Plan Bibi: stalemate suits Netanyahu

48 min listen

Welcome to a slightly new format for the Edition podcast! Each week we will be talking about the magazine – as per usual – but trying to give a little more insight into the process behind putting The Spectator to bed each week. On the podcast this week: plan Bibi In the early hours of Friday morning, Benjamin Netanyahu leaked his ‘Day after Hamas’ plan for post-war Gaza. But the plan is not a plan, writes Anshel Pfeffer – it is just a set of vague principles that do not stand up to the slightest scrutiny. Its sole purpose is rather to keep the ministers of Netanyahu’s fragile cabinet together to ensure

Why Latvia is expelling its Russian speakers

Riga, Latvia At the age of 74, Inessa Novikova, who is ethnically Russian, was told she had to learn Latvian or she’d be deported. ‘I felt physically ill when the policy was announced,’ she tells me when we meet in an office close to Riga’s city centre. ‘I’ve lived here peacefully for 20 years.’ There was no requirement for her to seek Latvian citizenship after the Cold War ended. Then, it was acknowledged that ethnic Russians, who make up a quarter of Latvia’s 1.8 million population, would co-exist with ethnic Latvians. But when Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, this arrangement ended. If Latvia’s ‘non-citizens’ had Russian citizenship, as Inessa did, they now

Is this where world war three starts?

Daugavpils You can tell quite a bit about a place by the number of national flags on display. One or two on public buildings here and there is a healthy genuflection to a moderate and comfortable patriotism. But groups of the same national flag every five paces, on every building and festooning the parks and boulevards – well, there’s something going on, isn’t there? You’re in a place where trouble is surely just around the corner, a place where the national authorities may not feel entirely secure. What sort of trouble? Well, one wouldn’t want to be over-dramatic, obvs, but in this particular case, world war three. The Russian invasion

Latvia is alive with song again

Every five years Latvia stages a week-long song and dance festival and this year my wife’s Latvian cousins got us tickets to two of the biggest events. I had no idea what to expect. The first evening, in a vast open-air arena in the Mezaparks forest outside Riga, while the light faded behind the tall pines, we watched a 10,000-strong choir dressed in varied costumes – the men in cream or grey flared frock coats and black boots, the women in flower crowns, tartan shawls and striped skirts – as they sang traditional songs. The next day in the Daugava stadium we thrilled to an astonishing 17,000 amateur dancers swirling

How to spend a weekend in Riga

In Ratslaukums, Riga’s central square, there is an ugly brutalist building which encapsulates the contested history of Latvia’s beautiful, battered capital. This modernist eyesore was erected in 1970, when Latvia was part of the Soviet Union. It was built as a museum dedicated to Lenin’s crack troops, the Red Latvian Riflemen, who helped him overthrow the Tsar and win the resultant civil war. Without them, the Russian Revolution might have been stillborn. Today the content of this museum is completely different. The only relic of the Latvian Riflemen is the Soviet statue in the street outside. Now this building houses the Occupation Museum, which tells the story of Latvia’s Nazi

Why the Baltics fear Russia

In the historic heart of Riga, Latvia’s lively capital, there is a building that reveals why the Baltic States remain so wary of the Russian Bear. From the street, it doesn’t look like much – just another apartment block on a busy boulevard full of shops and cafes. Only the discreet sign outside gives the game away: ‘During the Soviet occupation the KGB imprisoned, tortured, killed and morally humiliated its victims in this building.’ Most passers-by barely give it a second glance. They know this story all too well. The KGB vacated this apartment block in 1991 when Latvia regained her independence, but over 30 years later the memories remain