Accurately predicting things is notoriously hard to do, especially predicting the future. Last week we were treated to a torrent of predictions about what Ehud Barak's splitting of the Labor Party would inevitably achieve. Since much of the torrent contradicted much of the other parts of the torrent, some folks will inevitably be proven wrong - or perhaps all of them will. The split will be good for the Left, no it will be good for the Right; it will enable negotiations, no it will prevent them even more than heretofore. It will inject new energy in the Zionist Left, it will be the final blow that will kill it off. And so on.
I haven't the faintest idea how the move will look six months from now, nor six years from now, nor if anyone will even remember it three years from now.
I have however been tapping various brains recently, asking well connected and well-informed people what they think is likely to happen over the next year or two, before or after we have our next elections.All of the people I'm referring to are better informed than most of us regular mortals. The responses fall into two rough categories. The first says we're back at a Yitzchak Shamir moment in time, where Israel's government is trying mostly to kick the can down the road, make no dramatic decisions, not get maneuvered into any corners, and wait for the world to change in some unforeseeable way. Before you sneer about how shortsighted that position is, keep in mind that Shamir launched this policy in the late 1980s, and close to a quarter century later, an entire generation, the reality is still recognizably similar to the one he saw.
The second school of interpretation says we're approaching an Arik Sharon moment, when in 2004, having defeated the Second Intifada, Sharon launched the unilateral disengagement from Gaza and a corner of the West Bank, and probably would have continued it on more of the West Bank had he stayed with with us. The top story in Haaretz this morning supports this second view, when it tells about a Lieberman plan to hand over something like 50% of the West Bank to the PA, and to recognize the area as an independent Palestinian state with territorial disagreements with Israel about their mutual final borders.
Although I won't make predictions, I admit the second plan is preferable in my mind. I would even take it further, and dismantle some of the far-flung settlements, and enable an independent Palestine with well more that 50% of the WB. The more they get up front, the less they'll be able to whine about how they can't do anything because they're so cruelly occupied by the Israelis, and the more Israel will be able to demand that the rest be handed over, or not, as the result of real negotiations aimed to reach End of Conflict status - which can't be achieved anytime soon.
This is what Netanyahu just says he did, after all: according to him, his leaner new coalition is more coherent and stronger than the flabby one he had until last week. Fair enough. Now apply the exact same logic to Israel's borders: less and coherent is better than more and not coherent.
PS. Have you seen the news item about Lieberman's Beduin aide, and how he's popular with some Arab voters? Who knows how serious this is or isn't. It might be, for all we know.