A Fresh Perspective: The year to come – 5776

US President Barack Obama speaks at American University (photo credit: screenshot)
US President Barack Obama speaks at American University
(photo credit: screenshot)
This past year was full of groundbreaking news, both internationally and in internal Israeli politics.
From elections that took place in March to a long and painful coalition negotiation process; from a controversial speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before US Congress to the signing of a horrible deal between Iran and the world powers; from the continued rise of Islamic State to continued massacres in Nigeria by Boko Haram and the resignation of Yemen president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi after Houthi forces took over his palace; from an earthquake in Nepal that killed thousands to a terrorist attack at a college in Nigeria that killed over 100 people, a debt crisis in Greece and several battles between Israel and the BDS movement – which Jerusalem successfully fought off, be it with FIFA or the Orange telecom firm.
It all added up to an incredibly eventful year, whose events beg the question: What awaits Israel and the world in the coming year? While we cannot predict the future – as the Talmud states, since prophecy was taken from the prophets it has been “given to fools and children” – we can still analyze some of the prevalent trends that surely will have a strong effect on the coming year.
Domestic politics around the world The Western world will likely see several significant elections taking place.
In the United States, while the elections will take place only in November, after the end of the next Jewish year, most of the election campaigns, both in primaries and in the general election, will define the tone of American politics.
President Barack Obama is nearing the end of his term. Having spent so much political capital on the Iran deal, which he so dearly hoped to complete, he will be almost incapable of pushing any new policies.
This is good news for Israel, since the president who has been the most averse to Israel since Jimmy Carter will be unlikely to have the necessary power to push Israel into a corner. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of a bad deal that is an existential threat to Israel.
In other countries, Canada will see elections happening this coming October. Stephen Harper, one of the most courageous leaders in the world and Israel’s best friend among world leaders, is facing a very tough fight as his leadership is challenged by two opponents. Both opponents have been mainly positive about Israel in previous statements, but no one actually believes they will continue the impeccable record of Harper with respect to Israel. Also, on other important issues, such as the fight against Islamic State and opposition to Russian expansion, these candidates are likely to be much less vocal and bring Canada back to a position of neutrality rather than leadership.
In Australia, Tony Abbott, another great friend of Israel, is likely to be up for reelection; the current two-party-preferred vote polls show him trailing against his opponent from the Labor Party, Bill Shorten.
Shorten has sent mixed signals about Israel, on the one hand claiming a record of pro-Israel policies and even signaling that not all settlements are to be considered illegal, but on the other hand agreeing to the eventual unilateral recognition of “Palestine” by Australia.
A delicate world economy The past few months have seen several issues that can, together, lead to a perilous economic situation.
On the one hand, the European bailout of Greece might encourage other countries that find themselves in tough economic situations to seek similar bailouts. What was agreed upon for Greece can now be demanded by Spain, Portugal and Italy. Can Europe withstand this economic pressure? China’s economy, on the other hand, is growing at a much slower pace. If it previously helped push the whole world toward economic growth, this will likely not be true for the next few years.
The price of oil, affected by both the energy independence of America and China’s slower economic growth, is tanking. This affects the economy of many countries, including Canada, Russia and the Arab states.
Finally, the refugee flood into Europe from Arab countries is bringing some serious financial challenges to the ability of European countries to properly integrate these new immigrants into the economy.
All of these variables point toward a very dangerous situation for the international economy. It is still too early to determine whether this is a storm or just a passing rain shower, but it is definitely a situation that is cause for great worry.
A delicate Israeli governing coalition Within Israel’s political system, the coalition remains incredibly unstable. With only a one-mandate majority, it can easily fall if it does not show a 100-percent loyalty rate to government policy. Thus, it is likely that Prime Minister Netanyahu will aim to broaden his coalition.
His current options are not numerous.
Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party is still trying to differentiate itself from Netanyahu’s Likud, and therefore is unlikely to join, which will allow it to criticize the government in the next election campaign.
Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union is unlikely to join the government as a whole – there are too many people inside the party that would completely refuse coalition discipline.
However, since it is possible that Herzog now understands that he has no chance of becoming prime minister, there could be a split that would enable him to become foreign minister without the Zionist Union – aside from several of Herzog’s most loyal colleagues – joining the coalition.
(This is possible, but still unlikely, since Herzog has never been the type of person to create revolutions. He is a quiet leader who progressed slowly through the ranks of his party without ever making noise. It is unlikely he will make such a drastic shift.) Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid is extremely unlikely to join the coalition, since Lapid is currently branding himself and his party as an alternative to the government and therefore would not want to join it.
Therefore, it is unlikely the current coalition will change. However, it is also very unlikely to fall.
More than the number of members in a coalition, what most defines its lifetime is the question of who inside the coalition has an interest in new elections – and at this point, no one has such an interest.
The Likud and its 30 MKs know that any election might drastically cut the party’s representation in Knesset, making it very dangerous for any MK to threaten to break party discipline.
The ultra-Orthodox parties are happy to have regained their place within the government after being in the opposition due to Lapid’s veto on their entry into the previous coalition.
Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi is still trying to regain its former popularity after a disappointing showing in last elections. It is likely to prefer a chance to show serious achievements rather than go for early elections.
Moshe Kahlon’s Kulanu party ran a campaign filled with promises; if elections are called before Kahlon has a chance to deliver, the party will become completely irrelevant and it will signify the end of its leader’s political career.
Therefore, all the members of the coalition have a strong interest in keeping to coalition discipline and not causing new elections.
This is a sign that coalition stability can be expected.
On the other hand, politicians do not always act logically. Thus, everything is possible in the coming year.
THE UNSTABLE situation in international politics, international economics and internal Israeli politics is fertile ground for another eventful year.
It is still unclear what these events will be, but on this Rosh Hashana, let us hope together that the fertile ground will give rise to a year of great news for the free world as opposed to what has unfortunately been a positive year for the jihadist Islamic Republic of Iran and Islamic State. ■ The writer is an attorney and a former legislative adviser to the Coalition Chairman in the Knesset. He previously served in a legal capacity at the Foreign Ministry. He is a graduate of McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s master’s program in public policy.