Israel has sworn in the most far-right government in its 74-year history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who begins an unprecedented sixth term as prime minister. The new government includes ultranationalist and ultraorthodox parties that are calling openly for the annexation of the West Bank. A document listing the new government’s policies includes a pledge to build settlements in occupied Palestinian lands. It reads, “The Jewish people has an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel.”
In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority said Israel’s new government poses an existential threat to the Palestinian people. This is Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh: “We passed through many extremist governments, but this government is the most extremist. This government is the most threatening. This government is the most insolent. And I know for a fact that the international community will not deal with many members of this government, therefore, to us, we are against all the governments that practice killing and oppression on our people.”
President Biden has congratulated Benjamin Netanyahu on his return to power, saying he looks forward to working with Israel’s new government. In a statement released Thursday, Biden referred to Netanyahu as his “friend for decades,” adding, “the United States will continue to support the two state solution and to oppose policies that endanger its viability or contradict our mutual interests and values.” Biden’s statement did not mention Israel’s illegal settlements and ignored concerns over the new government’s far-right ultrareligious and ultranationalist members.
The United Nations has halted some of its humanitarian aid operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban imposed a ban on female workers at nongovernmental organizations. The U.N.’s humanitarian aid coordinator in Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, said Thursday the ban has immediate life-threatening consequences for all Afghans.
Ramiz Alakbarov: “Humanitarian needs of the people are absolutely enormous, and it’s important that we continue to stay and deliver. As we do so, it’s equally important that the rights of women and girls, of which we are so much talking these days, are absolutely preserved and protected.”
Ukraine’s military says it shot down a swarm of 16 drones launched by Russia overnight against targets in Kyiv. The latest attack on Ukraine’s capital came after Russia launched one of its heaviest waves of missile strikes of the 10-month-old war. This is a 79-year-old Kyiv resident who narrowly escaped injury after his home was destroyed on Thursday.
Leonid Padkurin: “I have no words for what to call it. As they say, war is war, and things happen. But this is not war; it’s a crime against humanity.”
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said military leaders were looking at attacking railway lines, bridges and tunnels across Ukraine in an effort to cut off the flow of weapons and ammunition sent by Ukraine’s allies.
Belarus summoned the Ukrainian ambassador on Thursday and demanded Kyiv carry out a full investigation, after a Ukrainian air defense missile crashed in a field in Belarus. Belarus is a staunch ally of Russia and has allowed its territory to be used as a staging ground for Russian attacks; the incident has heightened fears that Belarus could be drawn into a direct conflict with Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he expects Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Moscow in the spring during a video conference today between the two heads of state.
In Italy, the far-right government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is cracking down on charity vessels that rescue asylum seekers at sea. Among other things, a new decree seeks to prevent the ships from carrying out multiple unplanned rescues during a single mission. Charities violating the new rules could be fined and their ships impounded. Over 100,000 asylum seekers have disembarked in Italy over the past year, according to government data.
Brazil’s President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva finalized his Cabinet appointments Thursday ahead of his January 1 inauguration. Amazon rainforest defender and Goldman Prize winner Marina Silva was chosen as Brazil’s environmental minister. Silva held the post in Lula’s previous two terms in office, during which Amazon deforestation slowed significantly. Indigenous land and water defender Sônia Guajajara was named Brazil’s first-ever minister for Indigenous peoples. Lula also nominated Black activist, journalist and educator Anielle Franco as Brazil’s new minister of racial equality. She’s the sister of Marielle Franco, who was a human rights and racial justice activist and member of Rio de Janeiro’s City Council, before she was assassinated in 2018.
Ahead of Lula’s swearing-in Sunday, the Brazilian Supreme Court temporarily banned registered gun owners from carrying their firearms in the capital Brasília until after the inauguration ceremony. The move comes amid rising concerns of violence from the far right and supporters of defeated President Jair Bolsonaro. Brazilian police on Thursday arrested at least four people and carried out nationwide raids as they investigated an alleged coup attempt led by backers of Bolsonaro who’ve refused to accept Lula’s victory. Bolsonaro has yet to concede.
Brazil has begun three days of mourning over the death of Brazilian soccer legend Pelé, known as the king of football. Pelé died Thursday in São Paulo due to complications from colon cancer and COVID-19. He was 82 years old. Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pelé is the only soccer player to have won three World Cup tournaments, the first in 1958 when Pelé rose to international fame at the age of 17. Brazil declared him a national treasure. Pelé also won 10 league titles with his club team, Santos, and is credited with popularizing soccer in the United States when he played for the New York Cosmos in the 1970s. Pelé was born in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais in 1940. Brazil’s incoming President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said on Twitter, “Few Brazilians took the name of our country as far as he did.” We’ll have more on Pelé’s life and legacy after headlines.
South Korea has carried out military drills after it failed to intercept North Korean drones that crossed into its airspace Monday. This is South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.
President Yoon Suk-yeol: “The intrusion of North Korean drones in our airspace is an intolerable act. Many people were worried and concerned. We should let North Korea learn that provocations are always met by harsh consequences.”
South Korea will require travelers arriving from China to submit a negative COVID-19 test amid China’s worsening surge. This comes after India, Italy, Taiwan and the U.S. also imposed new testing requirements on travelers from China. But health authorities say such measures do little to stop the spread of COVID, and critics say the travel restrictions are being used as a diplomatic weapon and could further fuel anti-Asian hate.
Here in New York, the first legal recreational cannabis dispensary opened its doors to the public on Thursday at 4:20 p.m. The Housing Works Cannabis Company dispensary in Manhattan is run by a nonprofit serving people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as unhoused and formerly incarcerated people. Chris Alexander, the executive director of New York State’s newly formed Office of Cannabis Management, was the dispensary’s first-ever customer.
Chris Alexander: “One of the key priorities was always, you know, addressing the criminal consequences that exist. It stemmed from marijuana prohibition and its disproportionate enforcement, but also access. Right? And access to a plant that is medicine for so many, particularly in the HIV and AIDS community, as well.”