Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell resigned Friday after more than two frustrating years in which he failed at his main task: Steering Israeli-Palestinian negotiations toward the two-state solution.

Mitchell's departure heralds the new policy to be presented this week by U.S. President Barack Obama. In his speech, Obama is expected to position the United States alongside demonstrators, rebels and political activists struggling for democracy and freedom in Arab countries, and to revive the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Over the past few days senior administration officials have said that the revolutions in the Arab world have given Israel a new chance to become involved in the region, and reiterated their allegiance to the two-state solution. Obama will try to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts toward an independent Palestine in the context of the Palestinian intent to seek UN recognition of their state, and the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. The president will present the killing of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as an expression of his determination and of American commitment to the war on terror and terrorists.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will be heading to Washington this week, should view the American initiative as an opportunity. Netanyahu has so far failed to deliver on the pledge from his Bar-Ilan speech to move ahead on the two-state solution. Under his leadership Israel has encountered growing diplomatic isolation, which threatens to increase if the United Nations recognizes Palestine.

Netanyahu's meeting with Obama and his speech to Congress will allow the prime minister to start over - if he ceases his policy of stagnation and not-one-inch, the purpose of which is to perpetuate the occupation and the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It will also allow him to start over if he replaces that policy with credible efforts toward an agreement with the Palestinians.

Instead of wasting his crucial visit to the United States on a last-ditch battle against the Palestinian initiative in the UN, or on blaming Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the reconciliation agreement, Netanyahu should reach an understanding with Obama on a joint diplomatic move. If Netanyahu sticks with stagnation, the violence over the weekend in East Jerusalem will be just the prelude to a new clash with the Palestinians.