In the Jewish life cycle, the end of 2012 coincides this year with the
conclusion of the weekly public readings in the book of Genesis. According to
rabbinic tradition, the patriarch Jacob, when blessing his sons – and two of his
grandsons – attempts to reveal prophetic visions of the future, but is prevented
from doing so by God.
Predictions are, indeed, a complicated, unreliable
Nevertheless, looking back at 2012 with an eye toward the
future, it is safe to assume that many of the challenges Israel faced in 2012
will figure prominently in 2013.
• The Iranian threat – Though
consistently rejecting calls this year by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to
set down a “red line,” US President Barack Obama has made it clear going into
2013 that the US and Israel share the common goal of preventing the Islamic
Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Still, in October the Obama
administration and the Iranian regime reportedly agreed in principle to hold
one-on-one talks. After elections, the White House has launched a new push for
negotiations together with other major powers. The US and its partners – Russia,
Britain, China, France and Germany – should be wary.
Iran might very well
have no intention of halting its enrichment of uranium. Negotiations could be a
ploy to buy time and to weaken the impact of sanctions.
an Israeli perspective, time is running out. Netanyahu said in his September 27
speech at the UN that the critical moment for preventing Iran from developing a
weapon would most likely come this spring.
• Peace talks – Six years of
security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have resulted
in an improved economic climate on the West Bank and low levels of terrorism.
But the split Palestinian leadership and Hamas’s increasing popularity have made
the prospects of a negotiated peace even more unlikely.
matters any was PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s stubborn insistence on pushing
ahead with the unilateral move of winning sweeping UN recognition for
“Palestine” as a non-member state along the 1949 Armistice Lines.
from international condemnation of building in what most Israelis view as
consensus locations such as east Jerusalem and in settlement blocs such as
Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, diplomatic pressure on Israel to
compromise will grow, while next to no mention will be made of Palestinian
incitement against Israel, human rights abuses perpetrated by the PA against its
own people and intransigence on issues such as the “right of return” for
• Migrants and infiltrators – The brutal raping
of a 83- year-old woman by a young Eritrean immigrant in south Tel Aviv has
reignited debate over what to do with some 60,000 migrants – most of whom are
from Eritrea (35,000) and Sudan (15,000). Though the security barrier erected
along the southern border has nearly halted the flow of new migrants, steps need
to be taken to integrate as best as possible those already here. The vast
majority cannot be deported because Israel has no diplomatic ties with
Khartoum’s autocratic regime and returning migrants to Eritrea would, according
to humanitarian groups, put their lives in jeopardy.
• Gaps between rich
and poor – Along with Mexico, Turkey, Portugal and the US, Israel is ranked
among OECD countries with the highest income inequality.
Steps need to be
made to ensure that our education system better prepares our children for an
increasingly competitive, knowledge-based employment environment.
a reasonable solution to drafting haredim into national service would go a long
way toward reaching the goal of integrating these potentially productive young
men into the labor market.
These are just a few of the most pressing
problems facing Israel in the year 2013. Still, while the future is not rosy and
the challenges are daunting, Israel has been blessed with a particularly
talented and dedicated population that has confronted and overcome seemingly
insurmountable obstacles in the past.
The story of Jacob’s foiled attempt
to reveal the future can be seen as the rabbi’s lesson in the inadvisability of
such an endeavor. Nevertheless, we Israelis should have faith in our ability to
meet future challenges skillfully courageously and, ultimately, with success.