Israel in 2013: Six things to watch
December 11th, 2012
12:02 PM ET

Israel in 2013: Six things to watch

This is the second in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store.

By Steve Linde, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Steve Linde is editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. The views expressed are his own.

Life in the Holy Land is often intense and seldom boring, and the country has captured the attention of the international news media for almost 65 years. This is not likely to change in 2013. Although Israel has a population of only eight million, almost every day generates unexpected and exciting developments. While journalists are not prophets, I would suggest that there are six key challenges facing the Jewish state in the year ahead:

National elections – Israel is all set for what promises to be an interesting national election on January 22, with 34 lists registered to run. A strong right-wing list comprising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Home) is facing off against a splintered Center and Left that includes, inter alia, Shelly Yacimovich's Labor, the Tzipi Livni Party, Yair Lapid¹s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) and Shaul Mofaz¹s Kadima. Current polls show the now merged Likud-Beiteinu  list comfortably ahead, with about a third of the seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel's parliament. But with growing discontent over the current government¹s foreign and socioeconomic policies, Likud- Beiteinu may in fact win fewer seats than its two component parties have in the current Knesset (42).

Palestinian conflict – Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been deadlocked since September 2010. The present Israeli government does not see the PA’s President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls most of the West Bank, as a potential peace partner, because of his unilateral move on November 29 for Palestine to be recognized by the U.N. General Assembly as a non-member state, his refusal to return to the negotiating table and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and his attempt to reach a unity deal with Hamas, the radical Islamic organization that controls Gaza. President Shimon Peres and the opposition parties on the Left have urged the government to resume negotiations with Abbas, warning that hopes for a two-state solution are fading as both sides dig in their heels and adopt more extremist positions. The volatile situation increases the chances of a new cycle of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Arab world – Much of the Arab world is still reeling from the so-called Arab Spring upheavals that began in December 2010. From Israel's point of view, the most problematic situation is in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood and its leader, Mohamed Morsy, effectively took over after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. To his credit, Morsy showed strength by brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas last month, but his attempts to suppress democratic reforms are reminiscent of his predecessor. Also of concern is the horrific civil war in Syria, a sworn enemy of Israel, and the chance of the violence spilling over into Turkey and Lebanon, where Hassan Nasrallah's radical Shiite organization, Hezbollah, has emerged as a powerful force that is rearming for another confrontation with Israel.

Iran’s nukes – At the top of Israel¹s external threats, however, is Iran¹s nuclear program.

If, as intelligence reports estimate, Tehran succeeds in building an atomic bomb in the next year, Israel might take military action – with or without the support of the United States. The current Iranian regime has threatened repeatedly to wipe Israel off the map, and the Jewish state, which sprang up in the shadow of the Holocaust, has vowed to pre-empt such a move.

More from CNN: Fact check on Iran and the bomb

Iran is also the primary sponsor of international terror, supporting Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in their war against Zionism. Although its current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to be replaced in the coming year, Israel pins little hope on his successor changing course, because he too will have to follow the orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who is bent on Israel¹s destruction.

Ties with the U.S. – Relations with the United States have been strained in recent years, despite the traditionally strong bond between the countries. U.S. President Barack Obama, who is now in his second term, has had his ups and downs with Netanyahu. After the U.S. backed Israel during its eight-day offensive against Hamas in Gaza in November and voted against the Palestinians at the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu angered the Obama administration (and other Israeli allies) by declaring after the vote that he planned to build another 3,000 housing units over the pre-1967 Green Line in response to the Palestinians' unilateral action. Although Obama is wary of intervening in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unless there is assertive mediation by Washington, the deadlock in the peace process is unlikely to be broken.

The economy – Economically, Israel faces a series of challenges in the coming year. The most immediate is the state budget. The current government decided this should be biannual, but failed to pass one in 2012. In Israel¹s parliamentary democracy, passage of the budget requires horse-trading between the ruling party and its partners, which often sparks coalition crises. The Israeli economy is, for the most part, robust and resilient, with much-heralded advances in hi-tech, agriculture and medicine. Large natural gas finds off the Mediterranean coast yield great promise, and perhaps lucrative deals with nearby countries such Greece and Cyprus. Within the country, the gap between rich and poor appears to be widening, despite the government¹s adoption of the Trachtenberg Committee¹s recommendations for socioeconomic change following widespread social protests in the summer of 2011. If the security situation improves, Israel can expect foreign investment and tourism to continue to grow.

Israel has a vibrant democracy, judiciary and press. Although it has supporters around the world, it also faces an unprecedented campaign of delegitimization. Perhaps its foremost challenge in the coming year will be to find the right balance between safeguarding its own citizens and securing peace with its neighbors.

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Topics: 2013: What's Next? • Barack Obama • Iran • Israel • Middle East • Terrorism

soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. Sean

    US Presidents have been trying to prevent a regional and possibly WWIII in the Middle East for over 60 years. The US will protect Israeli security within its borders until the end of time. But more "settlements" are a threat to World Peace.

    STATEMENTS OF U.S. PRESIDENTS, Washington Post, May 24, 2009

    Sources: Foundation for Middle East Peace, B'tselem and Washington Post research. Population figures are for West Bank, East Jerusalem and (until 2005) Gaza Strip.

    "Our position on the settlements is very clear. We do not think they are legal, and they are obviously an impediment to peace."
    - President Jimmy Carter, April 12, 1980
    Total settlement population: 61,500
    "The immediate adoption of a settlements freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel."
    - President Ronald Reagan, Sept. 1, 1982
    Total settlement population (1983): 106,595
    "My position is that the foreign policy of the United States says we do not believe there should be new settlements in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem. And I will conduct that policy as if it's firm, which it is."
    - President George H.W. Bush, March 3, 1990
    Total settlement population: 227,500 "The Israeli people also must understand that . . . the settlement enterprise and building bypass roads in the heart of what they already know will one day be part of a Palestinian state is inconsistent with the Oslo commitment that both sides negotiate a compromise."
    - President Bill Clinton, Jan. 7, 2001
    Total settlement population: 387,859
    "Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop, and the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognized boundaries, consistent with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338."
    - President George W. Bush, April 4, 2002
    Total settlement population: 414,119
    "Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward."
    - President Obama, May 18
    Total settlement population (2008): 479,500

    December 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
    • jason

      Sean: that is a great picture of what is happeneing, while Israel is talking about their supposed "defense" they keep stealign more land and blame it on "hamas" as their natural #1 scapegoat...your post with numbers on how Israel has conducted their illegal settlement expansion give a true picture of whats going on and Israels true intent...WIPING OUT THE PALESTINIANS

      December 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
    • parabolid71

      But those are facts. Americans do not like facts. We need mithology and fairy tales.

      December 14, 2012 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • Abraham

      This reveal mockery at it's core. All the world can say is stop it until they bring destruction on themselves. How long Israel think it's going to last??? Tick-tack-tick-tack.....

      December 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  2. Barbara

    The settlements are an effort by Israel to create facts on the ground and preclude the development of a viable Palestinian state.

    December 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
    • JJ

      God has a master plan and it includes Israel, nothing anyone of us says wiil change anything, Israel is the only country in the world that has a deed that's in the Holy Bible. God chosen people will get all her land back, more then it has today, including part of Saudi Arabia, Syria Jordan, Iraq, Sorry the Bibles says the Wesr Bank and Gaza is Jewish land. As a christian I love my Jewish brothers and sisters, I have never heard any Jews say they hate any country. God's word also say's that at the end, the world will turn their back on Israel. We are seeing Bible prophesy before our eyes, God Bless. I feel sorry for all you atheist, and hate monger, may God help you because your God satan can't.

      December 13, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Reply
      • Abraham

        Do you honestly believe that all the beautiful places on earth , this is the land GOD promissed to his beloved people? Is it just possible that Abraham got his GPS screwed up and settle somewhere else?

        December 16, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
      • GOD'S GPS

        Yes I honestly beleive in God's GPS, It's called the HOLY BIBLE, our past ,present and future plan described in details, I myself, Abraham and yourself we do failed from time to time, but my Creator is incapable of failure. Proof that Israel is in her right geographical location is Jerusalem where the first Temple Mount was build almost 3000 years ago,and in the near future Israel will destoy the Golden Dome of the Rock and rebuild her Temple Mount. Keep your eyes on Israel, it's our timepeace.

        December 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  3. jason

    I GOT TO SAY FREEE FREEE PALESTINE....FREEE FREEE PALESTINE.....FREEE FREEE PALESTINE.. after watching some youtube videos on how Israel oppressing rhe palestinians and suppressing the truth right here in our country...DAMN ISRAELIS ARE SOME EVIL SONS OF BIT*(&*&*

    December 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Reply
    • toronto girl

      you need to be banned from this site. You are a clear picture of why haters need to be off the internet. BTW, I was not raised to hate Muslims, but I was raised to fear them, and you are a clear example of the hate that pervades Muslims.

      December 19, 2012 at 9:38 am | Reply
  4. John

    Hi Jason, You seem to be a little out of touch with the current situation. Over the last few decades, each time someone has attacked Israel they retaliate with extreme force. Everyone knows this. Perhaps Hamas doesn't know this because they send over their rockets thinking that is something new! Hamas knows that the Jews will whack them back. Hamas uses their own people to gain attention. The blood of children is spilled to get Hamas attention.

    December 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Reply
    • Jason

      John: you got it backwards , its Israel who starts the fight first, BUT blames it on hamas and since our media usually goes with Israels point of view, facts get distorted that Palestine starts and Israel finishes it..Israel starts and finishes it by murdering one baby after another, killing one civilian after another...thats the terrorist state of Israel you support, what the difference between israel and Hitler germany...not much

      December 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  5. Muin

    All the names discussed for secretary of state are great but my fav's are zakraria, amanpour's husband cuz i think these people are diplomatic.

    December 14, 2012 at 3:11 am | Reply
  6. jose

    Wow! I am not Jew, Palestinian or American. However I enjoy world history. In my humble opinion, there will never be a peaceful solution in this region; Hatred is too deep. As bad as it sounds, I think peace will only come until one side totally eliminates the other.

    December 14, 2012 at 3:26 am | Reply
    • colin

      your right jose, and serve them right for being such bigots.

      December 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  7. bribarian

    israel's drama gets boring after awhile. They won't even be around in a few years, ontop of the fact they're pretty insignificant now.

    December 15, 2012 at 2:32 am | Reply
  8. van

    i myself am sick and tired of israel bleeding america dry.why should americans be giving aid to them.stand on your own two feet like everyone else.

    December 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  9. pancho

    israel is gonna exist and take the land that was promesed to them THE LORD DECLARES not matter what any nation does against israel they will only hurt themselves ...the almighty yhawhe gave that land to the forefathers of the jews thats gods promese and the whole world belong to him and he can give it to whomever .....

    December 17, 2012 at 1:47 am | Reply
  10. Areyoucrazy

    Jason, go blow yourself up you dumb sack of sh.t. I'm not Jewish or Israeli, and can smell your racism a mile away. You are a pig, and deserve to drift through life as the useless, vile, and disgusting piece of garbage you are. Go live in Gaza amongst the other dirty terrorists. Chump.

    December 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  11. colin

    when i read the comments on here, it strikes me that you are all lot of haters, of anybody different then yourselves.
    what kind of people call others, rag heads? call people names becouse they have a different religion from you?
    your a sad hatefull lot , with people like you theres no hope for mankind.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Reply
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    January 4, 2013 at 5:04 am | Reply
  13. KB

    Linking back to the name of this article, there is a lot more to watch in Israel and surrounds.

    What is happening in Syria and Damascus was prophesied in the Bible (Isaiah 17) and the in the very near future, Damascus would ceases to be a city.

    The same about what is happening in Israel at the moment. There will be a buildup. There will be still a lot of blood flowing, but Jesus said in Mat 24:32 Learn from the fig tree: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out leaves, you know that summer is near... This generation will not pass until all these things take place.

    IN 1948, that tree – Israel – started to bloom... brings to conclusion that the current generation will not die of age... Every prophecy and promise in the Holy Bible (Old and New Testament) will come to pass... The Jewish temple will be rebuild – how is unsure – but it will be rebuild in the very near future on Temple Mount.

    Israel will be attacked by armies and that is when the Holy God of Israel will be delivering them from their enemies, although not the end yet – but that is all a buildup to the second coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. As He comes to take those who relied on him as well as show himself as Messiah to the Jewish Nation.

    You can think what of Israel but God said that those who bless Israel, He will Bless. It is His Children and there is nothing you can do about it. He will hold each person accountable for their deeds.

    Now, every one can call each other names and don't allow the sun to shine on them, but not one word of God will be changed and time will soon tell who the real God is. I know HIM... do you?

    January 25, 2013 at 6:34 am | Reply
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