Crystal ball on 2000

Published in The Jerusalem Post on January 16, 2000

Looking at the year ahead, watch for the following:

Conversions: In April, eleven justices of the Supreme Court sitting in

special panel will rule on a series of Reform and Conservative

challenges to the existing citizenship law, which recognizes only

Orthodox conversions performed in Israel. Unless Rabbi Melchior

miraculously can cut a deal to head-off the confrontation, expect the

High Court to strike down Orthodoxy’s monopoly in this matter.

Court-mandated civil marriage is coming next, probably before the year

is out.

Haredim: By May at the latest, Justice Zvi Tal’s “religion and army

service” study commission will recommend a set of new, cockamamie

by-laws that essentially will allow most haredim to continue dodging

substantive army service. Will this government, Yossi Sarid and all,

have the nerve or grit to legislate Tal’s arrangements for posterity?

And if not, what will the haredim do when the High Court rams army

service down their throats?

Corruption: Watch carefully the unfolding Nimrodi scandal. Ofer is sure

to take down others with him. Aryeh Deri’s Supreme Court appeal

proceedings begin next week, and my guess is that he is going to jail.

(Decision expected in April). But if Deri is acquitted, our prime

minister had better watch out. The Shas leader will settle accounts with

Ehud Barak, including the scuttling of Barak’s peace deal with Syria.

Whereto the criminal investigations of Netanyahu (no indictment, I’ll

bet), Hanegbi (indictment, no conviction), and the Barak election

non-profit associations (light fines only to be issued)?

Peace: Is Assad serious? Will he smile for the cameras and for Israeli

public opinion? Or, will the powerful groundswell of public sentiment

against coming down from the Golan again scare Hafez Assad away from a

deal, as it did in 1996? We’ll know soon. My guess: there will never be

a referendum. Both government and opposition will prefer new elections

if the treaty talks advance that far. Congress won’t approve $70 billion

or any ridiculous sum like that to pay for the peace, as Ehud Barak

wants. Will our prime minister have the courage to pull the IDF out of

Lebanon by July as promised, no matter what?

Presidency: The Shimon Peres-for-President campaign, coming very soon –

before Purim, I’ll bet – will force us to rethink the role and

qualifications of Israel’s president. After Ezer Weizman, should someone

so sharply politically opinionated serve as President? Moreover, no

Israeli politician’s political career has benefited more from foreign

political donations than that of Peres. The Charles Bronfman and Jean

Frydman election campaign millions are not quite equivalent to the

taking of personal cash from Mr. Seroussi, but still.

Palestine: A final status “framework agreement” by February is unlikely.

So, will Yasser Arafat declare statehood, and how will Barak respond?

How much more of Jerusalem effectively will come under the jurisdiction

of the PA – without a peep from the Israeli government or public? Will

the Palestinian press publish a story arguing that the Holocaust really

*did* happen?

Aliyah: By summer and following bitter debate, the Knesset will curtail

the out-of-control Law of Return by canceling the “grandchild clause”,

in order to stem the flow of non-Jewish masses to Israel. On the other

hand, our imperialistic Supreme Court President, Prof. Aharon Barak,

could yet step-in, unasked, to declare the entire law “discriminatory

and unconstitutional”.

Welfare: Will Prime Minister Barak get around to doing anything about

that neglected, sick old woman left in the hospital corridor?

Elections: Despite his wooden reputation, I’m betting on Al Gore over

George Bush Jr. to take the White House in November. Rudolph Gulliani

will stop Hillary Clinton’s drive for the Senate. In February, Iranian

President Hatemi’s ‘moderate’ policies will be put to a vote. Bets are

on Hatemi to win, but that doesn’t mean we’ll see a softening of

attitudes towards Israel – or the US. In the important Russian elections

March 26, Acting President Vladimir Putin almost assuredly will retain

his post despite a determined post-Yeltsin challenge by the Communists.

Succession: Last year, the kings of Jordan and Morocco died and an

orderly succession followed. Will we be lucky enough to merit such

stability when King Fahd of Saudi Arabia (gravely ill), Hafez Assad

(reportedly ill), and Yasser Arafat (looks ill) pass on?

Business: AOL and Time-Warner will buy-out Microsoft, and then, in turn,

the combined monster conglomerate will gobble-up the US government. Will

one of the six families who own most of Israel — Ofer, Fishman, Zeevi,

Mozes, Levaiv and yes, Nimrodi — buy out the others, in a home-grown

version of corporate mega-mergers?

Pope: John Paul II is coming to visit in March — on Purim! When he

visits Yad Vashem, I’ll be watching and listening for his unambiguous

request for forgiveness from the Jewish People for the Church’s

Holocaust sins; and for his acknowledgment of the Jewish People’s

historical, religious and national roots in Jerusalem.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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