TL(PM) DIGEST: Israel on the Brink
Plus protests in France, a stalled Russian offensive in Ukraine, and the latest Trump/DeSantis drama
Editor’s note: Today marks the inaugural edition of TL(PM) DIGEST in conjunction with The Liberal Patriot’s expansion from a part-time newsletter to full-time online publication and non-profit organization.
The goal with this evening digest is to present a concise overview of important developments in the United States and around the globe as seen through TLP’s “strong at home, strong in the world” and “pro-worker, pro-family, pro-America” perspectives.
There is no set style or content envisioned for TL(PM) DIGEST. Some days might include a focus on a single major news development at home or globally and others might include a mix. We will also try to lighten up the end of the day with some cultural features given our interests in books, music, and dogs.
Hope you enjoy the new digest and please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with any feedback or suggestions.
1. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis take to the streets after Bibi sacks his defense minister
What happened? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired the Defense Minister Yoav Gallant over the weekend after Gallant announced opposition to Netanyahu’s immediate plans to remake the country’s judicial system (now temporarily paused for roughly a month), prompting hundreds of thousands of Israelis to take to the streets while the country’s main labor union, the Histadrut, called a general strike that shut down Israel’s main international airport.
Why does it matter? Netanyahu’s moves strike at the heart of the Israeli judiciary’s independence, clearing the way for him and his hard-right coalition to stack the country’s high court with political appointees that would presumably rule in their favor on a wide range of issues—including corruption charges against Netanyahu himself. The Middle East Institute’s Nimrod Goren reports from Jerusalem that this weekend’s protests are different from earlier mass demonstrations:
…the sense today near the Knesset is a different one—more optimistic, energetic, and determined. The turnout is bigger, powerful national institutions have joined the struggle during the last 24 hours, and concrete political wins are becoming evident. The sense of accomplishment—even if partial to date—is clearly present on the streets, but it is mixed with growing concern of potential right-wing violence… and a Netanyahu counter-move.
TLP’s take: The political crisis in Israel has entered a new and dangerous phase, with Bibi apparently willing to risk Israel’s national security, democracy, and basic domestic stability—to the point where Israeli officials and political leaders openly warn of civil war—in order to save his own skin. But it also offers liberal forces within Israel a chance to revive themselves with a political narrative and movement in favor of a more inclusive liberal nationalism after a quarter-century of gradual decline and political self-marginalization.
2. France descends into chaos over Macron’s pension reforms
What happened? French citizens continue to take to the streets to protest—and burn trash cans and smash windows—in opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s less-than-democratic circumventing of the parliament to raise the country’s pension age from 62 to 64. (For comparison, Americans gain full access to their Social Security benefits at age 67.)
Why does it matter? Although Macron’s use of Article 49.3 of the French constitution to pass the pension changes without a majority vote from parliament is legal, it is far from popular and faces challenges getting backing from French citizens. What started out as widespread protest about the pension change alone is now a wholesale revolt against the French president and his methods of governance.
TLP’s take: American democracy sure has its stress points and executive abuses, but the U.S. president can’t unilaterally circumvent the Congress to make critical policy changes—or else the administration ends up in front of the courts for review and possible reversal. Macron’s changes still have to clear France’s constitutional council so perhaps these changes may be stopped. Americans might think it’s weird to burn your own living quarters over changes to one of the most generous social welfare systems in the world, but the French are different and don’t like these kinds of moves. Macron certainly is right to worry about the finances of the French pension system. Now, he would be wise to listen to genuine voices of dissent and try to calm matters before they spiral further out of control and threaten French democracy itself.
3. Russia’s winter offensive sputters out in Bakhmut
What happened? The Ukrainian military and Western intelligence services believe that Russia’s vaunted winter military offensive in Bakhmut is nearing its end—with the contested town remaining in Ukrainian hands despite heavy losses on both sides.
Why does it matter? Russia now has little to show for its recent offensive despite heavy losses in manpower and material, while Ukraine has once again proven itself able to hold off Russian attacks. Kyiv has lost experienced troops and expended prodigious quantities of scarce ammunition, but the Ukrainian military is receiving fresh infusions of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery, and other equipment ahead of an anticipated spring offensive.
TLP’s take: Continued Russian military failures show that Ukraine can win this war—if it’s given the necessary means to do so by the United States and its NATO allies. Military analysts and strategists predict that the coming Ukrainian offensive will be hard going given prepared Russian defensive lines, and it’s important to be prepared for setbacks once Kyiv launches its offensive in the coming months. But that’s all the more reason for the United States and its allies to remain stalwart in their support for Ukraine and its cause.
4. Did DeSantis have a bad political week? Or was it Trump?
What happened? Former president, and now presidential-candidate, Donald Trump, held a bizarre therapy session/campaign rally in Waco, Texas this past weekend. Trump decried the usual suspects in fake media, the judicial system, the Republican and Democratic parties, the deep state, and the Ron “DeSanctimonious” camp for not offering him adequate praise in making America great again.
DeSantis, in turn, took additional knocks from Republican elites for his ill-advised comments on Ukraine and continued his passive-aggressive “I’m not running for president—yet” method of going after Trump’s tawdry and chaotic character without calling him out by name.
Why does it matter? The presidential election season is an interminable mess that encourages the worst tendencies in most people running for office—and their supporters. Buckle up for an insane next few months as Trump and DeSantis likely battle it out for primary supremacy.
DeSantis may be the choice of college-educated and elite Republicans—and is probably a better head-to-head match-up with President Biden—but Trump still dominates with the party’s working-class base.
TLP’s take: Don’t pay attention to presidential primary polls in March a year ahead of the voting. Trump has a strong base of support and many internal strengths. But the race isn’t even engaged fully yet. And with Trump—who knows what will happen next?
Just one more thing…
Learn how mild-mannered Zen-everyman Keanu Reeves, “the black Lab of movie stars,” became an on-screen killing machine—and a fan-favorite Hollywood elder statesman.