What Just Happened? A Weekly Roundup of Politics

04.12.2019 Arts & Culture
Ann Lewis
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After months of no-confidence votes, uncompromising representatives, and incessant arguing, Theresa May secured some excellent news this week for the UK. After heading to Brussels to discuss Brexit’s deadline with EU officials she was able to convince the governing body to push the deadline to October 31st. This avoided a catastrophe as the no-deal deadline was originally set for this Friday. The referendum on whether to leave the EU was promised by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016. However, the vote plunged the country into utter chaos when voters chose to leave. The country has since battled on how to move forward with trade deals, economic policies, and immigration.

Because of the extension, the UK will be required to vote in parliamentary elections for the EU in June. French President Emmanuel Macron was vocal in his desire to see Brexit happen as soon as possible, saying “We have a European renaissance to implement, and I do not want the issue of Brexit to block us at this point.” Leaving the EU is obviously quite complicated and there have been calls for a second referendum… but that is unlikely to be an option. The only way a series of exit policies will pass is if the nation and its leaders come together, and that seems like a long shot. It looks like it will be a long summer for members of the British Parliament.

Meanwhile in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been elected to a record 5th term. Campaigning on far right ideologies, he was able to secure the position over his former military chief Benny Gantz who ran in the new centrist merger party, Blue and White. Netanyahu’s Likud party didn’t receive enough votes to maintain a majority so he must build a coalition with the far-right party.

When Netanyahu initially took office in 1996, he had a hard-line stance against Israel and was not interested in brokering a peace deal with the Oslo Accords. In 2009 he was forced into a more centrist role pitting the left and right sides of his governing bodies against one another to try to find a middle ground. As the years have worn on, elected officials around him have shifted to the right, and, as a career politician, his chameleon skin is showing as he shifts back to his original conservative stance.

Running on a campaign platform to annex parts of the West Bank was a blatant attempt to win votes from the far right ultra-Orthodox parties. Installing cameras in Muslim-majority neighborhoods was also a clear move to suppress the left wing votes during the election. Intimidating minority voters is profoundly problematic and likely foreshadows future transgressions along religious and ethnic lines.

Cozying up to Trump and Vladimir Putin in recent months has shown conservatives in his country that he is shoring up international far right support. Trump recently chose to recognize Jerusalem as the nation’s capital by moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv before acknowledging Golan Heights as a legitimate part of Israel (it was stolen from Syria in a land grab back in 1967). To further this deepening support of Israel while showing support of white nationalists, Trump has ceased all funding to the UN that supports Palestine and forced the closure of PLO offices in Washington DC. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been working on a peace plan for the Israel-Palestinian conflict for months, but all these moves indicate that the likelihood of that plan being successful is pretty slim. Considering the Palestinians are watching the US undermine their sovereignty with multiple deliberate efforts, there’s no incentive for them to trust a peace deal brokered by the US.

All of these actions in conjunction with Netanyahu’s continuing slide right will ultimately destabilize the region. The further encroachment into Palestine will damage Israel’s strategic relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — the very few allies they have in the region. Swinging this far to the right will undoubtedly have consequences for Israel and Netanyahu. With Palestine lacking strong leadership to come to the table for an actual peace deal, the future of the region looks to be marred with conflict and continued strife.

Back in the US, the Justice Department headed by Attorney General Bill Barr is setting up a probe to investigate whether the FBI spied on the Trump campaign in 2016. In a saga that feels like it will never end, the Trump Administration is seeking to delegitimize the Mueller Report which is set to be released next week after being heavily redacted by the Justice Department.

“I am not saying that improper surveillance occurred. I’m saying that I am concerned about it… I just want to satisfy myself that there were no abuse of law enforcement or intelligence powers, ” Barr clarified during his second day of Congressional testimony, after saying he believed that “spying did occur.”

Bill Barr replaced Jeff Sessions as Attorney General after circulating a memo indicating that he did not believe a sitting president could be indicted for illegal activities. While the world waits for the release of the Mueller Report, we shouldn’t hold our breath for anything more than a zebra-like mess of rainbow colored stripes in the redaction by Barr’s Justice Department. The color-coded redactions are meant to offer viewers the opportunity to understand why certain lines are redacted — a move Barr explained was an effort in transparency. However, he has yet to commit to releasing an unredacted version of the report to Congress, and has declined to say if he has released the report to the White House. In the realm of transparency, it seems the Justice Department still has some work to do.

Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.  

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