One year ago today, I accurately predicted in these
pages that President Barack Obama would cut a deal with Iran over Israel’s
objections, allowing Tehran to keep its nuclear enrichment facilities and
freeing itself of sanctions by promising to halt 20-percent
Precisely what happened.
I also correctly calculated
that Washington would wedge Israel and the Palestinian Authority into renewed
peace talks, and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would again freeze plans
to build in E-1. I estimated that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi
wouldn’t last long as Egyptian president. Bingo.
But I was wrong in
expecting a quick breakup of the Israeli coalition government. (Wait a bit
more…) I was also wrong, unfortunately, in envisaging the election of a
religious-Zionist chief rabbi. And I erred, fortunately, in reckoning that the
Syrian civil war would spill over into real conflict on the
Looking into my crystal ball for the year ahead, this is what I
see: Barack Obama: The US president truly abhors nuclear proliferation. So he
really does not want the Iranians to test or produce a nuclear bomb on his
watch. In Geneva, he’ll cut whatever deals are furthermore necessary to postpone
Tehran’s bomb production for a few years; three years to be exact. As for the
rest of us, well, Obama doesn’t really care about Israel, or the Palestinians,
Egyptians, Syrians and Saudis. He isn’t going to invest any more American
“blood, treasure and tears” in the Middle East. Killer drones against the
al-Qaida types do the work from afar just fine. In any case, Obama knows that
his legacy boils down to this and this only: Whether or not Americans can keep
their existing health insurance plans.
John Kerry: All this Mideast
peace-processing is a prelude to Secretary Kerry’s planned run in the Democratic
primaries – against Hillary Clinton – for president of the United States. He
will be a formidable contender, just as he is a formidable diplomatic juggernaut
now. Of course, it’s easy for Kerry to beat up on Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas,
the two Mideast actors most dependent on America.
Had he challenged the
Russians or the Iranians (as he should have), it would’ve been tougher going.
And then he would have been better prepared to take on and beat
She will be no pushover.
Binyamin Netanyahu: The prime
minister has crossed the Rubicon and no longer feels any residual political
loyalty to residents of Judea and Samaria or to hardright voters. His
willingness to rollback Judea and Samaria is easily deduced from his insistence
on an Israeli military presence, only, in the Jordan Valley. While he has no
nearterm plans to drag Israelis from their homes in Beit El or Hebron, his
imminent agreement to John Kerry’s formula for a Palestinian state based on the
pre-1967 lines will mark a further retrogression in Israel’s diplomatic stance.
Netanyahu thinks that a rhetorical framework agreement with the Americans and
the Palestinians is the best way to manage the conflict for several years hence.
He thinks it will restrict Palestinian options, prevent the PA from
criminalizing Israel in international legal forums, and ward off European
boycotts. But I think that he playing with fire, and that the gambit will
backfire on Israel. World demands of Israel will only increase following the
framework agreement, and, after feting Israel for a few days and praising
Netanyahu for a few minutes, the world will be back in no time at all to
threaten Israel with boycotts unless it acts on its latest
Mahmoud Abbas: The Palestinian leader is getting old and
frail, and there is no succession plan in place, short of a bitter free-for-all
with Hamas leaders in the mix.
Abbas is searching for a legacy, which
could be a framework deal with Israel but could also easily be more unilateral
moves against Israel on the global front. Either way, Abbas has got to hurry;
I’m not sure he’ll be around by this time next year. In the meantime, the
Palestinian Authority continues to huff and puff and blow evil smoke at Israel
while raking-in the international aid dollars, euros, kronen, yens, francs and
deutschmarks. It’s almost as hard to account for all that money as it is to
count the number of times that Saeb Erekat has quit as chief Palestinian
Moshe Ya’alon: Bogie is proving to be the most cleareyed and
steady politician in the cabinet. While everybody else is running around scared
of an impending “diplomatic tsunami” whereby Israel could be branded a “rogue
state” for being on the wrong side of the international consensus on both the
Iranian and Palestinian issues, Bogie is calm. When Tzipi Livni screeches
“gevalt, we’re going to be boycotted” and drives for Israeli withdrawal from
Judea and Samaria, Bogie Ya’alon responds logically that “in life, everything is
a question of alternatives. If the alternatives are a European boycott, or
rockets from Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah on our strategic front, and on
Ben-Gurion International Airport – then indeed a European boycott is
preferable.” Let’s hope that Ya’alon holds firm.
Moshe Kachlon: The
Likudnik who brought down cellphone costs plans to cash in on his popularity, on
simmering social-economic discontent, and on disenchantment with Yesh Atid.
He’ll be back this year with a new political party, accompanied by trade
unionist Ofer Eini, economist Manuel Trajtenberg, Generals Gabi Ashkenazi and/or
Shlomo Yanai and other prominent figures.
Netanyahu, Yair Lapid, Issac
Herzog and Arye Deri should be worried. Israelis love new political parties, and
Kachlon’s fresh lineup could tap into public disgruntlement with
Shimon Peres: This wily 90-year-old plans to come roaring back
into Israeli politics when his term as president ends this summer. He will set
himself up as a shadow prime minister to fervently advance his plans for peace
with the Palestinians. He will convene international conferences to wedge
Netanyahu against the wall, and cobble together new Israeli political slates to
challenge Netanyahu at the polls. Expect no more of the namby-pamby
Peres-sponsored “Tomorrow” conferences, where “bold” entrepreneurs,
“provocative” sexologists and “prominent” European intellectuals talked
mumbo-jumbo about “bottling the Jewish genius” and “generating the leaders of
tomorrow.” Instead, expect an aggressive, focused Shimon Peres with a killer
instinct, out to remake the Middle East and save Israel – as only he
Natan Sharansky: By dint of personality and experience, in deference
to Zionist history, and to boost global Jewish unity – Natan should be the next
president of the State of Israel. His election should be a slam dunk. Alas,
Silvan Shalom of the Likud and Binyamin “Fuad” Ben- Eliezer of Labor each has a
better chance of getting the necessary votes in the Knesset to become head of
state, because of narrow political calculations. Silvan’s election would free up
three ministerial portfolios (regional development, negev and galilee, energy
and water) for other Likud MKs. Fuad can pull in votes from across the political
spectrum, including from the Center, Left and Arabs. Too bad.
rooting for Natan.