WORLD ROUNDUPReturn of the Mercenaries | The Sino-American Rivalry Needs Guardrails | EU to Launch Platform to Fight Disinformation, and more

Published 7 February 2023

··  Why I Worry About Israeli Democracy
The challenges facing the country are daunting, but all is not lost

··  EU to Launch Platform to Fight Russian, Chinese Disinformation
Josep Borrell warns of ‘new wave’ of fabricated images, videos and deceptive websites

··  Return of the Mercenaries
Putin’s hired killers have money on their minds

··  Putin’s Real Threat Comes from Russia’s “Turbo-Patriots”
The threat to Putin is not from cuddly, West-looking liberals, but from even sharper-toothed nationalists

··  What Happens When Israel’s Lawbreakers Become Lawmakers
Extremists in Israel’s far-right government work to upend the tenuous balance of power in the West Bank

··  Why Security Cooperation with Israel Is a Lose-Lose for Abbas
Maintaining security cooperation with the Israel while Palestinians are being killed in large numbers would be political suicide

··  The Sino-American Rivalry Needs Guardrails to Contain Small Incidents
With luck, the balloon affair will not escalate, but something like it could

··  Why Giorgia Meloni Won’t Distance Herself from Italy’s Fascist Past
The Italian prime minister is proudly defending her party’s extremist predecessor

Why I Worry About Israeli Democracy  (Amichai Magen, Persuasion)
After just eighteen months in opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu is back. In December, he managed to secure a majority coalition in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, allowing him to become prime minister for a record sixth time. 
Netanyahu now leads the most religious, far-right government in Israel’s history; alongside his own Likud party—which Netanyahu has effectively stuffed with sycophantic loyalists—the new coalition is composed of two ultra-Orthodox parties and three nationalist-religious populist parties. The head of one of the parties once described himself as a “proud homophobe”; another has a conviction for racial incitement against Arabs.
Having won on promises to “restore governance” and end the political instability that saw Israel go through five rounds of national elections since April 2019, the new government has already brought the country to the brink: Israel’s mild-mannered president, Isaac Herzog, recently described the situation as an “historic constitutional crisis” and “a profound disagreement that is tearing our nation apart.” Political battle lines have been drawn across a range of issues—from Israel’s educational system to its public broadcasting service and the extent of political intervention in normally-apolitical police and military affairs. 
Nothing, however, has been more contentious than a plan to “reform” the judicial system. A bill proposed by Minister of Justice Yariv Levin, a prominent Netanyahu ally, would effectively do away with the separation of powers by allowing a bare majority in the Knesset to override court decisions, limiting judicial review of legislation, and ensuring that future judicial appointments are dominated by the government. These changes, together with other proposals like restructuring the Attorney General’s office, could also help insulate Netanyahu from the criminal charges he is facing of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. To a range of prominent Israelis from across the political spectrum, these proposals pose a clear and present danger to Israeli democracy. 

EU to Launch Platform to Fight Russian, Chinese Disinformation  (Clothide Goujard,
The European Union will launch a new platform to counter disinformation campaigns by Russia and China amid growing worries, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said today.
A so-called Information Sharing and Analysis Center within the EU’s foreign services —the European External Action Service (EEAS) — will seek to track information manipulation by foreign actors and coordinate with the 27 EU countries and the wider community of NGOs.