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December 23, 2011

Opinion: New Year's predictions

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/new_years_predictions_20111223

This is my last column of 2011, so I will make a few predictions for 2012, some which I hope come true and some which I hope don’t.

U.S. Election: President Barack Obama will be re-elected. Each of his potential rivals is, in my opinion, fatally flawed. The most likely GOP nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, is a handsome version of that little plutocrat dude in a Monopoly game.

In a time of high unemployment, Americans will not elect a president who made much of his fortune closing down factories in the heartland. Happily, I do not believe Romney’s religion will be an issue, one way or the other. By the way, Romney’s choice for vice president will be Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Israel: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will remain in power, spending 2012 girding himself for a newly energized Obama to put pressure on him in a second term. Unfortunately, I don’t expect the pressure to come.

Having won re-election with the overwhelming support (75-80 percent) of American Jews, Obama will continue to accept the AIPAC-generated “conventional wisdom” that his Jewish support was a result of his “pro-Israel” policies and not because he was the liberal candidate. Because many of the big Democratic funders themselves adhere to the view that Jews primarily care about Israel, Obama is unlikely to challenge it. The only variable that might change Obama’s policy would be a major act of stupidity by Netanyahu such as bombing Iran or, once again, trying to physically crush Gaza, as in 2008-9.

Public Opinion: The past year has seen Israel (more specifically, Netanyahu and the occupation) take a major hit with American public opinion. Prominent Jewish journalists like Tom Friedman, Joe Klein, and Peter Beinart (whose upcoming book will cause the “pro-Israel” establishment to quake in its boots) are all vocally condemning Netanyahu’s policies, freeing many less-prominent voices to speak their minds.

In the days prior to the internet, the Israel lobby had the ability to shut down criticism of Israeli policies through calls to editors, bosses, advertisers, etc. Those days are almost over.

On the web, it is the Israeli government and not its critics who are on the defensive. This is partly related to the fact that the web is dominated by young people who, for the most part, have an even-handed view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is particularly true of young Jews. The other reason that the web is the ultimate in free journalism is that it is infinitely harder to get bloggers fired and, even if they are, they will just keep blogging on another site. For the lobby, the internet is a curse.

Iran: There will be no attack on Iran by either Israel or the United States over the next 12 months. With both the military and intelligence establishments in both countries opposed to bombing Iran, an act viewed as both futile (in terms of ending Iran’s nuclear program) and incredibly destabilizing to the entire world, a war just won’t happen. Sanctions will continue producing significant suffering among the Iranian people while racketeers in the Iranian government and military apparatus make a killing.

The neocons, however, will intensify their clamoring for war, hoping the Iraq model can be repeated. In fact, virtually the entire crowd that helped lie us into Iraq is back in place, working tirelessly to convince the United States to bomb Iran.

AIPAC: The AIPAC conference (see video) in March will be proclaimed the “most successful” in the organization’s history. Most of Congress will show up along with President Obama. The theme of the conference, as with every AIPAC conference for over a decade, will be about confronting Iran. A subsidiary theme will be that President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are now just as evil as Hamas and that, accordingly, there is “no partner” with whom Israel can negotiate the “two-state solution” it theoretically (but not really) supports.

The conference will accomplish its main goal of conveying to Congress that supporting AIPAC on all matters related to the Middle East is the only way to stay out of political trouble. Following the conference, Congress will overwhelmingly pass one to three pieces of legislation (bashing Palestinians and calling for ever more action against Iran) drafted by AIPAC and circulated at the conference.

Arab Spring: In 2012, the Syrian government will collapse, a good thing, but the transition to something resembling democracy will be as bumpy as it is in Egypt. Also, as is the case with Egypt, any move by the new Syrian government to include “Islamists” will be condemned as frightfully threatening to the U.S. and Israel. Few will mention that the Christian right here (which essentially owns the GOP) and the Shas Party in Israel (a powerful component of Netanyahu’s coalition) both seek, often successfully, to impose their bigoted and antediluvian religious dogma on their respective countries.

Israelis and Palestinians: Both peoples will be saddled with governments (in the case of the Palestinians, quasi-governments) that are almost exclusively concerned with preserving power. Both Israeli and Palestinian authorities will instigate and exploit hatred of the enemy in order to stay in power, and each will refuse to utter “magic word” formulations that would enable genuine negotiations to begin.

The Israeli center and left will confront a government that has as its chief goals settlement expansion and the eviction of Palestinians from their homes and neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Palestinians will suffer from continued ineptitude and corruption in Ramallah and from the refusal by the authorities in Gaza to call Netanyahu’s bluff by accepting Israel’s right to exist within the ‘67 lines, to form a unity government for the purpose of negotiating with Israel, and to totally and unequivocally reject violence against Israel in favor of energetic and nonviolent resistance.

Anti-Semitism: There will be no more or less anti-Semitism during the coming year, especially in the United States, where hardly any Jews experience it in a lifetime (I never have). But the phrase will be very big because, in the last few months, neoconservatives and other agitators for war with Iran and against any “concession” to Palestinians have begun condemning virtually all opponents of their policies as anti-Semites.

This, in itself, is not completely new. For decades non-Jewish critics of Israeli policies have been called anti-Semites in an effort, often successful, to shut them down. In 2011, however, the right stopped limiting use of the term “anti-Semite” to non-Jews and now freely uses it against Jews who despise the occupation, settlement activity, and right-wing Israeli policies.

They (we) used to be called “self-hating Jews” but since that didn’t shut us up, the hope is that this will. Of course, it won’t. Jews are used to being called bad names by bad people.

In conclusion, despite everything, I look forward to a better 2012. In December 2010, I didn’t expect President Obama to end the Iraq war in 2011 or eliminate the monster who killed 3000 Americans. But these things happened. So, there is hope.

Whenever I doubt that the good guys are starting to win, I’ll just re-read this column by Tom Friedman, or this piece by Joe Klein. A few years ago, neither would have been possible. Progressives are making a difference. As the great Tony Kushner wrote, “The world only spins forward.”

Happy Holidays to all.

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