As the government that will be formed in the incoming 19th Knesset begins to take shape, the second administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has also gotten underway, and is sending signals that Israel will not be free to continue the diplomatic stalemate. The word from Washington is clearly that the Americans intend to push vigorously for negotiations leading to an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. A negative response on Israel’s part would not only be fundamentally unacceptable, it would also be impractical in light of the determination that senior Obama administration officials have been conveying.
On Friday, Hillary Clinton will be ceding her job as U.S. secretary of state to John Kerry, a former American presidential candidate, while Clinton herself is a possible future candidate for president. Both should be seen as friends of Israel and supporters of its aspirations to live in security and peace in the midst of a cool and even hostile Arab and Muslim world. This basic approach is at variance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy over the past four years, which at its core avoided essential compromise with the Palestinians.
Obama and Kerry’s Middle East policy platform includes action to head off Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons; a responsiveness to the Arab peoples’ desires, which have been subject to upheaval over the past two years; and a firm effort to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Kerry aspires to leave a diplomatic legacy. He is expected to tour the region, meet with its leaders and appoint a high-ranking envoy to carry out a persistent mediation effort between the parties.
Israeli responsiveness to the American initiative would not be an act of benevolence. Breaking the stalemate is essential to Israel itself. It would be preferable to have Israel take the initiative, but in the absence of the domestic strength to take such a step, Israel must not rebuff similar efforts from the outside. The turmoil affecting Israel’s neighbors, particularly the fragile situation in Syria, requires a moderate government that is able to protect the security needs of the State of Israel without enflaming the region.
The outgoing government did not manage to develop the relations of trust that are the product of a moderate diplomatic stance. The next government must be based on political players and diplomatic ideas that will lead to peace. It is not sufficient to give the post of foreign minister to someone who is the polar opposite of former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. What is needed is a policy that will truly seek to achieve a mix that will provide peace and security.
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