Category Archives: Uncategorized

El Salvador: a mega-prison for a prolonged state of emergency

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

The state of emergency decreed on 27 March 2022 by President Nayib Bukele was once again renewed without difficulty by the authorities on 16 March, and while the 40,000-seat mega-prison, opened to cope with the constant influx of suspects, received its first prisoners on 24 February, raising concerns on the part of observers and NGOs as to the regime’s respect for human rights, and this in spite of convincing results in the fight against crime and gangs in the country. It is highly likely that the state of emergency will be renewed again in the near future, as the opposition to this radical measure seems to be inaudible.

On 26 March 2022, the country experienced an impressive wave of violence, police recording 62 homicides on that day alone. The murders, attributed to the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, one of the most dangerous gangs in El Salvador along with its rival Barrio-18, prompted President Bukele’s government to take a radical and equally dramatic step the next day: declare a state of emergency. Renewable if necessary, it allows the arrest and detention of suspects without warrants. According to the Salvadoran Constitution, a state of emergency can be declared “in case of war, invasion of the territory, rebellion, sedition, catastrophe, epidemic or other general calamity, or serious disturbance of public order”. This measure has since led to the arrest of nearly 66 000 suspects, when the number of MS-13 and Barrio 18 members is estimated by the government to be between 76 000 or 118 000 by some experts. Only 5% of inmates detained under the state of emergency have been released. As the Minister of Justice and Security, Héctor Gustavo Villatoro, announced on 15 February, the state of emergency to combat gangs will continue until all criminals are arrested, which suggests that this supposedly exceptional measure will last.

To cope with the influx of inmates, and while El Salvador’s prisons are already stretched beyond their capacity, the authorities opened on 31 January a 40 000-capacity Terrorism Confinement Center (TCC), better known in the media as a mega-prison, guarded by nearly 600 soldiers and 250 police. Less than a month later, on 24 February, the prison received its first 2 000 inmates. The TCC was quickly denounced by human rights NGOs and by some South American government leaders, including Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who did not hesitate to compare it to a concentration camp. A large majority of the 66 000 suspects arrested, 57 000 are still awaiting trial by the judicial authorities, which makes NGOs fear that cases will not be properly handled by Justice. In addition to arbitrary arrests, deaths in custody, extreme overcrowding in prisons, abuse and torture are reported, according to some testimonies. The UN reported at least 90 deaths since the measure came into force a year ago, and are concerned about the authorities’ lack of transparency in investigations. Beyond these exceptional measures, the government does not seem to be looking for long-term solutions other than lifting the rights of the suspected and arbitrary arrests. No plan to reduce social inequalities or fight corruption has been proposed. Worse, the government is cracking down on the press, while some media such as El Faro and Revista Factum, which have taken a stand against corruption, were targeted by the government on 15 February, accusing them of false reporting or money laundering. Others claim that the authorities use Pegasus spyware to monitor opponents and journalists, or paid trolls to attack reputations, although both have yet to be proven. These events could suggest that the regime is sinking into authoritarianism.

Nevertheless, the state of emergency is proving popular with the population, which is 95% in favor of it according to a poll in March, and effective since on 10 March the police recorded the 319th day without murders. While the homicide rate per 100 000 inhabitants in 2021 was 18.1%, or 1 147 murders over the year, one of the highest in the world outside war zone, in 2022 it was 7.8% for 495 murders over the year, and it is estimated at 2.6% in 2023, with 40 homicides between January and March. These results seem to give a free hand to President Bukele’s regime, which does not foresee an end to the state of emergency in the coming months.

Democratic backsliding and economic crisis in Tunisia: a new flashpoint in North Africa?

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

Tunisia is in the midst of an escalating political and economic crisis. President Kais Saied has continued unraveling what was previously described as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success, while internal and global issues are significantly destabilizing the Tunisian economy. In response to mounting domestic unrest and international criticism, Saied has so far responded with more intransigence and repression, pointing towards increasing turmoil in the North African country, while outside actors seem unwilling to intervene.

The Arab Spring protests that toppled former authoritarian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 failed to resolve fundamental political and economic issues that have long plagued Tunisia. In July 2021, taking advantage of widespread discontent, Saied suspended the parliament and replaced the government, proceeding to rule by decree. A new constitution pushed by the president was approved by referendum in July 2022, shifting Tunisia’s government system from parliamentary to presidential, and concentrating executive, legislative, and judicial powers in Saied’s hands. Although the constitution was approved by 94,6% of the vote, only 30,5% of eligible voters participated. The increasing apathy of ordinary Tunisians was confirmed by the two-round election for a significantly weakened parliament, both rounds of which saw a mere 11% voter turnout in December 2022 and January 2023.

The main cause of this sentiment is likely the fact that Saied’s promises to “purge” Tunisia of corruption and improve the living standards of the population have so far proved a disappointment for most Tunisians, relatively few of whom protested his 2021-2022 constitutional “coup”. The country’s economy has been steadily deteriorating, due to a combination of the lack of reforms, corruption, a bloated public sector, high debt, and the impact of the Ukraine war: inflation has reached 11%, youth unemployment stands at 34,5%, and citizens are facing significant shortages of essential goods. As discontent with his policies increased, Saied moved against his domestic opponents. Starting between 11 and 15 February and continuing through March, authorities launched a wave of arrests of Saied’s critics, having arrested more than 20 influential individuals so far. Those arrested include leaders of opposition parties and movements, journalists, trade unionists, businesspeople, and lawyers. The Tunisian president accused those arrested of being “terrorists” and “traitors” who had been “conspiring against the state”. He also blamed his opponents for causing rising prices and shortages.

Furthermore, in another apparent bid to distract the population from economic issues and democratic backsliding, Saied resorted to racist attacks against minorities. In a speech on 21 February, he asserted that migration from sub-Saharan Africa was a conspiracy aimed at shifting Tunisia’s demographics in order to make it “a purely African country that has no affiliation to the Arab and Islamic nations”. He also ordered security forces to halt illegal immigration and deport illegal migrants. In the days following Saied’s speech, local journalists and international media reported large numbers of racially-motivated abuse and attacks, including by police officers, against African migrants and Black Tunisians, who constitute between 10% to 15% of the country’s population. In response to the increased racial violence, the embassies of African countries such as Ivory Coast, Mali, and Gabon rushed to repatriate hundreds of their nationals from Tunisia.

Saied’s policies, combined with the country’s economic crisis, have triggered reactions both within and outside Tunisia. Opposition movements and activists boycotted parliamentary elections and staged protests against the president. The million-strong Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the country’s largest trade union and an influential factor in Tunisian politics, has also adopted an increasingly confrontational stance towards Saied. The UGTT had largely acquiesced to Saied’s power grab in 2021. But as authorities intensified their crackdown against the president’s critics and mulled over the implementation of unpopular economic reforms in order to secure a $1,9 billion rescue package from the International Monetary Fund, as part of an October 2022 preliminary agreement, the union turned against the president. After a UGTT official was arrested in February for organizing strikes, the organization accused Saied of declaring “war” against it. UGTT organized a large protest against the president in Tunis on 4 March, vowing that it will not accept the “suppression of freedoms” in Tunisia.

International reactions also ensued. US officials said that they were “deeply concerned” about the wave of arrests in Tunisia. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said that Washington was “alarmed” by an “escalating pattern” of repression in Tunisia, while Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf also accused Saied of weakening “foundational principles of checks and balances”, expressing the US’ “enormous concerns” about the country’s trajectory. The EU also stated that it is monitoring developments in Tunisia with “great concern”. The African Union expressed its “shock” over Saied’s remarks about migrants, calling them “racialized hate speech” and postponing a Tunis conference scheduled for March.

So far, the Tunisian president has refused to back down, continuing to attack his domestic opponents and labeling them “enemies of democracy”. Responding to international criticism, he also rejected “interference” in Tunisia’s domestic affairs, comparing it to colonization. Protests against the president do not yet seem to have escalated to a point that they will seriously threaten Saied’s position, and opposition movements remain fractious and divided, without having defined a coherent common agenda. Furthermore, the Tunisian military, whose decision not to intervene in support of Ben Ali sealed his ouster in 2011, has so far remained loyal to Saied. As for international reactions, despite verbal criticism, the EU and the US have refrained from imposing serious costs on Saied, fearing that Tunisia’s destabilization will intensify the terrorist threat in North Africa and trigger a large migrant influx toward Europe. Still, the economic and cost-of-living crisis shows no sign of abating, as citizens face increasing hardship and the global economy remains in turmoil. Fearing further backlash, Saied seems unwilling to implement potentially painful reforms necessary to get access to IMF funds, and talks over the $1,9 billion package are stalled. Deprived of other options, the Tunisian government has opted for increased interest rates and higher taxes, which intensify the difficulties facing Tunisians. Combined with the government’s refusal to make any concessions and Saied’s insistence on his one-man rule, it is likely that his popularity will continue fading and popular discontent will keep increasing. Further domestic unrest and destabilization are likely in Tunisia in the following months under current circumstances.

In conclusion, Saied seems determined to continue his policy of consolidating power and extinguishing what remained of Tunisia’s post-2011 democracy. But his authoritarianism is triggering reactions from increasing parts of the population, while the president has limited options for improving the country’s deteriorating economy. With both sides in Tunisia apparently set on a course of confrontation, and Tunis’ main partners unwilling to intervene so far, intensified unrest seems the most likely short-term course, although it is probably too early to tell if a second Arab Spring-type revolution is in the offing.

The shooting down of Chinese spy balloons in U.S. airspace

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

The recent shooting down of Chinese spy balloons that were discovered over North American airspace have led to the U.S. and Canada increasing their national security measures against China. China have responded to these shootings by challenging U.S. global influence, leading them to feel threatened. It is highly likely the Biden administration’s policy in 2022 the catalyst that has called for the shooting down of these balloons. Because of this, NORAD have recalibrated their radar scans to pick up smaller, slower moving objects, which led to the detection of these balloons. The U.S. and Canada have threatened to implement bans on the social media app TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, on government phones as a measure to increase their national security.  Since the incident China has challenged the U.S. global influence through the recent agreement between Saudi-Arabia and Iran. The U.S. has shown reluctant support for China’s diplomatic achievements, but it is highly likely that they believe their global influence is at risk. China’s upcoming talks with Russia suggest that they are going to continue to further seek to expand their global influence over the next year.

The threat of spy balloons over foreign airspace is not a new phenomenon. The chair and founder of Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance said that these kinds of objects have always been in U.S. airspace, but they chose to tolerate them. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) claims that because of the objects smaller and slower moving nature they were harder to spot. Previously they searched for faster, larger object such as drones and planes. It is likely due to an increase in global tension from the Ukraine war that NORAD was tasked with recalibrating their sensors to pick up these smaller, slower objects. It is also somewhat likely that NORAD had received some intelligence reporting of the balloons’ existence, however at this time we are unable to confirm this.

It is highly likely that the sudden increase for the shooting down of these U.F.Os stems from the Biden Administrations 2022 policy towards China. This policy seeks to increase U.S. competition with China economically to maintain transatlantic unity. However, this has led to increased animosity from China. The President’s tough stance on China has likely only been exacerbated with the current Republican dominated House of Representatives. It is likely that the pressures from the House of Representatives combined with the already tough stance on China increased the measures in which to counter possible threats from China in the U.S. airspace. An example of this is the threats from the Biden administration, beginning in early March until present, to ban the Chinese made social media app ‘TikTok’ on government phones if China’s stake in the company who created the app, ByteDance, is not sold. This has not only been occurring in the U.S. but other governing bodies such as the EU Commission and most recently the United Kingdom on Thursday 16 March announced plans to ban the app on government devices. The measure has been introduced due to fear of the Chinese government lifting data off cellular devices through the app, which is a concern that has been raised by American officials for years. We can expect to see further European nations follow suit due to a similar fear of security breaches from China over the course of the year.

On 5 February, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s response to the shootings of the air balloons were that it was “a violation of international practice,” expressing full dissatisfaction and protest towards the incident. China have not made any hostile moves towards the U.S. following the incident. However, since the shootings China have recently held talks with Saudi Arabia and Iran during the week of 6-10 March. The outcome of these talks brokered a deal between long-time rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran which has led to the two nations restoring diplomatic relations. The importance of this for China is that it has established themselves as having global influence that can rival the U.S. There have been no explicit statements that this move was made as a direct challenge to the U.S. resulting from the shooting down of the air balloons, however, the timing of the deal coming shortly after these incidents strongly suggest that China is pushing to challenge the U.S. as the most influential country in the world. The U.S. have shown reluctant support for China’s diplomatic achievement on March 10 in a brief public statement from U.S. officials, however this is likely to avoid an increase in tension following the shooting of the spy balloons. Their reluctance in expressing their support strongly suggest that the U.S. feels that their position is being threatened by China.

The shooting of the Chinese spy balloons, which was likely spurred on by Biden’s tough stance on China, has had a significant impact on both North America and China. We can see that the U.S. and Canada have put an increased focus on National Security, recalibrating NORAD radar scanners to detect new threats and the threats to ban TikTok on government devices, on which the European governing bodies have followed suit. In contrast China has responded by challenging the U.S. position as the leading influential power in the world, especially in the Middle East with their success in beginning the restoration of the relationship between Saudi-Arabia and Iran.

A new crisis between France and Algeria

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

After a period of optimism, a new crisis in French-Algerian relations was triggered this month. Algeria’s recalling of its ambassador to Paris demonstrates the continuing issues between France and its former colony, stemming from values divergences and Algerian historical resentment toward France. Declining French influence across Africa and Algeria’s development of relationships with other major powers, in the context of the Ukraine war, likely make the Algerian regime more confident in challenging Paris and asserting its interests.

On 8 February, Algeria recalled its ambassador from Paris, accusing France of orchestrating the escape of French-Algerian rights activist Amira Bouraoui. Bouraoui was sentenced in 2021 to two years in prison for “insulting Islam” and offending Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune. She was freed, however, pending an appeal, but authorities banned her from leaving the country. On 3 February, Bouraoui was arrested in Tunisia, having crossed illegally into the country while trying to flee to France, where her son lives, and faced extradition back to Algeria. French diplomatic intervention led to the Tunisian government releasing Bouraoui and finally allowing her to board a flight to Lyon. The Algerian government’s reaction was severe. Along with recalling its ambassador, Algiers called the incident “unacceptable” and said that it caused “great damage” to French-Algerian relations.

This diplomatic escalation occurred amid a general sense of improving relations between the two countries, which are heavily burdened by France’s colonial past. Just last August, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Algeria, where he and Tebboune issued a joint declaration proclaiming “a new era” in ties. With increasing high-level contacts, observers were optimistic about deepening French-Algerian cooperation in various fields, from education to economy and energy, since Algeria’s importance as a gas supplier to the European Union (EU) increased significantly with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So what went wrong this time?

The answer probably boils down to three factors: the obvious divergence between the two countries in terms of values, the Algerian government’s exploitation of historical grievances for domestic purposes, and Algeria’s increasing room for maneuver in its foreign policy.

Regarding contrasting values, Algerian authorities have cracked down on people and organizations associated with the 2019 Hirak protest movement, resulting in increasing repression within the country. Last year, numerous media outlets were shut down, while in January 2023, authorities dissolved the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH), Algeria’s oldest independent rights group. In Bouraoui’s case, as a liberal democracy and EU member, Paris would be expected to intervene in support of a French citizen. Indeed, French Foreign Ministry spokesperson François Delmas said that Bouraoui is “a French national and, as such, the French authorities exercise their consular protection”. Obviously, this did not go down well with Algeria’s authoritarian government.

Furthermore, the Algerian authorities’ harsh reaction to Bouraoui’s French-facilitated escape was likely also motivated by domestic considerations. Along with the intensifying crackdown on dissent, the country faces significant economic challenges. Algeria’s oil- and gas-dependent economy is chronically plagued by corruption and growth issues, with 32% of people under 24 being unemployed. Clashing with France and accusing Paris of “interference” is probably an effective way to focus the population’s attention on external enemies and bolster the regime’s popularity. What makes France a convenient target is a strong Algerian sense of historical grievance, stemming from 132 years of French colonial rule and the brutal 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence. Resentment came to the fore in October 2021, when Macron questioned Algeria’s existence as a nation before French colonialism and accused Algerian rulers of fomenting hatred against France. In response, Algeria accused France of having committed “genocide” and recalled its ambassador to Paris. Although normal relations were restored in January 2022, the French president has ruled out issuing any formal apology. This historical trauma, combined with complaints by the French-Algerian minority about discrimination and tensions over the issue of illegal migration from Algeria, probably makes France an appealing rhetorical target for the Algerian regime.

In terms of foreign policy, Algeria’s increased assertiveness toward its former colonial ruler is probably reinforced by the decline of French influence in Africa, and its relationships with other major powers. Paris’ influence and popularity across its former colonial possessions seem to be steadily dissipating. Continuous resentment over colonialism and France’s attempts to maintain its influence in the post-colonial period, along with the rise of a new social media-savvy generation that is increasingly questioning the status quo, have made a number of African governments more willing to distance themselves from France. Nowhere is the decline of French influence more evident than in the Sahel, where France terminated Operation Barkhane against jihadist groups and withdrew its troops from Mali in 2022, followed by another withdrawal from Burkina Faso in early 2023. In both cases, French forces were reportedly replaced by Russian mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group.

Algeria’s developing relationships with other major powers, which have been asserting themselves in Africa, also probably add to its confidence in challenging France. For example, Algiers maintains a long-standing close relationship with Russia, which is its main arms supplier. Algeria adopted a neutral stance on the Ukraine war and has expressed interest in joining the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). There have also been reports about Algeria financing the deployment of Russian mercenaries in Mali. In addition, Algeria has strong trade ties with China, whose overall investments in Africa are much larger than those of France. It is also cultivating a close political and economic partnership with Turkey, which is increasingly challenging French interests in North Africa and the Sahel. It is notable that during his visit to Algeria, Macron accused Russia, China, and Turkey of spreading anti-French propaganda in Africa. Furthermore, amid the war in Ukraine and the turbulence in energy markets, other European powers are paying increasing attention to Algeria. Most prominent among these has been Italy. On 22 January, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visited Algeria and signed deals on increasing Algerian gas exports to Italy and Italian investment in Algerian gas infrastructure, aiming to reduce Italy’s dependence on Russian gas and establish Italy as a gas hub between North Africa and Europe.

In conclusion, the Algerian government likely seeks to bolster its popularity through public spats with the former colonial ruler, while strengthening its position vis-à-vis Paris by distancing itself from France’s sphere of influence in Africa and exerting pressure to achieve some form of more equal-terms relationship with France and the EU. Algeria’s ties with other major powers who are seeking footholds in Africa, combined with its increased importance in the context of the Ukraine war and the crisis in the energy market, probably make the regime feel that it has a stronger hand. Although French officials said that Paris intends to continue its efforts to deepen ties after the Algerian ambassador’s withdrawal, managing the relationship with Algeria will likely remain a challenge for France’s interests in Africa.

Elections in Israel: Domestic and Foreign Policy Implications

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

On 29 December 2022, Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister for a sixth time after he and his allies won a parliamentary majority in the November 2022 elections.  Netanyahu’s bloc, which includes his right-wing party Likud and far-right and Ultra-Orthodox parties Otzma Yehudit, Religious Zionism, Noam, Shas, and United Torah Judaism, secured 64 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats. Having appointed ultranationalist politicians to key government positions, such as Itamar Ben-Gvir as National Security Minister and Bezalel Smotrich as Finance Minister along with a post that oversees settlements in the West Bank, Netanyahu’s latest government is considered the most right-wing in Israel’s history. This will very likely have a significant impact on the domestic political situation and the peace process with the Palestinians, and will also affect Israel’s foreign policy and relations with its major partners, particularly the US and Arab states that have opted for normalization with Tel Aviv.

Regarding domestic politics, the new government’s strongly conservative and nationalist character will likely increase polarization within Israeli society. To seal cooperation between Netanyahu and his partners, the parliament approved significant legislative amendments on 27 December 2022. These changes included allowing individuals convicted of offenses but spared jail time to serve as ministers, clearing the way for Shas leader Aryeh Deri to serve as minister despite being convicted of tax fraud, and expanding National Security Minister Ben-Gvir’s control over the police. In early January, the government also put forward a plan that would allow a simple majority in the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court rulings and give the government control over the appointment of judges. The government’s members have accused the judiciary of pushing a leftwing agenda and have framed these changes as necessary for restoring the “proper balance between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary”. But critics have asserted that they are aimed at strengthening the executive’s role at the expense of democratic institutions and enabling Netanyahu to clear himself of corruption charges against him. Furthermore, members of the coalition parties support a religious conservative agenda that is at odds with the values of more liberal Israelis. These plans have already caused sharp reactions, as around 80,000 held anti-government protests in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other cities on 14 January, and around 100,000 protested again on 21 January, with opposition parties vowing more actions. Although Netanyahu made a concession on 22 January by removing Deri from his posts as Health and Interior Minister following a Supreme Court decision against his appointment, increased polarization and tension are likely in Israel this year, as the government will continue attempts to reform the judiciary and push its conservative agenda.

On the Israeli-Palestinian front, prospects for a two-state solution, already bleak, will likely deteriorate further. Both Netanyahu and his partners staunchly oppose the creation of a Palestinian state and support the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Ben-Gvir has previously been convicted of racist incitement against Palestinians, while Smotrich, a supporter of the settler movement, now has control over parts of the Civil Administration Agency within the Defense Ministry that administers Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the West Bank, giving him authority over the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied region. The government coalition’s guiding principles state that the government will support the expansion of settlements in “all parts of the Land of Israel” including the West Bank, “strengthen” the status of Jerusalem, and preserve the “Jewish character” of the Israeli state. In what was probably a sign of things to come, on 3 January Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, despite protests by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other Arab states. In the past, Ben-Gvir has supported changing the status quo on the holy site, which bans non-Muslims from praying there. Such a move would risk a significant escalation with the Palestinians. In addition, on 6 January, the government approved a series of sanctions against the PA in retaliation for its anti-Israel campaign at the United Nations, including withholding tax revenues from the PA and freezing Palestinian construction in much of the West Bank. With violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants continuing in the West Bank, the Netanyahu government’s hardline stance will likely further undermine prospects for a two-state solution and increase the risk of a new major confrontation breaking out between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, such as Hamas.

As for foreign policy, continuity with previous governments is expected, although the new government’s composition will likely complicate relations with some of Israel’s partners, such as the US and Arab states that recently normalized ties with Tel Aviv, like the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. The Biden administration, despite its signaled willingness to continue cooperation with Israel, has major disagreements with Netanyahu’s government regarding the Palestinian issue and Iran. For example, in its statement congratulating the new Israeli prime minister, the White House underlined its support for the two-state solution. It has also referred to Ben-Gvir’s Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif visit as “unacceptable”. Moreover, some US legislators have expressed concerns about the inclusion of “extremists” in Netanyahu’s government. On Iran, despite the stall in talks over restoring the nuclear deal, the assertive policy against Tehran that Netanyahu has announced is unlikely to be fully backed by the administration, which is seeking to focus on challenges from Russia and China. As for the Arab states, the UAE and Bahrain reached out to the new government and indicated that they are committed to the normalization deals with Israel, which were signed under Netanyahu’s previous term as prime minister. Overall, the Iranian threat and other shared interests will likely allow Israel to keep working closely with the US and its Arab partners. But Netanyahu will likely have a hard time balancing between the maximalist demands of his nationalist allies towards the Palestinians on the one hand, and the need to avoid escalatory moves and preserve some semblance of a peace process on the other. The latter is particularly important for maintaining relations and expanding normalization agreements with the Arab states. The tension between these domestic and external priorities will likely be a major test for the new prime minister.

In conclusion, Netanyahu’s electoral win and the formation of a new conservative, nationalistic government will likely significantly affect Israel’s domestic political and security situation and have an impact on its foreign relations. The tensions between the government and the opposition will further polarize Israeli society, while prospects for a two-state solution will deteriorate as the new government will likely expand settlements and weaken the PA. Furthermore, the Israeli government will likely also seek to continue established foreign policy and strengthen ties with the US and its Arab partners. But Netanyahu’s need to preserve his coalition by satisfying his hardline partners’ demands will likely complicate foreign relations and test the prime minister’s ability to balance domestic and external priorities.