Netanyahu must look to the future if he really wants peace
It's important that Netanyahu have a daring and credible plan - fresh baked goods that can be eaten by the Palestinians and the world that aspires to peace.
When a soldier complains to the army cook that the bread is stale, the cook replies: If you want today's bread, come tomorrow. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regularly serves us yesterday's bread. Had he revealed what he's taking to Washington, our situation would be better. The world doesn't revolve around his utterances, but around his actions.
The world sees the Palestinian state as a fait accompli. The fact that Bibi will say that he agrees "on condition that..." is already too late. The security border along the Jordan Valley was decided on when Levi Eshkol was prime minister, when there was a fear that Iraq would invade Israel. To demand this as a condition now is as fresh as last year's bread.
Bibi's speech in the Knesset, which was based on data prepared by his personal pollster, was constructed in such a way that you could both agree with it and oppose it. From Kadima chief Tzipi Livni to Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, the speech was, as a clever observer put it, "rubbish."
Bibi, who presumably aspires to peace, has to think about tomorrow rather than the day before yesterday. When he speaks about secure and recognized borders, is he pretending not to understand that when secure permanent borders are determined, they will be recognized, too? We don't need to have the Palestinians "recognize" a Jewish state, just as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) doesn't need our confirmation that the Prophet Mohammed went up to heaven from Al-Aqsa.
Unlike in the days of Franco's Spain and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, we are living in a world that gets involved in places that endanger world peace. Bibi is living in a world in which NATO members are bombing Libya. Bob Simon, the CBS correspondent in Israel for 10 years and now the star of "60 Minutes," said in an interview after a visit here that he found an Israel that has lost hope for change. Its isolation will steadily increase. He said we should imagine a situation in which European ambassadors leave Israel and go live in West Bank cities. Some people are demanding an enforced solution, sums up Simon, but U.S. President Barack Obama won't do that because he wants to be elected to a second term.
Netanyahu's visit to Washington will be crowded with events. Yesterday Obama's speech to the nation, then a meeting between Obama and Bibi, then each of them will appear at the annual AIPAC conference, and finally Bibi will appear in Congress. Lots of background material for summations at the beginning of next week, too little material for guesses on how the visit will end.
The most important event is the discussion between Obama and Bibi; it's Bibi's last chance to talk to a first-term Obama. If he doesn't convince him that he is a partner to an agreement with the Palestinians, we'll be getting a turbo Obama in the second term.
What may be seen as a tactical victory for Bibi will undermine the credibility of relations with a second-term Obama. Were I an adviser who doesn't leak information, I would advise Bibi: When you're with Obama, think about September. The threat to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders is the moldy bread of peace, unless Obama works to stop it. If Obama is convinced of our intentions he can persuade Europe not to support this initiative, and maybe he can even convince Abu Mazen to give it up.
Bibi also has to pay attention to the fact that in September elections are expected in Egypt, and we and America have a mutual interest in removing Egypt from the Mideast upheaval and preserving the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. And another piece of advice for Bibi: If you thought it was possible to put the Palestinians on the back burner at the expense of an agreement with Syria, that dream has been shelved. Relying on the power of the Israel Defense Forces, as the contented defense minister declares, is not enough. We're slowly learning the limits of power. It's more important to rely on smart diplomacy.
The agreement between Hamas and Abu Mazen's government is disturbing, but to them the presence and influence of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the extreme right in Bibi's government are no less disturbing. When we have a leadership that aspires to peace, and the public gets a taste of normal life, there is hope for moderation.
The waste of time that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about this week is not only ours, but the Palestinians', too. It's important that Netanyahu have a daring and credible plan - fresh baked goods that can be eaten by the Palestinians and the world that aspires to peace, headed by Obama.