I don’t like making predictions about the news. There are too many variables. Too many players. There’s the Hand of G-d who intervenes in ways that we can never forecast. But I’ve been a newsman since the 1970s and I’ve covered comparable stories over many decades. Some stories blow up. Some blow over. Sometimes we see signs in advance, so I will suggest a few things to watch that may give us clarity for 2022.
Will Russia go to war with Ukraine? How about China and Taiwan?
Will Israel’s government crumble next year?
Will Israel and Iran go to war?
Will Congress turn Republican Red in November?
Last but not least, will COVID ever end?
One disclaimer before I get rolling. I don’t like making predictions about the news. There are too many variables. Too many players. There’s the Hand of G-d who intervenes in ways that we can never forecast.
I’m not a guru. I don’t have definitive answers. But I’ve been a newsman since the 1970s and I’ve covered comparable stories over many decades.
Some stories blow up. Some blow over. Sometimes we see signs in advance, so I will suggest a few things to watch that may give us clarity for 2022.
Let’s start with Israel and Iran.
Iran is closer than ever to a nuclear weapon. We’ve been hearing that every year for the last 15 years. Israel has vowed to never let that happen. But would Israel strike Iran?
As long as the US, Europe, and Iran schlepp out the talks in Vienna, don’t expect military action. If they sign a deal, Israel is handcuffed. It would be very difficult for them to provoke the international community. The Bennett government has already announced in advance it will reluctantly accept a deal.
If the deal falls through, for any reason, then Israel will have no other choice. But they will do it when you least expect it. It won’t happen as long as you read headlines bragging about the long reach of the IDF and how they will fight their enemies any time, or anywhere in the world.
Israel would look for a distraction to strike. That distraction could come from China and Taiwan, or Russia and Ukraine.
Unlike Israel, which is often timid about declaring that Judea and Samaria are ours, China is not shy about proclaiming that Taiwan belongs to them. China also covets Taiwan’s 65% share of the world's semiconductor market. Gobbling up Taiwan means they corner that market. China likes to steal technology but they would just as soon fight for it if they had the opportunity.
China won’t strike before, or immediately after the 2022 Olympics. China is the host nation and they will reap a public relations bonanza from that. But once the snow and ice melt from the ski slopes and skating rinks, anything can happen.
The same goes for Russia and Ukraine. Russia isn’t strong enough to restore the Soviet empire, but they seized Crimea from Ukraine with impunity and they might use the forces they massed on Ukraine’s border to make another land grab.
By keeping the pressure up, China and Russia can extract concessions, but once that doesn’t work anymore they might resort to force. Both see Joe Biden as a weak president, presiding over a country in retreat, with no appetite for confrontation. That will only embolden them.
Biden’s weakness will hurt Democrats in the 2022 Congressional midterms. Republicans are heavy favorites to recapture the House. In the Senate, they have to defend more seats than the Democrats, so on paper, Democrats have the edge there.
As we get closer to November, keep your eye on President Biden’s approval ratings. Right now, they’re in the low 40’s. If they remain there or dip, that’s a sign that unhappy voters will take out their frustrations on the Democrats. If Biden’s ratings head north, closer to 50%, then Biden might not have to worry much longer about Joe Manchin’s swing vote.
Back in Israel, let’s remember that Israeli coalition governments break up from the inside, not the outside. The opposition doesn’t have enough votes to topple the Bennett-Lapid government. Right now, none of the parties inside the coalition have anything to gain by bolting because every poll shows they would win fewer seats in any future election.
So even though this government looks like a train wreck ready to happen, for now, no one has the power to derail it.
And finally, when it comes to COVID, the $64,000 question is: when does a pandemic turn endemic? Which means that health officials begin fighting COVID like the flu, instead of fighting it without a clue?
One positive sign would be if the virus reproduction rate falls to one and stays there. That would mean COVID is less infectious, or that we are beginning to see herd immunity. Another positive sign would be if more drugs are approved to fight the symptoms and reduce the need for hospitalization.
That’s a lot to hope and pray for, but even when watching the news, which is often very somber, it’s better to be optimistic than pessimistic.
As one of my favorite newscasters, Ralph Renick used to say before signing off at night on his broadcast in Miami --- May the Good News Be Yours.
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