No new prime minister enters office without being surprised to discover how many plans have been invented to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Those in the know count more than 100 plans, beginning with the Rogers Plan in 1969, yet the situation deteriorates from one proposal to the next. The new prime minister will also be surprised by the involvement of the United States and by our dependence on it. Or as one pundit has said, aside from breathing, we can't do a single thing without the U.S.
Sometimes a president is elected in the U.S. who loves Jews, with whom we can rustle horses and say no to without being punished with sanctions, as was the case with former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert and former president George W. Bush. In that case, we can say no and continue to receive weapons, money and political support. Even a profoundly religious president from the South like Jimmy Carter wanted peace so badly he knew how to threaten Menachem Begin in private that if they left Camp David without an agreement to remove settlements, "you won't have Dimona either."
Camp David's great achievement was not that it paved the way to peace with Egypt, but that it set the precedent that the price of peace begins and ends with the removal of settlements and the withdrawal from the territories, to the last millimeter. If he wasn't raised on the Bible and was not elected by the Jewish vote, it may be that this time we have a U.S. president who is capable of saying no to us and doesn't buy the excuse that "there's no one to talk to." He doesn't buy the excuse that Abu Mazen - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - is "too weak," and that an agreement with the Palestinians must begin with their recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
After all, the 1947 United Nations decision to partition the country coined the term "an Arab state and a Jewish state." It would be more logical if the Palestinians were the ones demanding to be recognized as Palestinians and not simply as Arabs, as they were described in UN General Assembly Resolution 181. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did the right thing, before it was too late, when he abandoned the foolish condition that they recognize us as Jews. He would also do well to recognize the principle of two states for two peoples before he goes to the White House. Our rabbis will know how to determine who is a Jew.
As someone who grew up in America and knows what it means to say no to a U.S. president, not to mention a president who is extremely motivated to succeed, Netanyahu should put one less box of cigars in his suitcase and make room for a serious and detailed plan for solving the conflict. He is not coming for "consultations" with the president; he and his government are expected to come with a proposal for a solution.
The expectations of Barack Obama are sky high - the sane world wants him to succeed. Every day that passes without a plan of our own works against us. Moreover, Obama has already made several gestures to Israel. First, he has declared that the $3 billion annual aid agreement will remain in place. After all, he had reason enough to cut back because of the economic crisis. Second, he has allocated $900 million to the Palestinians on condition that this money not go to Hamas. That is equivalent to non-recognition of Hamas. Third, he has once again asserted that Israel is a Jewish state. Fourth, he boycotted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's horror show in Switzerland. Now he is urging us: Do your part - dismantle the illegal settlements and stop the construction. Oh, yes, he also wants regional peace.
The Bibi Netanyahu-Avigdor Lieberman government is a right-wing government. It has concluded that in the 16 years since the Oslo Accords, we have not achieved peace, terror has intensified, and half of Palestine is in the hands of Hamas, which shares with Iran a desire to eradicate Israel.
Foreign Minister Lieberman said two things in his bizarre interview with a Russian newspaper: He spoke against Annapolis but not against two states for two peoples. He agreed to the road map, but according to him, first comes the implementation of the first paragraph, ending terror. He opposes the Saudi peace plan, which he sees as a return to the 1967 lines and an opening to the right of return. Defense Minister Ehud Barak sees things differently; he supports an overall regional peace agreement and considers such broad cooperation a vital way to guarantee Israel's future in the coming years.
Netanyahu will come to the White House with a proposal to solve the Palestinians' demands and Israel's security needs, in coordination with Lieberman and Barak. In the brainstorming among the top three cabinet members, it turns out Lieberman the interviewee is entirely different from the Lieberman who speaks at cabinet meetings. He is more practical and less frightening in the discussions about plans for an agreement. When Lieberman says he opposes Annapolis he does not necessarily oppose a Palestinian state and the evacuation of settlements. He is not the one who will torpedo the diplomatic initiative being cooked up by Barak and Bibi. Considering that two-thirds of his electorate are Israelis of Russian origin, a belligerent interview in a Russian newspaper sounds different. It remains to be seen how it will sound in America.
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