The Israeli who can predict the future

By Nathan Jeffay, September 27, 2011
David Passig

David Passig

Nobody has a crystal ball that tells them what the next year holds for Jewry, but David Passig has the next best thing - credentials as Israel's leading "futurologist".

He predicted the world economic crash, the flourishing of wireless technology and, almost a decade before 9/11, wrote that humanity should expect a terrorist attack against "a symbol of the world order".

Unsurprisingly, he is a bestselling author in Israel. Bolstering his appeal is the fact that his apparent ability to tell the future does not come from reading tea-leaves or star-gazing, but rather from painstaking research.

While the fact that his books are not yet translated means he does not have a popular following outside Israel, he has a business following - he is consulted by various American Fortune 500 corporations that seek his predictions in relation to technology.

Dr Passig is a professor at Bar Ilan University with a PhD from the University of Minnesota in future studies - a field that involves pulling together studies of human behaviour from various fields to predict what the coming months and years have in store.

In his assessment, the New Year will be significantly sweeter than a lot of Middle East analysts expect. He says with confidence that the showdown over Palestinian statehood will not result in an intifada. This is because, all factors considered, Palestinians "understand that it does not serve their interests".

He also thinks that a major conflict with Hamas in Gaza is unlikely this year and that, despite worries, Israel's peace with Jordan will hold.

Widespread claims that time is running out for the two-state solution are melodramatic, in his view. Dr Passig does not expect the Palestinians' UN bid to lead to statehood. But, challenging popular wisdom that Israel is further than ever from an agreement with the Palestinians, he thinks it likely that the next year - or possibly two - will yield an interim agreement.

He also challenges the view that the chances of an agreement depend on who is in government in Jerusalem, as the push for peace is "systemic".

Dr Passig concludes: "It doesn't matter who is leading."

But it is not all good news. The agreement "will not hold in the long run", and may not even be implemented. Israel's peace treaty with Egypt will be "bit by bit eroded in many areas". At some point in the next five years, there will be a "major round of violence" between Israel and some of its neighbours, including Syria and Lebanon.

In Dr Passig's 2008 book, The Future Code, he predicted that Turkey would begin flexing its muscles, and views its growing friction with Israel as the beginnings of this desire to assert itself. He believes that, over the coming months and years, this antagonism towards Israel "will increase, and become directed also against Western influence and the United States".

A by-product of the shift in Ankara will be sizable aliyah from Turkey and a rush by Turkish Jews to move their assets to Israel - he expects in the short term to see £100 million moved.

Last updated: 2:14pm, September 27 2011