As in 2012 and 2013, I will offer an educated guess
about the international situation for the year to come. In 2013, I predicted
some events accurately – the third Netanyahu government, the leading American
role in the peace process, the stabilization of the global economy, the victory
of François Hollande, and was wrong about others, such as the disappearance of
Bashar Assad. Often, the most important events are those not predicted at all,
most significantly in 2013 the election of Hassan Rouhani in Iran, and the
Geneva agreement, although last year’s article spoke about American-Iranian
This year will see the 450th birthday of William
Shakespeare. He once wrote: “it is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in
ourselves.” In predicting the events of the next year, we have to remember, as
policy planners should, that the future is very much up to people’s decisions,
both in and out of government, in relation to existing historical
We, in the beginning of 2013, live in a time of transformational
historical process that resulted from scientific advance as well as the
technological and information revolutions. International relations have
profoundly changed as informed and empowered constituencies are more empowered
and governments find it more difficult to govern. The global village has been
extended to the Internet.
The new year will be the first one in which
there will be more mobile phones than people. We live more than ever with a
dichotomy between unprecedented globalization and more empowered
Men and women the world over can express their views and
values and protest on a daily basis, ignoring or debating with the government,
and creating coalitions with peers the world over. The individual reaps the
fruits of globalization, but must also adapt to its structures, rules and
It is a new era we could define as “glocal” – the
individual in his or her locality and as part of a global network. In the local
context, the individual relies on local culture, norms and values. In the global
context, a new common language is developing among people and societies who are
the engine of change. As such, in the 2014 world, country, leader, flag and
military will become less relevant, especially in the great majority of the more
secular world. The aspirations of young people all over the world are to study,
find adequate employment and above all enjoy basic civil liberties and
They understand, more than their elders, that their freedom is
dependent on the freedoms of others.
This transformation will in 2014
lead to an even more diffused power structure of international relations.
Together with the United States, we will see the influence of other relevant
state powers such as the EU, Russia, China, Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, etc.
and non-state powers in the private sector and in civil
Governments will not be able to dictate, but will rule,
domestically and internationally, with greater consensus.
Barack Obama is
the leader of this new “glocal” world, as he governs with people – individuals –
in mind. This is not yet recognized by the conservatives in the world, who still
believe in governing by force. In 2014, Obama will reinstate the American global
leadership position, although he will not necessarily be recognized as such, not
by the Republicans in the US or the conservative regimes in the Middle East –
from Binyamin Netanyahu to the princes of Saudi Arabia.
with Secretary of State John Kerry, will be the orchestrators of collective
diplomacy that will effect world change.
Most dramatically, there may be
a permanent deal on Iran. It may not happen until the fall, but will give the
international community enough assurance that Iran will not develop a military
nuclear option. Much of the infrastructure, not all, to develop such arms, will
be paralyzed; transparency and international inspection will be increased
This will happen mostly through secret American-Iranian
negotiations that have already begun. The formal negotiations will know many
crises, if not breakdowns, in a Persian style of give and take. Netanyahu will
criticize and accept. The no-less-important outcome will be the growing
effectiveness of the P5+1, despite some natural cracks in the coalition. These
powers are interdependent, as are their economies. China’s role will be
enhanced, and Angela Merkel will dominate the European scene with German
efficiency. Vladimir Putin will continue to give expression to Russian
schizophrenia of strength and weakness and of being a ruthless despot and open
to the world.
In all these powers’ agenda, diplomacy, not force, will be
the means to collectively achieve aims.
With the paralysis of the
nonconventional options, the main international plagues to deal with will be
international terror, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
terror is mostly led by extremist fundamentalists Islamic organization such as
the Sunni al-Qaida and the Shia Hezbollah. Most of their killings and damage are
to their own people and societies. With time, they will become more potent, they
will probably attempt something spectacular in 2014, and less popular. The
world, even in its more radical corners, has ceased to see them as freedom
fighters and a collective military action is possible in 2014 in the Middle
East, Central Asia and Africa.
The one political conflict that threatens
international security and will be high on the 2014 agenda is the
Peace in Jerusalem will mean a more peaceful
Middle East; war over Jerusalem threatens the whole region, if not the world.
This may very well be a make-it-or-break-it year. There are Israelis and
Palestinians who can thrive on conflict forever, but the international community
will not acquiesce to this open wound much longer.
In the beginning of
2014, John Kerry will present bridging proposals for a framework agreement on
permanent-status issues. This will reflect known American positions regarding
the 1967 lines as basis for the border with an independent Palestinian state,
with mutually agreed land swaps, Jerusalem as two capitals and one city,
security arrangements along the borders, no realization of the right of return
to Israel, but to independent Palestine, mutual national recognition and
regional cooperation. These positions will maybe be clearly outlined or more
likely watered down somewhat as terms of reference for a one-year detailed
negotiation (with a settlement freeze). Gradualism may be a key in this plan.
Both sides, overly suspicious of Obama, will give their traditional ‘no, but’
response followed by intense diplomacy (including summit meetings), only with
the aim that the other side will be blamed for failure.
It is hard, if
not impossible, to see the Netanyahu government in its current configuration
accept a realistic framework agreement or understandings for acceptable terms of
reference for negotiations.
Given such a scenario, the prime minister
could ask the Labor Party to replace Naftali Bennett or, fearing to lose the
Right, going to what he likes best – early elections. A possibility for the end
of 2014, Israeli elections and American congressional elections, a dream comes
true for our serial peace escapists.
Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) may show
greater flexibility as this is probably his last chance to create an independent
Palestinian state under his leadership.
The result of a failure in the
peace process would be cycles of violence in the region, with Gaza, the West
Bank and Lebanon. This could very well become a dramatic year of missed
opportunity with serious political, security and economic repercussions. In any
case, the Americans proposals will become the new basis for an eventual solution
once leaders in Israel and in Palestine come to their senses.
European Union will play an important role in this process as its geopolitical
interests are also at stake.
In case of progress or even agreement,
Israel and Palestine will be upgraded to the highest non-EU status.
case of failure, the Palestinians risk donor fatigue and Israel risks boycotts
of settlements, if not worse.
In this interdependent, globalized world,
the question before Israel and Palestine will be: to belong or not to belong to
the more advanced and progressive club of nations.
This question stands
also before the region in general. The Arab world is swinging between spring and
winter. It may, given the technological and information revolutions, opt for
more open societies, with more countries following Egypt in closing the door to
the religious Muslim Brotherhood.
Turkey is faced with a similar dilemma
and 2014 could become the year of the Turkish spring.
international scene, the global economy, in 2014 will continue to stabilize with
slow growth in the richer countries and an average 5 percent growth in the
developing world. There will be exceptions with low growth rates and high
unemployment rate leading to social unrests, mainly in Turkey, Greece, Spain,
Brazil and India.
China will continue to lead in economic growth, at 9%,
a more private sector leading the economy in the big cities, a somewhat more
open society, and growing global aspirations due to international investments
(such as in Africa).
The United States will remain, in 2014, the center
of global, economic and political attention. It is going through important
social changes, with fast growing Latino and African- American communities. The
old structures are less respected, such as Congress due to its paralysis and the
intelligence services due to their invasions of privacy revealed by Edward
Snowden. It will be a year in America in which civil society will play a major
role for social good and civil rights (with same-sex marriage adopted by many
states) and a private sector feeling more compelled to be less selfish and
contribute more to society. The economy will grow by 2.6% due to growing
consumer confidence, the dollar will be stronger and unemployment may drop
further beneath 7% and the deficit will be reduced to under $700
These economic figures may just suffice for the Democrats to
hold on to their Senate majority in November, while the Republicans will
probably strengthen their hold on the House of Representatives. In the aftermath
of these elections, the presidential campaign of 2016 will take off with Hillary
Clinton as the front-runner and other surprise candidates in the wings (possibly
John Kerry with the Democrats and Sen. Marco Rubio with the
In Europe, economic growth average will be slower – 0.8%,
with stronger German and British economies and weaker ones in southern
The surprise continent of 2014 may very well be Africa, with an
average growth rate reaching 6%, surpassing South East Asia, lower inflation and
more trade, attracting new investments to countries like Ghana, Nigeria,
Ethiopia, South Africa, etc. The continent is still suffering from the most
severe crises of malnutrition and health, yet it is beginning to rehabilitate
itself, with less corrupt governments despite the still inadequate international
The Western developed world will give much attention, in
2014, to technological advance and to how it changes lifestyles. Some people
will subscribe to space tourism, other will use robots to replace humans (such
as in the security field); the smartphones and YouTube will dominate people’s
communication and information.
YouTube will start to replace the
old-fashioned TV screen. These technologies attract the young who look for
instant gratification and will turn the world into an e-Global
Scientific advances may be dramatic, mainly in the field of
health, in understanding better the human brain and discovering cures for cancer
and AIDS. Life expectancy will continue to grow.
The year’s celebration
will be in Rio de Janeiro, with the 2014 soccer World Cup in June and July. It
is expected and actually hoped for that the host country will gain the precious
trophy, leading to an unprecedented Brazilian Carnival.
By the last day
of the year, American and British troops will leave Afghanistan, part of Obama’s
Speaking of peace, in July 2014, Israel’s best president in
recent history, Shimon Peres, will leave office to continue contributing to
There will be, no doubt, 2014 surprises.
Examples could be:
an Obama-Rouhani meeting, the pope sanctioning the use of condoms for the
prevention of AIDS, Catalonia voting for independence from Spain, Yuval Diskin
joining politics or Yair Lapid finally taking a position on peace… Who knows?
Happy New Year!
The writer is honorary president of the Peres Center for Peace.