The Weekly Rundown: Hong Kong Unrest, Israel's Political Struggles and Ethiopia's Hopes and Challenges

5 MINS READNov 16, 2019 | 14:00 GMT
This photo shows a protester in Hong Kong throwing a Molotov cocktail to stop vehicles from passing through a barricade beneath a bridge at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Nov. 15, 2019.

A protester throws a Molotov cocktail to stop vehicles from passing through a barricade beneath a bridge at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on Nov. 15, 2019.

(DALE DE LA REY/AFP via Getty Images)

On the Record

Just as nations sought freedom from the iron grip of the Soviet system, we are bearing witness to aspirations in both Hong Kong and Taiwan which require our reconsideration of the commitments we made under the one-country, two-systems model.

Robin Cleveland, vice chair of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission

What We're Tracking

Week Ahead: Escalations in Hong Kong. The situation in Hong Kong has entered a new, more violent phase, but the worst may be yet to come. Increasingly intense clashes between protesters and the police as well as sustained transportation and business disruptions have become a new normal for the city and are likely to delay district elections, at least in some areas, scheduled for Nov. 24. As the violence surrounding anti-government protests escalates, the possibility of a harsher security crackdown by Hong Kong authorities increases — and the more pressing the question becomes of how much Beijing is willing to tolerate.

Nov. 17: Parliamentary Elections in Belarus. Voters in Belarus go to the polls Nov. 17 to elect members of parliament's lower chamber, the House of Representatives, which is firmly controlled by parties loyal to longtime President Aleksandr Lukashenko. The opposition holds just two of 110 seats in the current parliament and while that number could increase despite many opposition candidates being kept off the ballot, it will be nowhere near a level needed to challenge government control. Lukashenko has courted the European Union and the United States in recent years as their relations with Russia have grown more tense.

Nov. 20: Benny Gantz's Mandate Runs Out in Israel. Benny Gantz, leader of Israel's main opposition party, has until Nov. 20 to form a government out of the disparate factions of Israel's fractured Knesset. If he fails, he'll have to hand the mandate back to the country's president, who will either choose yet another candidate to try to form a government — an unlikely move, since incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already tried and failed — or move Israel toward a third national election in less than year, a growing possibility. Backroom, last-minute deals are always possible, but Gantz's odds of cobbling together a coalition before the deadline aren't good, and Israel's main political parties seem to be positioning themselves to blame their opponents for causing another election.

Nov. 23: Japan-South Korea Intel-Sharing Pact Expires. The United States is foundering in its efforts to salvage a bilateral intelligence-sharing agreement between Japan and South Korea that helps undergird cooperation between its key Pacific allies. South Korea shows every sign of sticking to its plan to leave the pact when it expires next week unless Japan lifts trade restrictions on key exports. But Japan wants South Korea to first renounce the claims to wartime compensation that sparked this trade row. We'll be watching to see whether the United States can foster a last-minute deal to decouple the broader strategic concerns from this bilateral friction point.

Recommended Reading

A Make-or-Break Moment Nears for Ethiopia's Political Transformation
On a continent where authoritarian leaders still abound, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has given rise to hopes that Ethiopia might soon become Africa's next big success story. As part of his liberalization efforts, Abiy confirmed in October that Ethiopia will hold elections next May. But there are concerns that Abiy's ambitious reform agenda and Ethiopia's budding democracy will crumble beneath the weight of hard-line regionalism and the ethnic violence that is expected to surge as competing groups clash for power ahead of next year's vote.

Israel Dangles Cooperation, Rather Than Land, in Pursuit of Peace
New times call for new ideas. Where Israel once traded conquered land for peace, it's now betting it can leverage its technology, intelligence and military assets to gain (more) acceptance in the neighborhood. This transactional approach will earn Israel warmer relations with some countries, but it's unlikely to achieve full peace treaties without a resolution to the Palestinian question. And if regional hostility to Iran weakens, Israel could find itself again looking for a new way to earn regional acceptance.

Lessons From the Past for Trump's Transactional Foreign Policy
Stratfor contributor Ian Morris sees intriguing parallels but key differences between President Donald Trump's transactional foreign policy and the transactionalism of 18th-century Britain. "American leaders might want to pay attention to Britain's earlier experiment with transactionalism," Morris writes, "if they are to avoid paying all the same costs without reaping any of the same benefits."

Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 Remains a Hard Sell
With the U.S. Congress now less likely to impose sanctions over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, investors are better able to weigh the pros and cons of pouring money into Saudi Arabia. But they remain wary of new risks, from a potential war with Iran to the shortcomings of Saudi policymaking to the kingdom's human rights record. As a result, Saudi Arabia will struggle over the next decade to fulfill its ambitious Vision 2030 reform initiative.

What a New Commission Means for EU Policy
European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has outlined an ambitious policy agenda that focuses on defending the European Union's interests amid growing competition among global powers. Whether von der Leyen and her team of new commissioners will manage to follow through on her plans once they take office next month will prove a different story, as they'll be forced to work within the confines of a fragmented European Union and a gloomy economic forecast.

Stratfor Talks

In the latest episode of the Stratfor podcast, Artyom Lukin, an associate professor of international relations at Russia's Far Eastern Federal University, discusses how Russia and China's escalating rivalry with the United States is bringing Moscow and Beijing closer together — and what their growing economic, military and political ties may mean for the West.

Visit our podcasts page for more conversations on geopolitics and world affairs with Stratfor's analysts, editors and contributors.

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