When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks around, he sees a world gone mad. The United States undermines Hosni Mubarak's Egypt but stands by idly as Bashar Assad's Syria murders its citizens. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is attacking Muammar Gadhafi (who relinquished the bomb ), but it is not lifting a finger against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who is building a bomb ). The United States is systematically sabotaging its own interests and shooting its bodyguards in the head. Europe is acting in a confused and childish way.
There is no diplomatic sense and no moral consistency in the behavior of the West. There is still no Marshall Plan for rehabilitating the Egyptian economy and rescuing it from the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is still no strategic alliance to stop the Shi'a. Neither Egypt nor Iraq nor Turkey is confronting Iran. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates are neither forgiving nor forgetting, but the only thing the international community is determined to do this coming fall is to establish a Palestinian state. In these insane circumstances and with the most insane timing, the world is determined to take an insane decision in the matter of Palestine.
Truly a crazy world. And today it is clear to everyone that Netanyahu's historical analysis was correct: The Middle East's real problem is not the Israeli occupation but rather Arab oppression. What has corrupted the region for half a century has not been Israeli control of the West Bank but rather the tyrannical control in Damascus, Baghdad and Riyadh. Some of Netanyahu's foreign policy conclusions were also correct: There is no certainty in this rough neighborhood. There is room for caution and conservatism. Israel needs broad security margins, and Israel must avoid reckless gambles. But even though events have to a large extent proved him correct, no one is listening to Netanyahu. U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton loathe him. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy have lost their trust in him. The international community is hardening its heart with regard to Bibi and is yielding unconditionally to Abu Mazen. The United Nations is heading with eyes wide open toward a hasty decision that is liable to reignite the conflict and set the land afire.
Tough luck, Netanyahu. A crazy world is also a world. Only a nut case would ignore a crazy world. A statesman is not an historian. The statesman must maneuver within the reality in which he lives. He must not ignore the spirit of the times or come out against the spirit of the times. He must catch the breeze of the spirit of the times in order to sail to his desired destination. If he does not do so, the spirit of the times will overturn his ship and take it to the bottom of the sea. Within less than a month, Bibi will stand up and confront the spirit of the times. The entire world will follow the things he says before the two houses of Congress in Washington. For Netanyahu, May 24, 2011, will be a day of to be or not to be. If he does not make a clear and decisive statement on the Palestinian issue, no one will listen to anything else he has to say. If he does not restore to himself the diplomatic credit he has lost, he will not be able to act like a leader in any area. Nor will he survive.
Time is up. There is no more room for ambiguity. Precisely in order to divert the international community from the insane trajectory it is following, Netanyahu must offer it an alternative and sane trajectory. He must formulate a realistic and responsible path to ending the conflict. The end is known: a Palestinian state in modified 1967 borders. Thus, Netanyahu's first historic task is to ensure that this Palestinian state will be demilitarized, will recognize the Jewish state and will enable reasonable solutions to the security problem, the settlement problem and the Jerusalem problem. Netanyahu's second historic task is to ensure the Palestinian state will arise gradually, cautiously and securely.But in order to carry out these two tasks Netanyahu must be generous, courageous and clear.
True, it's not easy. It counters several principles he internalized in his father's home. But when Theodor Herzl saw a contradiction between the state and the land, he chose the state, even if it were established in Uganda. When Winston Churchill had to choose between victory and empire, he chose victory. As Netanyahu faces a world gone mad, he must act courageously and wisely. He must present a real plan in Washington for partitioning the land.
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