Text size

It's already clear: the U.S. president is a great friend of Israel. If Barack Obama continues what he started this week, he might prove to be the friendliest president to Israel ever. Richard Nixon saved Israel from the Arab states in 1973, and Obama is about to save Israel from itself. Nixon sent us arms and ammunition at a critical time, and Obama is sending us, at a time no less critical, the substance of a complete peace plan, a plan that would save Israel.

All that remains is whether Obama stays determined and decisive, as he was earlier this week. In one move he changed Washington's madness and the attitude toward the Israeli occupation. Now we will see if he succeeds in altering the same madness in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It's a long road, and Obama began well.

In a single move he shrank the fearmongering of Benjamin Netanyahu and his mouthpieces on Iran to its proper size. In a single move he put the centrifuges of occupation, the real existential threat to Israel, at the top of the agenda. He fended off Netanyahu's attempts to divert attention from substantial issues, and blocked all efforts to waste more precious time on Iran and impose ridiculous preconditions on the Palestinians. He also blocked all efforts to distract us with committees, promises for negotiations, formulas, declarations and empty words. These are Israel's best tricks and games; anything to evade responsibility for the main issue - the end of the occupation.

Obama understands that now is the time for an end to petty words, impotent negotiations and a hollow peace process; now is the time for big deeds and a courageous leap over the abyss.

Suddenly all of Israel's "friends" in Washington have shed their skin. They, too, sense a rare opportunity in the Middle East. They, too, are tired of what Netanyahu has tried to peddle. They, too, understand that the Yitzhar settlement in the West Bank must precede Iran's nuclear reactor in Bushehr. How pathetic and heartrending was the sight of the Israeli prime minister, sitting tense and sweaty, next to the new American president, confident, stylish, and impressive, without all the jokes and back-patting of Ehud Olmert and George W. Bush. The latter was in fact the least friendly president to Israel - one who allowed it to carry out all its violent madness.

How pathetic was the sight, yet how encouraging; perhaps Netanyahu learned something during his short and dramatic visit. The visit has already made one contribution: Obama tore off the mask of so-called peace-loving Israel. If Netanyahu really feared for the fate of the country he would have immediately agreed, in the Oval Office, to all the ideas put forth by this fantastic president. If Israel does not respond, we, the Israelis, will know, the U.S. president will know and the entire world will know that Israel does not want peace.

An Israeli refusal of Obama's efforts will reveal that there is no peace partner in the Middle East. The absent partner is Israel. No to peace with 57 countries, no to a move that will neutralize the threat of the Iranian bomb, and no to two states now. This is not only a no to peace but also a no to a chance to end the war over Israel's establishment with a major victory. This would mean that Israel's greatest strategic asset ever, its alliance with the United States, would be destroyed. Netanyahu may now endanger Israel even more than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

We must be thankful to Obama. Four months after taking office, he is trying to rescue Israel, the Middle East, and basically the entire world, whose most dangerous conflict is this one. The threats are many; first and foremost refusals by Israel, a loss of interest by Obama, and Palestinian divisions. The ball is in Netanyahu's court. If he ends the occupation, he'll get peace and security; if he doesn't, he won't. It's not about another minor deal, but about the future of the Zionist enterprise. Such an opportunity will not return. Yes, we can. Obama has proved it; now it's our turn.