BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

An Action-packed Spring

Key Dates to Watch

There are a number of key dates coming up on calendars throughout the Middle East in the upcoming months. American President Barack Obama will be hosting an official visit of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on May 18. Some time between now and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ May 28 official visit to Washington, D.C., the Palestinian leader will be forming a new government. It will most likely be without archrival Hamas. Elections will be held in Lebanon on June 7, followed shortly thereafter in Iran on June 12. Fun, Fun, Fun!

The likely winners of all this activity, both diplomatic and electoral, are likely to be the world new media. These talking heads will undoubtedly be racking up thousands upon thousands of airline miles from flights and hotel stays. Hotels and restaurants won’t due to badly, despite the fact that media-types are poor tippers. Despite the hundreds – perhaps thousands – of airline tickets sold, the world’s airlines will continue to struggle.

What?! Won’t there be any new diplomatic breakthroughs? How about some new treaties being signed? Certainly there will be at least one or two electoral upsets, right? Not likely, not likely and – wait for it – not likely.

Most likely Diplomatic Outcomes

Prime Minister Netanyahu will unveil his long-awaited plan for re-starting dialogue with the Palestinians, which will be received in Washington with some form of “cautious optimism.”  It will also be received with some form of “restored hope,” just as is everything that crosses the American President’s path is.   He will also ask President Obama to set a time-table for negotiations with Iran on the nuclear issue, which the latter has already refused to do.  Finally, the Prime Minister will try to pick-up a few gadgets for the boys back home (KC-135 refueling tankers, more bunker-buster bombs, some B2s, etc.)

President Abbas will unveil his standard list of complaints against Israel and reject the latest Israeli peace plans as inadequate.  Palestinian diplomacy is more akin to Japanese kabuki theater than it is to diplomacy: everyone knows the story line, the choreography and the limited skills of the actor. Finally, the Palestinian President will ask for 1) more financial aid, 2) more training for his “army,” and 3) a guarantee of asylum should #1 and #2 be ineffective in staving off a Hamas takeover.

Expect Obama to take a vacation at Camp David sometime in early June.

Most likely Electoral Outcomes

The electoral campaign in Lebanon has been refreshingly non-violent, so far. This should end about 10 minutes after they finish counting the ballots.  If Hizbullah does as well or better than the last parliamentary election, they will claim that they deserve to be included in the ruling coalition with senior ministries going to their party. If Hizbullah does as well or worse than the last parliamentary election, they will claim that they deserve to be included in the ruling coalition with senior ministries going to their party.  Get the picture?  They’re like Israel’s Kadima Party, except they have guns and aren’t afraid to use them.

As for Iran, there’s not much polling data to go by.  There are two official candidates.  Supreme Leader (Ayatollah) Ali Khamene’i picked the Guardian Council (a select group of clergy), who approves all the presidential candidates and decides who is fit to run for office (sort of like the relationship between the Christian fundamentalists and the Republic Party). So, whoever wins is going to be “kosher” by the standards of the Islamic Republic.  If Hizbullah actually does do as well or better than last time in the Lebanese elections, this might be a boost for the Iranian incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Should Hizbullah “win” in Lebanon and Ahmadinejad win in Iran, Henry Kissinger will probably be getting a call from President Obama.  The President will explain to our dear old friend that the advice he’s been getting from Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and George Mitchell hasn’t really helped him all that much.  Henry is still working off the frequent flyer miles he earned in the Nixon adminstration.

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment