I’m neither foolhardy nor a prophet. And although pronouncing the
occasional “told you so” is only human, I’d rather keep that private feeling of
satisfaction than have readers writing in all year to tell me I got my
predictions for 2012 wrong. Anyway, given the turbulent nature of 2011, as the
year draws to a close I am left with more questions than answers. Some of
the questions are substantive – who will be elected as US president, for example
– others are more a matter of curiosity. Almost all the question marks follow
from the events of the year now ending. History, as we all know, does not stop
neatly while we change our calendars.
Rather than sharing my guess of
what will happen, I’m willing to share some of what’s keeping me
Question No. 1 is how long will the “Arab Spring” be called the
“Arab Spring”? Or more to the point, how many seasons will the uprising in the
Arab world go on; when will Bashar Assad’s regime finally fall; and will the
Persian Gulf States adapt their relations with Israel (and each other) as a
result? Will Iran also succeed in overthrowing its leaders and opening up to the
civilized world? Will other countries (such as Nigeria) follow the Sudanese
precedent and split along Christian-Muslim lines?
There are other questions
related to terminology. Take, for example, the name J14 for this summer’s
protest movement in Israel. “Does it have something to do with J Street?” a
Hebrew speaker asked me, voicing both bewilderment and the suspicion that it
might have been a Left-led movement after all. While it might be fashionable to
name it ostensibly after the day on which it was launched, July is pronounced
in Hebrew and does not start with the letter “J.” And, with all due respect
to this summer’s good-natured gatherings, the date July 14 – otherwise known as
le quatorze juillet
– has been associated with the French since Bastille Day in
1789. I hope that since then we’ve learned that the phrase “heads will roll” is
better as a figure of speech.
Although elections are not scheduled in
Israel in the coming year, there is no doubt that the political system is
gearing up for them. Among the questions this raises are: Can we finally expect
socio-economic issues to play a major role (along with the usual
diplomatic-security ones); will Labor under Shelly Yacimovich trounce Kadima
under Tzipi Livni; or will Livni be ousted? Since Livni will find it hard to
compete with veteran women’s and social rights campaigner Yacimovich, it’s
possible she’ll be replaced with either someone with more appeal on that ticket
or someone like Shaul Mofaz who can run on the security platform.
going to be the year when Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman is either
indicted or cleared (predictions of his downfall have been around since the
mid-1990s)? Ditto former prime minister Ehud Olmert. Will former prisoner
Arye Deri bounce back on to the political scene?
Is there a chance that MKs will
realize that while everything needs to be legal, there need not be a law
controlling every aspect of our lives?
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Will the “ethnic genie” come out of the
bottle ahead of elections – along with the increasing secular vs ultra- Orthodox
divide, which works wonders during election campaigns? Or will the country’s
leaders and wouldbe leaders realize at last that the Sephardi-Ashkenazi split
simply dates them? A whole generation of voters has grown up proud of their
roots, whatever they are, and in many cases, they are the product of what’s
known in Israel as “mixed marriages.”
I can’t help wondering, sadly, how
long Israelis will continue to talk about “the periphery” when referring to a
country smaller than New Jersey. Certainly location should not be
justification for poorer health, education and social services in places like
Beersheba, Afula or Kiryat Shmona.
Similarly, I wonder at what point
people will stop talking about missile attacks on “the South” when the area
under threat now borders Tel Aviv. I have given up wondering why anyone outside
missile range considers the notso- occasional attack – in peacetime – is
acceptable, but perhaps others might ponder the issue from the safety of
wherever they are reading this.
The return of Gilad Schalit from Hamas
captivity was this year’s good news. The price paid – the release of some 1,000
prisoners – might, like purchasing something in installments, be felt only next
year. In any event, I’m compelled to ask the question why the country’s MIAs
seem to have been forgotten. May this be the year when the families of
Zachary Baumel, Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz, Ron Arad, Guy Hever and Majdi Halabi
be granted at least closure.
The Palestinian issue raises so many
questions that any list is more exhausting than exhaustive. Apart from the
leadership issues – will Mahmoud Abbas make it through another election if he
runs? – there are those perennial questions of boundaries. And one
crucial unknown can be summed up as “1, 2, 3.” Just how many states are going to
be expected to share this tiny dot on the map? If Hamas and Fatah actually do
manage to reconcile their differences – and that’s a very big “if” – will they
push for a two-state solution? If they don’t join forces, then already there
are, de facto, two nascent Palestinian states with Israel sandwiched extremely
uncomfortably in the middle. Lately, just as more Israelis on the Right are
agreeing to a two-state solution, more Palestinians seem to be going back to the
idea of all or nothing. If I were to draw up a wish list for 2012, asking that
the Palestinians invest more effort into building up their own successful state
than trying to destroy ours would be way up there.
Economic forces will,
of course, continue to dominate 2012 – but to what effect? While Israel’s
economy is still strong, certainly a prolonged crisis in Europe will take its
toll. That’s why the policy of seeking markets elsewhere – China and India, for
example – makes sense.
Israel’s unemployment rate at the end of 2011
stands at 5 percent – which is considered an incredible achievement, unless you
happen to be one of that particular 5 percent.
Can Israel expect another
Nobel Prize this year? Almost every year, Amos Oz’s name floats around as a
candidate like a pretty bubble in the literature category only to burst as the
laureates are announced.
Obviously the last few Israeli winners in the
sciences have been a cause for national pride – and global hope for
technological advance – but let’s not forget that if we raise only scientists,
something will be lacking in our society.
Can we finally bring an Oscar
home to Israel? Certainly Joseph Cedar has a chance for an Academy Award with
, his drama dealing with the rivalry between father-and-son Talmud
scholars at the Hebrew University.
Will environmentalists be successful
at persuading the powers-that-be that not everything can be measured in economic
terms – and that we have a duty to future generations to protect something of
our unique landscape, flora and fauna?
And will we be able to look back on 2012
without anger? Your guess is as good as mine. I’ll content myself with looking
back on 2011 largely with pride. And I’m willing to go on record predicting
that, doomsday scenarios regarding Iran notwithstanding, the world will still be
turning (or perhaps spinning) at the end of 2012.The writer is editor of
The International Jerusalem
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