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News In Focus: A Look At This Week’s Most Interesting Stories

Middle East: Israel’s incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led his Likud party to a surprising victory in the county’s elections on Tuesday.

The result is unexpected because national polls have been suggesting that the Likud was trailing behind Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union by at least four seats.  But it turned out that Likud won 30 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s unicameral parliament, versus 24 by the Zionist Union.

“Bibi the Magician”, as Netanyahu is known for his formidable electoral skills in the 1990s, has been criticized for trying to swing votes to his favor using scare tactics while posturing himself as the protector of Israel.  Netanyahu also upset his U.S. and European allies by declaring his opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state, and in doing so repudiated a position he has taken since 2009.

The PM will form his government within the coming two to three weeks. Pundits expect the new coalition government will comprise nationalist and religious parties.

If Netanyahu manages to keep his premiership for the fourth term, he will be the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, overtaking founding father David Ben-Gurion.

The BBC lays out several problems facing Netanyahu in the days and months ahead:

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Asia: The White House expressed open displeasure at the UK’s decision to become a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The US$50 billion bank was launched by China in 2014 to spur investment in Asia in transportation, energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure, under China’s terms.

The U.S. sees AIIB as China’s version of the western-dominated World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and a way for the country to extend its soft power in the region.

Additionally, Washington officials have questioned whether the Beijing-backed institution will maintain the prudent practices and governance standards set by the World Bank.

Nevertheless, many American allies have turned a deaf ear.

Already Germany, France and Italy joined the UK.  Even Australia, who initially was opposed to joining the institution, is reconsidering its position.

Only Japan – who possesses a lead role in the Asia Development Bank — remains steadfast on the U.S.’s side.

Columnist Liam Halligan further explores the issue with Going Underground host Afshin Rattans:

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Literary: This week we remember popular fantasy English novelist, Sir Terry Pratchett, who died earlier this month at the age of 66.

The novelist died peacefully at his home, accompanied by his family and his sleeping cat, after a long battle against a rare case of Alzheimer’s.

A prolific writer of 70 books, Sir Pratchett wrote mostly about witches and wizards in the setting of his imaginary Discworld — a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stand on the back of a giant turtle, the Great A’Tuin.

Born on April 28 1948, Terry Pratchett was an avid reader of H.G.  Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle and he’s said to have developed a passion for Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

Sir Pratchett began his literary career at a fairly tender age of 23 when he published his first novel in 1971 while being a journalist for the local Bucks Free Press.  His first of the 40-volume Discworld novels, The Colour of Magic, was released in 1983.  The series defines Sir Pratchett as one of Britain’s best-loved writers, and the Discworld novels were, at a time, close rivals to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter fictions.

Sir Terry Pratchet is survived by his wife Lyn and daughter Rhianna.

Readers should not miss Nail Gaiman’s remembrance of the famed writer, and his article in the Guardian.

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Vatican: The 78-year-old Argentine Pope Francis again surprised his congregation last Friday by prophesying the end of his papacy in two or three years’ time.

The Pope hinted at his early retirement during an interview with Mexican television while marking the second anniversary of the start of his papacy.

The Catholic tradition is for the Pope to remain in his position for life.  But this tradition was broken when Pope Benedict XVI resigned in 2013.  Pope Francis left open the option that he may follow Benedict XVI’s footsteps.

The Pope has previous examples of proclaiming his own demise.  On 19 April last year, while addressing journalists on his return from a visit to South Korea, the pontiff said he might only have “two or three” years to live.

But it seems the Pope has something to look forward to after his retirement from the Holy See.

“The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognised, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza,”  he said.

For more on the story, here’s ABC News:

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Image Of Discworld Courtesy of Photobank Gallery/ Shutterstock.com