Today's D Brief: Bibi's twist of fate; Afghan evac ‘options’; Service chiefs on sex-assault justice; POTUS’ Euro trip; And a bit more.
Bye, bye, Bibi? Israel is amid a “major political shake-up” and could see its first new prime minister since 2009. According to a deal struck Wednesday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals, 49-year-old military veteran and tech millionaire Naftali Bennett is poised to replace Bibi in the coming weeks. And that’s part of a plan that, after two years, would see Bennett swap posts with the likely new foreign minister Yair Lapid, head of a leading centrist party.
Worth noting: Netanyahu is “the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history and a dominant figure who has pushed his nation’s politics to the right,” the New York Times reminds us.
Bigger picture: “If the government is sworn in within the next two weeks, Mr. Netanyahu would cede power to the most diverse coalition in Israel’s history, including an independent Arab party for the first time,” the Wall Street Journal reports, noting, “Netanyahu can still try to undo the coalition deal in this period by convincing enough right-wing lawmakers to vote against the new government.” And it’s too soon to know if that outcome will materialize.
What we know of Bennett: The Daily Beast calls him a “nationalist right-winger” who first entered politics just 10 years ago — and his first gig was to serve as Netanyahu’s chief of staff. To some Israelis, “he is a fickle politician, an anti-Arab ultra-nationalist, and a pro-annexation extremist unafraid of ruffling feathers abroad,” according to TDB. But for others, “he’s a rational man who doesn’t mind copping to his own mistakes in public.”
One of his 2013 campaign posters read: “There are certain things that most of us understand will never happen: ‘The Sopranos’ are not coming back for another season…and there will never be a peace plan with the Palestinians.”
And Israeli lawmakers elected their 11th president on Wednesday: Isaac Herzog, a 60-year-old with deep family roots in Israeli politics, according to the Associated Press. “His father, Chaim Herzog, was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations before being elected president,” AP writes. “His uncle, Abba Eban, was Israel’s first foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations and United States.” And that’s not all: his grandfather was Rabbi Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, Israel’s first chief rabbi.
The view from 1600 Pennsylvania: “Throughout his career, President-elect Herzog has demonstrated his unwavering commitment to strengthening Israel’s security, advancing dialogue, and building bridges across the global Jewish community,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement. “I am confident that under his presidency, the partnership between Israel and the United States will continue to grow and deepen.”
Up next: Herzog will be sworn into his seven-year term in the largely ceremonial position on July 9. The Guardian has a bit more on Herzog, here.
And before we leave the region: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called up Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday. The two talked about the war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and “the U.S. commitment to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory and people,” according to a readout from the Pentagon. Read more here.
From Defense One
Austin Asks Top General For ‘Options’ to Evacuate Afghans // Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher: Operation would need authorization from White House, which is not yet “actively pursuing” the idea.
Libya’s UAV Strike Should Galvanize Efforts to Do Something About Autonomous Weapons // Arthur Holland Michel : Thorny definitional questions aren’t going to get easier, but the time to settle them has come.
US Army, UMD Form AI Partnership // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: Five-year effort will launch with 18 projects focused on AI, autonomy, and modeling and simulation.
NIH Director: We Need an Investigation Into the Wuhan Lab-Leak Theory // Peter Wehner, The Atlantic: Francis Collins calls for a “thorough, expert-driven, and objective” inquiry, and shares what most surprised him about the virus.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1989, Chinese troops began violently enforcing martial law overnight in Beijing and, in particular, around its main Tiananmen Square — where students and protesters had gathered for nearly a month and a half of pro-democracy demonstrations. The violent crackdown is believed to have killed as many as 10,000 people, according to a British diplomatic telegram sent less than two days later.
SecDef Austin has asked CENTCOM for “options” to protect Afghan interpreters. “With time running out, the Pentagon is still developing plans to evacuate Afghans whose lives would be in danger from the Taliban after U.S. forces depart—but there’s still no order from the White House to move anyone, yet,” Defense One’s Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher reported Wednesday. “To prepare, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has tasked the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, to develop options for those Afghans that includes the possibility of evacuating them, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday.” More, here.
The White House has locked down POTUS46’s European trip itinerary, a seven-day swing that will bring him first to the UK for a G-7 meeting, then to Brussels for both a NATO and an EU summit. Then Biden is off to Switzerland for his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Read more from the White House’s announcement here.
And we still welcome your questions and concerns when it comes to the future of European and NATO security. Drop us a line here.
Military service chiefs are pushing back on lawmakers’ proposal to remove sexual-assault cases from the chain of command. According to AP, “In memos to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the service leaders laid out their concerns about the growing push to shift prosecution decisions on sexual assault and possibly other major crimes to independent judge advocates. They said the shift could decrease the number of prosecutions, delay cases and potentially provide less help for victims.” Continue reading, here.
RAND says lesbian, gay, and bisexual troops are sexually assaulted more frequently than their heterosexual colleagues: “Much of the focus of research on sexual assault in the military has been on the risk faced by women. However, in civilian populations, individuals who identify as LGB are known to be at especially high risk for sexual assault,” the report’s authors write after sifting through Defense Department data collected in 2016 and 2018.
In perspective: “Service members who identify as LGB or who do not indicate that they identify as heterosexual represented only 12 percent of the active component population in 2018, but accounted for approximately 43 percent of all sexually assaulted service members in that year,” according to the report. More to all that, here.
Former SEAL Rep. Dan Crenshaw wants your “woke military” complaints, so he and fellow Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas have created a website to field them. Unfortunately for the staffers who have to sort through the complaints, satirical responses have flooded the site, according to the Washington Post.
Some of the responses feature movie quotes from films like “A Few Good Men” and “Stripes.” Read on for more.
- Related reading: “As a vet spoke about Memorial Day’s roots in Black history, his mic was cut. It was no accident.” (via WaPo)
And finally today: “Fully-autonomous” electric boats could soon ferry passengers and tourists around some of the Dutch’s busiest waterways, AP reports from Amsterdam, where small vessels called “Roboats” are being developed.
About these things: “The Roboats have orange propellers and four thrusters that are powered by an electric battery,” AP reports. “They can go about 4 mph (6 kph) and can run for 12-24 hours, depending on the battery type and cargo load.”
Said one of the engineers: “Right now we have the autonomy in place, but one of the next steps is to make sure that we can actually handle any kind of situation that we might encounter in the canals.” And for that reason, officials are expecting at least two more years of developmental testing before the technology will be widely available in Amsterdam. Continue reading here.
ICYMI: Japanese auto-maker Toyota is building its own test “city” for robots on a 175-acre portion of land where a factory used to be (see an artist’s conception here). The place is called “Woven City,” and in early 2020, Toyota released a short video to promote the effort.
Why is Toyota doing this? Given the pace of technological change, the company has calculated that a “shift from an automobile manufacturer to a mobility company” is in its best interests moving forward. And “Woven City” will help Toyota “bring new technology to life in a real-world environment across a wide range of areas, such as automated driving, personal mobility, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI).” The ultimate goal, Toyota’s PR team says, is to “create an environment where inventions with the potential to solve social issues are created on a timely basis.” Read more here.