The "Israeli Spring," which as a political phenomenon has yet to follow the Arab Spring, could finally arrive in the summer of 2014. The key figure is U.S. President Barack Obama. His time as a leader who can impose his political will runs out in precisely a year, when the campaign for the two parties’ presidential candidates begins and he becomes a lame-duck president.
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In the mediation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, anything that doesn't happen in the coming months might not happen at all.
In six months, the nature of the crisis to occur in Israel will become clear: Either externally, with the U.S. government, because Netanyahu didn't fulfill his part in the package deal with Washington; or internally, against the backdrop of a draft agreement with the Palestinians.
In either case, with or without reference to the trial of former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, pressure will build to dismantle the government and move the Knesset election up from 2017. Netanyahu is in thrall to the settler right-wing movement inside and outside of Likud. Consequently, he preferred the release of Palestinian prisoners - to which opposition is not limited to a specific sector - to freezing settlement in the territories, which infuriates the settlers and their collaborators.
Constitutionally, Netanyahu could be elected again, because the limitation to a seven-year term mandated by the law governing direct election of the prime minister was cancelled, together with that law itself. Politically, though, his power has weakened. Even if he wins the chairmanship of Likud again - which is far from certain - he will not influence the direction in which the party car is driving, but merely be its chauffeur.
In the next election, an opportunity will be created to fill the vacuum at the center of the political landscape and nudge Israeli policy away from its devastating current direction. The radicalization of Likud, the reduction in size of Yisrael Beiteinu, the all-out war in Shas and the deflation of the Yesh Atid bubble can empower the longing for daring change and an end to the conflict with our neighbors.
In the meantime this is just talk, but the distance between talk and action is not great. Organizing to break the deadlock, a front could be created as a rescue from Netanyahu and his captors. This front can connect former security figures whose “cooling-off” post-military period has ended (former Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin; former Mossad director Meir Dagan; former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi – the investigation into the Harpaz affair will be disruptive in the case of the latter, but former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu and Lieberman all functioned and were elected while under suspicion of more serious affairs – and former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin) to social and economic leaders (former social affairs minister Moshe Kahlon) and experienced politicians who removed themselves from the current Knesset (Roni Bar-On and Dan Meridor). It would be natural for such a front to include Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and her party, Hatnuah.
Among those mentioned here, there are those who hope – and who have expressed this hope to the right people – to place President Shimon Peres at the top of the list (Peres' term ends next July).
Peres enjoyed being courted in previous elections, and he was in no hurry to shelve a proposal that he resign from the presidency and lead a roster, with Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich as number two and Livni at three. Livni tried to promote the idea; Yacimovich insisted on the number-one slot.
Now the situation is different. It is not the case of a president resigning to return to politics, or even of a recently retired president toying momentarily with the illusion of primacy (as in the case of former president Yitzhak Navon in the early 1980s, who challenged Peres but then retreated), but rather, a retired president recruited for one last effort.
Peres has been on the state’s payroll continually since its inception - as a Defense Ministry employee, Knesset member, minister, prime minister and president. A do-nothing retirement is not for him. His honorary place on the list will be number one, rather than the usual 120 in such cases.
It is too cruel to expect him to govern; the practical leadership will be decided by an internal campaign. But as leader of a team and senior partner, at a time of fateful decisions he can tip the balance with his prestige at home and abroad.
Will this scenario come true? That depends on two presidents – Peres and Obama.