One year ago, I forecast — accurately — that in 2014 U.S. President Barack Obama would continue to fudge the nuclear issue with Iran. I also foresaw that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would agree to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s formula for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, but that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would cut and run from the negotiations at the last moment. Easy predictions. But I was wrong in expecting to see the hero of the social protest movement Professor Manuel Trajtenberg join Moshe Kahlon’s new political party. Instead, he recently joined the ranks of Labor. I was also wrong in hoping and praying to see Natan Sharansky named the president of Israel, instead of Reuven Rivlin.
Looking into my crystal ball for the year ahead, this is what I see: The March Knesset elections: The vote will yield five main blocs of more or less equal size — Likud, Labor, Habayit Hayehudi, the ultra-Orthodox parties, and some kind of Kahlon-Yair Lapid-Avigdor Lieberman league — making for convoluted and unstable coalition politics. The only way to overcome this and craft a workable government will be to establish a Likud-Labor national unity government. As usual, Netanyahu will tack to the Right for the duration of the election season and then revert back toward the center after the vote.
American decline: In the final two years of his presidency, Obama will be freer than ever to pursue his true ideological convictions in the areas of foreign and security policy, and free to cement a complete reorientation of U.S. policy in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. After all, over the past year, he has granted Russian President Vladimir Putin gargantuan international victories, given Syrian President Bashar Assad a new lease on life, re-legitimized Iran and re-energized the morally bankrupt United Nations, all while playing Hamlet about his own authority to strike Syria or defend Israel. He has made only a ridiculously miniscule effort to confront Islamic State. Obama very clearly believes that the humbling of America will bring healing to the world; that he will be leaving the world a better place by cutting America down to size, and allowing other “legitimate” actors, such as Iran, to assert their rights.
Iran: One result of this weltanschauung is that Obama will soon cut whatever deals are necessary to postpone Tehran’s bomb production for a few years — two to be exact, just long enough for Obama to depart the White House without having to confront the Iranians. This suits Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani just fine. They continue getting sanctions relief while running out the clock on the West, all the while advancing their nuclear weapons research and missile production and maintaining full nuclear fuel cycle capabilities. Obama administration officials are already downplaying Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East (including its support of Hamas and Hezbollah) and saying that U.S.-Iranian relations have moved into “an effective state of detente.” Without clear evidence of an Iranian “breakout” blitz, Israel is left with few options. Striking at Iran is not an option under these circumstances. You might say that Obama has bested Netanyahu on this issue.
The United Nations: Obama will continue to feign dismay at Israel’s increasing isolation in international forums like the U.N. Security Council, while in practice paving the way toward a global distancing from Israel. Alas, Obama will find himself “unable to manage” the many assaults on Israel or to mount a sufficient defense of Israel, as he has warned. The Palestinian Authority lost a vote this week, but the day is coming when Washington will sandbag Israel with a Security Council resolution demanding a timetable for Israeli withdrawals to specific borders and endorsing punitive measures unless Israel complies. I don’t think this is far-fetched at all. Obama is once again misplaying his hand with the Israeli public. Israelis will overwhelmingly back Netanyahu’s opposition to rapid establishment of a Palestinian state in the current jihadist regional climate, and they will push back against Obama’s attempts to halt the development of Jerusalem and divide the city.
Abbas: The threats of this aging and ill Palestinian leader to dissolve the Palestinian Authority and end security coordination with Israel should be dismissed. He won’t do it. The Palestinian Authority has no alternative other than being eaten alive by Hamas. To failed negotiators John Kerry and Tzipi Livni I say: The status quo in the West Bank is indeed “sustainable” for a while longer. It is certainly preferable to almost all the other near-term alternatives, for both Israelis and Palestinians. In any case, Abbas is washed up as a peace partner, certainly since his establishment of a “unity” government with Hamas, the launching of his campaign of lies and incitement regarding the Temple Mount, and his lauding of terrorists who attacked Israelis in Jerusalem. Everybody in Israel remembers Abbas’ monstrous speech at the U.N. in September accusing Israel of “genocide” in Gaza, and swearing “never” to recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and “never” to renounce the so-called “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. If Abbas persists in his helter-skelter, burn-all-bridges appeals to world forums against Israel, he will soon find himself on trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court.
And now for some dreams: In 2015, America will move its embassy to Jerusalem. One hundred thousand American Jews will immigrate to Israel. The Saudis will recognize Israel. The Palestinian Authority will renounce the “right of return” (but be criticized by J Street for doing so). Massive building across Israel (including Judea and Samaria) will bring housing prices down by 50 percent. The ultra-Orthodox will enlist en masse in the Israel Defense Forces. Livni will admit failure and retire from public life, instead of jumping to her fifth political party. Zehava Gal-On will start observing Shabbat and eating kosher. Amen.