(Jerusalem, Israel) — Welcome to the first in a new series of columns I’m planning to write every Monday, looking at events and trends that are likely to shape the week ahead here in Israel and throughout the Arab and Muslim world.
These are the three big stories that I’m watching this week:
Big Story #1: Who is Joe Biden going to choose as his Vice Presidential running mate? The Democratic National Convention begins August 17th in Milwaukee and will run through the 20th. Due to the risk of COVID-19, Biden is not going to his own convention to formally receive his party’s nomination. He will, instead, speak via video.
That said, Biden is expected to announce his VP selection in the coming days, before the convention begins. His choice becomes all the more important since he has signaled that he will only serve one term in office, if elected.
Biden has promised to choose a woman, potentially elevating his choice to becoming America’s first woman Commander-in-Chief. His “short list” is actually quite long — and controversial. The New York Times’ “FiveThirtyEight” column has noted that Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and the pandemic have already pushed Biden “to the left” and asked, “how far will he go?” Could his VP choice push him too far left to compete effectively in the general election?
Jewish groups are, of course, carefully analyzing the VP contenders’ views are towards Israel, Iran and the Arab world. Some Jewish leaders are absolutely convinced that Biden will be strongly pro-Israel. Others are not so sure, openly asking, “Would a Biden presidency be good for Israel?”
Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, are openly urging Biden and his running mate to tilt their policies away from Israel.
Two more key questions:
- Is Biden — who will turn 78 on November 20th, and would be the oldest person ever to serve as President of the United States) — truly up for the challenge of serving the nation for the next four years? (Whatever your political views, please join me in praying for his health and safety throughout the campaign, along with the health and safety of all the candidates.)
- And, regardless of whom he chooses to serve with him, is Biden the “shoo-in” to win in November that nearly all media analysts are predicting?
Recent polls show the race is beginning to tighten.
That said, watch for Biden to get a significant “bounce” in the polls as the mainstream media lavishes high praise on him and whomever he chooses as his running mate.
Then comes the Republican National Convention, August 24 through 27.
Big Story #2: Is Netanyahu trying to take Israel to a fourth round of elections? The key date to watch is August 25th. That’s the day Israel must — by law — have a new budget passed by the Knesset (parliament). If there is no budget, Israelis must go back to the polls. You might think no one would have an appetite for a fourth round in 18th months. Yet Netanyahu’s recent actions suggest he may go there anyway. Why? His approval ratings are plunging. The size of the protests against him are growing. Here’s the column I wrote about this a few days ago. This week should prove very telling.
Big Story #3: Are the Lebanese people preparing to overthrow their government and drive Hezbollah and Iran? At least 158 people died, and more than 6,000 were wounded, in last week’s horrific twin explosions at the Beirut Port. More than 300,000 Beirut residents are now homeless after their apartments were either obliterated or severely damaged. Tens of thousands of Lebanese poured into the streets of Beirut over the weekend. We are witnessing volcanic, possibly revolutionary, anger, as I wrote about on Saturday. The protestors briefly seized control of several key cabinet ministry buildings, before being repulsed by security forces using tear gas and rubber bullets. The nation is beginning to rise up. People are demanding the entire government resign and be replaced. They want answers. They want their leaders to be held accountable for the worst single-day disaster in the history of the country. A few officials have, in fact, resigned. More resignations are likely coming. But will it be enough? Are we seeing an Arab Summer in Lebanon, similar to the Arab Spring revolts in other capitals from nearly a decade ago? Or will the latest surge of anger eventually dissipate, leaving behind no lasting reforms? And what will the international community do? Many nations are pledging billions of dollars to help Beirut recover and rebuild? But will the aid ultimately go to prop up the corruption of the current government, and help further entrench the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror movement? Or will the U.S. and other world government insist on serious, sweeping reforms?
[Former Vice President Joe Biden talks with Senator Elizabeth Warren (center) and Senator Kamala Harris (right) after the conclusion of the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo]
[Poll: Real Clear Politics graphic.]