Israel, Palestine: Moment of truce.
Also: Ukraine, the US, COP 28, France and Vietnam.
ISRAEL. PALESTINE. Moment of truce.
An extended pause indicates both sides’ weaknesses.
A truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended by another two days, Qatar said on Monday. More hostages were expected to be released on Tuesday, Israel's Army Radio said, after 11 Israelis were returned from Gaza on Monday.
INTELLIGENCE. The extension of the pause contradicts claims Benjamin Netanyahu must prolong the fighting to prolong his government, or that Hamas must keep the hostages to retain limited leverage. Bigger interests are at play, beyond the obvious humanitarian implications. Israel’s economy can ill afford a long war and US patience is depleting. Hamas’s backers in Qatar are also applying pressure, and its allies have not meaningfully joined the fight.
FOR BUSINESS. The war won’t end suddenly but the progress on hostages is positive. Israel has otherwise split Gaza in two and while Hamas may endure as an ideology, its durability as an entity has been dealt a critical blow. There is still no clear ‘day after’ scenario in view – Israeli occupation would be unfeasible, as would a population transfer to Egypt – but left-field ideas are being pitched, from a UN mission led by Tony Blair, to reconstruction led by Elon Musk.
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UKRAINE. UNITED STATES. Moment of deuce.
The stage is set for Kyiv’s most important battle.
House Speaker Mike Johnson said Monday he was "confident and optimistic" Congress could agree funding for Israel and Ukraine but any package for the latter must come with border reforms. The Senate has pledged a vote next week.
INTELLIGENCE. For as long as Republicans tie Ukraine to border policies, agreement on either looks unlikely. Ukraine without strings would cause a revolt in the Freedom Caucus. The border measures Republicans want are anathema to the Democratic left. Such unease might normally be ignored by the White House – particularly as most voters want tough controls – but Biden needs to get out the base in an election year and they’re already upset with him on Israel.
FOR BUSINESS. Even if Kyiv gets more money from Congress, the weapons such funds would buy are in short supply. The Czech Republic on Sunday admitted it had no more arms to give after legislators made promises the day before. US ground-launched munitions – the type in lowest supply – are being pledged to the Pacific. Following the election of Geert Wilders, a possible change in policy in the Netherlands on supplying F-16s could further limit NATO’s options.
With the brevity of a media digest, but the depth of an intelligence assessment, Daily Assessment goes beyond the news to outline the implications.
CLIMATE. UNITED STATES. COP out.
Biden won’t attend the UN’s climate jamboree. It won’t matter.
Joe Biden will not attend the UN’s 28th Conference of the Parties on climate, officials said Sunday. The annual summit, which begins in Dubai on Thursday, will bring together tens of thousands of delegates from around 200 countries.
INTELLIGENCE. Biden is right not to attend, though a meeting scheduled the same day with oil-rich Angola may look awkward. Few major outcomes are expected at this year’s COP and other key players aren’t going. Russia's energy minister will be in Pakistan. Xi Jinping will be at home. For those who will attend, leaked agendas suggest meetings will be held on new oil and gas deals. Everyone may agree climate change is urgent, but so is ongoing energy supply.
FOR BUSINESS. Many will blame COP’s failure on the UAE, but the host has real credentials in renewables and exorcising oil is unrealistic. The true failure is that of multilateralism, which with the return of great power politics is unable to bring solutions in a range of areas, from peacekeeping to trade to technology. The UN Secretary-General’s visit to Antarctica to sell COP’s agenda got headlines (and carbon credits), but he won’t be returning from the cold.
FRANCE. La question profonde.
Another teenage killing reignites France’s culture wars.
Paris urged calm on Monday after the murder of a teenager at a village festival in the rural southeast sparked far-right protests on the weekend. Emmanuel Macron's spokesman visited the town, warning against vigilantism.
INTELLIGENCE. French media largely adheres to the national policy of laïcité (secularism), with ethnic and religious details avoided in crime reporting, but the killing of a French boy and the stabbing of dozens more by migrant-background gangs – who allegedly visited the town to “kill white people” – has caused uproar in the so-called ‘France Profonde’ of small towns and conservative views. Fresh from ethnic riots mid-year, Macron must walk a tight path.
FOR BUSINESS. Macron must avoid the tepid response of Ireland’s prime minister to similar events, which has only added fuel to the fire (coupled with his description of a 9-year-old Hamas hostage as being “lost”), but likewise he can’t risk alienating France’s Muslim minority, already upset by his reaction to pro-Palestine protests. And if centrists can’t resolve the tensions, voters will turn to the populist right, as has been shown in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
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VIETNAM. Friend to all.
Hanoi continues to balance its ties, for now.
Japan's prime minister hosted Vietnam's president on Monday, where they agreed to strengthen security cooperation. Vietnam's prime minister hosted China's commerce minister on Saturday, where they agreed to deepen trade links.
INTELLIGENCE. As with Joe Biden’s visit in September, behind every red-carpet announcement is another one with a rival player. Vietnam has ‘comprehensive strategic partnerships’ with virtually all the region’s key powers and just as it is finishing a deal with the G7 to obtain loans to reduce coal use, it is considering building a dry port in Russia's Primorsky region to import more of the fossil fuel. Vietnam has also been getting closer to India and Indonesia.
FOR BUSINESS. Vietnam’s history dictates it must balance interests with everyone, but at some stage someone will get jealous. Its economy also favours an ecumenical approach, but a raft of free trade agreements – including an offer pitched to China to support its entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership – could soon begin to diminish its competitive advantages, as it moves up the value chain into advanced manufacturing and its labour costs increase.