Obama and Netanyahu look out a window before their lunch in Jerusalem in 2013. (White House photo – Wikimedia Commons)

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Both Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu assumed office in 2009. Thus, the stage for their relationship and eventual antagonism during the past eight years was set. President Obama is now leaving the office of the presidency. How much longer can Prime Minister Netanyahu hold his coalition together?

The strategic relationship between Israel and the United States was not weakened despite the tensions between the two nations’ leaders. A lot has been said about the reset that is bound to happen when Donald Trump takes office on January 20. Yet analysts are not prophets.

What will the future hold? All of us are certainly interested in the future. We naturally predict the future as part of our daily existence and even our daily survival depends on our ability to deal with it. Throughout any given day, we make little predictions about what will happen in the next few seconds. As our environment changes, we must adapt to deal with it.

Considerations about the future are everywhere. We sometimes want to know about the weather before we leave the house. As we gaze upon the tranquil face of a sleeping child, we are filled with hope that his or her life will be happy and meaningful. How will our own individual lives end? Will we die in a horrible accident or pass peacefully in the presence of a loving family member?

Many people do not have the patience to wait for the future to unfold. Thus, predicting the future is a multi-million-dollar industry. Modern pollsters don’t call themselves psychics, clairvoyants, or prophets. Yet their statistical snapshots in time are often used by others as a guide to understanding trends so recurring patterns may be applied toward possibly understanding future events.

Many people, of course, want to hedge their bets when it comes to predicting the future. Although a little reassurance concerning some of life’s most disconcerting possibilities might help us sleep better, humans need enough uncertainty in life to make it adventurous, interesting, and perhaps even a little challenging. But wouldn’t it be nice if mathematicians could discover equations that could accurately predict at least the most dangerous human events?

As scientific as statisticians may try to be, it is challenging to gather relevant and sufficient data to make accurate predictions. Variables cannot always be understood in their entirety. A degree of uncertainty is usually unavoidable. Therefore, predictive and statistical models can go wrong.

Polls conducted by CNN, the Huffington Post, the Princeton Election Consortium, and the Daily KOS projected Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the U.S. presidential race at greater than 90% on November 7, 2016. A poll by the New York Times gave her a 85% chance of winning. Those are odds any gambler would love. Yet on November 8, key battleground states unexpected fell off the fence on the side of Republicans in one of the biggest upsets in U.S. presidential politics.

Philip Tetlock wrote Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction. He conducted a 20-year study in which experts in various disciplines, including economics, politics, and war predicted future developments. After testing and following the actual outcomes of 28,000 predictions, Tetlock discovered that chimpanzees throwing darts were about as accurate as experts predicting the future.

Although it turns out that experts are not always the best predictors, there are quite a few so-called everyday people whom Tetlock calls superforecasters. Tetlock and fellow researcher, Barbara Mellers, discovered that people who are best at predicting the future are not necessarily mathematicians, news junkies, or possessors of extraordinary IQ. They have a common-sense ability to recognize the direction of a series of events that often eludes professionals who subconsciously may collect data in order to substantiate pre-conceived notions.

Allan J. Lichtman is the professor of history at American University who published the book, FDR and the Jews, in 2013 with Richard Breitman. Lichtman is known as the “prediction professor” because of his work in prediction science and because he has the honor of being one of the few experts who accurately predicted the Trump victory.

In 1981, Lichtman developed a model with Russian mathematical geophysicist Vladimir Keilis-Borok that incorporates 13 variables reflecting the strength or weakness of the incumbent party. For example, one key asks whether the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the midterm elections than after the previous midterm elections. A second key asks if the economy is in recession. Answers to such questions are easy and clear-cut. Lichtman’s system was able to correctly predict every U.S. presidential election since 1984.

Instinct and intuition can also play a role because variables are not always easy to quantify. Allan J. Lichtman believes, based on nothing but instinct, that Trump will be impeached. He made this prediction on CNN’s OutFront with Erin Burnett in mid-November.

Intelligence agencies are also involved in prediction research because it is one of their primary missions to learn what is going on in the world, study the implications of potential future outcomes, and advise political leaders so they can choose appropriate courses of action in line with national interests. This is important research because it has huge implications for economics, politics, and national security.

Modern predictive sciences also can be used in an attempt to influence voters. Politicians often seek to influence an election outcome by commissioning pollsters whom they hope will discover statistical trends in their favor. Of course, being ahead in the polls can often backfire. Some people like to vote for the person who they think will win, whereas others may campaign all the more for a less popular candidate faced with declining poll results.

Prediction can also be employed as a warning. “The Simpsons” television program in the year 2000 predicted Trump’s election in an episode entitled, “Bart to the Future,” as a warning to America. The episode, written by Dan Greaney, predicted that a Trump presidency would have disastrous effects on the American economy and would create a generation of super criminals. Bart Simpson’s sister, Lisa, became the next president after Trump and had to try to fix the mess that Trump got the country into.

Will Allan Lichtman be proved right once again when Donald Trump is impeached? Will Bart Simpson’s sister have to clean up after a disastrous Trump presidency? What will the future hold?

Although President Barack Obama ends his presidency on a sour note as it pertains to Israel, he gave hope to Americans entering the Great Recession eight years ago. The country is economically much better off as he leaves office. He finished his farewell speech to the American people on January 10 by challenging Americans to stay involved in the political process and not take the blessings of their democracy for granted.

Israel also has been blessed during the last eight years during Netanyahu’s tenure. Today it is technologically advanced and has an economy rivaling many Western nations. With every passing year, the Jewish State becomes stronger and defies the odds.

The United States and Israel will continue to be blessed regardless of what happens to Donald Trump or who the prime minister turns out to be after Netanyahu. Trump thinks that he can make America great again? Does he think he can bring peace to the Middle East where Barack Obama failed?

We can be either pessimistic or optimistic about the future. I see potential for good everywhere. So I have one prediction for Israel and the United States during 2017. The people of the United States and Israel will continue to prosper because of their hard work, ingenuity, and faith – not because of Trump, but in spite of Trump. This is one prediction whose fulfillment we should all want to embrace.

You may write to Yoeli Kaufman at [email protected]


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

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