We are about to enter a new calendar year, with the United States in economic
crisis during an election year; with the European Union desperately attempting
to rescue the euro; with the Middle East going through a political earthquake
with dictators toppled every two to three months; with a world in social unrest,
given the economic hardships and the weakening of leadership, facing an
empowered young generation, from Wall Street through Tahrir to Rothschild and
even Red Square; with Israel suffering from a right-wing assault on its
democratic institutions; with Palestine yearning for statehood, and Iran for a
2012 promises to be a critical and eventful year,
affecting issues of world security, economy, socio-political structures and
technological progress, and definitely a critical year for the Middle East in
general, and Israel in particular.
The underlying factors which will have
a strong impact on what kind of a year 2012 will be are:
• The whole notion of
governance is going through a fundamental change. Governments are simply weaker
the world over – dictators are toppled by thousands of young people
communicating on Facebook, and democratic leaders are facing massive
demonstrations by the young middle class.
• With the change in the
military balance of power, given nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and the
change in the world economy, it is difficult to speak of a unipolar system of
international relations. Rather, we are seeing a multi-polar one with the United
States as the leading power, a growing Chinese influence and important roles for
the EU, Russia and Japan.
In other words, it is a more diffuse world,
harder to govern. This is exacerbated by the fact that in four of the
permanent members in the UN Security Council, elections are to take place in
2012 – the United States, Russia, France and China.
The Talmud says that
the “prophecy was given to fools,” yet it is important to analyze the eventful
international processes as a basis for policy considerations. I will take the
risk of a forecast, based on the aforementioned premises.a.
The world in
general will be affected by the growing empowerment of people, mainly the young
generation; government will feel more compelled to listen to the vox
populi. Economically the international crisis risks to deepen, given
greater social dissatisfaction.b
. In the United States, we will witness
left-wing demonstrations on one side, namely the Occupy Wall Street movement,
and right-wingers on the other, namely the Tea Party. This will make for a
virulent, sometimes even vicious, and costly election campaign. I believe that
chances are that Barack Obama will be reelected for a second term, as the silent
majority will look for a continuation of the administration’s policies rather
than change. Obama’s focus will be mostly on domestic considerations, the
international economic crisis and stringent sanctions against Iran, with no
Middle East peace efforts to speak of.c.
Change can be predicted in three
important countries – Russia, France and China. In Moscow, Vladimir Putin will
most likely be elected president, but face greater public and political
opposition than previously. A “Russian Spring” is not out of the
question. In France, given the economic crisis and the personalities of the
contenders, it is likely that François Hollande, the socialist candidate, will
be the man in the Élysée from spring 2012.
In China, younger
nationalistic technocrats will become more influential in the power structure,
after the Communist Congress in October. China seems to undeniably be the world
power on the rise.d.
The “city of the year” will most probably be
London, home to the 2012 Olympic Games. The Person of the Year – young women the
world over, who will be the dynamo for social change in 2012.
the Middle East, 2011 was a a watershed year, with the Arab Spring and the
toppling of four dictators, in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. 2012 will see
the continuation of this wave, and with time, no dictatorship in the region will
survive. In Syria, Bashar Assad will most probably be replaced by a Sunni
regime, which will weaken Iran’s clout in the region.
regimes are more stable, yet unrest can be foreseen to some degree in Jordan,
possibly even in Saudi Arabia. As a result of this, the world will have
to move towards alternative energy.
As for the countries where
revolutions have occurred, we will witness a long period of instability and
shaky balances of power between Islamist forces, such as the Muslim Brotherhood
and the Salafis, the liberal young forces and the militaries. Amr Moussa may
very well become the next president of Egypt, and Tunisia the next model for
All of this brings us to Israel; surrounded by the
shifting sands of our region and a diffuse international system, 2012 will
depend greatly on us. I will focus my analysis from this point on
best-case/worst-case scenarios.Worst-case scenario
We just need to continue on the current path – the onslaught
of the Right against democratic institutions continues, the eroded rights of
minorities and women will be further diminished; the “price-tag” vigilantes will
confront law enforcement; freedom of speech will be further curtailed; and our
already-shaken democracy will be questioned by the world.
Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, possibly with Ehud Barak as a new “Likudnik,”
will in 2012 continue settlement building, risk a confrontation with the
Palestinians and shake Mahmoud Abbas’s moderate rule. This will, in turn, risk
our peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, as well as our ability to mount an
effective coalition against Iran.
Hezbollah and Hamas will sense they
have an opportunity to attack us. Our national security, in such scenarios, may
be endangered. Without much support from the world. This is a catastrophic
scenario which Netanyahu may want to escape by elections in
Netanyahu can prevent doomsday scenarios. He has
to divorce the extreme Right, create a national unity government with Kadima and
Labor, on the basis of a fundamental policy shift vis-a-vis the Palestinian
issue – including offering direct negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines,
and a freeze on settlement constructions. This will rescue our strategic
relations with Egypt, Jordan and Turkey, strengthen our alliance with the United
States, improve our relations with the world and make an anti-Iranian coalition
Some may argue that the reality will be more or less in the
middle of these two scenarios. I firmly believe that in principle it’s
Like every year, 2012 will open with hope for the better – but
as stated above, 2012 may very well become a year of instability in relation to
peace, economy and government. Nothing is deterministic, much depends on leaders
and societies. Some of my forecasts will most probably be proven wrong, others
right. In any case, the reader is invited to test them a year from
Happy New Year 2012! The writer is president of the Peres Center for
Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.
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