2014 Political Forecast: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Jan. 6, 2014 — One year ago, I accurately forecasted in these pages that U.S. President Barack Obama would cut a deal with Iran over Israel's objections, allowing Tehran to keep its nuclear enrichment facilities and freeing itself of sanctions by promising to halt 20 percent enrichment.
Inside Israel’s White House: How Netanyahu Runs the Country: Haviv Rettig Gur, Times of Israel, Jan. 6, 2014 — Benjamin Netanyahu will complete his eighth (nonconsecutive) year as prime minister in March 2014, more than any Israeli premier except the state’s founder, David Ben-Gurion.
The End of Dhimmitude: Mordechai Nisan, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2013 — We are now witnessing one of the most dramatic developments in the historic configuration of relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims.
On Topic Links
Israel’s Right: the Light’s on, But Nobody’s Home: Moshe Feiglin, Jewish Press, Jan. 2, 2014
Methodically, If Not Quietly, Miri Regev is Changing the Israeli Consensus: Zvi Bar’el, Ha’aretz, Jan. 6, 2014
Timeline: Ariel Sharon – Milestones of His Career in Israeli Politics: CBC, Jan. 2, 2014
2014 POLITICAL FORECAST David M. Weinberg
Israel Hayom, Jan. 6, 2014
One year ago, I accurately forecasted in these pages that U.S. President Barack Obama would cut a deal with Iran over Israel's objections, allowing Tehran to keep its nuclear enrichment facilities and freeing itself of sanctions by promising to halt 20 percent enrichment. Precisely what happened. I also correctly calculated that Washington would wedge Israel and the Palestinian Authority into renewed peace talks, and that Prime Minister Netanyahu would again freeze plans to build E1. I estimated that the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi wouldn't last long as Egyptian president. Bingo.
But I was wrong in expecting a quick breakup of the current Israeli coalition government. (Wait a bit more…) I was also wrong, unfortunately, in envisaging the election of a religious Zionist chief rabbi. And I erred, fortunately, in reckoning that the Syrian civil war would spill over into real conflict on the Golan Heights.
Looking into my crystal ball for the year ahead, this is what I see: Obama: The U.S. president truly abhors nuclear proliferation. So he really does not want the Iranians to test or produce a nuclear bomb on his watch. In Geneva, he'll cut whatever deals are furthermore necessary to postpone Tehran's bomb production for a few years; three years to be exact. As for the rest of us, well, Obama doesn't really care about Israel, or the Palestinians, Egyptians, Syrians and Saudis. He isn't going to invest any more American "blood, treasure and tears" in the Middle East. Killer drones against the al-Qaida types do the work from afar just fine. In any case, Obama knows that his legacy boils down to this and this only: Whether or not Americans can keep their existing health insurance plans.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry: All this Mideast peace-processing is a prelude to Kerry's planned run in the Democratic primaries — against Hillary Clinton — for president of the United States. He will be a formidable contender, just as he is a formidable diplomatic juggernaut now. Of course, it's easy for Kerry to beat up on Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the two Mideast actors most dependent on America. Had he challenged the Russians or Iranians (as he should have), it would've been tougher going. And then he would have been better prepared to take on and beat Hillary. She will be no pushover.
Netanyahu: The prime minister has "crossed the Rubicon" and no longer feels any residual political loyalty to Judea and Samaria residents or to hard-right voters. His willingness to rollback Yesha is easily deduced from his insistence on an Israeli military presence only in the Jordan Valley. While he has no near-term plans to drag Israelis from their homes in Bet El or Hebron, his imminent agreement to John Kerry's formula for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines will mark a further retrogression in Israel's diplomatic stance. Netanyahu thinks that a rhetorical "framework agreement" with the Americans and the Palestinians is the best way to manage the conflict for several years hence. He thinks it will restrict Palestinian options, prevent the PA from criminalizing Israel in international legal forums, and ward-off European boycotts. But I think he is playing with fire, and that the gambit will backfire on Israel. The world's demands on Israel will only increase following the framework agreement; and, after feting Israel for a few days and praising Netanyahu for a few minutes, the world will be back in no time at all to threaten Israel with boycotts unless it acts on its latest concessions.
Abbas: The Palestinian leader is getting very old and frail, and there is no succession plan in place, short of a bitter free-for-all with Hamas leaders in the mix. Abbas is searching for a legacy, which could be a "framework" deal with Israel but could also easily be more unilateral moves against Israel on the global front. Either way, Abbas has got to hurry; I'm not sure he'll be around by this time next year. In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority continues to huff and puff and blow evil smoke at Israel while raking-in the international aid dollars, euros, krones, yens, francs and deutschmarks. It's almost as hard to account for all that money as it is to count the number of times that Saeb Erakat has quit as chief Palestinian negotiator.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: "Bogie," as he is often called, is proving to be the most clear-eyed and steady politician in the cabinet. While everybody else is running around scared of an impending "diplomatic tsunami" whereby Israel could be branded a "rogue state" for being on the wrong side of the international consensus on both the Iranian and Palestinian issues, Bogie is calm. When Tzipi Livni screeches "gevalt, we're going to be boycotted" and drives for Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, Ya'alon responds logically that "In life, everything is a question of alternatives. If the alternatives are a European boycott, or rockets from Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah on our strategic front, and on Ben-Gurion International Airport — then indeed a European boycott is preferable." Let's hope that Ya'alon holds firm.
Former Minister Moshe Kahlon: The Likudnik who brought down cellphone costs plans to cash in on his popularity, simmering social-economic discontent and on disenchantment with Yesh Atid. He'll be back this year with a new political party, accompanied by trade unionist Ofer Eini, economist Manuel Trajtenberg, generals Gabi Ashkenazi and/or Shlomo Yanai, and other prominent figures. Netanyahu, Yair Lapid, Isaac Herzog and Aryeh Deri should be worried. Israelis love new political parties, and Kahlon's fresh lineup could tap into public disgruntlement with alacrity.
President Shimon Peres: This wily 90-year-old plans to come roaring back into Israeli politics when his term as president of Israel ends this summer. He will set himself up as a shadow prime minister to fervently advance his plans for peace with the Palestinians. He will convene international conferences to wedge Netanyahu against the wall, and cobble-together new Israeli political slates to challenge Netanyahu at the polls. Expect no more of the namby-pamby Peres-sponsored "Tomorrow" conferences, where "bold" entrepreneurs, "provocative" sexologists, and "prominent" European intellectuals talked mumbo-jumbo about "bottling the Jewish genius" and "generating the leaders of tomorrow." Instead, expect an aggressive, focused Peres with a killer instinct, out to remake the Middle East and save Israel — as only he can.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky: By dint of personality and experience, in deference to Zionist history, and to boost global Jewish unity — Natan should be the next president of the State of Israel. His election should be a slam dunk. Alas, Minister Silvan Shalom of Likud and MK Binyamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer of Labor each have better chances of getting the necessary votes in Knesset to become president, because of narrow political calculations. Silvan's election would free up three ministerial portfolios (regional cooperation; Negev and Galilee development; national infrastructure, energy, and water) for other Likud MKs. Fuad can pull in votes from across the political spectrum, including the Center, Left, and Arabs. Too bad. I'm still rooting for Natan.
INSIDE ISRAEL’S WHITE HOUSE:
HOW NETANYAHU RUNS THE COUNTRY
Haviv Rettig Gur
Times of Israel, Jan. 6, 2014
Benjamin Netanyahu will complete his eighth (nonconsecutive) year as prime minister in March 2014, more than any Israeli premier except the state’s founder, David Ben-Gurion. And as the years go by, unsurprisingly, Netanyahu is leaving a deepening imprint on the way in which the country is governed. Turnover is relatively high among his innermost circle of advisers and aides, who frequently last as little as two years at his side and all too often, especially in recent years, leave amid a cloud of scandal and negative press. At the same time, the role of some of those advisers has become increasingly central, as the Prime Minister’s Office seems to be filling an ever-more influential role in national policy.
“There is an international phenomenon of concentration of foreign policy power in the hands of presidents and prime ministers,” noted Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser who has written a book about Israel’s decision-making process. And this consolidation has happened quickly in Israel, where the PMO now handles all major issues of diplomatic and security policy, including the peace talks with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear crisis and the most important of Israel’s diplomatic relationships, such as those with the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
In the PMO under Netanyahu, that sees a great deal of close consultation with key advisers, a notably expanded role for the National Security Council, and a changing structure of the inner “security cabinet” of top ministers. It also means less influence for the individual ministries and ministers in some areas that used to be their exclusive purview. When Netanyahu was finance minister under prime minister Ariel Sharon, for instance, it was he who recruited Stanley Fischer as governor of the Bank of Israel. When Karnit Flug was appointed Fischer’s successor in October, in a chaotic and protracted process, by contrast, Finance Minister Yair Lapid most emphatically did not exclusively oversee the selection. Likewise, the question of Bedouin resettlement would in previous years have been a matter overwhelmingly for the Interior Ministry. Under Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s Office has been centrally involved.
Amid the process of consolidation, Netanyahu is said to be more open than some of his predecessors were to the views of trusted staff around him. “Bibi has a dialogical personality,” said one confidant who asked not to be named. “He makes decisions in the course of discussion. He needs a conversation partner to make those decisions.” Netanyahu takes a close interest in the views of those around him, confirmed another source familiar with the prime minister’s deliberative process. “He’s always asking questions, interrogating you for your opinion, and writing down what you’re saying.” That aspect of Netanyahu’s personality is both an advantage and a crutch, the confidant added. The advantage: Netanyahu is “flexible and thorough” when making decisions. “Every decision requires 10 discussions. He’s not hasty like some previous prime ministers.” The disadvantage: “He can seem indecisive, fickle. No decision is final until it’s actually being implemented. Decisions often change in the course of discussion, both because his reasoning continues to develop and because those who know him well know how to focus their arguments to reach certain conclusions.” Whether or not this personality trait is beneficial to forming national policy, there is no doubt it gives an outsize role to those who surround and engage the prime minister in those policy discussions. As power concentrates around a premier who gives added weight to his advisers’ views, those advisers are becoming increasingly important for any understanding of how the machinery of power is managed and critical decisions are made in the State of Israel.
The shift of diplomatic and security policymaking into the hands of the prime minister is a global phenomenon. In part, this is due to inevitable changes in technology, Freilich explained. “Foreign ministries face a real question. Why are they needed? Today, if a prime minister wants to know what the Americans are thinking, he calls up [Secretary] Kerry or [President] Obama. Foreign ministries don’t have the roles they used to have, where ambassadors on the ground were absolutely essential, especially [in light of modern] media and communications.” The issues now handled in the PMO “don’t leave the Foreign Ministry with much of anything of consequence,” noted Freilich. “I think that’s understood by most people today. The Foreign Ministry deals with day-to-day caretaking and maintenance of relations.”
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]
THE END OF DHIMMITUDE Mordechai Nisan
Jerusalem Post, Jan. 4, 2014
We are now witnessing one of the most dramatic developments in the historic configuration of relations among Jews, Christians and Muslims. Christians in Israel’s Galilee are courageously promoting their pre-Islamic non-Arab identity as an old-new collective Aramean/Aramaic-speaking Oriental narrative. This is a cultural and political game-changer with revolutionary significance, for Israel, the Middle East and the global scene. Under the leadership of Father Gabriel Nadaf, an Orthodox priest from Yafia near Nazareth, and Shadi Khalloul, a Maronite activist and army reserve officer from Gush Halav, the Christian Recruitment Forum has been established. While all non-Jews in Israel, excepting the Druse and Circassians, are exempt from the military draft, a new promotional effort has been undertaken to further encourage Christian youth to voluntarily enlist. This initiative expresses both a desire to serve the state and integrate into Israeli society, conveying that Christians are committed to the security and welfare of the Jewish state of Israel.
The rationale behind this Christian campaign and its momentous meaning are profound. From the early days of the Arab war against Zionism, and continuing until today with the Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state, the mainstream Christian community as fellow Arabs in the country allied with the Muslims. The Arab nationalist political parties, from the Communist forerunner to Balad, were led and represented by Christians and Muslims alike. Indeed, the broad modern Arab national revival and movement across the Middle East was inspired by some stalwart Christian ideologues and politicians, like Michel Aflaq and Constantine Zuraiq, cementing an alliance pitting the cross and the crescent against the Star of David.
The mixed Muslim-Christian villages and towns in Israel, like Turan and Ibelin, Eilaboun and Nazareth, were traditionally portrayed as bastions of Arab brotherhood and solidarity, despite the religious cleavage defining marriage and customs. But now the Christian Forum has issued a sharp and urgent message that shatters the Arab house of unity. The religious and legal structure that emerged with and under Islam established Muslim rule over Jews and Christians, who were defined and demoted as tolerated but inferior dhimmi denizens. While maintaining their communal faith and integrity, the dhimmi communities were subjected to the rapacity of excessive and humiliating taxation and to a precarious dependence on the whims of Muslim caliphs, sultans, emirs and walis. Instances of massacre and forced conversions were part of the tapestry of victimology over the many centuries of Muslim supremacy that struck Jews in Yemen, Morocco, Libya and Iraq; and likewise Christians in what had been, prior to early Arab conquests, the majority Christian populations in Egypt and Syria.
The Zionist movement and State of Israel represent in modern times the Jewish national liberation movement against Muslim colonialism in Palestine and Arab imperialism in the Middle East. The triumph of Israel symbolizes successful Jewish resistance in the Hebrew homeland. As such, it signifies the demise of that debilitating mental complex of fear and inferiority, termed “dhimmitude” by the historian Bat Ye’or, which scarred the souls of generations of Eastern Jews, as also Eastern Christians.
From the villages of Yafia and Gush Halav the clarion call for freedom has now been sounded. A new self-consciousness radiates from among the 160,000 Christians in Israel; they represent only two percent of Israel’s population, but their numbers are on the increase in stark contrast to the murder of Christians and their tragic mass flight from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Egypt. Christians were historically massacred by Muslims in Turkey and Sudan. In Israel they are respected citizens and live secure and prosperous lives, as enjoying this situation imposes a moral obligation to be discharged.
No one can doubt that were there to be an Arab Palestine in place of a Jewish Israel, the Christians of Mei’liya and Fassuta would be chased, in the best of circumstances, across the borders. Even now, and predictably so, Arabs are intimidating the nascent Christian shift in alliances in Israel. The Christian Forum in Israel, while only a local development, offers nonetheless a compelling precedent and proud innovation for the West to promote Jewish-Christian cooperation against extremist Muslim forces, as in Europe. As Islam basically destroyed the large historic Christian centers in the Middle East, so it threatens the cultural character and political independence of Christian Europe.
A shadow of dhimmitude has spread over Europe, but the heroic stand taken by some Christians in the Galilee offers direction to cultivate an authentic global Jewish-Christian symbiosis by breaking the old Muslim-Christian pact that was born of Islam’s universal aspirations and appetite to rule. This is a moment of truth and reconciliation in Israel, with Christians identifying the Jews as the sovereign power and brothers-in-arms.
[Dr. Mordechai Nisan is a retired lecturer in Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University and a Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.]
Israel’s Right: the Light’s on, But Nobody’s Home: Moshe Feiglin, Jewish Press, Jan. 2, 2014 — “If this bill passes, Israel will have to announce that there will be no negotiations over Jerusalem. The real significance of that is that we completely halt the negotiations taking place today.”
Methodically, If Not Quietly, Miri Regev is Changing the Israeli Consensus: Zvi Bar’el, Ha’aretz, Jan. 6, 2014 — Israel’s most important political leader today is Likud MK Miri Regev. She is the only Israeli politician who has managed to learn the secret of how the country is run.
Timeline: Ariel Sharon – Milestones of His Career in Israeli Politics: CBC, Jan. 2, 2014 — Feb. 27, 1928: Ariel Scheinermann is born in Kfar Malal, a town in Palestine, then a British mandate, to a German-Polish father and a Russian mother.