It has truly been a year like no other, with the pandemic dominating not just every news cycle but each of our lives. From work to family life, where we went, and what we did, nothing was untouched by Covid-19. But as people got used to phrases like ‘self-isolate’ and ‘social distancing’, there were plenty of other news too.
The year began with a new virus originating from Wuhan, China. Wei Guixian, a 57-year-old shrimp seller, is thought to have been the first person infected. “Every winter I always suffer from the flu,” she later told Chinese media. “So I thought it was the flu.” We now know it wasn’t. Covid-19, as it has since been named, first took hold in the Chinese city then swept the globe. In Wuhan, some citizens have decided to sue the government for what they believe was suppression of the news in the early days of the virus. By January, the first case was in the UK and by March the world witnessed lockdown, focused on maintaining distance and washing hands repeatedly. As cases mounted across the world, there were unexpected issues, like those who wanted to believe that Covid-19 was in fact a hoax. As well as the terrible human cost, with tens of thousands dead in Britain and more than 100,000 still suffering with long-term effects, the pandemic has delivered the largest economic shock to the UK in three centuries – and it isn’t over yet. But with a vaccine now being given to the most vulnerable, even with Christmas plans derailed by another surge, there is still hope for 2021. Though there are huge companies working to bring out the better vaccine to stop this pandemic and number of drug making firms already put the product on trial the gloom not yet over as still there are 79.5 million affected (till Dec 26, 2020) and in total 1,746,445 people left this world fighting the life-taking virus.
When Boris Johnson won last December’s election, he succeeded on a series of slogans. First up was to ‘Get Brexit Done’, which he did, taking Britain out of the European Union on 31 January. After that, it gets a bit more tricky. He pledged to “level up” the country, and, after coronavirus hit, suggested a “Rooseveltian approach”, invoking FDR’s New Deal, though there’s little sign much has changed yet in the “red wall” seats the Tories took from Labour. However, the most pertinent of his sound bites now appears to be the promise that he had an “oven-ready deal” with the EU over Brexit. Now Brexit is almost cooked in time for Christmas. The two sides finalised a trade deal in last-gasp agreement during the Christmas eve. Though the compromise avoids painful tariffs and a dangerous rupture in relations, it’s a much harder form of Brexit than Johnson and others envisaged during the referendum of 2016. The costs are about to become clear. It is a big achievement. If ratified, it will provide a framework for future relations between Britain and the EU covering trade in goods and services, as well as agriculture, energy and fish.
In the pantheon of prime ministers, Johnson’s currently far from the top of the pile after a whirlwind 12 months. But falling at the final hurdle with Brexit could make things far worse for both the prime minister’s legacy and, more importantly, the country.
Even by the standards of Donald Trump’s presidency, 2020 has provided some eye-opening moments. Questionable presidential pardons were perhaps to be expected, as were outrageous election claims. Suggestions of injecting bleach into the body to stop coronavirus, on the other hand, were not something anyone expected of a president. As 2020 progressed, the protests in the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths took hold across the United States and with them questions over the response from heavy-handed police. Along with coronavirus, it became the big issue of American politics, neither of which Trump had any real solution too, other than to stoke flames. By summer, the Republicans were already preparing for life after Trump. Stuck in campaign mode, the president pressed on, maskless, with rally after rally, and even planned to go ahead with a Republican convention as normal. Now, with Joe Biden set to come into power in a few weeks probably on January 20 this year, the question is how much havoc Trump can wreak before leaving the Oval Office – and what he does next.
The year began with bushfires blazing across Australia, killing 500 million animals and more than a dozen people, with acres upon acres left scorched in their wake. But it could end on a hopeful note, as the UK looks ahead to hosting the Cop26 climate summit in November. Joe Biden’s election, and his pledge to sign the US up to the Paris Agreement again, will surely help – with climate an issue that could bring him together with British leaders. In the UK, the government’s independent climate advisers have put together recommendations for how the country can limit its carbon emissions to keep temperatures down, and it’ll take more than sending fewer emails. Instead, they say that by 2050 almost every element of our lives will have to change, from the cars we drive to what we eat, if we’re to reach net-zero emissions. But can it really be done while building a third runway at Heathrow airport?
Arabs Israel relations
Many countries have established diplomatic relations with Israel in quick succession. The decision to establish diplomatic relations by itself cannot create alliance. In case of the Arab world, the matter is different. Within each country, there are factions that are hostile to Israel. Any regime that opens relations with Israel will have to face this reality. Each state that has recognized Israel has broken a barrier. Among many Arabs, it is a violation of a fundamental principle. The process, which began with the UAE, is rooted partly in the US Middle Eastern policy that has played an important role in implicitly endorsing the process and occasionally adding a sweetener. The US also made it clear that it was withdrawing its forces from the region and reducing its commitments. That left the region without the power that held it together.
These countries could and did work together, but only through secret contacts and US coordination. Without the United States, each state was left to either go it alone or form meaningful relations on the whole. The US policy forced the countries of the region to face a reality they had tried to hide.