Published in The Jerusalem Post on December 27, 1998
Looking ahead into 1999, watch for the following:
Spring elections: 2,500 parties are running, alongside 97 candidates for
prime minister — none of them inspiring — with political platforms
that amount to little more than egoistic postcards. The result? More
Israeli withdrawals alongside Palestinian statehood, no matter who wins,
and a national unity government as the only way to overcome our polity’s
Bibi: Houdini has done it before and April is a long way off, so don’t
rule Netanyahu out yet. Admittedly, things look bad for the PM and very
good for Shahak. But that’s only because Shahak hasn’t yet opened his
mouth. Meridor is the man to watch; you heard it here first.
Political culture: In a way, both Clinton and Netanyahu are casualties
of a culture war where vengeance has become the defining idiom of
politics; retribution and mean-spiritedness the operational scheme.
Watch the public demand an end to this untamed confrontationism. We
deserve a politics that is selfless, issue-oriented, attenuated by
Shas: Round one of the never-ending Deri trials will conclude next year,
my guess, in acquittal. Rounds two and three will extend centuries into
the new millenium. In the meantime, Shas will formally swallow-up the
NRP and take over Chabad too. The Sephardic Torah Guardians could even
end-up as the largest faction in the next Knesset!
Wye Two: Palestinian and Israeli negotiators will be summoned to Wye
River Plantation by Clinton (or Gore?) in late April to lock horns and
head-off a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, scheduled
for May 4. Betcha that this time Sarah Netanyahu won’t be there.
Battle for Jerusalem: Watch for the intifada to hit the Holy City full
force as talks on final status heat up, or the battle brews over the
borders of Arafat’s unilaterally-declared state. The “prisoners
intifada” we’ve been facing in recent weeks is but child’s play, a
Palestine: The little dictatorship on our borders won’t be *pareve*, as
one pundit put it recently, meaning that Palestine likely won’t be
winning any human rights, free speech or pacifist awards. How many times
in 1999 will Arafat ‘arrest’ and then release Sheikh Yassin? And with
whom will Palestine vote more frequently in the UN – with the US — or
Lebanon: Unilateral withdrawal from the security zone isn’t much of an
option, yet the public clamor for a change in our northern defense
posture grows by the week, with every additional casualty. Do Shakak and
Barak have any brilliant ideas, short of coughing-up the entire Golan to
Hareidim: The induction of 40 black-hat boys once every half-year into
an ultra-orthodox Nahal unit just won’t cut it. A broader solution to
hareidi draft dodging has to be negotiated, and not just because the
High Court of Justice has set a December 1999 deadline for this. Calm
leadership on all sides is required for quiet, respectful deal-making,
without going to the barricades.
Crime: Will the car theft numbers in 1999 top this year’s record of
50,000? What about the 20,000 reported cases of violence within the
family; 10,000 other assorted assaults; 60,000 burglaries; 14,000 drug
related offenses; 192 non-terrorist murders; and rapes that take place
on average once every 12 hours?
Iraq: Will America will finally take down Saddam, with or without Monica
as the impetus? Will the French and Russians force a re-introduction of
phony, teethless UN inspections, allowing Saddam to rebuild his ‘milk
powder factories’ and ‘presidential palaces’?
Regional (in)stability: The kings of Morocco (Hassan), Saudi Arabia
(Fahd) and Jordan (Hussein) are extremely ill. Assad and Arafat are not
exactly healthy. Will the fundamentalists inherit the Arab earth in the
Bad guys: Keep an eye on the emerging strategic alliance between Russia,
China and India. Prepare for the big bail-out of a bankrupt Russian
economy. Beware China. The next century could be hers, especially since
the Clinton administration has dropped any pretense of linking trade to
progress in human rights.
Wars everywhere: Might an Iran-Afghanistan border conflict engulf the
region? Will there be an end to the bloodletting in Indonesia, Albania,
Algeria, Serbia-Kosovo, Nagarno-Karabach, Rwanda, Sudan, Zaire, etc.,
Pope: Vatican denials notwithstanding, the Pope is seriously ill. What
will Catholic-Jewish relations be like after John Paul II, and what will
become of the millenium 2000 celebrations in Israel that he is so keen
on? Of course, the Palestinians in Bethlehem will have to stop rioting
for a few hours, else the tourists won’t come.
Y2K: Come this time next December, will anyone be able to travel abroad
for the holidays or will the ‘millenium bug’ wipe out our international
travel computer systems? Imagine a world without computer stock trading,
hospital records, traffic lights, e-mail, and — gulp – newspapers!