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
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
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
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.