In the new year, Israel's problems are mainly at home

Dr. Norman Bailey

The regional outlook is better than for some time, and internationally Israel is well positioned. The dangers lie in social divisions and political dysfunction.

The outlook for Israel in the new year is unusually clear, but very complex.

Domestically social divisions and political dysfunctionality will continue. The November election is unlikely to resolve anything. Even if one side or the other manages to patch up a coalition government, it will be subject to the whims of two or three Knesset members in order to stay in office. The alternative, of course, is yet another election. In the meantime Israel will continue as it has been for some time now--a scientific, technological, cultural and military success, despite the political gridlock and the fact that a significant percentage of the population is voluntarily sidelined. The recent Gaza crisis was very indicative in that regard--an intelligence and military triumph, despite the absence of a functioning political system. However, the prominence of intelligence and especially military leadership, brings with it its own dangers to democracy.

As to the Palestinian conundrum, Israel simply cannot continue much longer kicking the can down the road. Abbas will be gone sooner rather than later, and all indications are that when that happens, Hamas and Islamic Jihad will take over, unless prevented from doing so by Israeli military action, which would mean a prolonged and bloody war, with a final result entirely unpredictable. An alternative exists in the person of Mohammed Dahlan, exiled in the UAE, who could well take over in the West Bank under Israeli and UAE sponsorship. But something of the sort has to be prepared in advance and ready to be triggered at a moment's notice.

Regionally, the picture is much more optimistic. The Abraham Accords are a huge economic, financial, commercial and cultural success. Saudi Arabia is likely to join before long and in the meantime has excellent unofficial relations with Israel. Relations with Egypt, which for years could only be described as chilly, have warmed up significantly.

The same is true with Turkey, although given Erdogan's highly unpredictable behavior, may not last. And then, of course, there is Iran and its terrorist proxies. However, the new year may well bring good news on that front also. The fact that a majority of the people of Iran detest the theocratic dictatorship to which they are subject is manifest.

The recent defection of an important group of Shi'a scholars is very significant. All depends on the continued loyalty to the regime of the armed forces, the basij militia and above all the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. If the regime falls, hopefully a moderate government, perhaps under the Pahlavi pretender, will take over and Iran will become a cooperative player in the region rather than its scourge. The Iranian proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza and the West Bank will be bereft of external support and will soon lose their geopolitical significance, although the terrorist groups will not disappear, any more than al-Qaida and ISIS have disappeared.

Internationally, the scene is quite positive. Relations with the US and China are good and improving with the European Union. Russia is a problem due to "Putin's War" in Ukraine and the desire of the Israeli government to not damage its deal whereby the Russians do not interfere with Israeli air attacks on Iranian facilities and assets in Syria, where Russia has a naval, air and ground presence. But Israel has successfully squared that circle so far and there is no good reason to think it will not be able to continue to do so.

In sum, the most significant dangers to Israel in the coming year, are very likely to be, and to remain, domestic rather than regional or international. Indeed, the regional picture is good and likely to improve, the international scene is stable, but the domestic situation is highly problematical and may very well take a turn for the worse.

Happy New Year.

Dr. Norman Bailey is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute, and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. Dr. Bailey was a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on October 3, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

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