It was quite a surprising week in the Middle East. With the Israeli elections just days away, it looks as though everyone’s predictions will be wrong. In the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, this week featured one of the most odd political phenomenon’s of the year. Finally, in Iraq, an interesting coalition of forces is teaming up, rather successfully, against the Islamic State. Here’s what you need to know from last week:

Israeli Elections

ShowImageTuesday is the big day, and the question everyone is asking is: Will Benjamin Netanyahu be Prime Minister? A few weeks ago, that wasn’t even a question, but three things happened this week that completely changed the landscape of the race:

  1. The highly controversial speech Netanyahu gave before Congress was, as far as the campaign is concerned, a bust. It doesn’t seem like it helped him at all with Israeli voters.
  2. Likud, the current ruling party, may lose, and by a pretty wide margin. Current polls have the left-wing Zionist Union leading by as many as four seats. And Netanyahu is getting a bit worried.
  3. Most importantly: The Arab parties – who for the first time have joined together to form one political party – are doing incredibly well, and have signaled that they may consider joining a coalition with the left-wing parties if it means keeping Netanyahu out of the Prime Minister’s office. It was previously believed that that would never happen.

Iran’s Nuclear Program

We knew Republicans in Congress were not happy about the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, but nearly everyone was surprised when 47 Senators sent a letter to the Iranians, just reminding them that any deal struck by President Obama is not legally binding (which is technically true). The clear subversion of presidential authority caused some to argue the letter may actually be criminal, while the odd phenomenon of Republicans agreeing with Iranian hardliners caused some of the letter’s signers to backtrack. And it was quite odd to listen to the Ayatollah rag on American politics.

Iraq’s Fight Against the Islamic State

Out of nowhere, yesterday’s headlines included the striking story coming out of Iraq, where an interesting coalition of Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed militiamen have nearly retaken the small city of Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein that was taken over by the Islamic State. According to some reports, this operation was essentially a test-run for what is to come next: the recapturing of Mosul, the largest city controlled by IS. Despite these and many other setbacks, however, IS still seems to be going strong.

Looking Ahead

It will be interesting to see if the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal continues to dominate the headlines, and if voters care (by the way, this Saturday Night Live skit was hilarious). We will be covering the Israeli elections closely – the outcome of which could have an enormous impact on U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Weekend Reads

The New York Times has two great reads this weekend: one by Mark Leibovich about the interesting ways politicians go about changing their minds, and one about some new, ground-breaking evidence that shows there might be more water in space than we thought. And I bet you didn’t know this: According to a new book, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook apparently offered his liver to a dying Steve Jobs. He declined…