As we close the book on 2017 and prepare for the new year, we hope for a better future. Recent developments in the political landscape in the Middle East could make 2018 significantly better than what we now expect.
There is no doubt that 2017 was a year that changed the momentum of the peace process in the Middle East in a way that no one could have predicted. Some says that it is dead. I think that it just got a new life. With this change a new opportunity for peace was created.
2017 started with the departure from office of President Barak Obama, and the entrance of President Donald Trump to the White House. Overnight, the forgiving attitude by the US toward attacks on Israel in international forums was replaced by a strong, in your face, support for Israel by the new administration. It started in the United Nation where the new US ambassador Nikki Haley launched an attack on the hostile attitude of the organization toward Israel. Countries who until now automatically voted against Israel are now asking themselves if it is wise to be on the wrong side of the United States, when the president is threatening to cut financial aid to countries who are voting against the US In international forums.
2017 ended with the recognition by President Trump of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He made history when he ordered the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, braking a seventy year taboo enforced on Jerusalem by the international community as a negotiation chip in the peace process.
The change in attitude of the new US administation was the best thing that could have been done to restrat the dying Israeli-Palestinian peace process for three reasons:
- It signaled to the Palestinians that the status quo is no longer an option. The longer they wait the more bargaining chips they lose.
- The weak protest by Arab countries and the rest of the world to President Trump’s action has demonstrated to the Palestinians that, other than Israel, the US is the only country that matters in the peace process.
- After such a strong show of support, the Israeli government is in no position to oppose demands by the US to make concessions to the Palestinians when the peace process is resumed.
2017 was also the year when ISIS, the radical Islamic terror organization was defeated. For the first time after several years of uncontrollable growth of radicalism, when it seemed that the world is on a brink of a global war, the world finally seems a safer place. Radical terror organizations are in retreat. This new reality has a calming effect on the Palestinians. The hope that ISIS, Hamas, or Hezbollah will defeat Israel, or at least weaken it, has vanished. The military option is no longer viable.
President Trump’s aggressive attitude toward Iran forced the Iranians to be more careful in their quest to dominate the Middle East by supporting radical Islamic organizations in the region. It seems that President Trump’s attitude sucked out the energy that fueled Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s actions against Israel. Iran also faces strong internal pressure to divert funds toward resolving domestic economic problems, funds that are now used for the logistic support of terror organizations.
After failing to win the rocket war against Israel, Hammas and the Islamic Jihad invested heavily in building underground tunnels into Israel in hope that terror and kidnapping of innocent Israeli citizens will force Israel into making concessions. However, in 2017, Israel has successfully implemented a new technology capable of the identifying and destroying underground tunnels. It seems that the radical organizations are left with no military option, and that the only way to quite the internal pressure by the Gaza people for improvements in the standards of living is through the political process.
Under Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel did very little to advance the negotiations with the Palestinians. However, the political landscape in Israel may be on the brink of a change fueled by large demonstrations against corruption in the government in Israel. It seems unavoidable that criminal charges will be brought against Benjamin Netanyahu for accepting illegal gifts. The dissatisfaction shown by Israelis from all political parties may force a changes in the Israeli government. An new government may be more willing to make concessions for peace.
The inability to bring about a change, combined with his advanced age, may force the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to step down. A New, younger, Palestinian leadership may look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a different light than the current leaders who grew up in the Palestinian terror organizations of the 20th century.
For the reasons described above, this could happen in Israel in 2018:
- Benjamin Netanyahu may step down – A new Israeli prime minister may be elected.
- The Palestinian authorities may have a new leader who will rejuvenate the peace process.
- Once new leadership is in place, The US government is likely to push hard on both sides. A new peace agreement may be signed.
- If peace achieved, the biggest winners will be the Palestinians in the Gaza strip. For the first time after many years of isolation they’ll be able to travel and work anywhere they wish. The European Union will finally fulfill its promises and fund public projects in the Gaza strip. Gaza may experience an economic boom.
- The big winners list will include Israeli settlers. Their towns will be internationally recognized as part of the State of Israel.
- The Israeli population around the Gaza Strip will enjoy a peaceful border for the first time in many years.
- The State of Israel will enjoy a surge in tourism as more people feel safe to travel to the region.
- President Trump will see an increase in popularity for his contribution to the peace process.
- The big losers will be the Israeli-Arabs who live in areas which are likely to be transferred to the Palestinian authorities as part of the agreement.
- The big losers list will include the radical Islamic organizations who will lose their influence in the region.
- Relationship between Israel and Turkey will improve. It will become difficult for Israel to openly support the Kurds, once relationship with Syria are improved.
- Iran will lose some f its influence due to the peace agreement, but will increase its presence in Syrian and Lebanon. Iran will continue to prepare Southern Lebanon, and the Syrian Golan Heights, as launching pads for attacks on Israel.
- Relationships between Israel and Saudi Arabia will improve and perhaps the two countires will formally recognize each other.
- More countries will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move their embassies to Jerusalem.
- The European Union will ease the pressure on Israel in international affairs. Israeli companies, athletes, artists, and scientists will enjoy a warm and hospitable international welcome that will bring professional recognition and economic opportunists for Israelis to new levels.
2018 may be the first year since Israel’s creation that the country is not in a state of war.
May the new year bring peace and prosperity to all people.