One year ago today, I accurately forecasted in these pages that in 2014, President Barack Obama would continue to fudge the nuclear issue with Iran. I also foresaw that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would agree to Secretary of State John Kerry’s formula for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, but that Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas would cut and run from the negotiations at the last moment. Easy predictions.
But I was wrong in expecting to see Manuel Trajtenberg join Moshe Kahlon’s new political party, instead of Labor; and in hoping/praying to see Natan Sharansky as president of Israel, instead of Ruby Rivlin.
Looking into my crystal ball for the year ahead, this is what I see:
• The March election: We’ll end up with five main blocs of more or less equal size (Likud, Labor, Bayit Yehudi, haredim and some sort of Kahlon-Lapid-Liberman league), making for convoluted and unstable coalition politics. The only way to overcome this and craft a workable government will be establishment of a Netanyahu-Herzog national unity government.
As usual, Netanyahu will tack to the Right for the election season, then back toward the Center after the vote.
• Shas: Arye Deri will continue to be a retrogressive figure in Israeli politics, pushing a brand of blithely sectorial, brusquely cynical fundamentalism.
He would sell every settler to the Saudis, twice over, if that were to earn Shas-affiliated schools a 5-percent budget increase. Alas, his “resignation” this week from the Shas party leadership and the Knesset is just another “stinking maneuver” meant to re-catapult the wheeling- dealing Deri back into the driver’s seat.
• American decline: In the final two years of his presidency, President Barack Hussein Obama will be freer than ever to pursue his true ideological convictions in the fields of foreign and security policy; free to cement a complete reorientation of US policy in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
After all, over the past year, he has granted Vladimir Putin gargantuan international victories, given Hafez Assad a new lease on life, relegitimized Iran and reenergized the morally bankrupt UN – while playing Hamlet about his authority to strike Syria or defend Israel. He has made only a ridiculously minuscule effort at confronting Islamic State.
Obama very clearly believes that the humbling of America will bring healing to the world; that he will be leaving the world a better place by cutting America down to size and allowing other “legitimate” actors, such as Iran, to assert their rights.
• Iran: One result of this weltanschauung is that Obama will soon cut whatever deals are furthermore necessary to postpone Tehran’s nuclear bomb production for a few years; two years to be exact – just long enough for Obama to depart the White House without having to confront the Iranians.
This suits Ayatollahs Khamenei and Rouhani just fine. They continue getting sanctions relief while running out the clock on the West – all the while advancing their nuclear weapons research and missile production and maintaining full nuclear fuel cycle capabilities.
Obama administration officials already are downplaying Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East (including its support of Hamas and Hezbollah) and saying that US-Iranian relations have moved into “an effective state of detente.”
Without clear evidence of an Iranian “breakout” blitz, Israel is left with few options.
Striking at Iran is not an option under these circumstances.
You might say that Obama has bested Netanyahu on this issue.
• United Nations: Obama will continue to feign dismay at Israel’s increasing isolation in international forums like the UN Security Council, while in practice paving the way toward a global distancing from Israel. Alas, Obama will find himself “unable to manage” the many assaults on Israel or mount a sufficient defense of Israel – as he has warned. The Palestinian Authority lost a vote this week, but the day is coming when Washington sandbags Israel with a Security Council resolution demanding a timetable for Israeli withdrawals to specific borders and endorsing punitive measures unless Israel complies. I don’t think this far-fetched at all.
Obama is once again misplaying his hand with the Israeli public. Overwhelmingly, Israelis will back Netanyahu’s opposition to rapid establishment of a Palestinian state in the current jihadist regional circumstances, and they will push back at Obama’s attempts to halt the development of Jerusalem and divide the city.
• Abbas: The threats of this aging and ill Palestinian leader to collapse the PA and end security coordination with Israel should be dismissed. He won’t do it. The PA has no alternative to the current situation, except to get eaten alive by Hamas. To the failed negotiators John Kerry and Tzipi Livni, I say: The status quo in the West Bank is indeed “sustainable” for a while longer.
It is certainly preferable to almost all the other near-term alternatives, for Israelis and Palestinians.
In any case, Abbas is washedup as a peace partner, certainly since his establishment of a “unity” government with Hamas, the launching of his campaign of lies and incitement regarding the Temple Mount, and his lauding of terrorists who attacked Israelis in Jerusalem.
Everybody in Israel remembers Abbas’s monstrous speech at the UN in September accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza, and swearing never to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, and never to renounce the so-called right of return for Palestinian refugees.
If Abbas persists in his helter- skelter, burn-all-bridges appeals to world forums against Israel, he’ll yet find himself on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court.
• And now for some dreams: In 2015, America will move its embassy to Jerusalem. One hundred thousand American Jews will come on aliya. The Saudis will recognize Israel. The Palestinian Authority will renounce the so-called “right” of return (but be criticized by J Street for doing so). Massive building across Israel (including in Judea and Samaria) will bring housing prices down by 50 percent. Haredim will enlist en masse in the IDF. Tzipi Livni will admit failure and retire from public life, instead of jumping to her fifth political party. Meretz’s Zehava Gal-On will start observing Shabbat and eating kosher.