My predictions for the local and regional scene in 2012 were bang-on: I foresaw
that Netanyahu’s government would fall over the 2013 budget, that Yacimovich
would eclipse Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, that Binyamin Netanyahu would act to
solidify his alliance with Avigdor Liberman, that the IDF would take action
against Hamas and that Abbas would take to the UN against Israel, that Israel
would hold back on hitting Iran, and that Syria would begin breaking up. I even
correctly estimated the percentage of American Jews who would vote for Obama (68
percent). I was wrong only about Egypt – but so was everybody else. (I thought
Tantawi would hang on).
Looking into my crystal ball for the year ahead,
what I see is a new, broad Israeli government that doesn’t last long, another
futile settlement freeze, exacerbated Peres-Netanyahu tensions, continued
stalemate with Iran, trouble on the Golan, and despite it all – life in Israel
will remain great.
Binyamin Netanyahu: After tacking to the Right for the
election campaign, Netanyahu will tack back to the center of the political map
when crafting a coalition. In order to enhance his international respectability,
he’ll bring Ehud Barak and Avi Dichter back into the cabinet. He’ll co-opt
Yacimovich and Lapid into the government with him (despite Shelly’s current
protestations), but not Livni. Once he has policy guidelines worked out with
them, he’ll invite Naftali Bennett, Aryeh Deri and the ultra-Orthodox to join as
well as junior partners.
Elections, again: Netanyahu will have difficulty
with his own Likud faction, and his broad new coalition government won’t last
long either. We’ll have elections again within two years. Shelly is counting on
that, which explains her reticence in the current campaign to criticize the
haredim or the settlers. She is thinking ahead to the next coalition.
is Deri, who would be glad to lead Shas into coalition with the Left. Bennett is
also thinking ahead. He’ll prove more moderate than his current image, and I
don’t rule out a return to the old days of Labor-NRP
Stranger things have happened in Israeli
Keep an eye on Amir Peretz, who is sure to jump parties once
again this year, just for the fun of it.
Palestinians: Barack Obama will
wedge Israel and the Palestinian Authority into some form of renewed peace
talks, for which Israel will once again have to freeze some settlement
Netanyahu will freeze development of E-1. In fact, that’s one
reason he put it on the table: So that he’d have what to freeze when the time
comes. (The other reason: to warn the Palestinians against suing Israel in the
International Criminal Court). The Jewish Home won’t bolt the government over
this, as long as Netanyahu promises to keep building in Jerusalem.
case, the peace talks won’t last long, because the PA’s appetite is too ravenous
and it won’t be able to restrain itself from seeking to demonize, isolate and
criminalize Israel in international forums. Even so, the world will continue to
coddle Mahmoud Abbas, despite his intransigence.
As for Abbas’ threats to
dissolve his newly-declared Statelet of Palestine – ignore them. He is bluffing
and blustering, as usual.
Haredim: The induction of 40 black hats once
every half year into an ultra-Orthodox Nahal unit is no longer
A broader solution to haredi draft-dodging has to be found,
and this time the haredi parties will have to live with new guidelines, probably
along the lines of the wise and moderate Plesner plan. Calm leadership is
required for quiet, respectful deal-making, without Supreme Court
The haredim also will have to swallow a Religious Zionist
Ashkenazi chief rabbi, to be elected in June. A moderate chief rabbi can then
work to improve conversion policy and practice, without the issue going to the
Knesset or courts.
Shimon Peres: With his 90th birthday coming up and his
term as president coming to an end, Peres clearly feels he can speak his mind
freely, giving vent to his views on peace and the Palestinians no matter how
much they contradict government policy or public opinion. Expect exacerbated
President Obama might show up for Peres’
birthday bash (to be celebrated with great fanfare in June at the fifth
Presidential Conference on Facing Tomorrow), which will give the American
president additional opportunity to press Netanyahu for concessions to the
Palestinians. I would rather see Israel’s best friend in the world, Canadian
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, come instead of Obama.
As for the
presidency, Reuven Rivlin thinks he is shoo-in for the job after Peres, but I
think Natan Sharansky would be a much better and more inspired
Diaspora Jewry: Who will set the Jewish community tone on Israel
– the Reform movement and J Street who keep on implicitly threatening to
“secede” from support of Israel because it is too right-wing and illiberal for
them, or mainstream Jewish organizations who recognize Israel’s heroic efforts
to balance security with peace, and tradition with modernity?
Iran: If we’re
lucky, Teheran’s cockiness and bluster will trip it into a shooting war with the
US in the Straits of Hormuz, and then the US will destroy Iran’s nuclear
facilities. If we’re less lucky, Iran will make steady but quiet progress in
nuclear enrichment and weaponization, while bamboozling the US and EU with
Israel will hold back from a direct military
confrontation with Iran, until the Iranians foolishly go for a nuclear breakout
or Obama grows a spine.
Actually, this is exactly what I predicted for
2012, and it’s the least bad scenario. A worse scenario is that Obama cuts a
deal with the Iranians over Israel’s objections, which allows them to keep their
nuclear enrichment facilities and free themselves of sanctions by promising to
halt 20 percent enrichment.
Arab world: A domino effect is in play, with
Egypt still convulsing (Morsi may not survive), and the Saudis sitting on a
boiling cauldron. Thankfully, King Abdullah of Jordan seems stable for now.
Dozens of radical Islamic militias have emerged in Syria, meaning that following
Bashar Assad’s departure (to a Russian-built dacha in an Alawite mini-state on
Syria’s northwest coast), the Golan border could turn into noman’s land, a safe
haven for terror groups – similar to the current situation in Sinai. Or it could
become a territory controlled by a one strong Islamist organization – such as is
the case in south Lebanon and Gaza.
Either scenario means trouble for
Nevertheless, expect Washington to press Israel to help
“strengthen” the new Syrian regime by negotiating the handover of the
Israel: At 8 million strong, sizzling with creativity and
vibrancy, Israel will continue to be envied far and wide. All in all, it is a
great place to live, especially in comparison with the crumbling Arab Middle
East states around us or much of the failing West. Our economy is strong, and
our technological edge formidable. This is the year in which we may even become
The writer is director of public affairs
at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He blogs at