in the capital.

PAKISTAN: Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told the Senate on Tuesday that the matter of ongoing U.S. drone attacks (Dawn) was a violation of sovereignty and would be taken up with Ambassador Richard Olsen.

Hina Rabbani Khar spoke last week at CFR about drones and other issues. See the video.



Russia Evacuates Citizens from Syria

Russia announced Monday that it was sending two planes to Beirut to evacuate (NYT) around one hundred of its citizens from Syria, reflecting Moscow's view that President Bashar al-Assad's forces may be losing control of the country.



Minister: Algerian Islamists Had Help from Inside

Algeria's prime minister said the hostage crisis at a gas complex was conducted by an international band of Islamist militants, including two Canadians who wore Algerian army uniforms and had help from the inside (WashPost). Thirty-eight hostages and twenty-nine militants died in the standoff.

This CFR Backgrounder discusses al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), said to be affiliated with the attackers in Algeria.

MALI: The UK government is in discussions about boosting operation support (BBC) for French-Mali forces fighting Islamist rebels in Mali, although ground combat was ruled out.



Dutch FM Appointed Head of Euro Group

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem was appointed the new chairman (DutchNews) of euro zone finance ministers on Monday, succeeding Luxemburg's Jean-Claude Juncker, who is stepping down after eight years. Spain refused to give backing to his nomination.

GERMANY AND FRANCE: The leaders of Germany and France today are together marking the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, which affirmed their reconciliation and place as the engine of the European Union (DeutscheWelle).



UN Calls for Haiti Elections

The head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti reiterated calls for President Michel Martelly and Haitian authorities to hold long-overdue legislative and local elections (MiamiHerald).

VENEZUELA: Venezuela's new foreign minister, Elias Jaua, is in Cuba to consult with President Hugo Chavez, still under treatment for cancer (LAHT).



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