They could turn out to be the winning duo, the ones who bring about an agreement with the Palestinians: a furious U.S. President Barack Obama opposite a gambling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who lost the gamble). If a second-term Obama obeys his heart and logic, his moral code and values, and American and world interests, then we can expect an old-new president in the White House. A president who will translate his anger against Netanyahu into pressure on Israel to finally end the occupation.
It is precisely this pair, who didn't get on together and didn't consult one another, that might lead to momentum. All those who know Obama personally have testified that his heart is in the Palestinian problem. Over the past few years, I have heard testimony to this effect more than once - sometimes from Israelis, sometimes from Palestinians and sometimes from Americans, but always from the horse's mouth.
But the first Obama decided to put his deep feelings and his sense of natural justice aside and became addicted to considerations of political survival. He tried, at the very start of his term of office, to deal with the Israeli occupation. His first telephone calls in office were to Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and he appointed a special envoy immediately.
But that race was merely a sprint. As soon as he realized that tremendous forces were working to perpetuate the Israeli occupation, the strongest man in the world decided to throw up his hands and give up.
Obama looked like someone who had despaired and lost interest. He betrayed his position as leader of America and the world. Netanyahu humiliated and insulted him, blatantly ignored his pleas and went his own way, and Obama swallowed all the insults in a manner that obscured which was president of a world power and which the prime minister of a protectorate.
But the second Obama is expected to have greater self-confidence and be less concerned with considerations of survival. This is where the great opportunity lies: A new and very promising reality could arise if he is faced with a right-wing prime minister who has already shown that he couldn't care less about his requests, who intervened against him in the American elections and continually insults him.
It is difficult to believe that Obama will capitulate in his second term as well. It is difficult to believe he will forgive the behavior of an Israel that talks about two states for two peoples but refuses even to freeze construction in the settlements. This mask must be pulled from Israel's face, and no one can do it better than a furious and moral president in his second term of office.
Israel needs a furious and determined American president. That is its last chance to save itself from the curse of the occupation. It will never do so of its own initiative - there is simply no chance. Absent American anger, it has no reason to do so when life in Israel is so good and the Palestinians are so weak.
If someone other than Netanyahu is elected here - someone who will begin negotiations, blah blah blah, who will talk with the Palestinians and of course turn them down, as always happened over the past few decades - then nothing will change. Obama is likely to once again fall into the trap laid by Israel in its new, and supposedly moderate, image.
But Netanyahu as prime minister and Avigdor Lieberman as his number two are likely to inflame Obama. And a president like Obama, with a well-developed sense of justice and a sophisticated sense of history, is not likely to miss the last chance to do something once again.
Yes, Obama can. Israel has never been so dependent on his country. The question is whether he wants to, and will also be sufficiently determined and courageous.
It will have to happen quickly. It is not even necessary to wait for the inauguration. Obama must change the rules of the game according to which Israel can rampage as it pleases and thumb its nose at the entire world. Europe can't do it, nor can the United Nations, and certainly not the Palestinians. Only Obama can.
Therefore, when the president took the winner's podium in Chicago early yesterday, hope was kindled once again. After the disappointments of the past four years, which were so bitter following the great expectations, this hope is not the same as that which accompanied his first victory. But it is nevertheless hope. And there is no other.
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